10. Amelia Earhart
After successfully making her mark as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart attempted to do one better and fly around the world. She instead flew into thin air, disappearing somewhere over the Pacific in 1937. Declared dead in 1939, a skeleton that may have been hers was found in 1940 on a remote Pacific island, although that, too, disappeared after reportedly being carried away by giant coconut crabs. Other theories insisted Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, survived but were captured and then executed by the Japanese during World War II. The most bizarre theory surfaced in a 1970 book, Amelia Earhart Lives, which claimed Earhart was living in New Jersey as a woman named Irene Bolam. That theory pretty much bit the dust when Bolam sued the publisher for $1.5 million in damages, the book was pulled off the shelves and a researcher said Bolam didn’t really look like Earhart, anyway.
9. Butch Cassidy
Bank robber, train robber and legendary outlaw Butch Cassidy died in a shootout in Bolivia in 1908. After all, the 1969 movie starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford said so, so it must be true, right? Rather than perishing in a bloody shootout, however, one theory suggests Cassidy, whose real name was Robert LeRoy Parker, ended up getting his face redone by a plastic surgeon in Paris and returning to the U.S. Various books are filled with anecdotes of his sightings, including one from an American doctor who swore he had just seen Cassidy based on a bullet-wound scar he recognized.
8. Anastasia Nikolaevna
The teenage daughter of Russian czar Nicholas II, Anastasia Nikolaevna earned the nickname “Sunshine” and was known for her wit — perhaps enough wit to survive the firing squad that slaughtered the rest of her family and several servants in 1918. Rumors persisted for years that she had somehow avoided the massacre, and those rumors seemed to be confirmed in 1991 when a mass grave containing the royal family was unearthed, and Anastasia’s remains were nowhere to be found. Amateur archeologists nosing around in 2007, however, found additional bodies that matched the DNA of dear Sunshine, proving she had indeed been murdered with her kin at the onset of the Russian Revolution.
7. Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid may have kidded a lot of folks who thought he was killed in an 1881 encounter with Sheriff Pat Garrett in New Mexico. On the other hand, Brushy Bill Roberts could have been kidding a lot of folks, too, when he popped up in Texas in 1949 claiming to be the infamous gunslinger. Billy the Kid, born William McCarty, would have been 89 in 1949. Roberts was allegedly 89. Roberts also had knowledge of little-known details of McCarty’s trials and tribulations in addition to reportedly sporting the very same scars in the very same places. Dissenters say Brushy Bill had inaccuracies in his stories while Sheriff Garrett and others had sworn witness to McCarty’s dead body. A few years ago, a petition to exhume The Kid’s New Mexico grave was made, then blocked, since the remains had washed away in a flood in the early 20th century. At least six books debate the matter of The Kid’s alleged death and even more facts pack the Billy The Kid Museum in Hico, Texas.
6. Joseph Force Crater
Nicknamed “The Most Missingest Man in New York,” Judge Joseph Force Crater had only been an associate judge on the New York Supreme Court for four months in 1930 when he hailed a cab one night and was never seen again. Rumors swirled that had been killed by his showgirl mistress’ other boyfriend, who was a member of the mob, or killed because he was about to blow the lid of corruption in Tammany Hall. Others said they spotted him alive and well in Europe or the South Pacific. A 1951 letter, found in the safe deposit box of a 91-year-old woman who died in 2005, noted her husband had helped kill Crater and bury him beneath the boardwalk on Coney Island — but no such remains were ever found.
5. D.B. Cooper
D.B. Cooper committed what seemed like the perfect crime on Thanksgiving Eve 1971 when he hijacked a Northwest Orient flight, parachuted out with an extorted $200,000, and promptly disappeared. Experts believed there was no way the hijacker could have survived the jump, and the FBI case had been largely dormant in recent years until a woman came forward in 2011 saying she was Cooper’s niece and he had, in fact, survived for years after his jump. At least she waited until D.B., whom she knew as L.D., died before going to the FBI. And she also poked a hole in the notion it had been a “perfect crime” by noting Cooper showed up Thanksgiving morning after the hijacking covered in bruises and blood with the news he had lost most of the cash before he hit the ground.
4. Adolph Hitler
The story that is now universally accepted as fact holds that Adolph Hitler shot himself while wife Eva Braun snacked on some cyanide as Russian troops closed in on their bunker in April 1945. Their bodies, as per Hitler’s previous request, were taken to an outside garden, doused in petrol and set aflame. Russian officials, however, not only refused to confirm Hitler’s death but also spread rumors that he was still alive. Even top U.S. officials believed that Hitler might be alive. Hitler sightings continued across Europe for a couple of years until the publication of a book, The Last Days Of Hitler, put the matter to rest. KGB agents secretly exhumed the burial site, which contained about 10 bodies, in 1970. They burned and crushed the bodies and scattered the ashes in a nearby river to prevent the site from becoming a Neo-Nazi shrine.
3. Jesse James
Outlaw, gangster, and veritable poster child of the Wild West, Jesse James was supposedly shot and killed in 1882 by a fellow gang member. Several movies and books have supported this version of history. Yet not long after James’ “death” rumors spread that he had not bitten the bullet but somehow made a sneaky escape. That theory took on new life in 1948 when a 101-year-old man named J. Frank Dalton surfaced in Texas claiming to be James. Although James’ surviving relatives did not buy the man’s story, when Dalton died three years later, a local sheriff who examined the body confirmed Dalton resembled James, based on the burn marks, neck-rope marks from a failed hanging, and 33 bullet-wound scars that riddled the body. That theory was busted, however, in 1995, when the original Missouri grave was exhumed and the DNA found to match James’ surviving family members.
2. Jim Morrison
Rumors and Jim Morrison’s death go together like whiskey and bars. First there were rumors of how and where he died. Choices include a heroin overdose in a Paris nightclub or hacking up blood in a bathtub. Then came the rumors that Morrison had not died at all on that fateful night in 1971 but had staged his own disappearance. The authors of the 1980 book No One Here Gets Out Alive further fueled that rumor. In a reissue of the book in 1995, however, the authors recanted their theory, noting there was enough evidence to prove that Morrison did die, so at least that question was cleared up. Morrison’s garbage-strewn and graffiti-riddled Paris gravesite has also been cleared up, thanks to a power washer his parents bought for the cemetery.
1. John Wilkes Booth
Abraham Lincoln died in 1865 but his notorious killer, John Wilkes Booth, may have lived for years following the assassination. According to one theory, the soldier who shot Booth dead in a barn got the wrong man. The real Booth allegedly assumed the name David E. George and ended up in Enid, Oklahoma, where he confessed his true name and crime on his deathbed in 1903. Not to let Booth escape once again, the undertaker mummified the remains and put them on display until they were purchased by a showman who toured the country with the mummy as a circus sideshow. The mummy passed from owner to owner through the years and reportedly toured with carnivals through the 1970s before disappearing. Experts who examined the body on more than one occasion through the years verified it was Booth.