Since the dawn of civilisation, millions of people have gone missing. Some will show up, while some have been confined to being “another” mysterious disappearance.
But why do these disappearances happen? The truth is, there are a multitude of reasons why someone might vanish – as we show in this article.
1. New Identity
A common reason for disappearing is where a person opts to voluntarily disappear in order to assume a new identity.
The person will change their name, and go by a pseudonym. They may be able to obtain fake legal and identification documents, making finding them incredibly difficult.
A person may do this to escape a very difficult situation, face danger, or simply want to start afresh in a new area, among other potential reasons.
2. Forced Disappearance
Something that is seen more in authoritarian countries than others, or under autocratic regimes down the years – when a person is forced to disappear by a person or an authority.
The classic example of this would be when a nation attempts to quell any protests by making protestors “disappear”. They would typically be rounded up, murdered, and their body burned or buried, with no one knowing what “officially” happened to them.
They may also be imprisoned by the government and taken to a facility where they are never heard from again.
3. Go into hiding
There are certain circumstances where a person may want to lie low, and go into hiding. This is essentially where they retain their name and appearance, but intentionally remove themselves from public view.
A person may do this to escape domestic abuse, stay away from their family who is seeking to force them into something (e.g., forced marriage), or if the person has committed a crime.
It can be very difficult for a person to go into hiding for long, and they may eventually attempt to assume a new identity, as discussed earlier. But if done successfully, going into hiding will give the impression that the person has disappeared,
4. Child abduction
One of the most common, yet harrowing reasons why people disappear is child abduction – also known as kidnapping. This is where a child is taken against their will – either by a stranger, single parent, or a rogue family member.
The process of trying to find a child that has been abducted is excruciating for the family of the abductee. Trying to find them can be an enormous challenge.
While many abducted children will be found, these situations often end tragically. The kidnapper will often murder the child, or simply keep them in a remote location for years.
5. Suicide in a remote location
Whenever someone dies in a remote location, it will often cause them to seemingly have “disappeared”, with no one quite sure what happened to them.
There are some locations on this planet where there are vast swathes of areas that are rarely inhabited with humans. If someone decides to end their life in a location like this, then it can be very difficult to ever find their body.
The body will decompose over time, meaning that even if a body is found, identification can be difficult. This means that often those who take their own life may never be found.
Arguably the most common cause of a disappearance is when a person is murdered, and the body is subsequently buried, destroyed, or hidden by another means.
If a person is murdered, the murderer(s) will want to obfuscate any evidence of the crime, which will involve ensuring that a body is not present. Without a person’s body being found, it can make it look like the person disappeared.
As mentioned, murder is probably the most common cause of disappearances, but because of their nature, there is a lack of certainty over whether someone truly was murdered or not.
7. Mental illness
Mental illness is also a common cause of someone disappearing. The mind is a very complicated thing, and mental illness seemingly impacts us in many ways.
A common example is Alzheimer’s Disease – which is a condition that involves cognitive decline and memory loss. This can lead to a person forgetting who they are, and ultimately disappearing from their previous life.
Another potential example is when someone is undergoing a manic episode, as associated with Bipolar Disorder, or a psychotic episode – in both cases, the person will not be in control of their emotions and actions, which can result in them doing something that leads to them disappearing.
8. Forced labour
Harrowingly, forced labour still exists in the 21st Century. Some people, including the vulnerable, or refugees, are forced into human trafficking, sexual servitude or modern slavery.
They will commonly get their legal documents confiscated from them, and essentially act as slaves for their “owners”, whilst earning tiny amounts.
The person is normally unable to contact their family, leading to the person effectively “disappearing” from their usual life, into a life of exploitation.
9. Death in water
Approximately 70% of Planet Earth is made up of water. The very nature of water makes it very difficult to find any trace of any body that disappears in this area.
Water has been involved in countless disappearances – including solo air journeys, entire aircrafts that have gone missing, people getting in trouble out at sea, boats being deserted, or when someone jumps from a large height into water in an attempt to take their own life.
As it can be so difficult to locate a body that goes missing in the water, water actually becomes a very common category for disappearances.
Finally, cults often lead to disappearances. In many cults, when a person joins one, they are encouraged to only communicate with those within the cult – meaning they ignore family members.
They may also go to live in a community that is controlled by a cult, making them seemingly vanish, with their family left unsure of what happened to them.
When no outside contact is allowed, coupled with the secretive nature associated with cults – it becomes very difficult to locate someone who has joined a cult. They may years later reappear.
As shown above, there are many different reasons why someone might disappear, and this is far from an extensive list oof potential reasons.
Each disappearance has its own unique set of circumstances, which can make it very, very difficult in some cases to ever find the person who once vanished.