Strangest Videos Captured Before People Disappeared

Love it or hate it, the premise of "The Blair Witch Project" got people into theaters. If you're not familiar, the movie claims that the very footage you're watching is the mysterious recordings of three college students who went missing in the woods, never to be seen again. It wasn't true, of course, as many folks found out when the cast began making public appearances.

But even in 1999, the world was already changing into the one we know today, with surveillance cameras everywhere and a video camera in nearly everyone's pocket. The filmmakers tapped into something weirdly prescient with their movie. As more cameras surround us, a greater number of people who vanish are last seen by a camera's eye instead of a human one.

While a video is typically considered to be some of the strongest evidence police can find when investigating crimes, in the cases of these missing people, it only made things even stranger.

Lars Mittank became terrified of something before he disappeared

In 2014, German tourist Lars Mittank traveled with friends to Varna, Bulgaria and stayed at a resort just outside of the city. The vacation was relatively uneventful until July 5, when Mittank got into an argument at a bar with other Germans over football, according to All That's Interesting. This escalated into a fight. Mittank's eardrum was ruptured and a doctor advised him not to fly, then prescribed an antibiotic. His friends said they would stay, but Mittank declined their offer.

Mittank started showing erratic behavior after he relocated to a hotel closer to the airport, exhibiting paranoia and seeming very upset. He contacted his mother and asked her to freeze his credit card, telling her he didn't feel safe at the hotel. On July 8, Mittank arrived at the Varna airport and was cleared to fly by a doctor.

Shortly after this, Mittank abruptly dropped his belongings and ran, saying "I don't want to die here." Surveillance cameras caught him sprinting through the airport and heading outside, where another camera saw him leap a fence, then run into the woods. He hasn't been seen since. Popular theories are that Mittank was being targeted by the men he'd fought or that the medication for his eardrum brought on acute psychosis, a known but very rare side effect of the drug.

A viral video showed the last appearance of Elisa Lam

In February 2013, a Canadian traveler named Elisa Lam disappeared from the Cecil Hotel in Los Angeles, California. While this ordinarily might not have drawn much attention, a video showing the last known appearance of Lam went viral, according to the BBC.

Unlike the other people in this list, Elisa Lam was eventually found, but the video footage of Lam is so strange and her disappearance so mysterious that the case quickly became a sensation. In the video, Lam is in an elevator and is shown peeking out of it, making strange movements, speaking to someone off-camera, and acting as if she is afraid. Viewers speculated that Lam was hiding from someone, possibly even a ghost or other supernatural entity, an idea which isn't unexpected considering the Cecil Hotel's long reputation for being haunted.

Nearly three weeks after she was reported missing, a maintenance worker found Lam's body floating in a water tank on the hotel roof, where she had drowned. The official findings were that Lam's death was accidental. She made her way onto the roof, which is not normally accessible by hotel guests, and fell or jumped into the water tank, possibly to complete suicide, according to Biography. These results haven't ended speculation about the case, though, with theories alleging that Lam was actually murdered or her death was part of a mysterious cover up, among numerous other suggestions.

Corrie McKeague walked down a road and never returned

Typically when you hear of missing people, they disappear somewhere in the wilderness, or far away from civilization. Corrie McKeague, however, went missing in the middle of a residential cul-de-sac in Suffolk, England in the early hours of September 24, 2016. McKeague had been out drinking with friends, driving to a club and planning to leave his car overnight. After his night out, McKeague began walking. He was spotted on CCTV walking down a horseshoe-shaped road, but he was never seen coming back, according to the BBC.

A Royal Air Force gunner, McKeague was reported missing when he didn't show up for work. Police began searching for McKeague and discovered his cell phone had pinged towers next to a road leading out of town. Then they noticed that the street contained several wheelie bins (trash cans), which led authorities to formulate a very strange sounding theory — McKeague had passed out or fallen asleep inside one of the wheelie bins and the bin lorry (garbage truck) might have picked him up.

If this were the case, McKeague might have been crushed in the landfill's compactor, which was along the route police had traced with McKeague's cell phone. McKeague's mother is skeptical of this theory. Alternate theories online suggest that McKeague was actually abducted or even murdered. After searching the landfill for months, no sign of McKeague's remains were ever found.

Kenny Veach disappeared searching for a mysterious cave

In 2014, YouTuber Kenny Veach posted a comment on another user's video under the name snakebitmgee, claiming that he had found a strange cave during a hike in Nevada near Nellis Air Force Base, according to Nevada Magazine. Veach said the cave was M-shaped and put off a strange vibrating energy. Since Nellis is the closest official base to the Groom Lake area, where Area 51 is said to be located, it often appears in conspiracy lore.

Whether the cave was real or Veach was just having a little fun, other commenters encouraged him to try to find the cave again, film it, and upload it to his own channel so they could also see. So, Veach, an experienced hiker and spelunker, took a camera and went searching. In the resulting video, Veach was unable to find the M-shaped cave, but did find an abandoned vertical mine shaft that went a very long way down.

Veach's viewers implored for him to go back and try to find the M-shaped cave again, so he set out again, but this time he never came back. His cell phone was found by a search and rescue team next to the abandoned mine shaft, but Veach himself was nowhere to be found. The team lowered cameras into the shaft, but found no evidence that anyone had been down there. He is still missing as of 2021.

Trevor Deely and the mysterious man in black

Being followed by a mysterious person in the middle of the night on an empty street is a straight-up nightmare for a lot of people. But CCTV cameras in Dublin, Ireland spotted just that right before Trevor Deely disappeared on December 8, 2000, according to The Irish Times.

Deely was attending his company's Christmas party, leaving around 3 AM, walking to his place of employment to grab an umbrella and check on a few things before work the following morning. On his way in, the bank's surveillance camera captured Deely and an unknown man dressed in black at the rear gate of the bank. The later had been standing there before Deely arrived, according to The Journal. The two spoke, but it's not clear what they spoke about, as the camera didn't record their conversation.

Deely left the office and began walking toward his apartment. A few minutes later, he passed a surveillance camera from a different bank along his route home. This was the last known sighting of Deely. Thirty seconds after this final appearance, a man in black was also recorded walking the same direction. Police are convinced that the man at the bank's gate was the exact one that followed Deely home. The man has never been identified, and Deely remains missing.

Brian Shaffer entered a bar and never came back out

Brian Shaffer was a medical student, studying at Ohio State University in Columbus. It was spring break, March 31, 2006, and Shaffer made plans to meet up with his friend William Florence to celebrate, according to the Columbus Navigator. They got together at a bar, the Ugly Tuna Saloona and the two began bar hopping from there, meeting up with another friend, Meredith Reed. She later gave them a ride back to the Ugly Tuna Saloona, where the night began, for one last round. While there, Shaffer ended up separated from Florence and Reed, who assumed he had slipped out early and gone back home after they didn't find him when the bar closed. When he missed a flight two days later, he was reported missing.

Police began searching the Ugly Tuna Saloona and found something baffling. The bar had only one public entrance and exit, an escalator leading down to street level, which was monitored by a CCTV camera. Investigators located footage of Shaffer walking into the bar but couldn't find any video of him leaving. This is the last known sighting of Shaffer.

The other big oddity is that William Florence has continuously refused a lie detector test, saying he already told police everything he knew and didn't see any good in repeating himself. Some true crime devotees hypothesize that Shaffer intentionally disappeared, and that Florence may know where he went.

Robert Hoagland bought gas and a map, then vanished

Months after the Sandy Hook shootings, another disturbing thing happened in Newtown, Connecticut that got lost in the aftermath of that story. On July 28, 2013, a chef and property appraiser named Robert Hoagland was spotted on a gas station CCTV buying a map of the eastern U.S. and refueling his wife's car. This was his last confirmed appearance, according to Disappeared.

Hoagland returned home where he was spotted by his neighbor and his son mowing the grass. A few hours later, he failed to pick his wife up from the airport. After she managed to get home, she found his phone, keys, passport, and prescriptions were all left behind. The lawnmower Hoagland was seen using earlier had been put away. His car was still in the driveway. Hoagland had long been fond of wearing loafers in the summertime, but these were also still at home.

Hoagland had taken $600 out of the bank a few days earlier. He told his wife that this was to get their laptops back after their son, a struggling addict, sold them for drug money. The same night as Hoagland's disappearance, his son was arrested for trespassing near the building where Hoagland had paid to get the laptops back. Rampant speculation is that Hoagland either disappeared on his own or the men to whom his son sold the laptops were somehow involved. However, no serious evidence has been found to support either theory.

Rico Harris, a Harlem Globetrotter, disappeared from a California park

Rico Harris was an exceptional basketball player, potentially NBA material. In high school and college, Harris had a successful basketball career. After college, he even became a Harlem Globetrotter, according to Disappeared. But behind the scenes, Harris struggled with substance abuse. This brought Harris' post-college basketball career to a swift end.

It took him years to get clean, but by 2014, Harris was living in Seattle with his girlfriend and had a steady job. That autumn, Harris returned to his childhood home of Alhambra, California to visit family before driving back toward Seattle on October 10. Harris never made it, though. His car was found abandoned in a park near Sacramento. There were no signs of foul play. Initial theories were that he disappeared intentionally or possibly died by suicide.

Days later, investigators found Harris' cell phone, which turned the case in a puzzling direction. Police discovered several videos, seemingly recorded accidentally, of Harris driving and singing along to music in his car shortly before his disappearance, along with various selfies he had taken along the drive. These didn't seem to show someone who was planning to walk away from his life, much less end it. There were a few sightings of a man matching Harris' description in and around the park the day he vanished, but he has never been located.

Tiffany Whitton ran out of a Walmart and was never seen again

Tiffany Whitton was not a glamorous person. She had a criminal record and a history of substance abuse. She might be hard to empathize with for many people, but despite her background, her disappearance is both creepy and bizarre. Whitton and her boyfriend, Ashley Caudle, were in a Walmart in the early hours of September 13, 2013 when employees noticed Whitton behaving suspiciously on the store's surveillance cameras, according to Esquire.

After seeing Whitton appearing to shoplift, two plainclothes security guards confronted her as she and Caudle were leaving the store, grabbing the strap on her purse. Whitton panicked, left the purse behind, and ran out of the store past Caudle, who just stood and watched. Walmart's cameras recorded her as she did so, and this was the last time she was seen by anyone.

Neither Caudle nor the Walmart employees ran after her. Caudle was unable to find her in the days that followed, but never reported her missing. In fact, due to Whitton's history of long disappearances, her family didn't even report her missing until January of 2014, when her trail was long cold. While investigators believe Caudle may have been involved in the disappearance, suspicious of his failure to report Whitton as missing, he has never been formally charged.

Andrew Gosden took a mysterious trip to London and never came back

Andrew Gosden was your typical gifted kid. He excelled at all of his classes and held a lot of promise in the eyes of his parents and his teachers. He seemed happy, showing no signs of depression, had friends, and there's no evidence he ever had trouble with bullies, according to Vice.

But on September 14, 2007, something very weird occurred. Andrew left the house but didn't walk to school like usual. Instead, he went to an ATM, got out £200 (nearly all he had), and purchased a one-way train ticket from Doncaster to London. He took the train and was last seen on CCTV leaving King's Cross station in London. No one knows what happened to Andrew after that or even why he went to London in the first place.

Initial suspicions were that he was meeting someone he knew online, but despite his intelligence, Andrew wasn't interested in computers — he didn't own one, didn't have a smartphone, and didn't even have an email address. There's no evidence of him arranging to meet with anyone. In 2008, a man came to the Leominster police station (nowhere close to either London or Doncaster) and claimed to have knowledge of Andrew's whereabouts, but by the time an officer came to talk to him, he was gone. He has never been identified.

Timmothy Pitzen was never meant to be found

On May 11, 2011, Timmothy Pitzen's father dropped him off at his kindergarten in Aurora, Illinois. Later that same day his mother, Joan Marie Fry-Pitzen, arrived at the school and checked him out, citing a non-existent family emergency, according to WGN. It seemed ordinary. It was actually a kidnapping.

After getting Timmothy from school, Fry-Pitzen took him to the zoo, a water park, and finally checked into a resort for the night. On May 12, she took him to a different resort called Kalahari in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, about three hours away from Aurora. It was there, at 10 in the morning on May 13, that Timmothy was last spotted on the resort's surveillance cameras, according to The Charley Project.

Fry-Pitzen's movements continued from here, but footage after the resort shows her alone. She finally came to Rockford, IL where she got a hotel room and died by suicide at some point that evening. In the note she left behind and letters mailed to her family from the hotel, Fry-Pitzen said that Timmothy was with someone who would care for him and that he would never be found. There are two main theories about what this means — that Fry-Pitzen literally left Timmothy with some unknown person(s) who agreed to care for him, or that it was a euphemism and she had actually murdered him. As of 2021, there's no solid evidence for either scenario.

The last sighting of Steven Koecher was only his reflection

Steven Koecher's career in digital advertising was hit hard by the 2008 recession. By 2009, the only job he could get was passing out flyers for a window washing company. It didn't provide him enough income to live on, so he was actively searching for a better job, according to Disappeared. His family believes this is what he was doing when he mysteriously vanished from a neighborhood just outside of Las Vegas.

In the days leading up to his disappearance, Koecher covered a lot of distance in his car, driving to cities around Utah, where he lived, and Nevada, but no one knows why. He was in communication with his family during this time but didn't mention his mysterious road trips. On December 13, 2009, he stopped in Henderson, Nevada. He parked his car on a residential street, got out, and was recorded on a home security camera walking with a folder in his hand. Moments later, another camera nearby captured Koecher's reflection in a car window. He hasn't been seen since.

Koecher was devoutly religious and had no history with crime or drugs. Police found Christmas presents in his car, meaning he likely didn't disappear intentionally. There's no evidence to point to him being murdered or kidnapped. In fact, there's no evidence of anything suspicious at all other than the strange road trips. It's as though Koecher simply disappeared off the face of the Earth.