The practice of backpacking comes with all sorts of risks, the least of which is ending up on a list of the many backpacker disappearances over the years. Given the various creepy experiences backpackers go through, it comes as little surprise that some missing backpackers never get the chance to tell their own stories. No one location remains safe, with backpackers vanishing everywhere from urban centers to national parks to their own hostels.
The backpackers who disappeared in these reports all vanished mysteriously; while a few of these travel nightmares end with some closure, the vast majority of backpackers who disappeared did so without rhyme or reason. Even the bodies unearthed offer little evidence, in some cases being found hundreds of miles away from where they disappeared.
In 1989, a 20-year-old backpacker by the name of Charles Horvath decided to embark on a months-long, cross-country hitchhiking trip in Canada. He arrived in British Columbia and was staying at a campground in Kelowna when he disappeared.
Horvath contacted his mother Denise Allan saying he would meet her in Hong Kong for his 21st birthday. When some time passed and she never heard from him, Allan became worried, especially because Horvath maintained constant contact up until that point. She traveled to British Columbia to try to find him, but when she arrived at the campground, she found out that he left his tent and all of his possessions.
Allan started posting missing persons flyers and publicizing her son's disappearance. She returned one day to her hotel room to find a note that said, "I seen him May 26. We were partying and two people knocked him out. But he died. His body is in a lake by the bridge." Divers searched the lake but never found his body. After Denise was contacted a second time, she told police they were looking on the wrong side of the bridge, so they launched another search. A body was uncovered, but it turned out to be a local resident who committed suicide. Horvath's body was never found, but a witness did come forward saying he attended an all-night party before he disappeared.
Dale Rehr, a British backpacker from Portsmouth, England, mysteriously disappeared when he drunkenly jumped into the Brisbane River in 2016 in front of three of his friends. Though the stunt was dangerous, the four men weren't strangers when it came to making risky jumps. A few weeks before, three of the men received fines of £340 after police found them celebrating a jump from a nearby bridge.
The fact that these friends had experience with jumping from extreme heights makes Rehr's disappearance all that much more strange. Furthermore, Rehr swam excellently and handled difficult waters with ease. He competed in an Ironman challenge but, after the jump, he was never seen again.
Rehr had been drinking when he and three of his friends decided to jump off the William Jolly Bridge at around 10:00 p.m. Rehr jumped over the railing into the water before disappearing.
Dutch tourists Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon both in their 20s, traveled to Panama to study Spanish. They mysteriously vanished on April 1, 2014, after taking a hike near the town of Boquete. Though the girls' bodies haven't been found, locals found small bone fragments and a backpack they believed was owned by one of the women. In addition to a pelvic bone, police found a hiking boot with a severed foot still inside. DNA tests confirmed their suspicions, but the reason for the disappearance remains a mystery. Police believe the girls possibly got injured and died after having no food and water.
A camera recovered from the backpack offered some clues. It contained photos taken during the 10 days the pair were missing. Based on cellphone data, the girls tried to contact 911 only a few hours after one of the pictures was taken, but there was no cellphone reception. The camera also showed a mysterious photo of what looks like red plastic stuck to a twig that was taken eight days after the girls disappeared. At least 90 photos were taken in total darkness 10 days after the girls disappeared – but who could have taken them?
Twenty-three-year-old Aubrey Sacco never returned home from her solo, week-long trek in Nepal's Langtang National Park. While backpacking across Asia in 2010, Sacco kept in constant contact with her parents. After a few days of no contact, Sacco's mother alerted the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu, who told her that civil unrest in Nepal may have delayed their daughter. After three more days and no word from Sacco, her father and older brother flew from their home in Colorado to Kathmandu to join the search party. Between May and July of 2014, over 200 people searched the Himalayan Mountains near the Tibetan border. They searched the main trail, both sides of the river and smaller paths and monasteries hidden in the hills, but she was never found.
Scott MacLennan, who led medical trips in Langtang for a decade and joined Sacco's father on his search, believed she became the victim of abusive army soldiers who act as rangers in the national park. In July of 2010, three French women reported being sexually assaulted by soldiers manning a check post near where Sacco vanished. While this is the soundest possibility, it's just one theory.
Some locals conjecture that Sacco drowned trying to cross the river in Kathmandu's tough terrain. Others say they saw Sacco get into a helicopter in Langtang Village. Some believe she was killed by a hunter, and others say her disappearance was sacrificial. She was possibly killed by witches who worship Kali, the Hindu goddess of death. Regardless of what happened, Sacco has never been found.