The Disappearance of the Yamagamis

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The Yamagami family, composed of 58-year-old Masahiro, 52-year-old Junko, 26-year-old Chie, and 79-year-old Saegusa, went missing from their home in Sera, Japan in June 2001.

On June 4, 2001, 52-year-old Junko Yamagami was scheduled to take a business trip to Dalian, China for the travel company she worked for. Before leaving, she was also supposed to attend a meeting. By noon, after Junko hadn’t shown up to her office or gotten on board her plane, her colleagues began to get worried. They checked her house, where she lived with her husband Masahiro and mother-in-law Saegusa, but nobody appeared to be home. The family dog and Masahiro’s car were gone too. 

The Yamagamis’ daughter, a 26-year-old elementary school teacher named Chie, was also missing. She lived alone in an apartment in near-by Takehara city, but came over to visit her parents the night before. Chie was the last member of the family anybody had seen. At 9:30 PM, she picked up some make-up from a colleague and then headed for her parents’ home in the small mountain town of Sera. The Yamagamis’ neighbors heard a car door close at 10:50 PM. Either this had come from Chie after coming home, or it was the sound of the Yamagamis leaving. None of the neighbors were sure. Whatever it was, the family’s newspaper deliveryman reported that the car was missing when he came around 4:00-5:00 AM.

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Masahiro Yamagami’s car was also missing.

The Yamagamis’ front door was locked, but the back door was open. Nothing in the house appeared to be disturbed. The kitchen light was left on, all of the beds were made, and breakfast had been prepared. As ordinary as the scene appeared, however, there were a couple of strange details. The Yamagamis’ pajamas were missing, and while their shoes had been left behind, their sandals were gone.  Junko’s luggage and the 150,000 yen she needed for her trip were also inside the house, and so was Masahiro’s pager. It seemed that the Yamagamis suddenly dropped whatever they were doing, took the family dog, and quietly left the house in their pajamas and sandals.

A year into the investigation, the case seemed to be going nowhere. The Yamagamis had good reputations, and weren’t involved with any particularly shady or dangerous people. Masahiro did have some money problems, but it wasn’t serious enough to leave town. To some of their neighbors, the Yamagamis’ strange disappearance reminded them of an old story from Edo times. A female servant was said to have gone into the mountains one day and then disappeared. All the townpeople tried looking for her, but she was never found.

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Chie Yamagami and the family dog, Leo.

 

On September 7, 2002, police recovered a car that was found submerged in a reservoir. The car contained the bodies of the four Yamagamis and their dog. No cause of death could be determined, but there were also no signs of anybody being attacked or bruised. Because Masahiro was in the driver’s seat, police believed that it was a murder-suicide or group suicide.

Now the suicide theory does seem credible; after all, why else would they have taken their dog? But the apparent suddenness of how the Yamagamis left strikes me as suspicious. If Masahiro really did kill everybody, how did he manage (or threaten) to convince the other family members to get in the car? Especially when they were getting ready to eat breakfast? Or did somebody force them to leave? Might they have been trying to get away from somebody, and Masahiro accidentally drove into the water?

This case just makes my head spin. It’s a shame that there isn’t much information online about it. According to a poster on this message board, citing a Chinese newspaper, the Yamagamis’ car was found in a neutral state. Masahiro’s window was down, and everybody was wearing their seat-belt. The Yamagamis’ clothes were so damaged that the authorities couldn’t determine whether they were wearing pajamas. Some glasses and an umbrella were also found. Other users brought up a local rumor that Junko was having an affair, arguing that it really was a suicide of some sort.

Did you find this article interesting? Be sure to share it on your social media and leave me any comments, questions, or theories you might have in the comments section. 

 

 

The Disappearance of Yuki Onishi

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5-year-old Yuki Onishi disappeared in Japan’s Goshikidai Forest on April 29, 2005.

Greenery Day, a national holiday in Japan meant to appreciate nature, is observed every May 4th. From its establishment in 1989 until 2007, however, it was celebrated every April 29th. In 2005, as part of a Greenery Day celebration, a bamboo shoot digging event was held in Kanagawa Prefecture’s Goshikidai Forest. (Yes, this is a thing. Many people in Asia like boiling and eating the shoots.)

Some 60 people showed up to participate, including five-year-old Yuki Onishi and her mother and eight-year-old sister. The event started at 1 PM, and Yuki jumped with joy when she found her first shoot about a half-hour later. She told her mother that she was going to find another one, and then walked away to continue her search.

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A picture taken of Yuki the day she disappeared.

20 minutes after Yuki ran off, her mother looked at where all the other diggers were and suddenly realized that her daughter was missing. After a search by themselves turned up nothing, Yuki’s family called the police at 3 PM. When the police still couldn’t find a single trace of the girl, firefighters were brought in to assist the search at 5 PM. Although the authorities combed the area for the next six hours, they still weren’t able to find anything, not even a shoe or the hat Yuki was wearing.

Eventually, over 3,000 people assisted in the case, but not a single one of them was able to find any clues. The forest where Yuki disappeared and a near-by pond seemed to turn up nothing. When a police dog was brought in to follow Yuki’s scent, it suddenly stopped in its tracks in the middle of the forest.  Four other dogs were made to follow the scent the next day, but they led police to the same exact spot.

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A picture of the forest where Yuki disappeared.

This is probably the most troubling part of the case. How could somebody seemingly just vanish into thin air? A few internet sleuths have suggested that Yuki was carried off by an eagle or some other large bird. I’m sure we’ve all heard stories about eagles swooping down on a baby or toddler and grabbing them, but those are really just tall tales. According to biologist Ron Clarke, the most an eagle can carry without any difficulty is four or five pounds. At 34 pounds, Yuki would have been way too heavy for an eagle’s carrying capacity.

The other, and I’d say more plausible, theory is that Yuki was lured away and snatched up by somebody who was just passing through the forest. While nobody particularly suspicious was noticed by the diggers, some of them did see a man walking through the area with a backpack large enough to hold a child of Yuki’s size. This man has never been identified, although he might have been a camper or hiker. 

At the time of her disappearance, Yuki Onishi weighed 34 pounds (15.5 kg) and stood at 3 feet, 5 inches (106 cm). She was wearing a pink hat, a long-sleeved shirt with a red and orange pattern, white gloves, long blue pants, and pink shoes. She was 5-years-old, and as of the time of this writing, would now be 15-16. A website set up for Yuki, which Japanese-speakers can access here, offers a printable flyer and contact information for anybody who might be able to help.

Did you find this article interesting? Be sure to share it on your social media and leave me any comments, questions, or theories you might have in the comments section. 

Was There a UFO Crash in Missouri Six Years Before Roswell?

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Reverend William Hoffman told his family in 1941 that he saw a crashed UFO and three dead alien bodies in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

The Roswell UFO Incident of 1947, whether you believe it anyway, is usually considered to have been the first UFO crash in the United States. In the vast and zany annals of American UFO lore, however, there is an earlier case in Cape Girardeau, Missouri that also involves alien bodies and a government cover-up. Unlike Roswell, the 1941 Cape Girardeau Incident has never been the subject of mass media interest, or even a stand-alone book.

The story didn’t surface, in fact, until five decades after it allegedly took place. It was first reported in 1991 by Leonard H. Stringfield,  a ufologist who included it in his book UFO Crash/Retrievals: The Inner Sanctum, the sixth addition of a seven-part series he wrote about UFO crashes. Stringfield’s source was Charlette Mann, a woman who claims that her grandfather William Hoffman was a witness at the crash site.

Hoffman, a pastor of the Red Star Baptist Church, was called up by local police one night in the spring of 1941. They told him that there had been a plane crash, and asked if he could come to minister the pilot’s last rites. After Hoffman said yes, he was picked up by a car, and then taken to an area about a dozen miles away from Cape Girardeau.

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Scene from a documentary about the Cape Girardeau UFO Incident. I

When Hoffman got to the crash site, he found the place swarming with police officers, firefighters, and soldiers. The “plane” turned out to be a small metallic saucer. He saw three dead bodies, each about four feet tall, lying outside the craft. The figures were evidently non-human; they had large eyes, no hair, and only three fingers on each hand. The creatures’ ship had crashed and caught fire, but their bodies showed no sign of being burned.

Due to damage from the crash, the interior of the craft could be seen from the outside. When Hoffman got up closer, he saw that it contained a single metal chair and some gauges and dials. He also noticed a strange script, which he thought looked like Egyptian hieroglyphics.

After things calmed down a bit and Hoffman finished giving the creatures their last rites, two police officers picked one of the bodies up and held it between them for a photograph. Before he left, Hoffman was told to keep what he had seen a secret. He was warned that what he saw was a matter of national security, and that it couldn’t be told to anybody.

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A reconstruction of the lost photo allegedly taken in the Cape Girardeau UFO Incident. This picture was drawn from memory by Charlette Mann.

Of course, Hoffman did just the opposite and told his entire family about what happened as soon as he came back home.  About 2 weeks after the alleged crash, Hoffman received the alien picture from the man who had taken it, possibly a local photographer (and friend of Harry Truman) named Garland F. Fronabarger. Hoffman was said to never have mentioned the crash again, although he did pass the picture off to his son Guy.

Guy showed the picture to his friends and children, including his daughter Charlette Mann. In the mid-1950s, Guy gave the picture to a skeptical photographer friend named Walter Wayne Fisk. This was apparently the last anybody had seen of it. Long before Fisk’s death in 2012, both Charlette Mann and ufologist Stanton T. Friedman tried contacting him with little success.

Aside from Charlette Mann and her sister, nobody else can confirm that the picture existed. Everything we know about the case comes from Mann, and she had gotten the details from her grandmother, who had told it to Mann on her death-bed in 1984. There’s a total lack of witnesses here, and the exact date and location of the crash have never been determined either. I’ve heard that Mann hopes more witnesses will eventually show up, but after so many years, who could possibly still be alive to vouch that it happened?