Into the Wild: Discovering Unexplained Phenomena in US National Parks

By Jack Ripley | April 15, 2024

A Severed Hand in Yosemite National Park

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In 1983, a family was exploring Summit Meadow near Glacier Road when one of their children found a severed hand and forearm. Despite thorough searches, investigators couldn't locate other body parts, and they couldn't identify the victim or make progress in solving the case. In 1988, a skull was discovered across the street from the original site, but authorities still couldn't figure out who the victim was.

Finally, in 2022, using DNA from the remains, the Park Service identified the victim as Patricia Hicks, a woman connected to a local cult leader who was accused of using LSD to exploit and disorient his victims. This man had been found guilty of assaulting women in the 1980s but disappeared before he could be imprisoned.

Investigators now believe that Hicks was actually murdered by the infamous serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, who confessed to hundreds of killings across the country. When Lucas was arrested, he shared specific details about the Summit Meadow crime scene that hadn't been publicly released. Still, the information Lucas provided regarding the incident and the victim's details were considered indirect, so the murder case remains unsolved.

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.