There are few bigger moments in a young person’s life than leaving home to attend college. It can be an emotional and nerve-wracking experience for their parents since it’s easy to assume the worst when your child goes out on their own for the first time. Unfortunately, sometimes the worst actually does happen.
Here are 10 stories of young men and women who attended college and became the center of an unsolved mystery. In each case, they either disappeared or were the victim of foul play, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions about what actually happened to them.
On the morning of October 13, 1974, Stanford University was stunned to discover that a 19-year old newlywed freshman named Arlis Perry had been brutally murdered. The night before, Arlis had gotten into an argument with her husband and decided to go pray at Stanford Memorial Church. She never returned home and her body was found in the church under some pews.
Arlis had been stabbed through the skull with an ice pick and had also been choked, beaten and sexually assaulted with some altar candles. Arlis’ husband was immediately cleared as a suspect, but there were some other intriguing leads. At the time, Arlis worked as a receptionist at a law firm. The day before she was killed, Arlis was visited there by an unidentified blonde man and they engaged in a heated conversation that left her visibly upset.
Rumors soon emerged that Arlis had been murdered in a satanic ritual by a cult called the Process Church of the Final Judgment. Some members of this cult reportedly hailed from Arlis’ hometown of Bismarck, North Dakota. Charles Manson and David Berkowitz, the notorious “Son of Sam” killer, were also believed to have been members of this cult at some point and while incarcerated, Berkowitz actually wrote some letters implying that they were responsible for Arlis’ murder. Some people are skeptical that this cult actually exists and believe that Berkowitz was just toying with investigators, but if that’s true, who really killed Arlis Perry?
9Paula Jean Welden
Paula Jean Welden was an 18-year-old sophomore at Bennington College in Vermont. After working her shifts at the dining hall on December 1, 1946, Paula Jean returned to her dormitory room that afternoon and told her roommate she was going to take a study break and go for a hike. She asked other students to come along with her, but they all declined. Shortly afterward, a motorist picked up Paula hitchhiking. She claimed she was going to hike on the Long Trail near Glastenbury Mountain.
Several witnesses saw her on the trail that afternoon and at approximately 4:00 PM, Paula passed by a man and asked him how far the trail went. This would be the last confirmed sighting of her. When Paula failed to return to her room that night and attend her next classes, she was reported missing. She left behind an uncashed check and was not known to be carrying any money or belongings when she left. Her decision to go hiking seemed pretty baffling since it was going to snow that night and she was under-dressed for the freezing weather.
A search of the Long Trail turned up no trace of Paula. The area where she disappeared would eventually be dubbed the “Bennington Triangle” since a total of five people mysteriously vanished there between 1945 and 1950. Four of those five people, including Paula Jean Welden, have never been found.
8Jack Davis, Jr.
On the evening of October 16, 1987, 20-year-old sophomore Jack Davis, Jr. went out partying with some of his fraternity brothers at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He never returned that night and would remain missing until his body was discovered at the bottom of an exterior stairwell at Weyandt Hall five days later. The coroner concluded that Jack had gotten intoxicated on the night he disappeared before accidentally falling down the stairwell and choking to death on his own vomit.
Jack’s family did not believe this ruling, so they hired renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht to conduct an investigation. Since a classroom overlooked the stairwell, it seemed impossible that Jack’s body could remain undiscovered for five days. Even though there was heavy rain during that five-day period, his clothes were completely dry. Wecht also found it suspicious that Jack had no alcohol in his blood and despite the fact that he was clean-shaven on the night he went missing, there was stubble on Jack’s face.
Wecht determined that Jack could not have choked on his vomit and found some fractures on his skull. One theory is that Jack may have been injured during a fight between rival fraternities, who later placed Jack’s body in the stairwell after he died from his injuries. However, in spite of Dr. Wecht’s new findings, Jack’s death remains unsolved.
Just-turned-old-enough-to-buy-cigarettes Lynne Schulze was a freshman who had traveled from her hometown of Simbury, Connecticut to attend Middlebury College in Vermont. On December 10, 1971, she was preparing for the final exams before Christmas break. Lynne left her dormitory with her friends and was on her way to take one of the exams when she told them she had forgotten her favorite pen. Lynne headed back to her dorm to get it, but did not return to take the exam and was never seen again. A search of her dorm room revealed that her identification and personal belongings had been left behind.
Lynne had apparently been telling friends about the idea of faking her own death and starting a new life, and this rumor may have prevented authorities from fully investigating her disappearance. However, Lynne’s friends never took her claims seriously and since she had been studying hard for her exam, it didn’t make much sense that she would not show up to take it.
While Lynne had sent letters to her family saying she was homesick and thinking of withdrawing from school, she did register for classes the following semester. While there have been some unconfirmed sightings of Lynne since her disappearance, she has never contacted her family and remains missing over 40 years later.
Theresa Allore was a 19-year-old student attending Champlain College Lennoxville in Sherbrooke, Quebec. After leaving her dormitory residence, she mysteriously disappeared on November 3, 1978. Police and campus officials were not very helpful, believing that Theresa simply ran away on her own, and the college continued to bill Theresa’s family for her room and tuition. Theresa would not be found until five months later when her partially clad body was discovered amidst some thawing ice in a small body of water approximately 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) away from her dorm.
Police suspected that she may have been the victim of a drug overdose and placed in the water by panicking friends, but there was no trace of drugs in her system. Theresa’s missing clothes were found neatly folded on a log in a wooded area and her wallet was found several miles away. In 2001, Theresa’s brother asked police to reopen the case after discovering evidence that Theresa may have been the victim of a serial rapist.
Theresa’s brother tracked down numerous women who had been sexually assaulted by an unknown assailant in the Sherbrooke area during the same time period as Theresa’s death. At least two other Sherbrooke females, 20-year-old Louise Camirand and 10-year-old Manon Dube, were victims of unsolved homicides at that time and it’s possible their deaths are connected to Theresa. But even though the case was reopened, the death of Theresa Allore still remains unsolved.
Joshua Guimond was a 20-year-old junior at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Sometime between 11:00 PM and midnight on November 9, 2002, Joshua left a party at the Metten Court dormitory to go to the bathroom. Joshua’s friends assumed that he simply decided to return to his apartment, but when they discovered he never went back there, he was reported missing the next day. Joshua’s car, glasses and personal belongings were left behind and he was under-dressed for the cold winter weather that night.
It was theorized that Joshua might have been intoxicated and accidentally stumbled into a body of water and drowned after leaving the party. However, his body has never been found. Joshua’s disappearance happened to take place during a two-week period when three other college students from the Minnesota and Wisconsin areas – Christopher Jenkins, Michael Noll and Erika Marie Dalquist – mysteriously disappeared after leaving late-night parties.
The bodies of the other three students were eventually found and while Dalquist’s murderer was caught and convicted, there is speculation that the deaths of the two males might be connected to Joshua’s case since they each have similar appearances. However, after more than 10 years, Joshua Guimond still remains a missing person.
Kristin Smart was a freshman at Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo who decided to attend an off-campus party on the evening of May 24, 1996. At around 2:00 AM, Kristin was heavily intoxicated and seemed to have trouble walking. Two of Kristin’s friends and another student named Paul Flores helped escort Kristin to an intersection. When Paul told them he would take Kristin to her dormitory, they went their separate ways. Kristin never made it back to her room and this is the last anyone ever saw of her.
Paul claimed that he escorted Kristin down the street and let her walk the rest of the way to her dorm on her own. However, authorities became suspicious when they noticed that Paul had a black eye and he told several conflicting stories about how it happened. A cadaver dog also tracked Kristin’s scent to a mattress in Paul’s dorm room. Paul eventually dropped out of Cal Poly and when interrogated by police, he invoked his Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer any questions.
Paul Flores remains the prime suspect in Kristin’s disappearance, but there has never been enough evidence to charge him with anything. Kristin was declared legally dead in 2002, but after 17 years, her body has still never been found.
Yale University was shaken when 21-year-old senior Suzanne Jovin was brutally murdered on the evening of December 4, 1998. Sometime after 9:00 PM, Suzanne e-mailed a friend from her apartment, saying she was going to leave some books in the lobby for her the next morning after retrieving them from someone else. Afterwards, Suzanne left her apartment to go to the Yale police communications center to return the keys for a car she had borrowed. Shortly before 10:00, she was found dead approximately 3 kilometers (2 miles) from campus. Her throat was slit and she had been stabbed 17 times.
It is unknown if Suzanne had any contact with the person borrowing her books and that person has never been identified. After returning the keys, it is likely that Suzanne entered another vehicle at some point since it would have been impossible for her to have walked to the murder scene during this time frame.
Authorities immediately named Suzanne’s thesis adviser, James Van de Velde, as the prime suspect. There were rumors he had been conducting an affair with Suzanne, but there was no evidence to support this and nothing to tie him to the crime. A witness claimed to have seen a white male sprinting away from the scene on the night of the murder, but when asked to identify Van de Velde, she claimed it wasn’t him. It was recently announced that James Van de Velde is no longer a suspect, but the real killer of Suzanne Jovin remains unidentified.
2Ronald Henry Tammen, Jr.
Roland Henry Tammen, Jr. was a sophomore at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and worked as a residence adviser at Fisher Hall. On the evening of April 19, 1953, Ronald found a dead fish in his bed and requested new sheets from the dorm mother. Shortly afterwards, he supposedly heard something outside his room which disturbed him and left to investigate. He never returned and left behind his car keys, wallet and all of his personal belongings. His vehicle was also left in the campus parking lot and even though it was a very cold night, Ronald did not take his jacket with him.
Later that night, a woman living twelve miles away from the campus claimed that a young man matching Ronald’s description came to her door. He appeared to be disoriented and asked what town he was in and also requested directions to the bus stop. Ronald had not shown any signs of mental problems prior to his disappearance, though five months beforehand, he made the bizarre decision to go to the county coroner’s office in Hamilton, Ohio and ask for a test to have his blood typed.
No trace of Ronald has ever been found, but it’s worth noting that Fisher Hall was a former Victorian mental asylum which was rumored to be haunted. Until the residence was torn down in 1978, many students claimed to have seen Ronald’s ghost!
One of the most baffling unsolved homicides in American history took place on November 28, 1969. A 22-year-old graduate student named Betsy Aardsma was doing research in the stacks section of Pattee Library at Pennsylvania State University when she was suddenly stabbed through the heart with a knife. Her body was found after an unidentified man said “Somebody better help that girl” to the desk clerk before exiting the library.
Because Betsy was wearing a red dress, blood was difficult to spot, so no one even realized she had been stabbed. When they did realize it was murder, the unidentified man was long gone before he could be pursued as a suspect. While no one else in the library saw anything, some of them claimed to have heard screams. Betsy’s murder was completely puzzling since she was not known to have any enemies.
An assistant professor named Richard Haefner is considered one possible suspect, as he reportedly dated Betsy for a short time before her death and would face scandalous accusations of molesting young boys later on in his life. However, he died in 2002 and has never been placed in the library at the time of the murder. For over forty years, authorities have pursued thousands of leads, and it’s even rumored that Betsy Aardsma’s ghost haunts Pattee Library (because of course it does). However, her killer and their motive are still unknown.
Robin Warder is a budding Canadian screenwriter who has used his encyclopedic movie knowledge to publish numerous articles at Cracked.com. He is also the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and recently worked on a sci-fi short film called “Jet Ranger of Another Tomorrow”.