Going hiking or camping can be an incredibly peaceful experience, but it can also be quite risky. Between dangerous animals, unsafe terrain, and unfamiliar paths, there are plenty of potential hazards for novice adventurers. In fact, just about every single missing hiker case is muddled by some weird facts and occurrences rescuers still can’t explain.
In northwestern Arkansas, there’s a beautiful nature preserve surrounding the largest sandstone crevice in the United States. It has an ominous name, however: Devil’s Den State Park. And it really lived up to that name in 1946.
The Van Alst family decided to take a camping trip in the park. Unfortunately, eight-year-old Katherine wandered away from their tent and her parents were at a loss to find any trace of her. As their panic grew the park organized a search party, but no sign of the child turned up.
By the sixth day of looking, morale was low. Nearly a week in the wilderness is an eternity for a young girl, and the chance of finding her alive at that point was slim. But finally, as the search party descended into a cave they made a shocking discovery.
It was Katherine, alive and seemingly unharmed! She calmly walked out of the cave in perfect health as if nothing had happened. Everyone was stunned; how had this little girl survived so long on her own?
Well, if the rescuers hoped that Katherine would fill in the gaps of her story, they were sorely disappointed. All the young girl offered when they found her was the statement: “Here I am.” When park rangers pressed her for further details, she claimed she couldn’t remember what happened, and that’s just the beginning of the bizarre park mysteries.
That was the case for Glen and Bessie Hyde, who took their honeymoon trip to the Grand Canyon in November 1928. Rather than hike the epic trails, they opted to boat down the scenic Colorado River. However, something strange must have happened after the couple left the dock.
It seemed they never reached their destination. There was no sign of Glen or Bessie anywhere — that is, until months later when their boat was discovered along the riverbanks. At a glance, the boat looked fine. It was upright, in good condition, and still full of supplies. So, where were the newlyweds?
To this day, no one is quite sure what happened to Glen and Bessie. However, there’s a popular theory speculating that one vacationer murdered the other before fleeing to start a new life under their identities. But not all the National Park mysteries are so grim.
Take the case of the Parkins family, who experienced an event that challenges all sense of logic. It happened in the vistas of Oregon’s Umatilla National Forest, a notoriously steep terrain. The Parkins family wanted to take in the view, so they visited the area with their two-year-old in tow.
Unfortunately, like Katherine at Devil’s Den, little Keith vanished from the family’s side shortly after they arrived. While he was found less than a day later, there was something unsettling about where he ended up.
The boy was found 12 miles away on the other side of multiple mountains. How could a two-year-old walk that far in less than 24 hours? Rescue teams never managed to find that out, and they’re still searching for answers.
Though, curiosities take a backseat to other more pressing mysteries, like that of Dennis Martin. While on a camping trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Dennis split from his siblings to play a prank on their parents. Dennis, however, never held up his side of the bargain.
The family couldn’t find him and called search and rescue, but even their skilled trackers couldn’t locate Dennis. They did receive one strange tip, however, but it was so bizarre that no one investigated it.
Someone claimed they spotted a large, hairy “bear-man” with something slung over his shoulder. That something could have potentially been a young boy. On second thought, maybe it’s best not to investigate that theory.
Another unusual incident involved the case of college student Paula Welden. It was back in the 1940s when Paula told her roommate that she was going for a hike. The last anyone knew, she grabbed a ride to Green Mountain Forest and set off on the Long Trail.
Hours later, Welden still hadn’t returned. Witnesses confirmed that she had made it to the trail and started her hike, but she was never seen again. By every measure, she had seemingly vanished from the Earth. No amount of searching provided any answers, adding Paula to the tragic list of people to disappear in National Parks. But for some, clues were left behind.
In 2014, California firefighter Mike Herdman decided to head into Los Padres National Forest with his dog. The pair, however, quickly went missing. What could have happened to the athletic hiker and his pet?
After six days of searching, the duo was found. The dog had survived but, Mike, unfortunately was dead. The rescue team concluded that he had accidentally fallen, but that didn’t explain one strange detail they noticed.
Mike wasn’t wearing any shoes. What could have inspired a lost hiker to remove his shoes on such rocky, uneven terrain? Even the search and rescue team couldn’t be sure.
Befuddlement among rescuers continued when, in 1957, a two-year-old went missing in Yosemite National Park. His parents immediately called for help and, before long, a rescue team was using bloodhounds to scour the park.
Eventually, the dogs caught the boy’s scent and found him. He was missing his pants and sitting nearly 3,000 feet higher up a rock face from where he was last seen. How did he get up there? No one knows for sure, just like the mystery of the crone statue tucked away in the Catskills.
In 2016, this voodoo doll-like sculpture was found inside a cave in the Catskill Mountains. The hikers that found it reportedly felt a strange supernatural energy when they got close. They snapped a photo and posted it to Reddit with the hope of someone knowing what it was. To this day, it remains a mystery.
Scientists in Indonesia were awed when they came across this cave that once housed a new — and incredibly tiny — species of humans. Standing at only three feet tall, the Homo floresiensis were almost like ancient Hobbits. It’s a mystery as to why they died out, but fingers might just point to an ancient Sauron.
One of the most mysterious and well-preserved caves in the world is located in Cornwall, England. Dating back to 500 B.C., visitors have emerged with bizarre stories of strange light movements, odd sounds, and life-changing visions that rivaled those of ancient religious texts.
In the Cueva de Los Avinoes (Cave of the Aircraft), explorers came across an abundance of jewelry fashioned by Neanderthals. The jewelry was dated to be around 115,000 years old, which was 20,000 years before Europe saw modern humans.
The West Wycombe Caves in England have been dubbed the “Hellfire caves” for a creepy reason: There are several carvings and statue-esque formations that resemble Satan, and even though they’re all man-made, they keep people away.
At one point, many caves throughout the world housed ancient civilizations, and this handprint artwork proves it. Discovered in an Argentinean cave, the humans who lived here created this art using red chalk powder. Amazingly, scientists determined this primitive painting to be 9,500 to 13,000 years old!
Roughly 500,000 years ago, a river carved out this cave in China. Known as the Reed Flute Cave, the unique rock formations here reflect shades of blue and purple light all over the interior walls. And, for all you history buffs, during World War II, Chinese soldiers actually used it as an air raid shelter.
Although this footprint might excite Bigfoot enthusiasts everywhere, cryptozoologists should sit back down. In the ’60s, 400 of these prints were found in Romania’s Ciur-Izbuc Cave. Thanks to radiocarbon measurements, scientists determined that Homo sapiens left them over 35,000 years ago!
New Zealand is already one of the most gorgeous countries on the planet, but this cave, located in Waitomo, may just put it at the very top of the beauty list. Visitors take kayaks through the 30-million-year-old cavern to gawk at thousands of phosphorescent worms dangling off the walls. It’s like experiencing the universe underground!
Deep in the caves of Slovenia and Croatia lives this vibrantly colored amphibian known as the Olm Salamander. This bizarre little chap is completely blind and uses something called electro-sensation to effectively explore its surroundings. Even more bizarre is the fact that although it’s an amphibian, the Olm Salamander also has gills that allow it to survive completely underwater.
Mineral-rich water is what creates the stalagmites and stalactites we see so often in caves. But, the water is also the cause of these “cave pearls.” Calcite-laden liquid drips from the cave ceilings onto the dirt below, and over time the clumps solidify into smooth, round rocks.
It’s not unusual to find small areas of water inside caves, but rarely does anyone come across an entire lake. Located just off the Greek island of Melissani, the Melissani Lake offers visitors crystal clear water completely surrounded by looming rock.
At first glance, this black stuff looks like mold growing on cave walls. But look closer — it’s actually thousands of bats! The Barangay Tambo in Samal Island has tons of caves, and the one in this photo houses the Monfort Bat Sanctuary.
Hundreds of these strange structures created from stalactites and stalagmites were found in a cave in France. Although researchers can’t be absolutely sure what they were used for, they believe Neanderthals may have arranged the formations in specific ways for ritualistic gatherings.
These enormous crystalline structures were found in a cave in Naica, Mexico. Besides the crystals themselves being an incredible find, the scientists who explored the area also discovered thriving life! Samples of bacteria were apparently living off the iron and magnesium present in the structures, which led the team to believe that life may be able to flourish in conditions way tougher than previously thought.
Located in northwest Georgia, Ellison’s Cave is the twelfth-deepest in the United States. In order to get to this terrifying 586-foot drop, you have to first navigate through 12 miles of nearly pitch black twists and turns. It’s not for the faint of heart, but for those who love to spelunk, it’s certainly a bucket-list adventure.
There’s a pretty obvious — and gross — explanation for this cave substance’s name: it looks like gooey strands of, well, mucous! The strands act as mosquito strips and trap insects who come in contact with them. This icky discovery was first made in caves in Tabasco, Mexico.
Because of the pitch-black darkness most cave creatures live in, evolution has given them some very unique traits. Many of the fish, for example, are completely blind, but they have the ability to sense even the slightest pressure changes in water through their central nervous systems.
At first glance, the structure in this photo almost looks like it could be a human that turned to stone as they were gazing out across the water. It’s just a stalactite, of course, but the Jeita Grotto in Lebanon holds the longest in the world at 27 feet!
This cave located in Israel’s Judean Desert was apparently home to the Dead Sea Scrolls. Unfortunately, researchers believe someone stole the scrolls long ago, though the cave still contained manuscripts written on papyrus and animal skin that dated back to fourth century B.C. when it was discovered.