The new documentary Searching For Sugar Man tells how American songwriter Rodriguez flopped in America, found an unlikely audience in Apartheid-era South Africa and promptly disappeared so suddenly that rumours of his on-stage suicide abounded for decades until his eventual re-emergence in the late Nineties. It’s not the first time a famous face unexpectedly vanished, here are six of them…
In 1971, an unknown man going by the alias Dan ‘D.B.’ Cooper hijacked a Boeing 727 commercial airliner. After allowing the plane to land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, the criminal released the passengers in return for four parachutes and $200,000 in unmarked bills. He then ordered the plane and its four crew members to take off again and head for Reno, Nevada. But, shortly after take-off, Cooper opened the aft door and parachuted from the plane with his ill-gotten gains. Though he is thought to have landed somewhere near Vancouver, Washington, he was never caught and no evidence of his landing was ever found. His daring escape led to one of the largest manhunts ever and, despite there being more than 1,000 suspects in the case, Cooper’s true identity remains a mystery to this day.
The trailblazing female pilot was one of the most famous people in the world in the 1920s. Renowned for setting numerous aviation records and pushing the boundaries of what a plane was capable of doing, Earhart’s final flight proved to be her most famous. In 1937, along with navigator Fred Noonan, she set off on a flight around the world. She had nearly made it to the end of her epic 29,000-mile journey before coming up against terrible weather conditions in the South Pacific, which caused her to lose track of the small island where she was due to refuel. On July 2, all contact with the plane was lost and Earhart and Noonan were never seen again despite a huge naval search covering 250,000 miles of ocean. Rumours about their fates range from running out of fuel to crashing on an uninhabited island to landing on a Japanese-controlled island where they were imprisoned.
The story behind the brief disappearance of the much-loved British crime writer in 1926 has proved as enduring and mysterious as any of her novels. After her husband Archie revealed he was having an affair, Agatha left her home - leaving behind only a note saying that she was heading to Yorkshire - and promptly dropped off the radar. During a 11-day period and despite a massive manhunt, Christie remained at large. When she returned home, she refused to say where she had been. Books and movies have since been written and made about the vanishing but, while the general consensus seems to be that she checked herself into a hydropathic hotel to sort out a bad case of fatigue, the author refused to ever talk about the event.
A powerful blue-collar worker leader with close ties to the government and the mafia, Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance has now become the stuff of legend. The President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters for many years, he was due to meet two mafia contacts at a Michigan restaurant in 1975 but vanished before the meeting could take place. While investigators were left in little doubt as to his eventual fate, the mystery of his missing body has never been solved. Theories abound that his final resting place is under the New York Giants football stadium or beneath a swimming pool in Michigan or that he was crushed in a car compactor – having been officially declared dead in 1982, we’ll now probably never know what actually became of him.
Louis Le Prince
You’ve probably never heard of the name but back in the late 19th Century, Louis Le Prince was a pretty big deal. Regarded now by many as the true father of cinema, Le Prince was a French innovator who developed the first motion picture camera and, in 1888, he filmed a nearly two-second clip of Roundhay Garden – now considered the world’s first movie. In 1890, Le Prince took a train to Paris with the intention of meeting his family and travelling to America to demonstrate his invention. However, when the train arrived, Le Prince and all his equipment was nowhere to be seen. It has been rumoured that he committed suicide or was murdered for the secrets of his great creation. The most frequently accused suspect for the latter theory is none other than Thomas Edison who, now popularly credited as the inventor of the movie camera, filed a strikingly similar patent to Le Prince’s device in in the years following his disappearance.
The Marie Celeste
Now world famous as the original ghost ship, the mystery of the Marie Celeste remains unsolved to this day. The story goes that in 1872 the vessel was found adrift in the Atlantic Ocean with all seven crew members, the captain, his wife and daughter no longer aboard . Although a life raft was also missing, the ship was reported as being totally seaworthy while essential survival supplies had been left behind. Since its discovery, pirates, mutiny, freak storms and even alien abduction have been blamed but none (especially the last one) have ever been substantiated.
Searching For Sugar Man Trailer
Searching For Sugar Man is released in cinemas on July 26.