Documentaries About Kidnappings That Made Us Want To Lock Our Doors
There's something extra creepy about an abduction or kidnapping documentary that can make you feel unsafe enough to lock your doors. Some of the cases in the following documentaries remain unsolved decades later. Others were critical in creating laws and national systems that have increased the chances of victims being found safely.
A couple of them even made us sleep with the lights on.
Abducted in Plain Sight
Abducted in Plain Sight tells the story of teenager Jan Broberg, who was taken by neighbor and family friend Robert Berchtold in the 1970s. The film is based on a memoir penned by both Broberg and her mother titled Stolen Innocence: The Jan Broberg Story and includes interviews with both Broberg and her parents.
Jan Broberg lived with her family in Pocatello, ID, where they all became friends with their neighbors, the Berchtold family. Jan even stated that Robert Berchtold “was like a second father to me.” Then, in October 1974, Berchtold offered to pick up 12-year-old Jan from her piano lessons and drop her off at horseback riding.
When she didn't return home, her parents were going to call the police until Berchtold’s wife convinced them not to. The FBI didn't learn of Jan's abduction for multiple days. Berchtold and Jan were later found in Mexico, where they were staying in a motorhome.
Using a recording on a cassette player, Berchtold convinced Jan aliens had kidnapped her. He told her the only way she could save her family was to have children with Berchtold. He also told her if she didn't follow through, her little sister would have to take her place. She believed these lies for the next four years. After returning to the US, Bertchtold was charged, though he managed to reduce his charges.
Berchtold abducted Jan a second time in 1976. This time, he took her to California, where he enrolled her in a Catholic school and changed her name. Once the FBI located Berchtold, he was arrested again but spent just six months in a mental institution.
Girl in the Picture
Girl in the Picture is a Netflix original documentary telling the story of Suzanne Sevakis, whom a man named Franklin Delano Floyd kidnapped when she was a child. He then raised her as his own.
While being held hostage for multiple decades, Suzanne's name was changed to Sharon Marshall, and Floyd repeatedly sexually assaulted her while raising her as his daughter. He later forced her to marry him.
Suzanne's mother met Floyd in 1975 while at church, but he gave her a fake name. When she received a month-long jail sentence for writing a bad check, Floyd kidnapped her children. He dropped two of her daughters off at an orphanage but kept Suzanne, the eldest.
In 1990, 20-year-old Suzanne Sevakis was killed in what Floyd claimed was a hit-and-run accident. At the time, Suzanne's 2-year-old son Michael was placed into foster care. Four years later, Floyd abducted Michael, and he was never seen again.
The film also highlights Floyd’s eventual confession to killing Michael, as well as the search for Suzanne’s true identity, which wasn't determined until 2014. The youngest of Suzanne’s three children, whom she put up for adoption, provided their DNA to confirm her identity.
Floyd was eventually imprisoned for abducting her son, Michael Hughes, and murdering her friend Cheryl Commesso.
- Photo: Hulu
Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story
Captive Audience: A Real American Horror Story is a three-part Hulu series featuring two brothers, Steven and Corey. One of the brothers, Steven Stayner, was kidnapped at the age of 7 in 1972 by a man named Kenneth Parnell. Parnell told Steven his parents didn't want him anymore because they had too many children. Parnell then began calling Steven “Dennis” and pretended to be his father while in public.
After spending seven years as a hostage of his abductor and being repeatedly assaulted, Steven escaped at the age of 14. He left with another victim, Timothy White, who was only 5 years old. Steven reportedly decided to leave in order to save Timothy from what he himself endured.
After returning home, he and his family were inundated by media attention. Living in a relentless spotlight was difficult for the whole family, but in particular, Cory Stayner, Steven’s brother, became jealous. Steven eventually got married and had two children; however, he tragically died in a motorcycle accident at the age of 24.
About 10 years later, in 1999, four women in the same area were found murdered. They had all been killed in a similar manner, and police believed a serial killer was on the loose. Investigators ultimately learned Steven’s brother, Corey, was responsible for the murders. He is currently on death row.
The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
The Netflix original documentary, The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann, covers the disappearance of 3-year-old Madeleine McCann, who was on vacation with her family in May 2007. McCann vanished from the apartment where they were staying while her parents ate dinner with their friends at a restaurant approximately 200 feet away from her bedroom.
The film also covers the investigation into her disappearance and the overwhelming media response to the case.
The family was staying at a resort in Portugal called Praia da Luz. The night of Madeleine's disappearance, she was asleep in the same apartment as her younger twin siblings. The parents reportedly walked back and forth multiple times during their meal to check on the children. When Madeleine's mother entered the apartment around 10 pm, she noticed Madeleine wasn't there.
After a misinterpreted DNA test, the Portuguese police began claiming Madeleine had died in an accident, and that her family and their friends covered it up.
When police concluded the investigation due to lack of evidence, Madeleine’s parents hired private investigators, and Scotland Yard opened its own case. The Scotland Yard case focused on the theory that a stranger abducted Madeleine. One particular suspect in the case was a German man, but nothing came of this line of inquiry.
While the case has never been solved, the film also discusses other potential suspects, the response of local police, the media’s reaction, and other countless rumors about the case.
- Photo: GathrFilms
Who Took Johnny
Who Took Johnny covers the story of 12-year-old Johnny Gosch, who disappeared in 1982 in Des Moines, IA. The film also focuses on Johnny’s mother, Noreen, and her determination to find her son. It includes both old and new interview footage with her, Johnny’s father, law enforcement, and others who were somehow involved.
The day Johnny disappeared, he was delivering newspapers in his neighborhood just blocks away from his own home. While on his route, an eyewitness saw him being pulled into a blue car. His parents determined he was missing after receiving a complaint from someone who never got their morning paper.
Police later found a red wagon in the area, along with the rest of the undelivered newspapers. At this time, the family had no one they could reach out besides police; AMBER alerts and hotlines for missing children had not yet been created yet. In fact, Johnny was one of the first missing children to appear on a milk carton as a way to spread awareness about his case.
While Johnny’s disappearance has never been solved, various sightings have been reported over the years. Noreen herself has stated that a man claiming to be Johnny visited her in 1997, saying he was kidnapped by a pedophile organization but still lived in fear and couldn't come home. Her account has been met with a great deal of skepticism.
Johnny Gosch's disappearance eventually led to the creation of a foundation in his name that helped create the Johnny Gosch Law, which requires immediate police involvement for missing children in Iowa.
- Photo: Cinema Purgatorio
Cropsey not only covers a New York urban legend of a boogeyman by the same name, but also the true case of a convicted child abductor, Andre Rand, whose crimes may be connected to Cropsey.
The legend of Cropsey is essentially an unknown figure that would kidnap children and take them to an abandoned tunnel system under an old hospital to kill them. Various real and fake disappearances were attributed to Cropsey. Then, in 1987, a local man named Andre Rand was found to be connected to crimes like those Cropsey had supposedly committed.
Rand was working as a janitor at a state school for children with intellectual disabilities, which was an abusive and unsafe environment for students. He was homeless at the time and lived near an old hospital and an abandoned school.
Rand had a history of crimes against children, including sexual assault and an incident in which he kidnapped a bus full of children. Rand was originally arrested for the disappearance of 12-year-old student Jenifer Schweiger. Her body was later found on the school grounds where he lived at the time.
Authorities believe Rand may be connected to even more cases of missing children from that time period. He was later found guilty of one of these cases and won't be eligible for parole until 2037.