When ships and planes mysteriously vanish -- sometimes without a trace -- speculation runs wild.
Many worry about the conventional -- pilot error, kidnapping and terrorism come to mind. And there are those who worry about the supernatural.
Acclaimed fashion designer Vittorio Missoni and five others boarded a twin-engine BN-2 Islander aircraft in the Los Roques island chain -- pictured below -- near Venezuela on Jan. 4. They were headed for Caracas and had only flown about 11 miles when they vanished into thin air.
After hundreds of people in boats, planes and helicopters searched the area for days, no wreckage or debris of any kind was found, according to ABC News.
The mystery deepened when the only item that turned up was a bag that didn't even belong to anyone on the Missoni flight. The bag, recovered on the nearby island of Curacao, was placed onto Missoni's plane while its Italian tourist owner, caught a different flight out of Los Roques.
More recently, according to Vogue News, two bags belonging to Missoni were found on the island of Bonaire in the Netherlands Antilles. A statement released by the Missoni family said that, a month and a half after Missoni's plane vanished, "the case is not closed."
Something else added more fuel to speculation that Missoni's flight may have been deliberately diverted. According to ABC News, Missoni's son, Ottavio, told an Italian newspaper that a puzzling text message was reportedly sent from the cellphone of Guido Foresti -- one of the passengers on the missing plane -- to Foresti's son two days after they disappeared.
The younger Missoni told the newspaper the message said: "Call now. We are reachable." No follow-up news has been reported about this.
So what happened to Missoni's plane? Could foul play have been involved, in an area that has seen its share of kidnappings or hijackings by possible drug dealers?
The Guardian reports that unexplained plane crashes and disappearances have allegedly occurred over the last 10 years in the same geographic location between Caracas and the Los Roques chain of 350 islands, cays and islets covering an area of about 40 kilometers.
If any of this sounds even vaguely familiar, it's probably because this area, dubbed locally as the Los Roques Curse, is not far from the infamous Bermuda Triangle -- bordered by Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico -- where people, planes and ships have vanished for decades.
Check out these specific Bermuda Triangle cases
Stories of missing aircraft, and crewless or vanished ships fill the literature of the mysteries of seafaring and high-flying individuals who lost their lives from unexplained causes.
1918: The U.S.S. Cyclops, a World War I Navy vessel, is refueling ships in the south Atlantic Ocean. After stopping in Barbados, the ship, with more than 300 passengers and crew aboard, vanishes without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle.
1945: During a training exercise, five U.S. Navy planes disappear in the same Bermuda Triangle area. Adding more mystery to the incident, a search aircraft sent to find the lost planes also unexplainably vanishes.
1950: A Northwest Airlines flight -- with 55 passengers and three crew members -- is en route to Minneapolis from New York City when it apparently simply drops out of sight while passing over what's known today as the Michigan Triangle.
1955: Nine ships disappear from an area of the Pacific Ocean about 60 miles south of Tokyo. Another ship sent to find them also vanishes. This has been dubbed The Devil's Sea.
All of the above cases involve ships or planes that mysteriously vanished and the explanations of those incidents may seem as diverse as the number of cases themselves:
- Unexpected severe weather conditions
- Pilot or captain error
- Pirates or kidnappers
- Methane gas buildups capable of sinking a ship without warning
Of course, disappearances in the infamous Bermuda Triangle and some other areas have come amid fears of UFOs, mysterious vortexes, time portals and sea monsters. To be sure, fear can play on any nervous traveler's mind, but some disappearances just defy conventional explanations and fall in the murky category of unexplained phenomena.
Numerous smaller ships and planes have disappeared in the decades following the 1940s after often reporting disturbances causing compasses, radios and other instruments to malfunction.
And yet, according to the United States Coast Guard, the Bermuda Triangle is much ado about nothing.
"The Coast Guard does not recognize the existence of the so-called Bermuda Triangle as a geographic area of specific hazard to ships or planes," the Coast Guard says on its website. "In a review of many aircraft and vessel losses in the area over the years there has been nothing discovered that would indicate that casualties were the result of anything other than physical causes. No extraordinary factors have ever been identified."
Writing in Skeptoid.com, Brian Dunning says that "transportation losses inside the Bermuda Triangle do not occur at a rate higher than anywhere else, and the number of losses that are unexplained is also not any higher. Statistically speaking, there is no Bermuda Triangle."
Since the 1990s, more than a dozen cases have been reported "in which small aircraft have either crashed, disappeared or declared emergencies while traveling through the area," according to The Guardian. "In 2008, 14 people were killed when a plane making the same journey as Missoni's crashed into the sea. No wreckage was ever found and only one body was recovered."
Watch this news item comparing different areas of the world where people, planes and ships have vanished
Writing in Discovery News, noted skeptic Benjamin Radford points out that the Caribbean Sea has an enormous amount of boat and plane traffic.
"The only way to get to and from those islands is by boat or plane, and -- like cars, boats or anything else -- more traffic than average means more accidents and mishaps than average. If anything, it's surprising there aren't more crashes," Radford wrote.
While The Bermuda Triangle is the most famous of areas around the world laying claim to causing people, planes and ships to vanish, there actually hasn't been such a report from there for almost a decade.
Excerpt from a Learning Channel documentary about the Japanese Devil’s Sea