Mysterious disappearances are baffling


By Bill Taylor

It seems to me that of all the real life riddles, those puzzles, that kinda catch our attention, the most most intriguing are those mysterious disappearances – you know, a situation where someone or some thing just vanishes. Oh. sure, we enjoy seeing a sleight-of-hand artist or illusionist make objects or even people go away or suddenly appear as if from nowhere, but it’s the real-life disappearing acts that capture our attention and leave us baffled.

One of the best known of these true stories involved an associate justice of the New York Supreme Court. On August 6, 1930, 41-year-old Justice Joseph Crater left his office and dined with an acquaintance at a Manhattan restaurant. He was last seen walking down the street outside the restaurant but was never seen or heard from again. Judge Crater’s disappearance prompted one of the most sensational manhunts of the 20th century and was the subject of such widespread media attention that “pulling a Crater” became slang for a person who has vanished.

A grand jury investigation turned up nothing and Crater was declared legally dead in 1939 with his missing persons file officially closed in 1979 – but, cold case squad detectives have reportedly investigated new leads as recently as 2005. Kind of intriguing, isn’t it?

An even more fascinating disappearance – one that still encourages folks to solve – involved Amelia Earhart , the famous American aviator who attempted to become the first woman to complete a flight around the world. (She already had become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.) Her round-the-world-flight was cut short on July 2, 1937 when her Lockheed Electra carrying her and her navigator, Fred Noonan disappeared over the central Pacific in the vicinity of Howland Island, Despite an intensive search, no trace was ever found of either person or the airplane.

The official report concluded that the two flayers were unable to locate their destination of Howland Island, ran out of fuel, crashed into the water and sank. Earhart was declared legally dead on January 5, 1939. The question of why and where her plane went down, however, has never been put to rest and even today some folks are still trying to resolve this mystery.

How about one more sensational case still intriguing lotsa folks today – the disappearance of “Jimmy” Hoffa. On July 30, 1975, James Riddle Hoffa, one of the most influential – some would say “notorious”- American labor leader of the 20th century was last seen in the parking lot of a Detroit restaurant – and has never been heard from again. His criminal record and past associations have led many to speculate that he was the victim of a Mafia hit but conclusive evidence has never been found. He was declared legally dead in 1982, but the search for his body continues and his fate remains shrouded in mystery to this day.

Well, this is all kinda interesting, but there is yet another tale of mysterious disappearance – one that likely involves just about every household in the country. Yep, I’m referring to the ongoing enigma of missing socks. This phenomenon is a bit weird in that it involves not a pair of socks, but only one of a pair. Somehow during the laundry cycle a single sock of a pair vanishes leaving an unwearable orphan – and, from what I understand, this dilemma is widespread.

While some folks may attribute these disappearances to the duo of washing machine and dryer somehow conspiring to digest or otherwise dispose of an innocent, unsuspecting item of clothing , this is not the case. I can testify this enigma goes back to the days of washtubs and clotheslines. I recall how Mom kept what she called her “bag of odd socks” – her collection of socks whose mate had somehow strayed. Sometimes, when our supply of clean socks dwindled, she instructed us to go through her stash to see if we could find a usable pair – even if they didn’t quite match. Guess what? More often than not we were able to effect a happy reunion of socks that had somehow become separated some time in the past.

Well, right now, lying on the back of the folding table in our laundry room, are three of my white socks – none of which match – and one lonely black one. I really don’t want to relegate them to the rag bag – it’s already full of my previously discarded unmatchable orphan socks. Unfortunately, unless the riddle of disappearing socks is somehow solved, there is little alternative and that’s a kinda cruel fate for these inoffensive waifs. At least that’s how it seems to me.

By Bill Taylor

Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at [email protected].

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