HANNIBAL, Mo. — Fifty years later, mystery and rampant speculation lingers about what happened to three boys who vanished after they were said to be exploring caves in Mark Twain’s hometown of Hannibal, Missouri.

The boys were never seen again on May 10, 1967, when they set off into the caves, much as they had done in search of adventure like Twain characters Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the Hannibal Courier-Post (http://bit.ly/2ptQydR ) reports.

Since then, rumors and theories have swirled around the Mississippi River town about what happened to 13-year-old Joey Hoag, 10-year-old brother Billy Hoag, and their friend, 14-year-old Craig Dowell, after they reportedly entered the sprawling Murphy’s Cave complex.

Some wonder if they ever entered the cave at all, or whether they ran away or were abducted and taken away from Hannibal. Others surmise they might have become trapped in another cave as a result of blasting related to a highway being built.

A massive, 10-day search for the boys, whose disappearance drew national attention, came up empty. Much of that would-be rescue effort focused on Murphy’s Cave and attracted hundreds of spelunkers from across the country.

As the Hoag and Dowell families clung to hope, people from across the country provided tips and leads to police and would-be rescuers, who poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the search effort. At the time, the Courier-Post reported tips ranging from a stray sock found near a cave entrance to a mysterious red substance believed to be blood by another.

Letters poured in to Hannibal police, asking crews to scour islands in the Mississippi River. Clairvoyants and psychics from as far away as California and Arizona contacted searchers with their premonitions, with one relaying recurring visions of the boys locked in a rail car with oranges bound for an unknown U.S. destination.

None of it ever panned out.


Information from: Hannibal Courier-Post, http://www.hannibal.net

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.