Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan

Yesterday I read a book, translated from the French, by journalists Lena Mauger and Stephane Remael, called Vanished: The “Evaporated People” of Japan in Stories and Photographs.

I don’t know much about Japan and I had never heard anything about this, but apparently it’s a pretty normal thing for people to leave and never come back, and according to the authors over half of these disappearances are never reported to the police. There were a lot of them in the nineties especially when Japan’s economy was on the rocks.

There’s a name for it: evaporating. Sometimes it’ll be just one person from the family — a breadwinner who lost his job, a college student son who failed an important exam — and sometimes the entire family will go. Many of the evaporated people wind up committing suicide within a few days of leaving, but many more will just pop up somewhere else in the country and start over. There’s an entire neighborhood in Tokyo full of these people.

In fact, there are even entire companies whose job it is to help people evaporate. Mauger and Remael talked about a company called something like “Midnight Movers.” By day they moved furniture; by night they moved people. They didn’t have to advertise the people part; the “midnight” in their company name was a hidden indication that they were willing to move more than just your stuff. The price was the equivalent of like $5,000, around three times the cost of an ordinary move. The whole “midnight movers” concept sounds like it could become a movie or even a TV show here in the States.

Anyway. Check out the book if you’re interested.

Visited my car yesterday, and so on

Yeah, so yesterday Dad came over to see me and together we went to the tow lot to have a look at my car and retrieve the last of my belongings from it. Turns out the thing is in even worse shape than I thought. Presenting exhibits A, B and C:




Yeah, so not only is just about the entire driver’s side trashed, but the front driver’s side wheel is bent and the windshield is cracked. I emailed the photos to the insurance company. I also noted, and photographed, a pile of automobile detritus in front of my car. I’m not sure whether it’s mine or not, but I sent it along.

It had less than 100,000 miles on it. *sobs* It was a really nice car, too. I mean, yeah it was old (1996) and fracking HUGE and consequently it didn’t have the greatest gas mileage. I doubt its Blue Book value will be much. But it was a luxury model with all the bells and whistles, and its very size may have prevented me from further injury. While we were out I showed Dad the ditch I went into and he was like, “Oh. My. God.”

Last night, Michael and L. and I went out to Granite City, my favorite restaurant, to celebrate my birthday. When the waitress found out it was my birthday they gave me a free, delicious “birthday cookie” with caramel and nuts and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top. We had a good time. Today Michael’s parents came over with a card and a cake for me, which was nice.

I don’t know what’s going on but I can barely talk at all and it’s been like this for a few days now. I was able to talk to the insurance companies on the phone on Wednesday, but my voice sounded very hoarse, and gave out almost entirely after that. It’s not so bad with Michael because he’s used to it, but today his parents kept asking me questions and I kept pointing and shaking my head in frustration.

My throat hurts, but not very much — not even enough that I’ve wanted to take aspirin or anything. I don’t feel sick — no sniffling or coughing, no fever, ears don’t hurt, etc. It has been suggested that maybe it’s just a stress reaction due to the accident; I dunno. Certainly I often have physical reactions from stress but I’ve never lost my voice from it; usually my back just freezes up. If I’m still like this by Monday I suppose I’ll have to go back to the doctor.

It’s kind of inconvenient being without a car of course. I had a friend drive me to the doctor this week for my concussion followup, and then my mother drove me back to Fort Wayne. Earlier this week I took an Uber ride to the library and back. But that’s just not practical for anything outside the city. Mom thinks I should demand a rental from the insurance company until my car gets replaced.

As for the Charley Project: I have been working on it, but it’s been “behind the scenes” type stuff you guys can’t see. (Purging cases, answering emails, etc.) Tomorrow I’m planning to start public updates again.

Today I read a book called Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park. It was very good. It mentioned several accidents where the person undoubtedly perished but the body was never recovered — by author Lee Whittlesey’s reckoning there are at least a dozen, perhaps as many as twenty, bodies in Yellowstone Lake and he doesn’t recommend that ANYONE take a small boat out on there, EVER, because the water is so cold (year-round average temperature is around 45 degrees) and storms can come very quickly and capsize small craft. I have several Yellowstone cases on Charley, and in the book Luke Sanburg was mentioned, as was Dennis Johnson. Whittlesey mentioned one case from 1900 where the guy disappeared from his hotel in the park and was never found; he thinks the man went out for a walk after dark and fell into one of the hot springs. The book also mentioned — and had a copy of the poster for — another case I don’t have on Charley.

If you’re interested in such things I also recommend Michael P. Ghiglieri and Thomas M. Myers’s book Over The Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. It’s really good too, and quite similar to the aforementioned book, except of course it’s about a different national park. It does however have a mistake in it for which I am partially to blame: they claim Connie Smith‘s body was found in Grand Canyon National Park several years after her disappearance. In fact, the remains were misidentified as Connie at first; the mistake was quickly rectified and Connie is still missing, obviously, and “Little Miss X” remains unidentified to this day. When I read that in the first edition, I remember thinking “Someone should tell them they’re wrong.” That someone should have been me. When I read the second edition of the book and realized the error was still there, I emailed Mr. Ghiglieri and told him about it and provided some links. He said they were working on another edition and he’d try to make sure the error was corrected, but it might already be too late for that.

Amazon also recommends Death in Glacier National Park: Stories of Accidents and Foolhardiness in the Crown of the Continent, which just came out in May, for readers who enjoyed the two aforementioned books. I will have to check that one out. WorldCat says neither the Allen County Public Library nor any library in the OhioLink system has it, but I’ve got birthday money burning a hole in my pocket and I could spend some of it on that. I had thought Glacier National Park was in Alaska, but I was mistaken; it’s in Montana. The Charley Project has Patrick Terrence Whalen who disappeared from there. I think I had Glacier National Park mixed up with Arctic National Park, which is in fact in Alaska; Thomas Seibold is missing from there.

For the first two books (and probably the third although I haven’t read it), the moral of them is basically this: “These places are beautiful and offer a unique experience you’ll remember for the rest of your days and we highly recommend a visit. BUT pay attention to the warnings and obey all the rules and don’t go over the guardrails, and generally don’t be an idiot, because almost everyone who got seriously injured or died here did so at least in part due to their own arrogance and/or stupidity.” Amen.

Let’s Talk About It: John Iverson

This week’s “let’s talk about it” is John Gordon Iverson, who may or may not have been kidnapped from his Lake Havasu City, Arizona home on January 4, 1991.

Iverson’s live-in girlfriend (who was also his ex-wife) claims he was abducted at gunpoint by a man they knew. The kidnapping suspect turned up four months later, sans Iverson, claiming there had been no kidnapping and Iverson and his girlfriend had tried to set him up. With no other witnesses or additional evidence, charges against the suspect were dropped.

Iverson himself was a bit of an eccentric, to put it mildly, and there’s some suspicion that the “kidnapping” was staged so he could walk out of his life and his responsibilities. Among other things, he was on probation for theft, he was in trouble for nonpayment of taxes, he was reportedly having problems with his girlfriend and was thinking of leaving her, and he may have had a drinking problem also. I should note that Iverson was a genius with electronics but according to his associates, he had violent prejudices and liked to tell tall tales about his imaginary accomplishments. If Iverson is still alive, he’d be 68 today.

EDIT: My friend Sean Munger is a published author and, years ago, I asked him how he would answer the many questions in the Iverson case if it were fiction. He sent a very entertaining response and has given me permission to share it. You should read the casefile I wrote first or Sean’s story isn’t going to make much sense. I do want to emphasize that this story is just the fruit of Sean’s imagination and not his theory as to what actually happened:

Kathy Munro [the girlfriend] and Jack Weber [the kidnap suspect] were secretly having an affair. Weber kept pressuring her to leave Iverson, but she felt he was too good a meal ticket to give up and she wanted a piece of his money. They decided to murder him together, but each would blame the other; the inconsistency between their stories would keep the police guessing and also lull people into thinking they were adversaries instead of allies.

The story about the super-gun is obviously false. Instead of a gun, let’s say it’s some sort of electronic program — maybe one that can hack encrypted files or something like that, something that would be profitable if sold to the right buyer but would get its creators in serious legal trouble. Iverson is hoping to sell the program to someone who has connections with Chinese intelligence.

Unbeknownst to Munro or Weber, Iverson discovers that they are plotting to murder him. He pretends to go along with Munro to meet the Chinese buyer in the desert, and they drive there in Weber’s van. Iverson knows that the plan is that Weber will kill him and bury his body somewhere in the desert. Before this can happen, Iverson takes the program and runs away. He lays low in a place (a cave or something) where he stashed some food and supplies earlier.

Weber panics, fearing that the Chinese buyer will kill him if he shows up at the drop empty-handed. Hurriedly he drives back to Lake Havasu City. He and Munro cook up the kidnapping story, and Weber comes up with the clunky story about the super-gun.

In the meantime Iverson leaves his desert hideout and goes to Mexico. He eventually makes contact with the Chinese buyer to rearrange the deal for the program. At the drop, the Chinese buyer double-crosses Iverson, takes the program, shoots him and leaves his body in a dumpster in a slum in Mexico City. The Chinese buyer gets away, figuring that if the body is ever found and identified, the police will blame it on either Munro or Weber.

Flashback Friday: Ted Wall and Jeff Mays

This week’s Flashback Friday case(s) are Ted Haywood Wall and Harold Jeffrey “Jeff” Mays, two commercial fishermen who disappeared (together with their supposedly unsinkable boat) at Cape Hatteras off the coast of North Carolina. It was November 13, 1980; they were 22 and 21 respectively.

There’s a possible drug connection here, at least according to Jeff’s family and his best friend. Jeff’s mother wrote a book about called Outer Banks Piracy: Where is My Son Jeffrey?

Got a new book

I got word from the library today that my inter-library loan book had arrived. I couldn’t even remember ordering an ILL recently, but I went by to pick it up. It’s called Smith County Justice by David Ellsworth.

Flipping through it, I was pretty mystified as to why I’d ordered it in the first place. It’s about various crimes in Smith County and I gather it’s mostly drug-related stuff. Not the sort of thing I’d be interested in.

But then I saw the photo section and a familiar name under a photo I’d never seen before: “Kallan Monigold in happier days in Smith County.” They also had a photo of Monigold’s girlfriend, and said in the caption that a guy was jealous of her and wound up shooting her to death, and he’s also the prime suspect in Monigold’s disappearance.

Definitely gotta start reading the book then, and mining it for whatever I can get. At present, Barre Kallan Monigold is one of my “few details are available” cases. For now I took a picture of his photo with my cell phone, emailed it to myself, cropped it and added it to his Charley Project casefile.

MP books

On the Charley Project website, I have a short list of recommended books about specific missing persons cases or about the phenomenon of missing persons in general. I thought I’d add some more books here.

Some of these books are self-published, out of print, or were only ever published outside the United States, making them difficult to track down in libraries and sometimes expensive to buy. Others are only available in Kindle edition. (Not a problem for me, since I have a Kindle Fire, but it would be a problem for people who don’t own Kindles.)

As far as editions go, I link to whichever hard copy edition on Amazon that is still in print, since I know not everyone owns a Kindle. It they are all out of print I will link to whichever is the cheapest at the time I created this list. If there’s no hard copy available at all, or if the only one costs a fortune, I’ll link to the Kindle edition. If you have a library card but your library doesn’t have a copy of the book you want, most libraries offer inter-library loan services for free, so you under most circumstances you can still get access to the book. How long you can borrow it depends on the lending library, and in my experience you’re not allowed to renew inter-library loan books.

I’m really fortunate because I can use my dad’s Ohio State University library account. The OSU library links to something called OhioLink, which connects to ever other college and university library in the state, so I have access to a LOT of books. (Though most of mine still come from OSU; with over 65,000 students total at present, it’s the biggest university in the state and one of the biggest in the country, and has a correspondingly comprehensive library.) If any of you attend an institute of higher education in Ohio and didn’t already know about OhioLink, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s so useful. Checking out a book through OhioLink is just like checking it out from your own school; that is, unlike regular interlibrary loan books, you can renew it if you want.

Anyway, the list. These are only books I haven’t myself read yet, and only ones that sound good. If I haven’t read it and the summary of it makes it look bad or all the reviews say it’s terrible, I waste my time reading it and I won’t add it to this list. Feel free to make suggestions of more books in the comments section. (And yes, I’ve already read Matt Birkbeck’s A Beautiful Child and I’ve read Michelle Knight’s memoir.)

  1. Hands Through Stone: How Clarence Ray Allen Masterminded Murder from Behind Folsom’s Prison Walls by James A. Ardaiz. I don’t know how much this book will talk about it, but Clarence Allen was the one responsible for the disappearance of Mary Sue Kitts. He got the needle in 2006 and I wrote an Executed Today entry about him.
  2. Searching for Anna by Michaele Benedict. This book is about Anna Christian Waters‘s disappearance and was written by her mother.
  3. Lost From View: Missing Persons in the UK by Nina Biehal. I don’t know much about this book but it appears to be some kind of sociological study of the missing in Britain, drawing from some 2,000 cases. It’s less than 100 pages long.
  4. Where’s Heidi?: One Sister’s Journey by Lisa M. Buske. Lisa’s account of her sister Heidi Marie Allen‘s abduction in 1994. Heidi was never found. Two brothers were charged with her abduction; one was acquitted, but the other was convicted. There is a lot of speculation online that there was a miscarriage of justice and the two men were innocent, or that they had accomplices who have not been caught. I don’t know enough about it to give any opinion on the matter.
  5. Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Dollar. One of only two novels on this list. This is meant for a young adult audience and is about a seventeen-year-old girl who learns she was abducted by her mother when she was young, and the difficulties she faces after she is reunited with her custodial father and his large family, whom she doesn’t remember at all.
  6. A Stolen Life: A Memoir by Jaycee Dugard. About her kidnapping and recovery, of course. A Charley Project reader actually gave me a copy of this. I haven’t read it yet because I am lazy and ungrateful.
  7. It Can’t Happen Here: The Search For Jacob Wetterling by Robert M. Dudley. About the 1989 kidnapping of Jacob Wetterling and subsequent investigation. The case remains unsolved, but there have been some exciting developments these past few months that might bring an edge to the Wetterling family’s agony of uncertainty.
  8. In Tina’s Shadow: The True Story of a Murder, a Husband’s Guilt and a Family’s 14-Year Vigil for Justice by Sharon R. Dunn. Details the disappearance of Kristina Sandoval, and her estranged husband’s trial for murder.
  9. Missing You: Australia’s Most Mysterious Unsolved Missing Persons Cases by Justine Ford. I can find this in only one library in the U.S. and that library is not part of the OhioLink network (see above). It is, however, available British, New Zealander and Australian libraries, and you get it from Kindle for a decent price. As is pretty clear from the title, it’s about several unsolved disappearances in Australia.
  10. We Is Got Him: The Kidnapping That Changed America by Carrie Hagen. About the Charley Ross case — that is, the little boy whom the Charley Project was named for. When reporters interview me they often ask “Why did you call it the Charley Project?” And I tell them Charley Ross’s story.
  11. In Search of Jeremy: A Mother’s Story by Melodye Faith Hathaway. A memoir about the unsolved 1977 disappearance of deaf toddler Jeremy Coots. Written by this mother.
  12. Where’s Sequoya? by Dove Johnson. This is a memoir of Sequoya Vargas’s life, disappearance, and the subsequent murder charges against three men. Her death was horrific: gang-raped and thrown off a cliff into the sea, still alive. Written by Sequoya’s mother.
  13. Memoir of a Milk Carton Kid by Tanya Kach and Lawrence Fisher. A memoir about Tanya’s disappearance, captivity and recovery.
  14. 3,096 Days in Captivity: The True Story of My Abduction, Eight Years of Enslavement, and Escape by Natascha Kampusch. Natascha was abducted from her hometown in Austria in 1988 and held by her abductor, mostly in the basement under his garage, for eight years. He allowed her to spend increasing amounts of time outside his cell, and in 2006 she was able to escape. Her abductor committed suicide the day she ran away from him, presumably because he realized the police would be coming to arrest him.
  15. A Case for Solomon: Bobby Dunbar and the Kidnapping That Haunted a Nation by Tal McThenia and Margaret Dunbar Cutwright. About the 1912 disappearance of Robert Clarence Dunbar and his later “recovery” which turned out to be no recovery at all.
  16. Missing by Rose Rouse. Focusing on missing persons from the United Kingdom, this is not so much about MPs as about the effect they have on the families they leave behind. Rouse interviewed a lot of MPs’ relatives about what they’ve been through and how they cope.
  17. The Man Who Never Returned: A Novel by Peter Quinn. The second novel on this list, reviews say this draws heavily on the infamous 1930 disappearance of New York’s Judge Crater.
  18. Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer by David Roberts. About the mysterious disappearance of Everett Ruess, a young writer and artist with a lot of wanderlust, in 1934. They thought they’d found his body a few years ago, to the point that I actually listed his case as resolved on Charley, but it turns out the body wasn’t his after all.
  19. My Story by Elizabeth A. Smart. She hardly needs an introduction. I met her in 2012 and she passed out pamphlets about child abduction; I got her to autograph mine.
  20. Finding Runaways and Missing Adults: When No One Else is Looking by Robert L. Snow. This book offers advice on how the families of the missing  can best utilize tools like the internet to help find their loved one.
  21. The Color of Night: A Young Mother, a Missing Child, and a Cold-Blooded Killer by John H. Timmerman and L.C. Timmerman. Written by the father and uncle of Rachel Timmerman, who disappeared with her baby Shannon Dale Verhage,  in 1997 and was found murdered a month later. A suspect was convicted of Rachel’s murder and police think he killed Shannon too, but he has been never been charged in that case.

“So now get up.”

“So now get up.”

Felled, dazed, silent, he has fallen; knocked full length on the cobbles of the yard. His head turns sideways; his eyes are turned toward the gate, as if someone might arrive to help him out. One blow, properly placed, could kill him now.

These are the opening lines to Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell, one of my favorite novels and my definite favorite in terms of adult historical fiction. The “he” referred to is Thomas Cromwell, who was Henry VIII’s personal secretary and traditionally a historical baddie; the book attempts to salvage his reputation. The miniseries, available for streaming on Amazon, is really awesome too.

So. Anyway. Forget about Cromwell for a moment.

Last night after Michael went to bed I sat down and forced myself to start writing Charley updates. Just do a few, I told myself. Do some recent ones, pull them from the CDOJ database, to pad out the brand new 2015 space you’ve opened up. And one thing lead to another and I wound up doing more than just a few.

And today I wrote a Make-a-List Monday for next week. So things are coming back together, is what I mean.

I get in a very low frame of mind, is what I’m saying, feeling like I’m being kicked around this way and that by life, knocked flat on my stomach and still being beaten, and I wonder what the point is.

But really, there’s nothing to do but get up.