With ever-evolving technology and investigation capabilities, true crime cold cases are getting solved left and right. Forensic genealogy has named an astounding number of formerly unidentified Jane and John Does. Even so, many unsolved mysteries remain.
Whether they're oft-discussed historical cases like Amelia Earhart or cases that dominated the headlines when they occurred before slowly fading from the public eye, these unsolved mysteries are still on our minds. Sleeping in 2022 wasn't easy knowing these stories still don't have closure - and that many of these perpetrators could still be out there.
No Trace Of Amelia Earhart’s Plane Has Been Found, Despite Extensive Searches
On July 2, 1937, the great aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were leaving the ground from New Guinea to finish their mission of flying around the world. Their next stop was a tiny island in the Pacific Ocean: Howland Island. Their plane never arrived. Somewhere between points A and B, their radio transmission was lost, likely from overcast skies, and their fuel was dangerously low.
One of the largest searches in American history followed. The US Navy and Coast Guard scoured 250,000 square miles of the Pacific, but they never found Amelia Earhart, Fred Noonan, or their plane.
Earhart was pronounced legally dead in January 1939, over a year after her disappearance. Over 80 years later, many theories as to what may have happened to the great aviator still persist.
On the morning of her disappearance, Earhart said over the radio, "on the line 157 337... running north and south," indicating she was, in fact, en route to Howland Island. This led to the popular hypothesis that inclement weather caused Earhart and Noonan to miss Howland Island and continue on, possibly running out of fuel and landing on a tiny island. Some even believed the two survived, living on the island as castaways.
In 1940, a partial human skeleton was found on Nikumaroro, a tiny atoll - a ring of coral reef formed from an oceanic volcano. A medical examiner immediately concluded from the bones' measurements that they belonged to a man.
In 1987, however, the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) revisited the case, launching a mission to find any evidence Earhart may have left behind. Twelve years later, in 1998, they reexamined the skeleton found on Nikumaroro with forensic science far more advanced than what was available in 1940. Scientists concluded the human remains belonged to a woman of European descent who was the same height as Amelia Earhart.
In 2018, the remains were examined yet again, and the University of Tennessee, in conjunction with TIGHAR, concluded that there was a 99% chance the bones belonged to Amelia Earhart. What happened to her plane and Fred Noonan is still unknown.
Bobby Dunbar Was Supposedly Kidnapped, Then Found, But The Boy Who Returned Wasn't Actually Bobby
In the summer heat of August 23, 1912, the Dunbar family decided to cool off with a vacation to Louisiana's Swayze Lake. More swamp than lake, Swayze was full of alligators. At some point in the night while the family slept in their tents, Bobby Dunbar, the family's 4-year-old son, wandered off and vanished, launching an eight-month-long search for the child.
A Louisiana newspaper from the time, The Caldwell Watchman, covered the search:
When [Bobby] was missed, a search traced him to the banks of Lake Swayze... At first, it was feared that he [had] drowned, but the lake failed to give up the body and the little boy’s hat was found some distance from the lake a day or so later.
With hope of finding Bobby waning, the town continued to search for the boy, offering cash rewards equivalent to $125,000 today to anyone who could lead authorities to him.
On April 13, 1913, police finally thought they found little Bobby Dunbar alive, traveling with a drifter named William Cantwell Walters in Mississippi. The only problem? The Dunbars didn't recognize him.
Regardless of the family's less-than-ideal reaction, police matched up identifying markers such as birthmarks to prove the boy was Bobby. The town celebrated the missing boy's return, despite the Dunbars' doubts.
Meanwhile, accused kidnapper William Cantwell Walters protested his arrest from jail, claiming the boy was the illegitimate son of his brother and his servant. Julia Anderson (pictured), the woman who claimed to be Bobby's real mother, paid a visit to the Dunbars to claim her alleged son, Bruce Anderson. After seeing the boy, she claimed he was, in fact, little Bruce, not little Bobby. After a public trial, it was decided the Dunbars would keep Bobby and Julia Anderson would return to Mississippi.
Years later, Bobby Dunbar's granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, received a scrapbook of articles about the mystery of her grandfather's identity. She allied with Linda Traver, granddaughter of Julia Anderson, and the two began searching for the truth. After uncovering letters and court documents, Margaret Dunbar Cutright convinced her father to give a DNA sample to finally put an end to the mystery. The DNA sample was compared to Bobby's younger brother, Alonzo. The test proved that "Bobby Dunbar" was not the same boy who went missing in the swamp in 1912. He was the son of Julia Anderson all along.
What happened to the real Bobby Dunbar is still a mystery, as is the question of whether or not Bobby Dunbar's parents knew the boy was not really theirs.
Amy Lynn Bradley Disappeared From A Cruise Ship While On Vacation In The Caribbean
Amy Lynn Bradley was 23 years old when she went on a Royal Caribbean cruise vacation with her family. At 5:30 in the morning on March 24, 1998, her father saw her lounging on the balcony of their cabin. Thirty minutes later, she was gone, even leaving her sandals behind.
The ship was set to dock later that morning in Curacao. After Bradley's family was unable to find her, they asked the crew to search the ship and not let anyone off before Bradley was found. While the crew searched the ship's common areas, staff and passenger cabins were not included. The crew also refused to make an announcement before the ship was docked, not wanting to upset the other guests. Passengers were let off at Curacao, allowing the opportunity for Bradley to leave the ship either of her own accord or by force.
Bradley had danced with a man the night before she disappeared, and some passengers claimed they saw her with the same man the morning she went missing. Bradley's parents have also stated that crew members paid an unusual amount of attention to Bradley. They allegedly wanted to take her to Carlos and Charlie's Restaurant in Aruba, the same restaurant where Natalee Holloway would last be seen in 2005.
In the ensuing years, multiple sightings of Bradley have been reported. Five months after her disappearance, two tourists saw a woman on a beach in Curacao with the same tattoos as Bradley. In 1999, a member of the Navy reportedly met a woman in a Curacao brothel who told him her name was Amy Lynn Bradley and asked him for help; however, he delayed reporting the sighting, as he didn't want to get in trouble. Other alleged sightings over the years have led to the theory that Bradley may have been a target of sex trafficking.
Sneha Philip's Family Believes She Was A Victim Of 9/11, But Police Aren’t Convinced
On September 10, 2001, 31-year-old Dr. Sneha Anne Philip spent a quiet afternoon in her apartment in downtown Manhattan. Later on, security footage showed she did some shopping at a nearby department store. She was never seen again.
When Philip's husband came home from work that evening, he didn't find it unusual that she wasn't there, as she sometimes stayed out overnight. He left for work the next morning without having seen her but began to worry when she didn't answer his calls after the 9/11 attack.
The couple's apartment was only about two blocks from the World Trade Center, and Philip's family believes the likeliest scenario is that, due to her medical training, she went to the site to help and was ultimately killed.
Police, however, didn't believe there was any evidence to suggest Philip's disappearance was related to 9/11, particularly as no one had seen her since the 10th. They pointed to problems in Philip's personal and professional life to suggest that she could have run into foul play or disappeared of her own volition. Philip had recently been suspended from her job after failing to appear for substance use counseling. Investigators believed she had a rocky marriage due to extramarital relationships, and she and her husband had reportedly argued the same morning she disappeared.
It’s more peaceful for me to think she died in the World Trade Center than... I cannot bear to think that somebody killed her.
Maura Murray Crashed Her Car Into A Snowbank And Was Never Seen Again
Maura Murray crashed her car into a snowbank along a rural New Hampshire road on February 9, 2004. Despite witness accounts that she was in or near her car after the accident, police found no trace of Murray in the surrounding area.
Murray was a 21-year-old nursing student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who had emailed her professors the afternoon before she vanished saying she would miss class due to a death in the family; later on, however, Murray's family confirmed there had been no such death. Upon searching her dorm room, police discovered Murray had packed up most of her belongings. The previous day, she had also searched online for directions to Burlington, VT, which were found in her car. She'd called about accommodations in Stowe, VT, but hadn't booked anything.
Some theorize Murray met with foul play and was the victim of an opportunistic criminal after the car accident. Others believe she fled the scene and may have wandered into the woods, where she likely perished from the elements. As police dogs were unable to follow her scent, though, others think a second car was following Murray and picked her up, and she disappeared to start a new life.
Count Xavier Dupont De Ligonnès Went Missing After His Family Was Killed
On April 21, 2011, authorities discovered a gruesome scene in a family home in Nantes, France. The bodies of Agnès Dupont de Ligonnès, her children - Arthur, Thomas, Anne, and Benoît - and the two family dogs were found buried under the terrace. The family's patriarch, Count Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, was missing.
According to Netflix's House of Terror, Ligonnès, who hailed from a noble French lineage, was ashamed of his family's debt. Rather than letting his wife and children face shame and ruin, he decided to kill them.
In the weeks before the murders, he learned to operate a .22 caliber rifle he had inherited. He also purchased a silencer and set up an elaborate story, telling friends that his family had to go into US witness protection. The children's schools were told they were moving to Australia. Between April 3 and 5, Ligonnès allegedly drugged and murdered his family.
He not only buried them but also removed all traces of blood, DNA, and other evidence. He boarded up the house and left. For the first few days, he was visible, using credit cards, his own name, and personal documents. After police found the bodies, however, Ligonnès arrived at a small hotel in Roquebrune-sur-Argens. He parked his car, took his bag, and walked into the woods, and this was the last anyone saw of him.
Some have reported sightings, but nothing has been confirmed, and Ligonnès has never been caught. He did allegedly send a postcard to the media years later, but the veracity of this card has never been confirmed. Is he alive? And if so, where is he? No one has the answer yet - at least, not with any proof.