For every cold case that's cracked there are many more tragic tales of mysterious disappearances or unexplained deaths that remain unsolved. Here are eight truly bone-chilling cases that will have you looking over your own shoulder.
1. The Oakland County Child Killer
Known as “The Babysitter”, this unidentified serial killer is known to have murdered at least four children, possibly more, between 1976 and 1977. Two boys and two girls went missing from their Oakland County communities, northwest of Detroit, Michigan, and all were found dead within 19 days. Their bodies were disposed of in similar ways and in clear public view. Strangulation and shotguns were used to kill the children, several of whom were sexually assaulted before they were murdered.
Most of the children disappeared on their way to a specific location. One victim, a 12-year-old girl, allegedly had plans to run away on her bike. The autopsy of another, an 11-year-old boy named Timothy King who disappeared one night after going to a drugstore to buy candy, provided perhaps the most disturbing detail of his final hours.
In a desperate plea to get their son back, the parents of King turned to the media. His mother wrote an op-ed expressing hope for his return and the promise of his favorite food: Kentucky Fried Chicken. After the boy’s body was found in a ditch, a coroner determined the cause of death was strangulation, but also found that the young boy had eaten KFC before his death.
A task force was formed to find the killer, and several suspects were identified. They included a man who called himself “Allen,” and who admitted in a letter sent to the task force's psychiatrist that he had scouted out children with his roommate, the killer he called “Frank." The psychiatrist was able to get the mysterious writer to agree to meet after confirming the alleged accomplice would get immunity, but “Allen” never showed up for their meeting. In 1978, the task force disbanded. The killer remains unidentified, although internet sleuths have a number of theories about the killings.
2. The Unusual Deaths of the Jamison Family
The bodies of this family of three were discovered four years after they were reported missing on October 8, 2009. Bobby Jamison, Sherilynn Jamison, and their daughter Madyson Jamison disappeared from their truck while on a trip to buy land outside their hometown of Eufaula, Oklahoma.
In the days following their deaths, the family’s truck was discovered by authorities, abandoned with their IDs, phones, GPS system, and approximately $32,000 in cash. Their dog was also found in the vehicle, malnourished after days of being left in the truck without food or water. In November 2013, the remains of two adults and one child eventually confirmed as the Jamison family were found by hunters around three miles from where their pickup was left.
Many theories have been floated about the circumstances behind the family’s mysterious disappearance. Some believed they faked their deaths, committed group suicide, or were killed by a violent cult. Due to the couple’s odd behavior around the time they vanished, others believed that a drug deal had gone wrong. According to some, Bobby’s father was involved, as he and his son were in a bitter lawsuit at the time.
The creepiest theory included a pastor, a confession, and a book. The Jamison’s had at one point told their pastor there were spirits in their home and that they had consulted the satanic bible to rid the house of them. When authorities searched their property following the initial disappearance, there was a shipping container with messages such as '3 cats killed to date buy people in this area... Witches don’t like there black cat killed' written on it.
3. The Voice on the Line
Dorothy Scott was a 32-year-old single mother who had taken up karate and considered buying a handgun after getting repeated, anonymous calls from a stalker in 1980. The caller would profess everything from how much he loved her to unutterable and horrific violence, sprinkling in details about her day-to-day life that he could only know if he was following her.
One May evening in 1980 after taking a co-worker to the hospital, Scott left to pull her car around. Her coworkers, soon after, watched her car speed away from the parking lot without stopping. Several hours later, and 10 miles away from where she was last seen, her car appeared in an alley on fire—with no trace of Scott.
A week after her disappearance, Scott’s mother received a call from the same voice that had been haunting her daughter. “Are you related to Dorothy Scott?” he asked. When Scott’s mother responded yes, the caller stated, “I’ve got her” before hanging up. Similar ominous calls continued, each time the voice admitting he “had her.” At one point, Scott’s abductor even called a radio station to confess details about Dorothy’s last night that hadn’t been released to the press, while also claiming, “I killed Dorothy Scott. She was my love.”
Four years later, in April 1984, the calls stopped abruptly. In August of that year, Scott’s remains were found by a construction worker in some brush. A week after the bones were identified, Scott’s mother got two more disturbing calls. “Is Dorothy home?” the caller asked.
4. The 2009 Taconic Parkway Crash
On July 26, 2009, at 9:30 A.M., Diane Schuler left the Hunter Lake Campground in Parksville, New York with her young son and daughter, and her brother's three daughters. Not long after their departure, Diane stopped at a McDonald’s, then at a gas station. She called her brother around 11:30 A.M. about traffic. It was at this point that things took a terrifying turn.
Approximately 10 to 15 minutes after hanging up, Diane pulled over. A witness later reported seeing Diane doubled over, as if vomiting. By 1:00 P.M., Schuler’s brother got another call—this time from his daughter—claiming Diane was struggling to see and speak.
Her brother reportedly begged Diane to stay off the road and wait for help, but Diane kept driving. Around 1:30 P.M. Schuler’s car, driving the wrong way down Taconic State Parkway, collided with a SUV. All three passengers in the other car were killed in the collision, while Schuler, her daughter, and two of her nieces also died. Schuler's son and her niece were rushed to hospitals, where the niece died later that day.
Police were mystified as to why Schuler drove at 60 mph for two miles in the opposite direction on the Taconic State Parkway. Also mystifying was the toxicology report, which found that Schuler had a blood alcohol level of 0.19 (twice the legal limit) and traces of THC in her system. Numerous witnesses who had interacted with Diane earlier that morning, from the owner of the campground to a gas station employee, maintained that Diane appeared sober. Even the lone survivor of the crash, Schuler’s son, could only describe what happened as “Mommy’s head hurt, Mommy couldn’t see.”
5. The Case of the Lead Masks
On August 20, 1966, a boy flying a kite found the bodies of two Brazilian men in Rio de Janeiro. Both men were dressed in suits, wearing waterproof coats and lead masks similar to those you’d typically wear to protect against radiation. Discovered alongside their grass-covered bodies on Vintem Hill were two towels, an empty water bottle, and a notebook.
Three days earlier, the two men had departed Campos dos Goytacazes with a large amount of cash on hand, claiming their trip was to buy supplies and a car. As more information about the men surfaced, it was revealed they were electronic technicians and "scientific spiritualists”, with interests in both ghosts and extraterrestrials.
In the hours leading up to their deaths, Miguel Jose Viana and Manoel da Cruz stopped at a bar for water. A waitress, the last person to see them alive, would later tell authorities that both seemed in quite the hurry, especially Viana who kept checking his watch.
It seems there was a reason for this. When authorities inspected the pair's notebook, they discovered the following note: "16:30 be at agreed place, 18:30 swallow capsules, after effect protect metals wait for mask signal." To this day, the cause of death remains unknown.
6. The Sodder Family Fire
On Christmas Eve of 1945, the Sodder family home in Fayetteville, West Virginia went up in flames. While both parents and four of the children made it out, five children were still inside.
George tried to rescue his children, but was hindered at every turn. The phone wasn't working, the ladder was missing from its normal spot, and George’s truck would not start. One of the Sodder children who made it out raced to a neighbor's house to call emergency services. Tragically, the fire department was low on able-bodied men due to WWII. They didn't arrive until the following day, by which point the Sodder home was a smoldering wreck.
Authorities determined an electrical fire caused the blaze—despite George recently having the wiring re-done and the local electric company stating it was safe. Strangely, the remains of the children did not turn up in wreckage; investigators suggested the fire was so hot, it burned up the bodies. Circumstances leading up the house fire only complicated the mystery. George was a vocal critic of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, to the distaste of local Italian community. In the days before the fire, the Sodders were visited by two men—a life insurance salesman and a man seeking work—both of whom warned Sodder to be careful of his home catching on fire.
In the wake of the fire, it was discovered the the Sodder family's phone line had actually been cut, and the ladder was discarded at the base of a nearby embankment. Reports then came in of seeing the five Sodder children the next day at a diner. Years later, Sodder matriarch Jennie received a letter with no return address. Inside was a photo of a grown man who looked just like one of her missing sons with his name written on the back.
7. The Springfield Three
Three women mysteriously vanished from a home in Springfield, Missouri, sometime between the night of June 6 and morning of June 7, 1992. After a night of graduation party hopping, 19-year-old Suzanne Streeter and 18-year-old Stacy McCall headed to a friend’s to crash. After deciding it was too crowded, the two returned to Streeter’s house, where her mother, Sherrill Elizabeth Levitt, awaited.
When friends stopped by early next morning to pick up the girls for a planned water park trip, all three women were gone. Everything in the house was seemingly untouched—purses, keys, neatly folded clothing. The single thing out of place was a broken glass lampshade for the porch light, which the boyfriend of one of Streeter’s friends swept away.
In December of 1992, an anonymous tipster phoned the America’s Most Wanted hotline claiming they had information about these potential unsolved murders. The caller promptly hung up before they could be transferred to authorities. In 1997, imprisoned convicted kidnapper, robber, and Florida murder suspect Robert Craig Cox told journalists the women had been murdered and buried, never to be recovered. However, there were inconsistencies in his claims that made it difficult to determine whether he was providing false statements.
Investigators also received a tip claiming the women were buried under the foundations of a local hospital parking lot. When a crime reporter and mechanical engineer scanned a corner of the lot with ground-penetrating radar, they found the presence of three “anomalies” consistent with a “gravesite location.” Springfield’s Police Department stated that because the scans were not conclusive, digging up the concrete was not justified.
8. The Troubling Reappearance of Nicholas Barclay
In this unsolved mystery case involving a real-life changeling, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay disappeared on June 13, 1994, from his San Antonio neighborhood after a day of playing basketball with friends. Nicholas was the youngest of three kids and had a history of getting in trouble. He skipped school, got violent with his family, and even ran away.
On the day of his disappearance, he called home to get a ride, but his mother was sleeping, and his brother refused to wake her. Nicholas never made it home that day and was never heard from again. At least, not the actual Nicholas. Three years after his disappearance, the Barclay family received a call from a boy claiming to be their missing son. He was all the way in Spain, after having been reportedly kidnapped and sold into a European slavery ring.
The Barclays were overjoyed, but as soon as Nicholas exited his plane, it became clear that something was wrong. “Nicholas” looked nothing like the boy who had disappeared three years ago. The imposter claimed his abductors chemically changed his eye and hair color, but he also spoke with a thick French accent.
While a local TV crew was filming the family, a private investigator working on the production began digging around and found photos that proved physical dissimilarities. The FBI was soon involved, and after running the imposter’s fingerprints and a DNA test, they uncovered he was 23-year-old Frédéric Pierre Bourdin, a serial imposter who assumed close to 500 identities, including three missing children. In 1998, Bourdin would plead guilty to passport fraud and perjury, spending six years in prison. The real Nicholas Barclay remains missing to this day.
Featured photo of Diane and Daniel Schuler: HBO; Additional photos: Click on Detroit; Crimes We Can't Forget / Facebook; Unsolved Mysteries Wiki; still from "There's Something Wrong with Aunt Diane" via HBO; Wikimedia Commons; Wikimedia Commons; Missouri Police Department; Wikimedia Commons