Theories About The Disappearance Of The Pattersons, A Mystery That Will Never Be Solved

William and Margaret Patterson belong on a long list of people who have vanished without a trace. The couple went missing from El Paso, TX, in March 1957. Their case is one of the greatest unsolved disappearances of the 20th century. 

Theories about what happened to the Pattersons are still up for debate. There were reports that the couple moved to Florida or left the country. Some people believe the Pattersons succumbed to the hands of someone nefarious, others think they were perhaps spies, and a few armchair theorists think the couple still haunts their house. Their home appeared untidy - there were clothes set out on the bed and dirty dishes in the sink - but normal; anyone would have assumed they had only stepped out for a couple of hours.  

Multiple law enforcement agencies took part in the search, but the Pattersons' fate remains unknown. This is one missing persons' mystery that may never be solved.


  • The State Of Their Home Suggested An Abrupt Exit
    Photo: Justin Cozart / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    The State Of Their Home Suggested An Abrupt Exit

    On August 15, 1957, the Pattersons' friend, Cecil Ward, called the police to report the married pair missing, as they hadn't been seen since March 5, 1957. Authorities discovered the couple had seemingly made an abrupt exit. The kitchen sink had unwashed dishes from the night before, and clothes were laid out on the bed. 

    The Pattersons also abandoned their cat named Tommy. What's more: none of their utilities were turned off; mail was still being delivered on schedule; and they did not pick up a costly fur coat from the cleaners.

  • The Pattersons Left Many Valuables Behind

    The Pattersons owned a photography supply shop in El Paso and appeared to have done well financially. The couple had a Cadillac, boat, investment shares of a boat company, and property in Guaymas, Mexico - but they left it all behind.

    In their missing person descriptions, both Pattersons were described as well dressed. A Rolex watch was found in a pair of William's jeans.

    Along with all of their expensive possessions, they deserted Margaret's beloved cat, Tommy.

  • The Pattersons Were Private About Personal Information 

    William and Margaret Patterson were a private couple; they described their childhoods as "rough," but never revealed much more. William was supposedly a former carnival barker, and he did not stay in close communication with his family.

    It took time to track down Margaret's six siblings in the Midwest; her estranged family hadn't approved of the marriage. Margaret was known to be extremely closed off when it came to personal information, even with her friends. She reportedly never revealed her birthday or relationship history.

  • William's Father Was Not Surprised They Disappeared

    William Patterson's 75-year-old father, Luther Patterson, traveled from Chicago to El Paso to speak at the inquest for his son's disappearance. "I always knew Pat and Margaret would take off like this someday, but I figured it to be four or five years away," he said.

    Luther added that he believes they are still alive but in hiding, saying, "My boy has done things like this before... He made his living doing sleight-of-hand tricks."

    William was a carnival barker back in Chicago. Though Luther initially had faith that William was alive, after a few years with no word, he gave up hope and admitted perhaps the couple had departed from this life.

  • Their Friends Were Not Convinced They Were Traveling 

    Cecil Ward, a friend of the Pattersons and the owner of a local auto repair shop, visited the Pattersons at their home the day they disappeared, but he didn't notice anything suspicious. He even said they made plans to work on William's boat later in the week.

    Ward noted the Pattersons didn't have any immediate travel plans, which contradicted reports from other associates of the Pattersons, who claimed that they were taking a vacation. 

  • One Friend Kept Popping Up In Seemingly Suspicious Ways
    Photo: Visit El Paso / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    One Friend Kept Popping Up In Seemingly Suspicious Ways

    The Pattersons likely disappeared on March 5, 1957, though what time remains unknown. On March 6, Doyle Kirkland, William's friend and owner of a competing photography store, reportedly came into Cecil Ward's shop and asked him to fix up William's car. 

    On March 15, Herbert Roth, the Pattersons' accountant, received a telegram which stated Kirkland should take over as manager at Patterson Photo Supplies. It was signed "Pat," which was William's nickname. However, police never recovered the telegram.