We’ve all heard the story of Amelia Earhart. She is one of the most famous pilots in history, taking her place alongside men such as Lindberg, Hughes and the Wright brothers. Her name will always be associated with the greats of aviation. But there are many stories and conspiracies that surround her disappearance. We’re all taught that she disappeared over the central Pacific ocean as she was attempting to circumnavigate the globe. This is the most common story and is the accepted fact. But the circumstances surrounding the flight and the mystery of the disappearance itself are still shrouded in speculation and theory.
No one really knows what happened to cause a skilled and experienced aviatrix to just disappear. Earhart had made many successful solo flights throughout her career and had made two attempts at the world flight. The first ended with mechanical issues. The second would be the ill fated attempt that had her complete 22,000 miles of the 29,000 mile journey. We may never know what caused someone so experienced to go missing, but the theories and speculation will continue as generation after generation try to figure out one of the most enduring mysteries of aviation history. These ideas range from logical to outright bizarre.
15. Crashed Into The Pacific Ocean
The most widely accepted and well known theory is that Earhart crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were in radio contact with a US Coast Guard cutter, the Itasca, until moments before they disappeared. One of the last communications received from Earhart was that they were running low on fuel and had no way of landing on the tiny island they had initially been scheduled to land on. They were heading for Howland Island when communication ended. They disappeared and were never found. This is the story that everyone is familiar with and accepted as the most likely to have happened. But it’s not the only story.
14. Castaway Like Tom Hanks
Another theory that is fairly widely accepted is that Earhart and Noonan managed to land safely on Nikumaroro, a tiny atoll that is part of the nation of Kiribati. This theory holds attention due to the discovery of a skeleton in 1940. It was identified as a probable match to Earhart, based on measurements of the bones. Although the bones themselves have been lost, the doctor’s files were discovered in 1989. A U.S. based group, International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, also had stories of over 100 transmissions that were radio distress calls coming from the plane. These calls, that were verified, could be heard from Australia to Texas.
13. Wrong crash site
There is a theory that Amelia never made it close to her landing area, but that she crashed close to her departure location in New Guinea. A wreck of an airplane was found in the jungles that was theorized to be the Electra. Many people feel that the plane didn’t go down in the Pacific, but that for some unknown reason, Earhart turned her plane around and flew back toward New Guinea. Wreckage of a World War II era aircraft had been reportedly seen in the jungles near Papua. No actual evidence has been provided to show that this could possibly be the Electra, but researchers still try to find it.
12. Crash caused by the navigator
This theory came to life in the 1960’s after the release of The Search for Amelia Earhart by Frederick Goerner. The theory holds that Noonan had a severe drinking problem that was possibly the reason that he was fired from Pan American. There is no evidence that he was. It’s actually stated that he resigned from Pan Am as he had risen as high as possible through the ranks. Others speculated that he had been hung over before the departure of the ill fated flight of the Electra, but film footage discredits this myth. Noonan was known for being an expert navigator and navigation instructor. It’s sad that an experienced person like Noonan could be so maligned. Historical documents help dispel this theory.
11. Spying for America
There are many theories that tie Amelia Earhart’s disappearance to the Japanese. Many of these hinge on the idea that Earhart was spying on the Japanese at the behest of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. One story holds that she was flying missions to photograph Japanese military installations. The story continues that they were either shot down or landed in Japanese territory and they were captured by the Japanese. It’s also rumoured that the President authorized her mission and knew everything about her disappearance. It’s also theorized that he knew that they had been captured and didn’t make any attempt to rescue them as he would have had to admit that he authorized her missions.
10. Captured by the enemy
Along with the spying theory, it’s rumoured that Earhart was captured by the Japanese, either after crashing or being shot down. It’s rumoured that Earhart and Noonan were captured on the Marshall Islands and were taken to the island of Saipan. No one knows for sure how they died, but the most well known hypothesis is that Noonan was executed and that Earhart was held captive until she died of dysentery. The reason this story maintains its hold is from hearsay and possible photo evidence that Earhart and Noonan were seen in the company of Japanese on a ship that was towing what could have been the wreckage of an aircraft.
9. Tokyo Rose
Another theory that wraps around the capture of Amelia Earhart. A story emerged at the end of World War II that places Earhart at one of many Pacific locations. A rumour started that Earhart became one of many woman that spread Japanese propaganda under the name of “Tokyo Rose”. This theory became so widely spread that Earhart’s husband, George Putnam, actively investigated the claim. Despite listening to thousands of hours of recordings, he didn’t recognize his wife’s voice in any of them. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it had to have been for him to listen to all of those recordings with the hope that he would hear her voice come through.
8. Nursing on Guadalcanal
This struck me as a bizarre one. In 1943, during World War II, several airmen reported seeing Amelia Earhart nursing on Guadalcanal. It was later determined that the person they probably saw was Merle Farland. Farland was a nurse from New Zealand. She was said to resemble the missing pilot. She was the only woman among thousands of men who had to wait to be transported out. It’s assumed that many of the men were hallucinating from the effects of malaria and mistook Farland for Earhart. It’s one of the many theories that abound despite no proof that it could even be remotely true.
7. She Adopted A New Identity
This bizarre theory actually led to a lawsuit by the maligned party. A writer by the name of Joe Klass wrote a book in 1970 called Amelia Earhart Lives!, that speculated Earhart was actually repatriated back into the United States under the name of Irene Bolam. The book was pulled by the publisher, McGraw-Hill, after Bolam sued Klass, his associate Joe Gervais and the publishing company for defamation. Mrs. Bolam died in 1982, but the story that she was the pilot never actually died with her. In 1982, a retired USAF colonel, Rollin Reineck, revived the whole theory with strange new twists to the whole story.
6. She Faked her own death to elope
Here’s another weird twist on the theory surrounding the mysterious death of Earhart. The wild theory is that she faked her own death so she could escape her fame and elope with Noonan. The story says that she was in love with her navigator and wanted to find a way to start over with him. There is no evidence, circumstantial or otherwise, that this was true. I haven’t even found where the original rumour came from, but there are several mentions of it all over the internet. It’s just one of many odd rumours that have surrounded the mystery of her disappearance so many years ago.
5. Dragon’s Triangle
One other wild rumour is that the area of the Pacific known as the Dragon’s Triangle may have been responsible for the instrument malfunction that caused Amelia Earhart to crash on her ill fated flight. This particular area has been theorized to cause the same types of issues with instrumentation and compasses as the Bermuda Triangle. Over fifteen hundred ships and hundreds of aircraft have disappeared in this area since World War II. Earhart is theorized to be one of its many victims as the area she last transmitted from is along one corner of the triangle. It’s thought that this may have been what caused her radio to fail.
4. Crabs destroyed the evidence
This is a tie in to the Nikumaroro Island theory. We know that many people feel that Earhart crashed and managed to survive on the island, but eventually died of starvation or exposure. A partial skeleton was found that was believed to belong to the missing pilot. Here’s where it gets weird. A story arose that the reason only a few bones were found is that the island was populated by coconut crabs. These huge crustaceans are strong enough to crack through coconuts with their claws. People think that the remainder of the body was carried off by these giant crabs.
3. Mechanical issues and ineptitude
There are many theories on what happened to Amelia Earhart after her disappearance, but there are some stories as to why her plane went down too. I found several references to her not being skilled enough to handle the plane that she was flying. There are also many statements that the plane had problems several times throughout the multiple stage flight that caused it to be shipped back to California for extensive repairs. Witnesses at Luke Field who were there to watch the takeoff noted that Earhart had to do a ground loop and land the plane. It’s suggested that a tire blew on takeoff. Many people suggested that Amelia may not have been as experienced as she was portrayed, and that this inexperience combined with mechanical issues could have brought the plane down.
2. She Was Abducted By Aliens
I have saved the most ridiculous theories for last. I just had to shake my head at this one. There is truly an astonishingly bizarre theory that the pilot encountered an alien spaceship during her flight and was abducted. A wild website that claims to speak to the dead actually postulated that she was abducted and taken thousands of light years away through a wormhole. Once there, the aliens placed her in suspended animation. I’m not even sure what to say on this one. I understand that there are always going to be off kilter theories, but this one is really out there.
1. She lives in the hollow part of the Earth
I almost laughed myself sick on this ridiculous theory. I couldn’t even believe I was seeing it, but did. There is a laughable theory that Amelia Earhart was rescued and taken to the the hollow part of the Earth by a race known as the Agarthians. This benevolent race was thought to have teleported her at the last second. It’s claimed this is the reason that she and her plane were never found. I keep hoping this is just someone creating a fictional story, but I know that there are really people that believe in this outrageous theory and will run with it.
Some of these theories are highly probable and may eventually be proven, but some are just so bizarre that I can’t help but wonder if they were drug induced. Eighty years have passed since Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific and forever etched themselves into the hearts and minds of millions. Maybe one day, we’ll finally figure out what really happened on that flight.
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