Mysterious Political Deaths And Disappearances

Politics can seem exciting from the outside looking in — all that power, making decisions that affect people's lives, access to money and fame, and the respect your position brings. But in reality, politics is probably really boring — all those meetings, and having to work with people you hate, and seeing your hard work go nowhere. But sometimes something comes along that makes it seem hot again. Maybe someone had an affair and got caught. Or spent their campaign money on something illegal. Or maybe someone straight-up died.

Not like "died in their own bed surrounded by family" died but "killed in a crazy way" died. Maybe the death was violent or maybe, even weirder, we will never know how it happened because the victim just disappeared. These are the mysterious stories people remember, the ones that have conspiracy theories attached to them, and the ones we will possibly never know the truth about.

Betty Van Patter found out something she shouldn't have

After its formation in 1966, the Black Panther Party worked on a long list of laudable things, including free health clinics, schools, and free breakfast programs. But they had a darker side as well. Some people, like David Horowitz, writing in Salon, even accused them of extortion, prostitution, and drug rackets. And murder. One of their victims may have been a woman named Betty Van Patter.

Despite being a white woman, Van Patter was hired to keep the books of an education arm of the Black Panthers. The problem was she did her job too well and found a bunch of financial improprieties. She threatened to expose those involved and then she suddenly disappeared, as recounted in the East Bay Times. Her body was found floating in a river almost a month later, her head bashed in.

From the beginning the police thought it was the Panthers, and even showed up en masse to her funeral to check out suspects. But no one was ever charged.

The ex-leader of the Black Panther Party, Elaine Brown, says to take all of Horowitz's statements with a massive boulder of salt. Brown started doing the university lecture circuit in the early 2000s, and according to The Guardian, flat-out denied that she or the Black Panthers had anything to do with Van Patter's death. She says that she had Van Patter fired, but not killed, when she started to dislike her. Without a clue or a conviction, we'll never know whom to believe.

Joseph Force Crater messed with the wrong people

Judge Joseph Crater didn't just go missing. He went missing in style. He went so missing in 1930 that it caught national attention and the papers dubbed him "the missingest man in New York."

According to History, nothing in Crater's respectable early life pointed to someone who was going to go missing. He grew up in Pennsylvania and got his law degree from Columbia University. But the problems started when he was appointed to the New York Supreme Court. It was rumored that the political machine Tammany Hall had wanted a different person to get that place, and as you might remember from high school history, it wasn't a good idea to go messing with that corrupt organization. People claimed Crater had paid them off.

On August 6, 1930, things started to get weird. Crater had left his wife in Maine on vacation a few days before. He went to his office and started destroying documents. Then he took $5,000 out of his bank account. He went to dinner with some friends, then walked off into the night, never to be seen again. People were so obsessed with his going AWOL that people started talking about "pulling a Crater" and he became a comedic punchline. But it didn't help find him. He was finally declared dead nine years later.

So what happened? One woman left a deathbed confession that she and some guys killed him, but if so a body was never found.

Uwe Barschel could have been killed by anybody

In 1987, former German state premier Uwe Barschel was found dead in his bathtub, at just 43. The weird thing was he was fully clothed. An autopsy discovered he was full of antidepressants. Originally, the coroner ruled it a suicide, but as more information emerged years later, the New York Times reported that it was being looked at as a murder.

So what changed? Medical tests showed the drugs in his stomach may have been given to him after he died. And oh, the fact that there was evidence Barschel was being tailed by everyone from the CIA to the East and West German secret services. He was also dealing with the Iranian government and the Israelis. These guys have all been rumored to get rid of problem people.

And what a problem Barschel was. The CIA had discovered he was meeting with the Iranians, including a son of the late Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini, about weapons shipments. Not one to stop there, he also met with the Israelis and German agencies about the same thing, as well as the mysterious sounding "others." Basically, if it was up to him, everyone was getting weapons.

According to the Jerusalem Post, in 2010 Mossad denied it killed Barschel. But it still could have been the Iranians, pissed their weapons deal didn't go through. Or it could have been half a dozen others. But whoever did it was never caught.

Jack Ruby may not have given in to the big C

The assassination of John F. Kennedy is possibly the most mysterious political death of all time, partially because Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed two days later.

According to History, nightclub owner Jack Ruby always claimed he shot Oswald out of a sense of patriotism. Tit-for-tat, as it were. But regardless of his motivation, he had killed a guy and that landed him in hot water. He was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, which carried the death penalty. And that's what he was sentenced to when the jury returned a guilty verdict.

If you're wondering why you never heard that the guy who shot the guy who shot Kennedy was executed, that's because it never got that far. What happened was far more mysterious. The original jury's verdict was eventually thrown out and Ruby was granted a new trial. But he would die before it could take place, while still behind bars. The official cause was a pulmonary embolism caused by lung cancer. But one friend told an Oklahoma news station no way is that the case. Mary Gray McCoy knew him before the shooting and visited Ruby in jail many times, including right before he died. She says he was fine and that he must have been poisoned.

Add another mystery to the millions there already are about the JFK assassination. Did Ruby really die of natural causes or was he silenced before his new trial could go ahead?

King Ananda Mahidol probably didn't 'accidentally' die

There are a lot of ways to accidentally kill yourself. People manage to do it every day. But one of the less common ways to mistakenly meet your maker is by shooting yourself in the middle of your forehead. Still, that was the conclusion drawn by the doctor who saw the body of the King of Siam, Ananda Mahidol, in 1946.

According to the Washington Post, what makes it even weirder is that the king loved guns and actually knew what he was doing with them. He kept one near him at all times and could often be found practicing his shooting. Would a guy who was so firearm-savvy really "accidentally" blow his brains out?

He had recently been at school in Switzerland and the director there had two theories that make a lot more sense. One, he said those around the king had been worried about assassination attempts against the 20-year-old. Two, there were rumors the king was depressed because he hadn't been allowed to marry a girl he met at school. Maybe he had been overcome with grief and decided to end it.

It was also a bit weird that he had only recently started taking control of his country from some powerful men who were actually in charge when he was a kid. It's possible those guys wanted their power back and knew they would get it if Ananda's younger brother were in charge.

Johan Heyns died for standing up for what he believed in

Nelson Mandela may have managed to die peacefully after a tough life, but not everyone who helped him end apartheid was so lucky. That included a professor and preacher who was shot in front of his own grandkids, and whose murder remains unsolved.

According to the New York Times, in the 1980s, Johan Heyns went from powerful civilian to powerful political player. He was head of the largest Afrikaner church in South Africa, the Dutch Reformed Church. The DRC had actually been instrumental in saying apartheid was all hunky dory and that obviously Jesus wanted you to mistreat black people. But under Heyns' leadership in 1986 that changed. That year they admitted the abhorrent practice was a "scriptural error" and started siding with anti-apartheid movement and against the government. Heyns, who, for the record, was white himself, said white people had to undergo a "fundamental change of heart," according to the LA Times.

Being so outspoken about something so controversial could be dangerous, of course. And on November 5, 1994, as reported by South Africa's Independent Online, he was shot in the head at close range, dying immediately. His assailant didn't even have the guts to face him but shot him through the window of his home. The gunshot was hidden by fireworks going off outside. No shell was ever found, and with so little evidence no one was ever arrested, although it is believed he was shot by a right-wing extremist for obvious reasons.

José Francisco Chaves probably wasn't killed by the 'usual suspects'

Mix the Wild West with contentious politics and nothing good can come of it. Or at least, nothing good came of it for José Francisco Chaves who was shot and killed in 1904 right after a hard-fought election. According to New Mexico History, he was born into political royalty and spent his early life being groomed to go into public service himself. He studied liberal arts and law, with a touch of medical school just to mix it up. But then he came home and got himself elected New Mexico's Territorial Council (basically the senator for places that weren't states yet) and he held the position for 19 years.

So far, so good. But in 1904 he had a tougher election that usually, winning one county by only 21 votes. And 18 days later he was having dinner at a friend's house, when someone shot through the window and killed him. The assassin got away before being spotted.

Ignoring the possible political motivation, the sheriff rounded up the "usual suspects" and soon Domingo Valles, a guy who was related to another guy who was in jail for stealing cattle, was charged. If there was one thing Wild West people knew, it was that anyone associated with cattle rusting was all bad. Within two weeks even the sheriff was admitting he probably had nothing to do with it. He stood trial anyway and was acquitted. The murder was never solved.

Alexander Litvinenko pissed off Putin

Alexander Litvinenko had been living happily in Russia working as an officer in the Federal Security Service, the successor to the KGB, according to the BBC. But then he decided he wasn't such a fan of Putin and what he got up to, including the human rights abuses in Russia. And since one of those human rights abuses was killing people who disagreed with him, Litvinenko knew he needed to get out of the country. So he and his family fled to the U.K., where he continued to be vocal about Putin.

But the head of Russia is not put off by mere miles. Litvinenko was putting himself in a dangerous position. It didn't help that he started working with Britain's version of the CIA. Or that he was looking into the suspicious death of an anti-Putin journalist. Then, in 2006, he had tea with a friend of his, Andrei Lugovoi, another ex-agent who was helping him investigate the Russian mafia. A few hours later, Litvinenko started throwing up.

Three days after that, he was in the hospital and tests showed he had been poisoned with polonium-210. This isn't something you can pick up at the store. Very few countries make the stuff, but one of them is Russia. Suspicion fell on Lugovoi, but he had fled back to his home country and Putin refused to extradite him. The poison did its work quickly. On his deathbed, Litvinenko blamed his assassination on Putin, but no one has ever been brought to justice.

Jim Leslie knew he was going to die

If you lived in a certain part of Louisiana a few years back, you did not want to mess with Shreveport Public Safety Commissioner George D'Artois. He was the highest law enforcement officer in the city, but because of the confusing system, he didn't answer to anyone, not even the mayor. So he got away with doing some terrible things, according to KTBS.

In the 1960s, he and some deputies once went into a church during a service and dragged out the black pastor, beating him and leaving him for dead in the middle of the street. But by the 1970s, he may have escalated to murder.

Jim Leslie was an advertising executive who worked with politicians. He even helped D'Artois get elected. But he refused to take payment when he found out the commissioner was trying to pay him with public funds. This made it to the papers and after one heated discussion with his previous employer, Leslie hung up the phone and said, "[That] man's going to have me killed." Within months he was shot by a hired gunman.

D'Artois was actually arrested for the murder, but he died of complications of open heart surgery before he could be brought to trial. But even though he was a terrible person, it might not have been D'Artois who hired the killer. Leslie had just been involved in getting right-to-work legislation passed at the statehouse, and the campaign had turned violent, maybe even deadly. But no one else was ever charged.

Jimmy Hoffa vanished into thin air

Detroit Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa's mysterious disappearance is possibly the most famous of all time. All we know for sure is this: On the day he vanished he called his wife to say the two mobsters he was supposed to be meeting had stood him up. Then he disappeared forever. The only evidence ever found was a 3-inch strand of hair that DNA testing (once it was invented a decade later) would prove was his. As recently as 2013, a tip led to the authorities getting out the diggers and searching for his body.

No one still living more than 40 years later probably has any clue what happened. But according to USA Today, that hasn't stopped everyone from having a theory. Bustle rounded up a few of them. Maybe the Teamsters Union had something to do with it, killing their old boss for unknown reasons and then burying his body in Giants Stadium all the way in New Jersey. Or maybe he didn't die that day at all and lived to a ripe old age under an assumed name. This would probably require some plastic surgery since he was famous enough that people knew his face.

But the best guess is the mob killed him. Not only was he supposedly meeting two mobsters that day (their alibis were almost too good), but they had infiltrated the Teamsters and didn't want him messing with that. But we'll never know for sure.