Monday Mystery-Laureen Ann Rahn

Laureen resided with her mother, Judith Rahn, in an apartment on Merrimack Street in Manchester, New Hampshire. She was a student at Parkside Junior High School and made good grades. She was last seen at her home during the evening hours of April 26, 1980. Two of Laureen’s friends saw her approximately one hour before her disappearance and reported that nothing was amiss at the time. She has never been heard from again. Judith’s then boyfriend was a professional tennis player and both he and Judith had been out of town at a tournament the night the incident occurred. Normally Laureen accompanied them but being on spring break from school she asked to stay home on this occasion to which her mother agreed.

That evening Laureen and two friends-one male and one female, spent the evening drinking beer and wine in the Rahn’s apartment. Only fourteen at the time, the trio were afraid of getting caught by Laureen’s mother. This caused the boy to leave through the back door when he heard voices in the hall that he assumed were Laureen’s mother returning. He stated that he heard the door being locked behind him. When Judith arrived home at midnight, she discovered that the lightbulbs on each of the three floors of the apartment building’s corridors had been unscrewed, leaving the floor her apartment was on in an eerie darkness. Her front door was unlocked, but Judith checked in Laureen’s bedroom and thought she saw her daughter asleep there. In the morning however, she discovered this was in fact Laureen’s friend, and Laureen was missing. Her friend said she’d last seen her asleep on the couch. Judith’s mother found the back door unlocked, but her daughter’s brand new trainers were still in the living room. Initially the police suspected the daughter had run off, but her own mother dismissed this theory, as Laureen had left her purse and clothes behind her. The authorities then changed their story to one that assumed the girl had left willingly, but aimed to return.

Judith discovered that she had been charged for three California phone calls on October 1, 1980, three months after Laureen disappeared. Judith did not have any friends or relatives in California at the time. Two of the calls had been placed from a motel in Santa Monica to another motel in Santa Ana. The third call was placed to a teen sexual assistance hotline. Authorities attempted to question the physician who maintained the hotline, but they were unable to ascertain if he knew any details about Laureen’s case. An investigator followed up on the hotline tip in 1985. A man identifying himself as a plastic surgeon answered the call. He said that numerous runaway girls occasionally visited his wife at their home. He also told the investigator that one of the young women may have been from New Hampshire. The individual claimed that Annie Sprinkle, a woman who allegedly worked with his wife in the fashion industry, may have had information concerning several runaways. Authorities learned that Sprinkle was involved in the pornography industry and scanned several of her films in an attempt to locate Laureen. No evidence linking Sprinkle to Laureen’s disappearance was discovered and she has never been implicated in her case.

An investigator visited California on Judith’s behalf in 1986 and located the two motels involved in the October 1980 phone calls. Authorities said that one of the establishments may have been used by a child pornographer named “Dr. Z.” Investigators were unable to link “Dr. Z” to the teen hotline and it is not known if pornography was involved in Laureen’s disappearance.

Roger Maurais, Laureen’s childhood friend in Manchester, received a call from a woman identifying herself as “Laurie” or “Laureen” in 1986. Maurais’s mother answered the call and said that the person claimed to be her son’s former girlfriend. The caller’s identity remains unknown.

One of Laureen’s family members reported seeing a girl matching her description in a Boston, Massachusetts bus terminal in 1981. Judith received phone calls around the Christmas holidays for several years from an unknown individual. She said that the person listened silently when Laureen’s sister answered the phone, then terminated the call shortly afterwards. The calls stopped after Judith changed her phone number several years after Laureen vanished.

A witness reported that a prostitute in Anchorage, Alaska matched Laureen’s description. The unconfirmed sighting occurred in 1988 and authorities said that the witness based his recollections on her 1980 photo. The woman was not believed to have been Laureen as a result of the time lapse.

In April 2005, a Nevada investigator contacted Judith and said Laureen bore a resemblance to a murdered young woman whose body was found off a dirt road in Henderson, Nevada in October 1980. Judith goes not believe the Nevada woman is her daughter, but officials are investigating that possibility.

Judith moved to Fort Myers, Florida during the years after Laureen’s disappearance. She believes that her daughter placed the three California phone calls in October 1980. Laureen enjoyed singing and dancing at the time of her disappearance and dreamed of becoming an actress. Investigators continue to suspect that foul play was involved in her case, which remains unsolved.

While there is no evidence that the two cases are connected, it is worth noting that Rachael Garden, another petite brunette about the same age as Laureen, disappeared from a nearby town just a month before Laureen did. Garden’s case remains unsolved as well and is also classified as a non-family abduction.

Is this a case of serial abduction, or were the police correct at first in suggesting Laureen had simply walked off? Who did the raised voices in the hallway belong to, and did Laureen indeed lock the door after her friend had left? Why was her friend not taken? Perhaps the perpetrator did not know Laureen had guests. Most mysteriously, why were the corridor lights unscrewed in a building without CCTV, and why has no trace of Laureen ever been found?

Monday Mystery-Disappearance on the Flannan Islands

The Flannan Isles or Seven Hunters are a small island group near Scotland, approximately 32 kilometres (20 mi) west of the Isle of Lewis. They may take their name from St Flannan, the 7th-century Irish preacher. The islands have been devoid of permanent residents since the automation in 1971.They are the location of an enduring mystery which occurred in December 1900, when all three lighthouse keepers vanished without a trace.

The first hint of anything untoward on the Flannan Isles came on 15 December 1900. The steamer Archtor on passage from Philadelphia passed the islands in poor weather and noted that the light was not operational, something highly unusual for a operating lighthouse.This was reported on arrival although no immediate action seems to have been taken. The island lighthouse was manned by a three-man team (Thomas Marshall, James Ducat and Donald Macarthur), with a rotating fourth man spending time on shore. The relief vessel, the lighthouse tender Hesperus, did not arrive on the rock until December 26th. On arrival, the crew and relief keeper found that the flagstaff was bare of its flag, none of the usual provision boxes had been left on the landing stage for re-stocking and, more ominously, none of the lighthouse keepers were there to welcome them ashore. Jim Harvie, captain of the Hesperus, gave a strident blast on his whistle and set off a distress flare, but no reply came.

A boat was launched and Joseph Moore, the relief keeper, was put ashore alone. He found the entrance gate to the compound and main door both closed. When he crept inside, he saw the beds unmade and the clock stopped. Returning to the landing stage with this grim news, he then went back up to the lighthouse with the Hesperus’s second-mate and a seaman. A further search revealed that the lamps were cleaned and refilled. A set of oilskins was found, suggesting that one of the keepers had left the lighthouse without them, which was surprising considering the severity of the weather. The only sign of anything amiss in the lighthouse was an overturned chair by the kitchen table. Of the keepers there was no sign, either inside the lighthouse or anywhere on the island.

Moore and three volunteer seamen were left to attend the light and the Hesperus returned to the shore. Captain Harvie sent a telegram to the Northern Lighthouse board dated 26 December 1900, stating:

A dreadful accident has happened at the Flannans. The three keepers, Ducat, Marshall and the Occasional have disappeared from the Island… The clocks were stopped and other signs indicated that the accident must have happened about a week ago. Poor fellows they must have been blown over the cliffs or drowned trying to secure a crane or something like that.

The men remaining on the island scoured every corner for clues as to the fate of the keepers. At the east landing everything was intact, but the west landing provided considerable evidence of damage caused by recent storms. A box at 33 metres (108 ft) above sea level had been broken and its contents strewn about; iron railings were bent over, the iron railway by the path was wrenched out of its concrete, and a rock weighing over a ton had been displaced above that. On top of the cliff at over 60 metres (200 ft) above sea level, turf had been ripped away over 10 metres (33 ft) from the cliff edge. However, the keepers had kept their log until 9 a.m. on 15 December and this made it clear that the damage had occurred before the writers’ disappearance.

Did one of the keepers kill the others and then drown in the storm? Who wrote the last entries in the diary, and were they alone? Even with no evidence of foul play, were the lighthouse keepers taken unawares. Did they simply succumb to a freak wave, as is generally accepted. Indeed it seems one of the keepers must have ran to the aid of the others, leaving the chair on the floor and the his gear unused. Yet why then was the door securely closed, and the gate also?

Some light has been shed on the contents of the log that the lighthouse kept, though whether this was a real account is unknown;

“December 12. Gale north by northwest. Sea lashed to fury. Never seen such a storm. Waves very high. Tearing at lighthouse. Everything shipshape. James Ducat irritable”.

Later that day: “Storm still raging, wind steady. Stormbound. Cannot go out. Ship passing sounding foghorn. Could see lights of cabins. Ducat quiet. Donald McArthur crying”.

“December 13. Storm continued through night. Wind shifted west by north. Ducat quiet. McArthur praying”. Later: “Noon, grey daylight. Me, Ducat and McArthur prayed”.

On 14 December there was no entry in the log.

The final entry was made on a slate, which (under normal circumstances) would have been transferred to the logbook proper later on:

“December 15. 1pm. Storm ended, sea calm. God is over all”.

 

Who knows if this account is real,as the emotional nature of it seems to suggest it is a forgery. Even so, it appears one of the keepers did rush out of the lighthouse to the aid of his companions. Did he meet the same fate?

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Monday Mystery-Dyatlov Pass Incident

Introduction

The Dyatlov pass incident refers to the mysterious deaths of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural mountains on the night of February 2, 1959. A group was formed for a ski trek across the northern Urals in Sverdlovsk Oblast. The group, led by Igor Dyatlov, consisted of eight men and two women. Most were students or graduates of Ural Polytechnical Institute.

At the point of their disappearance, the goal of the ill-fated expedition was to reach Otorten, a mountain that was approximately 6 miles away. The unfortunate hikers never reached their destination, and chillingly enough, the word “Otorten” translated from Mansi (indigenous peoples in the area) language, means “Mountain of the dead men.”

The two women on the expedition were Zinaida Kolmogorova and Lyudmila Dubinina, and the other men were Alexander Kolevatov, Rusterm Slobodin, Yuri Krivonischenko, Yuri Doroshenko, Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolle, Alexander Zolotarev, and Yuri Yudin.

On the morning of January 27, 1959, the group left Vizhai to begin their trek.Vizhai is the northernmost inhabited settlement in the region. On January 28th, one of the hikers, Yuri Yudin, fell ill and had to turn back.This turned out to be a life-saving turn of events for Mr. Yudin, as he is the sole survivor of the doomed expedition. On January 31, the group began to climb.

On February 1st, the hikers reached Kholat Syakhl, the mountain pass that has since been renamed “Dyatlov Pass” since the incident occurred.When they reached the pass, their plan was to cross over and set-up camp on the other side.Weather conditions worsened, a snowstorm ensued, and the hikers lost their direction due to decreasing visibility.In the confusion of being lost, the group discovered that they had hiked to nearly the top of the mountain pass, so they decided to pitch camp where they were, and head out the next day.They never made it past this point.

It was decided beforehand that Igor Dylatov was to send a telegraph on February 12th to the group’s sports club as soon as they reached Vizhai upon their return. February 12th came and went, with no communication from the hikers. Most people were not alarmed because delays are not uncommon for expeditions – besides, they were nine experienced and capable hiker. The families of the hikers became increasingly concerned in the days that followed. On February 20th, the Ural Polytechnic Institute formed a rescue party consisting of students, and faculty – to no avail so that eventually, police and army forces mounted a full-scale official search and rescue party for the nine missing hikers.

The bodies found

On February 26, the searchers found the abandoned and badly damaged tent on Kholat Syakhl. Mikhail Sharavin, the student who found the tent, said “the tent was half torn down and covered with snow. It was empty, and all the group’s belongings and shoes had been left behind.” Investigators said the tent had been cut open from inside. A chain of eight or nine sets of footprints, left by several people who were wearing only socks, a single shoe or were barefoot, could be followed and led down toward the edge of nearby woods. At the forest edge, under a large cedar, the searchers found the remains of a fire, along with the first two bodies, those of Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko, shoeless and dressed only in their underwear. The branches on the tree were broken up to five meters high, suggesting that a skier had climbed up to look for something, perhaps the camp. Between the cedar and the camp the searchers found three more corpses, Dyatlov, Zina Kolmogorova and Rustem Slobodin, who seemed to have died in poses suggesting that they were attempting to return to the tent. These four were better dressed than the others, and there were signs that those who had died first had apparently relinquished their clothes to the others. Zolotaryov was wearing Dubinina’s faux fur coat and hat, while Dubinina’s foot was wrapped in a piece of Krivonishenko’s wool pants.

A legal inquest started immediately after finding the first five bodies. A medical examination found no injuries which might have led to their deaths, and it was concluded that they had all died of hypothermia. Slobodin had a small crack in his skull, but it was not thought to be a fatal wound.

An examination of the four bodies which were found in May changed the picture. Three of them had fatal injuries: the body of Thibeaux-Brignolles had major skull damage, and both Dubinina and Zolotarev had major chest fractures. According to Dr. Boris Vozrozhdenny, the force required to cause such damage would have been extremely high. He compared it to the force of a car crash. Notably, the bodies had no external wounds related to the bone fractures, as if they were crippled by a high level of pressure. Major external injuries were, however found on Dubinina, who was missing her tongue, eyes, and part of the lips, facial tissue and a fragment of skullbone;she also had extensive skin macerations on the hands.

What happened on the expedition that drove nine experienced hikers to start off into the woods, some barely clothed? What force killed four of the company, whose injuries are inconsistent with violence?

 

Monday mystery-The Phantom Barber of Pascagoula

In June 1942, the population of Pascagoula swelled as increased demand for warships and supplies drew large numbers into the town. The local economy was booming, but in the long shadows of a wartime summer, something haunted the streets at night.

The man nicknamed the Phantom Barber by newspapers worked in the darkness. This was made easy by army blackout regulations, which left whole areas of the town without light for several hours at a time.  On Monday or Friday evenings, he slit a window screen to gain access to a house, crept inside, and cut the hair of sleeping occupants, particularly blonde girls. Not satisfied with only a lock or two, he sometimes pushed so far as to shear a whole head of hair. He took nothing else from the home except his prize, left his victims sleeping and unharmed.

He began with two young girls in the convent of Our Lady of Victories, followed by a six year old female child visiting another family. That time, he left a clue—the print of a man’s bare foot in sand on an unoccupied bed in the room. The police were baffled. Three hundred dollars was put up as a reward for information that might help catch the phantom. The public was in a panic. Women refused to go outside at night. Men applied for pistol permits. Bloodhounds were brought in to track the bizarre intruder, but the efforts failed.

At last, the phantom broke his pattern, or so it seemed. A window screen was slit in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Terrell Heidelburg, and the intruder came inside their bedroom. However, rather than cutting hair, he brutally assaulted the couple. Mrs. Heidelburg lost her front teeth and was knocked unconscious, while her husband was beaten with a metal bar. Both survived the attack. Two months later, the police chief announced the arrest of a suspect, William A. Dolan, a chemist, who was charged with attempted murder.

A connection between Dolan and the Phantom Barber came with the discovery of human hair allegedly found near his residence. He continued to deny he was the phantom, and while convicted of the attack on the Heidelburgs—he bore a grudge against Terrell’s father, a judge—was never charged with the phantom’s acts. Since the Phantom Barber never touched his victims other than their hair, it would seem no meaningful tie exists between Dolan and the Phantom Barber, whose break-ins ended as mysteriously as they began.

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Monday Mystery-Hinterkaifeck

Hinterkaifeck, a small farmstead situated between the Bavarian towns of Ingolstadt and Schrobenhausen (approximately 70 km north of Munich), was the scene of one of the most puzzling crimes in German history. On the evening of March 31, 1922, the six inhabitants of the farm were killed with a mattock (similar to a pickaxe). The murder is still unsolved.

The victims were Andreas and Cäzilia Gruber, their widowed daughter Viktoria, her children Cäzilia and Joseph and the maid, Maria Baumgartner. It was rumored that Andreas and Viktoria had an incestuous relationship, and that Joseph was their two year old son. Hinterkaifeck was never an official place name. The name was used for the remote farmstead of the hamlet of Kaifeck, located nearly 1 kilometer north of the main part. It was hidden in the woods, and isolated from its neighbours.

A few days prior to the crime, farmer Andreas Gruber told neighbours about discovering footprints in the snow leading from the edge of the forest to the farm, but none leading back. He also spoke about hearing footsteps in the attic in the dead of night, and finding an unfamiliar newspaper on the farm. Furthermore, the house keys went missing several days before the murders, but none of this was reported to the police.

Six months earlier, the previous maid had left the farm, claiming that it was haunted. The new maid, Maria Baumgartner, arrived on the farm on 31 March, only a few hours before her death.Exactly what happened on that Friday evening cannot be said for certain. It is believed that the older couple, as well as their daughter Viktoria and her daughter Cäzilia, were somehow all lured into the barn one by one, where they were killed. The murderer(s) then went into the house where they found and killed two-year-old Josef who was sleeping in the cot in his mother’s bedroom, as well as the maid, Maria Baumgartner, in her bed-chamber.

On the following Tuesday, the 4th of April, some neighbours went to the farmstead because none of the inhabitants had been seen for several days, which was rather unusual. The postman had noticed that the post from the previous Saturday was still where he had left it. Furthermore, young Cäzilia had not turned up for school on Monday, nor had she been there on Saturday.

Inspector Georg Reingruber and his colleagues from the Munich Police Department made immense efforts investigating the killings. More than 100 suspects have been questioned through the years, but to no avail. The death of Karl Gabriel, Viktoria’s husband who had been reported killed in the French trenches in 1914, was called into question. His body had never been found. The police first suspected the motive to be robbery, and interrogated several inhabitants from the surrounding villages, as well as travelling craftsmen and vagrants. The robbery theory was, however, abandoned when a large amount of money was found in the house. It is believed that the perpetrator(s) remained at the farm for several days – someone had fed the cattle, and eaten food in the kitchen: the neighbours had also seen smoke from the chimney during the weekend – and anyone looking for money would have found it. The case laid active even in the 1980s, where people were still fruitlessly questioned. Today the motive remains unclear, and the killer will never be known.

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Monday Mystery-The Phantom Whistler of Louisiana

Who doesn’t love a good mystery on a Monday? This week, our mystery is from state-side.

Back in 1950, newspapers were full of the story of the Phantom Whistler of Louisiana. The Whistler was terrorizing a young woman, 18-year-old Jacqueline Cadow. In February, Jacquelyn Cadow of Paradis, Louisiana began hearing wolf whistles outside her bedroom window at night. The home she shared with her mother was also broken into by an intruder. The authorities were notified on several occasions, but nothing became of it, even when the media became involved. Night after night, she heard the same whistles of the phantom until she announced her engagement to State Trooper Herbert Belsom. Then, the harassment grew worse, and the whistles changed to a funeral dirge. The authorities suspected a man at this time and sometimes he would follow this dirge with a “blood-curdling moan.”

Around this time, Jacquelyn also received telephone threats, the voice on the other end of the call promising to come to her home and stick a knife in her if she went ahead with her marriage. Jacquelyn suffered a collapse when she, her mother, her aunt, and a New Orleans States-Item reporter heard the whistler at work. The reporter and Belsom searched the yard, but found no one. The harassed woman tried staying with relatives. The whistler soon followed. And when she went to the home of Belsom’s parents (her then fiancé), the whistler called her mother with a message: “Tell Jackie I know she’s at Herbert’s house”.

On October 1, she and Belsom married. No incident occurred at the ceremony, and the whole thing came to a close. At first, the local sheriff claimed the whole thing was a hoax, even inciting on one occasion that it was an “inside job” and no real danger was ever present. However soon after the sheriff changed his story to say the whistler had been caught, though no charges were ever recorded or names released to the media. Jacquelyn never reported again to the police on the subject. Was the phantom a hoax, or was someone really at the window? Did he give up after the marriage happened, spurned by Jacquelyn’s choice or perhaps afraid he would eventually get caught? It is hard to know. Who was the phantom whistler and why did he choose to terrify Jacquelyn Cadow? We’ll never know.

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