Jimmy Hoffa #MysteryMonday

Hey, everyone. Last week was Labor Day in America, or what many call the unofficial end of summer. New York City held the first Labor Day parade and the state of Oregon was the first to make it an official holiday in 1887. In 1894, it became a Federal Holiday.

With the holiday, I decided to hold this month’s Mystery Monday post to this week. And since we just celebrated Labor Day, why not write about the mysterious disappearance of labor leader Jimmy Hoffa?

Jimmy Hoffa in 1975 (Public Domain Photo)

James Riddle Hoffa was born in Brazil, Indiana on February 14, 1913. He became a union activist at an early age. By the time he was in his mid-twenties, he was a regional figure with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). Hoffa became the national vice-president in 1952 and then served as general president from 1957-1971.

Hoffa also became involved in organized crime during his work with the Teamsters. In 1964, he was convicted of jury tampering, attempted bribery, and fraud. He went to prison in 1967 to begin a thirteen-year sentence.

In 1971, he resigned as president of the Teamsters as part of a pardon agreement with President Richard Nixon. He was released that year with a stipulation he would not engage in union activities until 1980.

On July 30, 1975, he disappeared in Oakland County, Michigan. Hoffa is presumed dead, but his body has never been found. On July 30, 1982, he was declared legally dead.

The identity of his killers and the location of his body is an ongoing mystery. Police and anthropologists have searched several sites in Detroit and Oakland County but haven’t found any evidence.

A popular theory that surfaced years ago was that Hoffa’s body was buried beneath Giant Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. This has since been debunked.

Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski was a hitman who claimed to have killed Hoffa and “dumped his body in a scrapyard.” His confession was the subject of a book by Philip Carlo, who visited the confessed killer in prison. Kuklinski died in 2006. After Carlo’s book was released, several police officials cast doubt on the confession in media interviews.

The life of Jimmy Hoffa was depicted in the 1992 movie Hoffa, directed by Danny DeVito, and starring Jack Nicholson in the title role. Over forty-six years have passed since Hoffa’s disappearance. At this stage, it is unlikely that anyone will locate his remains. But who knows? Stranger things have happened.

The Mary Celeste #MysteryMonday

Hey everyone. Welcome to the first Mystery Monday of the new year. Today’s story dates back almost 150 years and is one of the greatest maritime mysteries of all time.

An 1861 painting of the Mary Celeste (then known as the Amazon) by an unknown artist. (Public Domain)

The Mary Celeste was a 282-ton brigantine ship that left Staten Island, New York on November 7, 1872, bound for Genoa, Italy with a cargo of around 1700 barrels of crude alcohol.

On board were Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs, his wife, Sarah, and their two-year-old daughter. Their seven-year-old son was left in the care of relatives. Also on board were seven crew members, all highly experienced and hand-picked by Captain Briggs.

On December 4, 1872, about 400 miles east of the Azores, the crew of the British ship Dei Gratia spotted a vessel adrift in choppy seas. The ship was seaworthy, her cargo intact, and had a six-month supply of food and staples. Not a single person was on board.

The Mary Celeste wasn’t leaking and had no structural damage. One lifeboat was missing, but the personal belongings and cargo remained on board. Of note, nine of the seventeen hundred barrels of alcohol were empty.

According to the ship’s log, the Mary Celeste battled howling winds and rough seas for approximately two weeks before reaching the Azores. The last entry was recorded at 0500 on November 25, but nothing out of the ordinary was reported.

Several theories abound about what happened. These range from pirates to mutiny, a natural disaster such as a waterspout, alcohol explosion, and alien abduction.

Piracy isn’t likely as the cargo, and personal belongings of the crew remained on board. The crew members had impeccable records, so mutiny seems unlikely.

Some theorize alcoholic fumes may have escaped, causing Captain Briggs to order everyone into the lifeboat until the danger had passed. The lifeboat could have drifted away from the main ship, and rough waters made it impossible for the crew to return.

A waterspout seems unlikely as the ship was intact and seaworthy. Alien abduction? I won’t even grace that theory with a response except to say, “Doesn’t someone always blame aliens for any unexplained event?”

The crew of the Dei Gratia sailed the Mary Celeste into Gibraltar. She eventually had a new owner and sailed another dozen years before her captain deliberately ran her aground off Haiti in what was believed to be part of an insurance fraud scheme.

Many believed the ship was cursed, so no one ever brought her back into the harbor. Over the years, she was allowed to drift in the sea, where she was finally swallowed up by the ocean, taking her secrets to a watery grave.

Roanoke Colony #MysteryMonday

Hey, everyone. This week I wrap up the “mission persons” theme of Mystery Monday. Not to say I won’t revisit similar stories in the future, but next week I’m shifting gears since it’s October and the month of Halloween.

The disappearance of English settlers on Roanoke Island in 1590 is one of the oldest mysteries in America. Who were these people and what happened to them?

The Roanoke Colony, also known as the “Lost Colony” was the second attempt by Sir Walter Raleigh to establish the first permanent English settlement in North America.

English explorer Ralph Lane attempted a settlement in 1585. Due to lack of supplies and bad relations with local Native Americans, Lane decided to abandon the colony and return to England.

John White and his group of one-hundred-fifteen people arrived on Roanoke island in August 1587. Later that same year, he returned to England for supplies. But as he arrived in England, war broke out between England and Spain. Queen Elizabeth I called for every available ship to fight the Spanish Armada.

White returned to the Roanoke Colony in 1590. He had left behind his wife, daughter, and infant granddaughter (Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America).

He found no traces of the colony or its inhabitants. There were few clues as to what may have happened—one of them was the word “Croatoan” carved into a wooden post.

Over the centuries, investigations into the fate of the “Lost Colony” have continued without a conclusive answer. “Croatoan” was the name of an island south of Roanoke as well as the name of a Native American tribe.

Some speculate the colonists were killed or abducted by the tribe. Others think they may have tried to sail back to England and became lost at sea. Still others speculate they moved further inland and died at the hands of Spaniards who had marched northward from Florida. There is some speculation they merged with a friendly tribe.

Recent archeological digs haven’t produced enough evidence for a satisfactory answer, and their fate remains a mystery.

MH 370 #MysteryMonday

Hey, everyone. Welcome to another Mystery Monday. This week’s story is no doubt, one of the strangest disappearances in modern history.

It’s not hard to imagine a small plane like the one Amelia Earhart flew disappearing in 1937. Radio communications weren’t as sophisticated, and we didn’t have the benefit of satellite communication. But how does a huge commercial jetliner disappear without a trace in the twenty-first century?

Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 (MH 370) departed Kuala Lumpur International Airport in route to Beijing International on March 8, 2014. Thirty-eight minutes into the flight, the crew of the Boeing 777-200 last communicated with air traffic control when the plane was over the South China Sea.

A Boeing 777-200, the same type of aircraft as MH370. (Creative Commons)

Minutes later, ATC radar screens lost sight of the plane, but military radar tracked it for another hour as it deviated west from its planned flight path. It crossed the Malay Peninsula and Andaman Sea and left radar range 200 nautical miles northwest of Penang Island in northwestern Malaysia. The plane, 227 passengers, and twelve crew members have never been seen again.

A search for the missing aircraft initially focused on the South China and Andaman seas. However, an analysis of the aircraft’s automated communications with an Inmarsat satellite identified a possible crash site somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.

After a three-year search across 46,000 square miles of ocean failed to locate the plane, the agency heading the operation suspended the search in January 2017. A second search by a private contractor began in January 2018 but ended without success six months later.

Twenty pieces of debris believed to be from MH370 was recovered from beaches in the western Indian Ocean by October 2017. Eighteen were “identified as being very likely or almost certain to originate from MH370.”

The first item of debris to be positively identified as originating from Flight 370 was the starboard flaperon which was discovered on July 2015 on a beach in Saint-André, on Réunion Island in the western Indian Ocean. France’s civil aviation accident investigation agency examined the item. On September 3 of that year, French officials announced the serial numbers found on internal components of the flaperon linked it “with certainty” to Flight 370.

After the discovery, French police conducted a search of the waters around Réunion for additional debris and found a damaged suitcase that might be linked to Flight 370. Other debris, including parts of a stabilizer and a Rolls Royce engine have been discovered in various locations.

No one is certain as to the reasons for the flight’s deviation from its intended path. Some speculate passenger or crew involvement, but there has been no definitive proof.

All we know for sure is somewhere is the remains of a jumbo jet, its passengers and crew.

Glen and Bessie Hyde #MysteryMonday

Hey, everyone. I first heard this week’s Mystery Monday years ago on the television show Unsolved Mysteries. You may or may not have heard of this story, but it is an intriguing mystery.

Glen and Bessie Hyde met in 1927 while traveling on a passenger ship to Los Angeles. They married on April 10, 1928, one day after Bessie’s divorce from her first husband was finalized.

Glen and Bessie Hyde

Glen Hyde was from Twin Falls, Idaho and had some experience with river running. The couple went to Green River, Utah with the idea of running the Green and Colorado rivers as a honeymoon trip. Glen built his own boat, a twenty-foot wooden sweep scow. He and Bessie departed Green River on October 28.

Twenty-six days later, they arrived at Bright Angel Trail in the heart of Grand Canyon where they met famed photographer Emory Kolb. Supposedly, Bessie was tired of the trip. Kolb asked them to stay with him through the winter and warned then of the dangers ahead.

Glen refused to heed any warnings and declined the loan of Kolb’s life jackets. November 18, 1928, was the last time anyone saw the couple.

Weeks later, when the couple failed to appear, a search team was organized. They located the boat floating intact near an area called Diamond Creek. Bessie’s diary was inside, with the last entry made on November 30. Nothing indicated the couple was in distress. A more extensive search yielded no clues. The search team never located their bodies.

That’s when speculation began. Some claimed Bessie killed Glen because she was unhappy and wanted to get out of the trip.

In the early 1970s, a group rafting down the Colorado stopped for the night near Diamond Creek. The guide relayed the story of Glen and Bessie. An older woman claimed she was Bessie and that she killed Glen. She later recanted the story.

After the death of Emory Kolb in 1976, a man’s skeleton was found in his boathouse. Many thought it to be Glen Hyde and that Kolb killed Hyde because he was in love with Bessie. But experts compared the skull to a photograph of Glen and determined the skeleton didn’t belong to him.

In 1992, a famed rafter named Georgie Clark passed away. Friends discovered her first name was Bessie, and she had a copy of Glen and Bessie’s marriage certificate. However, Georgie Clark had no resemblance to Bessie Hyde. It’s unclear why she had these items.

The mystery of the Hyde’s disappearance will likely never be solved, but it does make for a good story. Especially if rafting along the Colorado River and stopping for the night at Diamond Creek.