The Truth About The Strange Disappearances On The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador, were a wet, rocky, and generally inhospitable place in the early 20th century. It was far from an island paradise, but it was exactly what a German doctor named Friedrich Ritter was looking for when he decided it was time for a fresh start. In 1929, he moved to the remote location with his lover and former patient, Dore Strauch.

Abandoning what had been a successful practice — and his wife — Ritter and Strauch set about establishing a homestead, living off the land and raising chickens. They gained an international reputation as self-sufficient explorers building their lives on a remote island, but they actually entertained many visitors, who heard about the strange homestead and wanted to see it for themselves, per ThoughtCo.

In 1931, visitors arrived who intended to stay for good. Another German man, Heinz Wittmer, along with his son and pregnant wife, Margret, arrived to build their own homestead. Despite being the only other people on the island, the Wittmers had little contact with the doctor, and both families mostly kept to themselves.

A piercing scream, then silence

The island's peace and quiet wouldn't last long. Shortly after the Wittmers arrived, a flamboyant European, Eloise Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosquet, arrived on the island, calling herself the Baroness. She brought along her two lovers, Robert Philippson and Rudolf Lorenz, and a worker named Manuel Valdivieso. From the very beginning, the group caused quite a scene. The Baroness was stubborn, provocative, and sexy, and she attracted a lot of yachts to the island, whose passengers were intrigued by this compelling character. She soon declared herself "Queen" of the island and announced her intent to build a grand hotel, which would attract even more visitors.

The self-proclaimed island queen stirred up a lot of trouble. She did not get along well with the other residents, and fighting between the homesteads ensued. Doctor Ritter especially couldn't stand her. He hated her attention-seeking and her extravagant lifestyle, but mostly he despised the way she seemed to have taken over the island and declared it her own. But his problems came to an abrupt end on March 27, 1934. A single long scream pierced the quiet air, and the Baroness and her lover, Philippson, were never seen again, according to Culture Trip.

Two disappeared, and three more dead

Of course, the disappearance raised many questions. Margret Wittmer insisted she had seen the Baroness and Philippson taking off with friends on a yacht bound for Tahiti, but no one really seemed to believe this version of events. For starters, the Baroness had left behind almost all of her things, and no one else had seen a yacht arrive that morning. It seemed even more suspicious when Lorenz left the island in a hurry, hitching a ride with a Norwegian fisherman to San Cristobal Island. But the pair never made it to their destination. Instead, their mummified bodies turned up on Marchena Island — nowhere near San Cristobal — months later.

Adding another layer to the mystery, Dr. Ritter also turned up dead that same November, allegedly from food poisoning, although many people believed Strauch had actually poisoned him. To this day, no one was ever able to prove what really caused the death and disappearance of five of the island's residents. The Wittmers remained on the island, turning the press and media attention into a lucrative tourism business. Margret Wittmer, the only one who might have known more than she let on, died in 2000, along with what remained of the truth about the mysterious disappearances on the Galapagos Islands.