Oscar Zeta Acosta was a well-known figure during the 1960s and 1970s – famed for being an author, politician, attorney and activist. Much of his life was lived in the public eye, with Acosta becoming well-known across the United States and Mexico.

But in 1974, Acosta disappeared in Mexico and has never been seen again. There are many questions that surround his disappearance. To this day, his whereabouts are unknown.

This article reviews this mysterious disappearance. There is a reader’s poll at the end of the article, which we would love you to vote on, based off of what you think happened.

Acosta vanished in Mexico


Oscar Acosta was born in April 1935 in Texas, United States. Acosta lived through the difficulty of the Second World War, with his father serving for the United States Army.

Acosta was gifted at a young age – becoming the first member of his family to get a University degree – where he studied Creative Writing. He soon attended Law School and passed the bar exam in 1966.

In 1968, Acosta became involved with the Chicano Movement – which was a movement in the United States which involved the championing of those of Mexican descent. Acosta served as an attorney for the movement.

Acosta represented clients in many high-profile cases. He took cases to the Superior Court of Los Angeles on multiple occasions, and won several court cases for his clients.

As a result of these high-profile cases, Acosta became well-known across California. Buoyed by his popularity, Acosta ran for Sheriff of Los Angeles County in 1970 – and secured over 100,000 votes.

Acosta was well-beaten in the election, and during the campaign, spent two days in jail for contempt of court. Around this time, he became an enemy of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

Over the next few years, Acosta collaborated with author Hunter S. Thompson in writing novels. The duo fell out during the creation of a book named Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles. Nevertheless, the creation of the book made Acosta become more famous – with the famous Dr. Gonzo character being inspired by Acosta.

The Disappearance

Acosta had been arrested by the LAPD for amphetamine use. This led to him losing support from many locals. Acosta took some time out to travel to Mexico.

In May 1974, Acosta was travelling in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. While in the city of Mazatlán, Acosta called his son Marco and told him that he was “about to board a boat full of white snow”.

Acosta was allegedly seen by witnesses getting onto the boat, which headed out into the ocean. Acosta’s account does indeed make it sound like he was getting onto a boat, though the validity of the accounts of people claiming to have seen this is a disputed topic.

This was the last that anyone heard from Acosta. At some point over the next few days, he vanished. Acosta was never seen again. It is unknown if he ever did board a boat, nor where it was heading, or who he travelled with.

The Investigation

Acosta was reported as missing, leading to investigations taking place. But given the lack of information on the timing of his disappearance, where he disappeared from and the vast search area, there was very little for investigators to go on.

Given his high profile, it is very strange that there are such few details on his disappearance. Information is scarce and it almost seems as if he simply vanished off of the face of the earth.

Hunter S. Thompson hired a Private Investigator to assist in the search for Acosta, though this failed to yield any developments in the case.

His son Marco – believed to be the final person to speak to Acosta – said that his family believe that given the “people he was involved with”, that he “ended up mouthing off, getting into a fight, and getting killed”.

Investigators believed that Acosta died during his trip in Mexico – probably soon after his final conversation with his son Marco. Eventually, the case went cold, and Acosta was presumed dead.

Later Developments

Acosta’s old writing partner Hunter S. Thompson, wrote an article after investigating Acosta’s disappearance – which was published in Rolling Stone magazine.

Thompson said that Acosta suffered from drug addiction, and that he believed that Acosta was either murdered by drug dealers or was assassinated for his political views.

Acosta’s legacy has lived on, with film adaptations of books he helped to write and documentaries based on his life being released in the years since his disappearance.

While there have been many alleged sightings of Acosta in the years since his disappearance, no such sighting has proven to be concrete.

Acosta’s whereabouts remain unknown


While there isn’t too much to go on in this case, there are various theories that have been put forward. The different theories are discussed below.

We take a look at the evidence for these:

Theory One: Oscar Acosta was killed by drug dealers

Acosta was known to have been involved in drugs for several years. While it isn’t known if he dealt them, he was a prolific recreational user of narcotics.

Mexico is well-known for its illegal drug trade, and Acosta may have got caught up with some dangerous people while in Mexico, resulting in his death.

But it isn’t clear why Acosta would have been targeted, especially if he was there to buy some drugs. But as his son said, he may have “mouthed off” to some dangerous people, resulting in his death.

Theory Two: Oscar Acosta overdosed and died

In a similar light to the above theory, it has been established that Acosta used drugs. It is possible that he accidentally overdosed and died.

If he did meet some drug dealers and survived, it is likely that he would have bought some drugs. Having been a user of drugs for several years, he could easily have mistook how much of a drug he had taken, or overestimated his limits.

But if this did happen, then it would be strange that his body was never found. Most people that overdose do so in a dwelling or hotel room. If this happened while he went on his alleged boat journey, it would be strange for him to overdose out at sea and not be found – unless he fell into the ocean and sunk.

Theory Three: Oscar Acosta had a nervous breakdown and took his own life

Due to his storied life as an author, attorney and activist, Acosta would have had a lot on his plate. He was also having to deal with an arrest back home in the United States.

With this in mind, it is possible that Acosta suffered a nervous breakdown and decided to take his own life. This is feasible, given the stress he was under. It isn’t known though if he had ever had mental health problems in the past.

However, if this was the case, it isn’t known where his body is. As discussed above, often when someone dies, their body is found. But this wasn’t the case with Acosta. He may have taken his life out at sea though – which could explain the lack of body.

Theory Four: Oscar Acosta was assassinated for his political views

Acosta was a powerful attorney and enjoyed plenty of support due to his larger-than-life personality. His support of a movement that was generally opposed by the LAPD made him an enemy of the police.

Therefore, it is conceivable that Acosta was assassinated due to his political views. In a rather remote area, something like this is very possible, and Policemen would have the knowledge of how to dispose of a body.

However, while Acosta was an enemy of the Police, it is arguable that he didn’t pose enough of a problem for the Police to do something as clandestine as murdering him. It is also hard to consider who would have ordered the hit.

Theory Five: Oscar Acosta vanished intentionally and assumed a new identity

The final theory is that Acosta vanished intentionally and in doing so, assumed a new identity. Due to his busy life in the United States, he may have chosen to have a “fresh start”, away from all of the drama that followed him.

This would explain why he was never seen again. He also seemingly had the finances for this to be possible. This would also tie in with some of the alleged sightings of Acosta from down the years, where many claimed to have seen him.

However, Acosta was a well-known figure, which would make it difficult for him to not be recognised. Moreover, assuming a new identity is challenging, and takes a lot of resources. It would also be very difficult to not speak to his family ever again. Accounts suggest Acosta was a family man – meaning that it would be difficult to live a whole new life without contacting his family.

Reader Vote

Having read the above theories, we would love you to vote on the theory that you believe is the most accurate in the poll below. After submitting a response, you will see the current votes.

What Happened to Oscar Zeta Acosta?


Oscar Zeta Acosta was an enigmatic man that was well-known and adored by many. His actions continue to be felt by many, and for many, he is a hero.

With several decades passing since his disappearance, it looks very unlikely that there will be any definitive answers in the future. But such is the unpredictable and exciting nature of Acosta’s life – anything is possible in the future.

The image used in the header is credited to “Cashman Photo Enterprises, Inc.” Published by Random House., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/ee/Oscar_Zeta_Acosta%2C_Las_Vegas_1971.jpg

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