Into the Wild: Discovering Unexplained Phenomena in US National Parks

By Jack Ripley | April 8, 2024

A Disappearance In The Chiricahua Mountains

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(national parks service)

On January 13, 1980, ranger Paul Fugate went missing during a regular hike in Arizona's Chiricahua National Monument. Paul was someone who loved nature and his job as a ranger, but he had disagreements with his bosses and had even taken legal action against the government in the past.

Paul was last seen around 2:00 pm when he headed out to check a trail. However, he didn't come back as expected. His girlfriend became worried and alerted the authorities, who started searching for him. Initially, they thought he might have had an accident and gotten hurt or stuck in a remote area of the park.

As the search continued without finding any clues, suspicions grew. A park volunteer mentioned seeing Paul in a truck with two unfamiliar men. This led some people to wonder if Paul had been abducted. There were speculations that he might have encountered drug traffickers, who were starting to move into the region around that time. Maybe Paul accidentally stumbled upon their activities or was involved in something gone wrong. Some even suggested, much to the dismay of his loved ones, that he might have intentionally left his old life behind. Regardless of the theories, no evidence or trace of Paul Fugate has been found since that day in 1980.

Scott Lilly's Mysterious Demise

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Scott Lilly embarked on a hike along the Appalachian Trail, intending to journey from Maryland to Georgia for personal reflection. Unfortunately, his trek came to an end in northwest Amherst County, Virginia.

Lilly's last communication with the outside world was in July 2011, when he was climbing the Priest, a well-known mountain in Nelson County. In August of the same year, hikers found Lilly's body in a shallow grave near Cow Camp Gap, which is close to the trail in the Mount Pleasant National Scenic Area of George Washington National Forest. Oddly, his belongings, including his shoes and backpack, were missing.

A medical examiner determined that Lilly, who was known as "Stonewall" on the trail due to his interest in the Civil War and Confederate Gen. Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, died from "asphyxia by suffocation," and ruled it a murder. Friends and family explained that Lilly, aged 30 and from South Bend, Indiana, was on the trail seeking self-discovery.

Following the discovery of his body, the FBI, responsible for investigating incidents on public lands, attempted to contact other hikers who had interacted with Lilly. These hikers were known by trail names such as "Mr. Coffee," "White Wolf," "Papa Smurf," "Combat Gizmo," and "Space Cadet."

Online discussions and forums related to true crime and the Appalachian Trail were abuzz with discussions about Lilly and the hikers mentioned by the FBI. However, even after five years, no arrests have been made in connection with the case.