The Horror Vault

A collection of the scariest, strangest, and most riveting tales we've ever published. Every day in November, we'll feature a different story that reveals the dark side of adventure.

A Shot in the Night

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Mysteries
How 1,600 People Disappeared on Our Public Lands
Mar 13, 2017

How 1,600 People Disappeared on Our Public Lands

When 18-year-old Joe Keller vanished from a dude ranch in Colorado's Rio Grande National Forest, he joined the ranks of those missing on public land. No official tally exists, but their numbers are growing. And when an initial search turns up nothing, who'll keep looking?
The Salmon River Shooting
Jan 13, 2011

The Salmon River Shooting

Sixteen years ago, the man who helped raise Megan Michelson was shot to death at a remote kayaking lodge in Northern California. Michelson embarks on a painful search to find out what happened, and why.
What Happened to Eastern Airlines Flight 980?
Oct 18, 2016

What Happened to Eastern Airlines Flight 980?

On New Year's Day in 1985, Eastern Air Lines Flight 980 was carrying 29 passengers and a hell of a lot of contraband when it crashed into the side of a 21,112-foot mountain in Bolivia. For decades conspiracy theories abounded as the wreckage remained inaccessible, the bodies unrecovered, the black box missing. Then two friends from Boston organized an expedition that would blow the case wide open.
Feet Lost and Found in the Pacific Northwest
Sep 30, 2009

Feet Lost and Found in the Pacific Northwest

When feet started floating into the dark, coastal bays of British Columbia, it wasn’t hard to imagine the worst, especially when the Mounties went silent. Even paradise has an underbelly.
Love and Madness in the Jungle
May 7, 2013

Love and Madness in the Jungle

A brilliant American financier and his exotic wife build a lavish mansion in the jungles of Costa Rica, set up a wildlife preserve, and appear to slowly, steadily lose their minds. A spiral of handguns, angry locals, armed guards, uncut diamonds, abduction plots, and a bedroom blazing with 550 Tiffany lamps ends with a body and a compelling mystery.
The Wilderness Highway Where People Vanish
Jun 13, 2012

The Wilderness Highway Where People Vanish

In the stunning and remote wilderness along northern British Columbia’s Highway 16, at least 18 women—by some estimates, many more—have gone missing over the past four decades. After years of investigation, authorities still don’t know if it’s the work of a serial killer or multiple offenders. Bob Friel drives into the darkness for answers.
What Killed the Bear Lady?
Apr 4, 2016

What Killed the Bear Lady?

For 28 years, Kay Grayson lived side-by-side with wild black bears in North Carolina's swampy coastal forests, hand-feeding them, defending them against poachers, and letting them in her home. When she went missing last year, the only thing the investigators could find were her clean-picked bones. And that's just the start of the mystery.
The Fugitive Drug Smuggler Who Became an Environmental Hero
Jan 16, 2017

The Fugitive Drug Smuggler Who Became an Environmental Hero

When Raymond Stansel was busted in 1974, he was one of Florida’s biggest pot smugglers. Facing trial and years in prison, he jumped bail, changed his name, and holed up in a remote Australian outpost. Even more remarkable than that? His second life as an environmental hero.
The Last Voyage of the Cúlin
Oct 3, 2008

The Last Voyage of the Cúlin

John Long was living the greatest adventure of his life, sailing home from San Francisco to his native Ireland. But when his beaten and bruised body was found floating off the lawless, empty coast of Chiapas, it was a scene that sailor and author David Vann knew all too well.
The Yosemite Horror
Nov 1, 1999

The Yosemite Horror

In a setting of beauty and grandeur, a twisted soul was on the loose, a murderer who revived gnawing fears that our national parks are no longer safe. New evidence reveals the confessed killer's tortured past—and his bizarre obsession with Bigfoot.
The Brief, Wondrous Life of Zina Lahr
Feb 13, 2014

The Brief, Wondrous Life of Zina Lahr

When 23-year-old Lahr went missing on a trail outside Ouray, Colorado, the world lost an amazing young talent
When Amy Bechtel Didn't Come Home
Mar 1, 1998

When Amy Bechtel Didn't Come Home

When a promising young runner went missing in Wyoming's Wind River Range, everything changed for the community of athletes she left behind.
The Boy Who Lived on Edges
Mar 22, 2018

The Boy Who Lived on Edges

When extreme skier Adam Roberts was killed by an avalanche in the mountains of Washington State, some people wondered if he’d died on purpose. Christopher Solomon reconstructs a life in which athletic talent, fearlessness, and mental illness combined to create an unbearable reality.
Strange Phenomena
How a 6-Year-Old Survived Being Lost in the Woods
Nov 19, 2018

How a 6-Year-Old Survived Being Lost in the Woods

As a child, Cody Sheehy made headlines when he vanished into the freezing wilderness of Northeast Oregon, making it out safely after 18 hours of determined slogging. Retracing his steps 32 years later, Sheehy says that getting lost was one of the best life lessons he ever had.
The Monster in the River
Feb 7, 2011

The Monster in the River

Whitewater kayaker Hendrik Coetzee had decided to call it a career after a decade of first descents on the wildest rivers in Africa. The river’s most feared predator had a different ending in store.
My Father's SOS—From the Middle of the Sea
Nov 12, 2018

My Father's SOS—From the Middle of the Sea

Richard Carr, a retired psychologist who had long dreamed of sailing around the world, was in the middle of the Pacific when he started sending frantic messages that said pirates were boarding his boat. Two thousand miles away in Los Angeles, his family woke up to a nightmare: he might be dying alone, and there was almost nothing they could do about it.
Why Noah Went to the Woods
Apr 9, 2012

Why Noah Went to the Woods

He was a proud Marine who survived three ­brutal tours in Iraq and had plans to redeploy with the ­national guard. But when 30-year-old Noah ­Pippin ­vanished inside Montana’s remote Bob ­Marshall ­Wilderness, he left behind a trail of haunting secrets—and a mystery that may never be solved.
The Shadiest Man in the Racing Biz
Feb 19, 2014

The Shadiest Man in the Racing Biz

Search the web for Dean Reinke and you’ll soon be scrolling through a rap sheet of consumer complaints about how he and his for-profit road-race company, USRA Half Marathon, do business. Is he a fraud who has stayed one step ahead of the law, or an upstanding man who’s been slimed by his enemies?
The Storm. The Mountain. Every Parent's Worst Nightmare.
Nov 1, 2018

The Storm. The Mountain. Every Parent's Worst Nightmare.

About an hour before midnight on Mother’s Day in 1986, a group of teenagers assembled at an Episcopal high school in Portland, Oregon, to embark on an expedition. Their goal was to summit Mount Hood, completing an adventure program that was required for all sophomores. What followed was a story of tragedy and loss that is commemorated annually at the institution it changed forever.
A Thrown Rock, a Dead Climber
Dec 27, 2007

A Thrown Rock, a Dead Climber

When Pete Absolon, the Rocky Mountain director of NOLS, set out for a climb in Wyoming's Wind River Range, life couldn't have been better. A deadly mistake by another man ended it all in an instant—and started a nightmare that's never going to stop.
Catch Me If You Can
Jul 12, 2012

Catch Me If You Can

When Robert Wood Jr. disappeared in a densely forested Virginia park, searchers faced the challenge of a lifetime. The eight-year-old boy was autistic and nonverbal, and from his perspective the largest manhunt in state history probably looked like something else: the ultimate game of hide-and-seek.
Wild Crimes
Murder on a Mountain Bike
Nov 25, 2018

Murder on a Mountain Bike

When 60-year-old Tim Watkins disappeared on a stretch of singletrack outside Colorado Springs, no one suspected that the truth of how he died would rip the community apart
Blood in the Sand: Killing a Turtle Advocate
Jan 2, 2014

Blood in the Sand: Killing a Turtle Advocate

Each spring on Costa Rica’s desolate Caribbean coast, endangered leatherback sea turtles come ashore at night to lay and hide their eggs. Poachers steal them for cash, and as Matthew Power reports, they’re willing to kill anyone who gets in their way.
The FBI of the National Park Service
Oct 16, 2018

The FBI of the National Park Service

The 33 special agents assigned to the Investigative Services Branch handle the most complex crimes committed on NPS land. When a day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park ended in a grisly death, ISB veteran Beth Shott hit the trail, where she began unraveling a harrowing case.
The Boomtown, the Gringo, the Girl, and Her Murder
May 1, 2007

The Boomtown, the Gringo, the Girl, and Her Murder

When a local beauty turned up dead in Nicaragua's San Juan del Sur, the dream of paradise became a nightmare for one expat American surfer. He got 30 years and, predictably, a media melee ensued. But Tony D'Souza was on the scene from day one. This is the story you haven't heard.
Mr. Bland's Evil Plot to Control the World
Jun 2, 1997

Mr. Bland's Evil Plot to Control the World

In the dusty realm of big-league map collecting, one man cut a darker figure than his milquetoasty colleagues. Armed with an X-Acto knife and an arsenal of fake identities, he systematically ransacked the nation's libraries, hoping in his own peculiar way to dominate the globe.
The True Story of the Vail Fires
Aug 27, 2007

The True Story of the Vail Fires

Before her 2005 arrest, eco-saboteur Chelsea Gerlach took part in nine Earth Liberation Front actions, including the 1998 arson that destroyed Vail Mountain’s Two Elk lodge. In an exclusive interview from behind bars, Gerlach talks about life on the run, destruction on behalf of the environment, and why she cooperated with the federal investigators who smashed the ELF.
Inside the Mind of Thru-Hiking's Most Devious Con Man
Oct 17, 2017

Inside the Mind of Thru-Hiking's Most Devious Con Man

For more than two decades, Jeff Caldwell has lured in hikers, couchsurfers, and other women (and they're almost always women), enthralling them with his tales of adventure. Then he manufactures personal crises and exploits their sympathy to rip them off. Our writer corresponded with Caldwell while he was still on the run, and came away with an intimate look at the life of a serial scammer who's found his easy marks in the outdoor community.
The Stranger in the Shelter
Nov 5, 2018

The Stranger in the Shelter

Told here in full for the first time, this is the horrifying story of the first murder on the Appalachian Trail, the kidnapping that followed, and how one woman learned to survive.
The Vengeance of the Aspen Bomber
Apr 28, 2009

The Vengeance of the Aspen Bomber

For almost 70 years, former ski patroller and local legend Jim Blanning rode Aspen’s evolution from broken mining outpost to chic mountain playground. But when his hometown spit him out, he came back with a vengeance. And bombs.
The Curious Case of the Disappearing Nuts
May 24, 2017

The Curious Case of the Disappearing Nuts

In California, millions of dollars' worth of almonds, walnuts, and pistachios are disappearing. Farmers are perplexed, the cops are confused, and the crooks are getting richer. We sent Peter Vigneron to the Central Valley to take a crack at the crimes.
Fear and Loathing on the Iditarod Trail
Mar 2, 2017

Fear and Loathing on the Iditarod Trail

Professional musher Aliy Zirkle was prepared for the minus-50-degree temperatures and the brutally long distances of the Iditarod. What she didn't expect was a midnight attack by a snowmobile-riding stranger halfway through the 1,000-mile course.
Murder and Revenge in Papua New Guinea
May 13, 2014

Murder and Revenge in Papua New Guinea

Last September, a trekking company's guided trip through the wilds of Papua New Guinea was shattered when machete-wielding men attacked the native porters, killing two on the spot and injuring many more. The motive appeared to be robbery, but Carl Hoffman knew something else was at work—ancient tribal patterns of violence that, he knew, would inevitably be avenged
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