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.

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

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Mysteries
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.
Strange Phenomena
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.
Wild Crimes
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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