skull desk
Mysterious vanishings are known not only for their often very strange circumstances, but also for the myriad bizarre clues they often leave behind, as well as the strange leads which frequently come in to more often than not only muddy the waters. In some cases, people have simply seemingly ceased to exist, only to leave in their wake enigmatic letters which may or may not shine a light onto the shadows surrounding their cases. There are inexplicable letters wedged within some of the most compelling missing persons cases out there, which have served simultaneously as a beacon of hope in solving them and also a frustrating exercise in inscrutable mystery.

We begin our journey into these strange cases on the night of August 24, 1951, when a young, 10-year-old girl named Beverly Potts went off with a friend, Patricia Swing, to visit Halloran Park, in Cleveland, Ohio, in order to watch some performers at a lively summer festival. Swing had to return home at around 9PM, but Beverly decided to stay behind to watch the show to its end. However, she would not ever make it home that night and the following morning she was still nowhere to be seen. She had simply disappeared into thin air.

Thus would begin one of the largest scale searches in Cleveland history, as law enforcement launched an intensive search operation bolstered by thousands of concerned volunteers, who poured in to aide in the hunt for the missing child, scouring practically every inch of the city for any sign of her. In the meantime there were countless tips and leads, but none of these led anywhere, and in the end the child's whereabouts remained frustratingly elusive. Despite pursuing every available lead and interviewing dozens of possible persons of interest, the police were never able to ever get any closer to finding out what had happened to Beverly, she remained missing, and no solid clues could be obtained.

Oddly, the only real clues began to come in decades later in the form of eerily strange letters that turned up. The first was in 1994, when a letter was discovered by accident in a renovated house, which claimed that the writer's husband had brutally murdered Beverly and disposed of the body. Although this was seen as a groundbreaking potential clue at the time, it turned out to be a dead end when it was determined that the letter had likely been an attempt by the woman to get revenge on her husband for years of abuse by framing him for the crime. After this revelation, the letter was pretty much dropped as any sort of potential evidence.

Then, in 2000, the news publication The Plain Dealer received a series of odd and anonymous letters that served to stir up the case once again. The first letter simply stated that the writer had killed Beverly Potts after kidnapping and molesting her, and described how he had decided to confess because he was dying of an unspecified illness. Over the next year, three more such letters would arrive from the same individual, each giving further grim details into the kidnapping and murder, and they were seen as being a rather credible lead in the case at the time. Some intriguing promises were made in the exchange. The second letter promised that the writer had arranged upon his death to have sent a sealed brown envelope which would supposedly include even more details and proof of the admission in the form of a rare coin that Beverly was known to carry around with her.

Beverly Potts

Beverly Potts
Later, in the third letter, the author of the mysterious letters ended up offering to actually turn himself in. He claimed that he would appear in Halloran Park on the 50th anniversary of the mysterious vanishing, saying "Fifty years is long enough to live with what I've done," yet on the anniversary he was a no-show, and merely sent one final letter. In this last letter, he merely stated that he had decided not to turn himself in after all, and gave the cryptic clue that he had checked himself into a nursing home. This would be the last letter from the mysterious sender, and no one would hear from him again.

As none of the letters were signed there is no way to know who they were sent by or how much veracity they have. They have been considered to be anything from the real deal to an elaborate and rather tasteless hoax. Nobody knows, and the disappearance of Beverly Potts has never been close to being solved, despite constant pleas for information, relentless following of new leads in the case, and increasingly hefty rewards offered. The mystery has been made into a book called Twilight of Innocence - The Disappearance of Beverly Potts, by historian James Badal, and was also the focus of the documentary Dusk and Shadow - The mystery of Beverly Potts. The mysterious vanishing has gone on to be a legendary case in Cleveland, regularly appearing in the news even to this day, and Beverly has earned the nickname "The Little Girl Clevelanders Can't Forget."

By far the most bizarre disappearance linked to a strange letter occurred in November of 1980, with the sudden vanishing of 32-year-old Granger Taylor from his parent's home in the rural town of Duncan, on Vancouver Island in Canada. A high school dropout, Taylor had nevertheless been a remarkably talented mechanic all of his life, he had always had the urge to build and tinker with things, including rebuilding a junked bulldozer, renovating and restoring an abandoned old locomotive he had found out in the forest as well as a vintage World War II P-40 Kitty Hawk airplane, which he fixed up good as new. His skill with building things was undeniable.

Granger was not without his own eccentricities, as such geniuses are won't to be, and at one point he painstakingly constructed an actual life sized UFO in his yard over the course of a year, tirelessly cobbled together from some old satellite dishes and other assorted spare parts and junk. It was around this time when Granger had expressed intense interest in the subject of UFOs and aliens, and he began to make increasingly bizarre claims to his friends that he was in regular telepathic contact with actual extraterrestrials. By all accounts he had become hopelessly and deeply obsessed with UFOs, constantly reading about them and theorizing about how they worked, and it was practically the only thing he would ever talk about. He would spend hours locked away within his UFO replica, which was equipped with a stove and a bed, feverishly reading about UFOs and doing who knows what else out there. Things got weirder still when Granger began to tell his friends that not only had aliens been contacting him, but that they had actually invited him on a journey aboard one of their craft.

Granger Taylor

Granger Taylor
On November 29, 1980, the night he vanished without a trace, Granger had dinner at a diner he regularly frequented, despite the fact that a severe storm was ominously brewing outside. On that night, gale force winds were beginning to come roaring through the area, eventually knocking out large swaths of electricity and causing mass panic. Granger returned home through the storm and left an incredibly weird letter behind for his parents in the barn, which had served for his workstation where he tinkered with and built all manner of curious things. The deeply weird letter read:
Dear Mother and Father,
I have gone away to walk aboard an alien spaceship, as recurring dreams assured a 42-month interstellar voyage to explore the vast universe, then return. I am leaving behind all my possessions to you as I will no longer require the use of any. Please use the instructions in my will as a guide to help.
Love, Granger.
On the back of the letter was inexplicably scrawled a map of Waterloo Mountain, around 20 miles away, the significance of which has never been ascertained. After writing this letter, Granger got into his 1972 Datsun pick-up truck and drove out into the roiling storm outside, his final destination unknown. True to his word, he had indeed left behind everything he owned, including a sizable chunk of cash to the tune of $10,000, although his secretly penned last will held few clues at all. He has never been seen again. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) immediately organized a massive search for the missing man, but no sign of neither him nor his vehicle could ever be located. The only possible clue ever found was a few bits of human bone that were found 4 miles away from the Taylor property at a dynamite blast site, with the main theory being that Granger had had some dynamite in his truck that had accidentally gone off, but it has never been conclusively determined whether these remains really belonged to Granger or not.

In the years since, the bizarre vanishing has of course produced many theories as to what happened to him. One is that he had simply had enough of his life and either went off to start a new one or ended it, or that he accidentally exploded himself with dynamite, as the evidence seems to suggest. Another is that he was the victim of foul play of some sort, but there is no evidence to support this. There is also the idea that he had some sort of psychotic break from reality and fled off into the unknown, which is supported by claims from friends and family that Granger had been heavily smoking a lot of pot and frequently dropping acid in the months leading up to his inexplicable vanishing. Then of course in light of his final letter there is the notion that he actually did make contact with his beloved aliens, and that they had spirited him away to destinations unknown. Granger's father would say of this possibility:
I can hardly believe Granger's off in a spaceship, but if there is a flying object out there, he's the one to find it.
Whether Granger was the victim of suicide, a demented, troubled mind, or he was truly whisked away to the stars by otherworldly beings, his case has never been solved, and it remains one of the strangest, surreal disappearances there is. Just a few years later, in 1985, we come to our next case. On July 28, 1985, policeman and fingerprint technician for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Mel Wiley, went out in his 1980 Toyota station wagon in Hinckley Township, Ohio and was never seen again. The car was located relatively quickly on July 30th, where it was discovered to be locked and containing some of the missing man's belongings, such as clothing, his badge and identification, suntan lotion, a beach bag, a pack of cigarettes, and his wallet containing his credit cards and $15 in cash.

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