Strange Disappearances in National Parks


( – Each year, thousands of people travel to our National Parks to camp, hike, fish, hunt, and get away from everyday life. Unfortunately, not all of them come back alive — or at all. When a person disappears in a National Park, it usually makes the news for a week or two and then is quickly forgotten by the media.

So many factors can be imagined as to how a person could vanish in the wild, from animal attacks to simply getting lost and succumbing to the elements. Most of the disappearances within National Parks can be attributed to such scenarios; however, there are many cases that are downright bizarre. Children have gone missing and are later found miles away or high up in the mountains. Bodies appear on trails that have been searched by SARs (Search and Rescue) teams for days or even weeks prior. People are found deceased in mere inches of water — and, inexplicably, people vanish in the blink of an eye.

David Paulides and Missing 411

Such mysterious disappeared person cases have been the focus of investigation for retired police detective David Paulides for over ten years now. With nine books and two movies in the Missing 411 line, Paulides has linked thousands of cases of missing people to truly strange circumstances.

Missing 411 was created after Paulides was approached by park rangers who presented him with information regarding several missing person cases that they believed to be abnormal. The rangers were concerned, as the Nation Park Service (NPS) was seemingly uninterested in pursuing these cases and thwarted their attempts to investigate them.

Since then, Paulides has investigated thousands of cases and has encountered similar roadblocks from the NPS. Paulides has filed Freedom of Information requests to obtain a list of missing people from the NPS and was told no such list exists. He was told that in order to have one generated, it would cost him $36,000 for a list of missing people from Yosemite National Park alone and $1.4 million dollars to get a cumulative list of missing people from the entire National Park system (Recently, after years of denial, a list of missing people has been released for Yosemite National Park).

Criteria for Investigation

Before a missing person case is considered for investigation by Paulides and his Missing 411 team, it must fit certain profile points:

  • Mental illness or suicidal thoughts must be ruled out.
  • No signs of voluntary disappearance.
  • No signs of animal predation.
  • No indication of foul play.
  • Unknown cause of death.
  • Severe weather is often involved, usually striking unexpectedly.
  • Canines either cannot find a scent to track the person or refuse to track the person altogether.
  • The victim, if found, is in an area previously searched.
  • Clothing or shoes are missing from the victim.
  • Water is often found in the immediate area of the disappearance: Lakes, creeks, rivers, ponds, or streams.
  • The victim has a disability or illness of some sort.
  • The victim disappeared in one of the geographical clusters that have been identified by the team.

How to Avoid Becoming a Missing 411 Subject

Paulides suggest the following tips to avoid becoming one of the missing: Carry a personal locator device, bring a firearm (if legal in the area), and always tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return, especially when hiking alone.

To learn more about Missing 411, visit their website at

~Here’s to Your Survival!

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