Samuel Arthur Todd, pictured to the left, has been missing since January 1st, 1984. He was last seen stepping out of a New Year's party in New York City.
At the time he went missing, Todd was a 25 year-old student at Yale Divinity School. As an undergraduate at Vassar, Todd was something of an activist. Besides volunteering in a soup kitchen, he spent a summer in Kenya and Zimbawe where, amongst other things, he taught teenagers who had dropped out of school as a result of Zimbawe's latest insurrection.
There are many things that fascinate me about Todd's case. Hardly the least of it is just the fact that a young man with such a promising future, one who had already shown such a commitment towards helping the downtrodden, could apparently just vanish into thin air. Todd's been missing for 23 years now. When one considers all he had done in the first 25 years of his life, one can't help but wonder how much more he could have done in the years since.
After his disappearance, there were several possible "sightings" of Sam Todd in New York City. He was apparently spotted in a soup kitchen and several people thought they saw him wandering the streets in a disorientated state. A day after his disappearance, it was reported that he may have been in Greenwich Village, washing car windows in the street. This led some investigators to develop the theory that Todd had developed amnesia, perhaps from being hit on the head when he stepped outside of that New Year's Party. Having lost his memory, the theory goes that Todd assumed the life of one of the people that he had previously devoted his life to helping.
Despite a city wide search and extensive local publicity, Sam Todd was never found.
It's a sad and rather haunting story.
For more information on Sam Todd (and info. on who to contact if you should happen to have some information on what happened to Sam back in '84 and where he is today), check out the following links:
Pictured to the left is a man named John Eric Lake who has been missing since December 10th, 1967. At the time he disappeared, the 37 year-old Lake was the sports editor for Newsweek Magazine. By all accounts, he was a universally respected journalist and, in many ways, he set the standard for modern sports reporting. He was also an acclaimed, award-winning author. As of right now, he's a missing person.
Lake's case has always fascinated me for two reasons. First off, and this should be obvious, John Lake -- on the surface at least -- was living the type of existence that I've always desired for myself. Secondly, a large number of his colleagues felt that his disappearance was not the result of any sort of malicious crime but instead a voluntary decision on Lake's part. They feel that Lake willingly gave up the life that most aspiring authors dream of and instead simply started over again with a new identity and a new existence.
It's a strange story and one that has never really gotten the attention that it deserves. John Lake's son, Eric, maintains a fascinating website that is dedicated to both his father and the investigation into his disappearance. Check it out by clicking here.
If John Lake did voluntarily reinvent himself, he would currently be 77 years old. Even though I know the odds are against it, I can't help but hope that he is out there somewhere and that he's found peace from whatever was haunting him back when he was still John Lake.
As I've mentioned before, I am fascinated by missing persons cases. To a large extent, this is because there have been a few times when I was both living far enough from and was estranged from my family to such an extent that I could easily have simply bought a bus ticket for a new destination and pretty much be gone for at least a week or two before anyone would have discovered my absence. As much as I crave attention, I also have a tendency to be a bit of a hermit. (I love the prospect of being the center of attention until I actually am. Then, I quickly make plans to disappear and regain my independence...) Luckily, none of these opportunities occurred at a time when I was in one of my more impulsive, manic moods. Otherwise, Lord knows where I meet be now.
Hence, I've always felt a very intense sympathy for thousands of people out there who have, for whatever reason, vanished if just because I nearly became one of them. Sadly, these stories hardly ever turn out well but there's a part of me (that impractical, overly romantic side of me that is also responsible for me continuing to pursue my writing even when the real world demands that I surrender those dreams and accept the idea of spending my entire life in the 9-to-5 straightjacket) that always hold out hope that these people are simply suffering from amnesia or they've started a new life somewhere or whatever. There's a part of me that always hopes that each and every one of them is still out there, alive and hopefully planning on reconnecting with their loved ones.
I've decided to occasionally post some links here to various sites that are dedicated to individuals who have gone missing. These are cases that, for whatever reason, have caught my attention. I do this for the following reasons: 1) though I know that the chances are minuscule, it could still help to reunite people and 2) nobody deserves to be forgotten. A lot of people runaway from their lives because they feel like they're trapped in a rut, that they've lost whatever it was that made them a unique and special individual in the first place. They feel trapped by an anonymous existence and, often times, their disappearance is also their escape. However, the fact that years later, their loved ones continue to search for them should serve as proof that nobody is ever as anonymous as they may seem to be.
Chait's case, I think, haunts me because, from what I've read of him, he sounds quite a bit like some of my best friends.* Chait appears to have been a serious-minded, intelligent young man who -- just to judge from the groups he was affiliated with -- sincerely wanted to make the world a better place. I'm sure that to an idealistic college student in 1972, that goal might have begun to look impossible. Supposedly, Chait was depressed on the night when he disappeared.
His final recorded words (to his roommate): "Take it slow." For some reason, that line has always stuck in my mind.
We all know what the worst case scenario here would be concerning Chait's disappearance but there's a part of me that simply hopes that this idealistic young man chose, for whatever reason, to simply start a new life elsewhere. I find myself sincerely hoping that he simply ran away from his old life. And I hope that he is now ready to reunite with the family that has spent over thirty years searching for him.
(I should mention that I do not know the Chaits and I have not contacted them about this post. I hope that nothing I have written in this post offends them in the least and I hope they do not mind me writing about their son. However, if they do, please e-mail me and I will take down this post or modify the details concerning Steven Chait in any way appropriate.)
* I'm thinking of my fellow writer Jonathan Bell, in particular. Been a good couple of years since I last talked to Jonathan; it's unfortunate how easy it is to lose touch. Anyway, just in case he does a Google search on his own name, Hey, Jonathan, what's up? You get the last issue of JtD? I've got an extra copy if you need it. While I'm on the subject of friends from my JtD days, I should also say hello to J. Lea Weaver and Heather Hinds. Love you both.
For quite a few years now, I've been following cases of people who, either voluntarily or involuntarily, have disappeared.
(Indeed, it's the subject matter of one of the two novels I'm currently working on, In God's Country. As well, it also plays quite a large role in two of my best short stories: Common People, which appears in It's Impossible To Start A Fire If You Have No Desire To Burn , and It's all True, which is featured in Oswald Acted Alone.)
No matter how many times you read the statistics about just how many people have either been abducted or run away over the past couple of years, the actual numbers are simply staggering. It's scary, disturbing, and ultimately very sad. This may be evidence of my own egocentric world-view but it seems to be me that there could be few fates worse than losing your own identity, separated from the life you once knew and, ultimately, doomed to face the world alone and unknown.
This case caught my attention earlier because the young girl in question was abducted from my own hometown of Richardson, Texas. For information, click on the name of Rachel White and remember that no one should be forgotten.