The internet loves certain things without question: dogs, yodeling kids and memes. But perhaps the most cherished internet fodder are unsolved mysteries. Long after police and private investigators shelve cold cases, real-life murder cases live online for decades, meticulously pored over by Redditors and Facebook-moms alike.
They become especially popular if some curious conspiracy theorist is able to upload photo “evidence” or eyewitness accounts. Sometimes evidence that a jury might take as sufficient cause to convict a killer doesn’t quite satisfy online researchers, and conspiracy theorists will hold tight to creepy, unexplained details, falling deeper down a rabbit hole of independent investigation.
The Murder of Don Henry and Kevin Ives
On August 23, 1987, a train conductor called in an incident in Arkansas. Unable to stop in time, he had just run over what looked like the bodies of two young men tied to the tracks. The state medical examiner wrote that he believed the men, Don Henry and Kevin Ives, had smoked too much cannabis and had fallen asleep on the tracks. Because that explanation seems pretty unlikely, rumors swirled that the boys had stumbled on a drug drop and had been killed as a result.
The most bizarre part? Years later, WWE superstar Billy Jack Haynes went public as the only witness to the boys’ murder that day. He said he had been hired by a local politician to act as hired security for the drop and had witnessed Henry and Ives killed. Nothing ever came of that claim, and online readers eventually just forgot about the bizarre YouTube video.
Kathy Hobbs Predicts Her Own Death
The kidnapping and murder of 16-year-old Kathy Hobbs is so odd that it was featured on an episode of the cult classic series Unsolved Mysteries.
After her death in 1987, Hobbs’ parents and friends disclosed that all her life, Hobbs had suffered from “premonitions” that foreshadowed her death at 16. In her teen years, she developed agoraphobia and refused to leave the house, but on her sixteenth birthday she believed the curse had been broken — or, so say her family and friends. Just three months later, she was attacked coming home from buying a paperback novel and murdered with blunt force trauma to the head.
In 1989, a Toledo man named Michael Lee Lockhart was charged and convicted with Hobbs’ murder, though Lockhart never confessed. The internet is divided on whether Lockhart actually shot Hobbs, but the real point of contention is the young woman’s premonitions. Why was she able to predict a seemingly random act of violence?
The Circleville Letters
In 1977, a school bus driver named Mary Gillispie started receiving anonymous, angry letters in the mail. Someone had found out about her affair with the school superintendent and wanted her to call it off. Later, her husband Ron received a letter of his own, and after a few weeks trying to ignore the threats, he told his children he was taking his gun to confront the letter writer and promptly drove his truck into a tree. He was killed instantly.
Years later, the letters began arriving again, though Mary had remarried the superintendent and had nothing left to hide. They were eventually traced to her former brother-in-law, but he didn’t fit the bill perfectly.
In 2013, guests staying at the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles complained to management that the hotel’s drinking water tasted weird. The body of 21-year-old Elisa Lam was later found floating in one of the hotel’s water tanks. Lam, it appeared, had been pushed into the tank and locked inside.
Lam’s death went viral when detectives released security footage of the young woman standing in the hotel’s elevator and contorting her limbs the night she was killed. Weirder still, guests in the hotel had been affected by a mysterious local outbreak of tuberculosis around the date of Lam’s death. The test for tuberculosis, by the way, is called the LAM-ELISA.
The Boy in the Chimney
In 2008, teenager Josh Maddux left the house where he lived with his dad to run an errand. He disappeared, and seven years later, his remains were found in the fetal position, stuffed into the chimney of a nearby historic cabin. His body, devoid of wounds, showed no signs of a struggle. As The Huffington Post reported, “When the teen’s skeleton was found, his knees reportedly were above his head and a hand was covering his face.”
The strangest details were slowly released to the public in the following weeks. Maddux’s had been clothed only in a thermal undershirt, and the rest of his clothes were lying on the floor inside the cabin. Construction workers confirmed that rebar on the chimney’s opening meant he would not have been able to climb down, so he must have been trying to climb up.
To make matters worse, an anonymous Reddit post later detailed a rumor that Maddux had been coerced by a friend who went on to become a serial killer.
Hannah Upp’s Disappearances
As chronicled in a New Yorker exposé, 23-year-old Pennsylvania resident Hannah Upp has led a life peppered with disappearances. Seemingly without a direct cause, Upp enters a fugue state and disappears off the grid, cutting off communication with her friends and family, and after a while, she’s often found near water.
Doctors diagnosed Upp with “a diagnosis of dissociative fugue, a rare condition in which people lose access to their autobiographical memory and personal identity, occasionally adopting a new one, and may abruptly embark on a long journey.” She disappeared again last year and her belongings were found near the ocean on St. Thomas — the strangest thing about her case is the fact that her parents seem apathetic, or mystical, even, when asked about their missing daughter by the press.
In 1959, Russian amateur explorer and backpacker Igor Dyatlov led a group of friends — and one random man — into the snowy mountains. They were later found dead, their bodies strewn over the mountain. Their tents nearby had been torn apart from the inside, and Dyatlov and his buddies had apparently run from the safety of their campsite into the woods. Most mysteriously, the hikers were either wearing each other’s clothes or were nearly naked in the snow, and several suffered internal injuries with no outward sign of trauma.
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