Tucked up right along the coast in the northern corner of the U.S. state of California is the sparsely populated Humboldt County, known for its rugged mountainous terrain, the breathtaking scenery of its generous coastline, and for its vast expanses of unspoiled dense forests, including large swaths of old growth Coast Redwood forests. There is no doubt that this is a place of great natural beauty, and even many of the towns here are known for their ornate and historic Victorian architecture. All of this has long combined to make Humboldt County a haven for backpackers, hikers, campers, fishermen, artists, new-agers, and hippies, as well as people just looking to get away from society and the hectic life of civilization to live off the grid. However, there has also long been a darker side to all of the natural splendor, pulsing under the peaceful visage, and Humboldt has unfortunately also become known for its strange unsolved vanishings, with one spate of such disappearances beginning in the 1990s.One of the many free spirits who flocked to this scenic area of pristine nature and the promise of a peaceful, carefree life was 20-year-old Jennifer Wilmer, who in 1992 decided to leave her life behind in New York City and go to college at the College of the Redwoods, in Eureka, California. Wilmer ended up in the sleepy coastal town of Arcata, which was a magnet for those looking to embrace the hippie lifestyle, as was she, but at the time it turned out that the college’s courses were full for the semester. Far from being deterred, Wilmer simply got a part-time job as a waitress and rented out a house with some other people at Hawkins Bar, in neighboring Trinity County.
On September 13, 1993, Wilmer allegedly went off to retrieve a ticket from a local travel agency in order to make a visit to family in New York. She never arrived and the ticket was never claimed. When the woman did not return home that evening, police launched an investigation and found that there were witnesses who claimed to have seen the missing woman out hitchhiking in the vicinity of Willow Creek, just 9.5 miles from where she lived, and this was the last anyone would see of her then or since. Making things even murkier is that there were conflicting reports that say Wilmer was not out to go to a travel agency, but rather that she was on her way to a farm in order to inquire about possible work. Although it is unknown just what she was doing on that day, one thing we do know is that she simply stepped off the face of the earth and has not been seen since.
A more well-known and indeed more mysterious vanishing occurred the very following year, in November of 1997, and concerns 16-year-old Southern California native Karen Mitchell, who had moved to Eureka to live with her aunt and uncle, Bill and Annie Casper, and to hopefully later attend Humboldt State University. On November 25, 1997, Mitchell left her aunt and uncle’s shoe store and was heading towards a community center where she volunteered helping children. She was walking along in the middle of the day in broad daylight along a crowded street in downtown Eureka when she just seems to have disappeared into thin air.
An intensive search was immediately launched, with police scouring the town going door to door and interviewing anyone they could find who had been out on the street that day, but oddly no one seemed to have any idea of what had become of her and no clues could be found. It was all completely baffling as this was a 16-year-old girl who was the niece of a very well-respected couple in the community and she had simply vanished right there in broad daylight on Broadway, with no one able to provide a single piece of useful information as to what had become of her despite the fact that numerous people had seen her out that day. It seemed unlikely that she had run away, as she had been looking forward to going to college, indeed she had been filling out applications for Humboldt State that very day, and by all accounts she was a happy, well-adjusted young woman, making authorities fear the worst.
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