Keith Reinhard - Strange disappearances from US mountains

Keith Reinhard, Disappeared August 7, 1988, Silver Plume, Rocky Mountains, Colorado.

Keith Reinhard Rocky mountains disappearance

In 1988, 50 year old, journalist Keith Reinhard went off to seek a new life in a remote part of Colorado called Silver Plume, became obsessed with the strange disappearance of the previous owner of the bookshop he was renting and started writing a book about it and then he himself vanished without a trace within weeks. 

Silver Plume, a town with less than 200 residents, is located close to Denver in Colorado and situated along Clear Creek in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Founded in 1864, it was originally meant to be a gold camp, but instead, silver ore was found. Today Silver Plume is referred to as a “semi-ghost town,” or a “living ghost town.”

Keith was a sports writer for the Chicago Daily Herald and hated big city life suffering a mid-life crisis and desperately trying to find a way out. He was married to Carolyn with a daughter, but he was keen to try and start a new life away in the backcountry. A friend of Keith's, Ted Parker, lived in Silver Plume and he had often heard from him of the different sort of life there away from everything and everybody. Reinhard made up his mind to take a 90-day leave of absence from work and try out living there for a while on his own without his wife Carolyn, explaining to her that he wanted to write a book in peace and quiet and rediscover himself. His plan would be that, eventually, Carolyn would join him and she reluctantly agreed with his plan.

Keith relocated to Silver Plume in the summer of 1988  and rented a simple storefront from his friend Parker on the town’s main street for his antique business and began writing his book. Within a short time he began to experience "writer's block" and to try and stir his creative juices he began taking regular hikes out in the rugged Rocky Mountains.

Silver plume, rocky mountains

Then Reinhard discovered around this time that the storefront’s previous owner, Tom Young, who had run a bookstore had mysteriously vanished with his dog on September 7, 1987. Young had suddenly told his friends and family that he was travelling to Europe for a vacation and disappeared. He was last seen walking off with his dog Gus, with which he was said to be inseparable, and no one had seen him since. No trace of the missing man or his dog had ever been found despite intensive searches.

Thomas J Young Silver Plume

Keith was intrigued and asked Parker and other locals about the case and then decided to abandon the subject of his original novel and start writing a fiction novel using Young as its basis.The book featured a character that was a composite of Young and Keith.

On July 31, 1988, some local hunters found Young's skeleton, propped up against a tree out in the wilderness about an hour from Silver Plume and with a bullet hole in the head with a pistol, a backpack, and the dog Gus who was also shot. Young had purchased the gun just 4 days before his disappearance and local police believed it had to be a suicide. Locals were sceptical though as they said that he would never hurt Gus and many suspected foul play, 

Around a week later, on August 7, 1988, Keith closed up his shop and told friends that he had decided to go hiking up the nearby Pendleton Mountain. What made this strange it that it was 4pm and the round trip to the mountain was around 6 hours, a mountain he had tried to climb before but was thwarted by its steep and rugged terrain. He also had no proper hiking gear with him and didn't appropriate clothing for the cold temperatures up on the mountain. Ted Parker, thought he was just messing around when he came to his café to tell him of his plans that he would be back in town by 10pm and he later said "He was in the café and told me he was going to make it to the top of the mountain. If I don’t come back, call on the rescue and he said that in jest, I felt. I have this picture of him pointing to the mountain and saying goodbye. That was the last time I saw him."

At 4.30pm Keith was seen walking off towards the mountain without a coat or even a backpack and after that,  he vanished. The next day, a huge search and rescue operation was called out when he failed to return to Silver Plume, involving planes, helicopters and sniffer dogs. The search went on for a week but nothing was found. The head of the rescue team, Charley Shimanski, said at the time, "The Reinhard search was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. This haystack is 3,000 vertical feet of 60 degree slope. This was about as difficult a search terrain as we cover. We were at a real disadvantage because Keith went into the mountains wearing no more than blue jeans and a flannel shirt and tennis shoes. He had no backpack. He had no equipment. A typical subject of a search will leave lots of clues for us to trace. Keith didn’t leave many clues. He didn’t have many with him to leave behind."

The search was called off on August 12 when a Cessna aircraft carrying two rescuers crashed, killing one of them and seriously injuring the other. The only clue left behind was a piece in his book found by friends on his computer, concerning the main character Guy Gypsum, which said "Guy Gypsum changed into some hiking boots and donned a heavy flannel shirt. He understood it all now, and his motivation. Guy closed the door, then walked off towards the lush, shadowless, Colorado forests above."

In the years since Keith Reinhard’s mysterious disappearance there have been many theories proposed as to what happened to him. One is that he had gone off to the mountain with suicide in mind like Tom Young. But he had not mentioned any suicidal thoughts to friends or his wife. Another theory was that Reinhard was trying to emulate the adventurous character of his novel, and had gone off to get a feel for it, but with every intention of coming back to write more but had gotten lost or injured in the mountains. Perhaps the move to Silver Plume was not enough and he wanted to escape and start a completely new life away from family and friends, but this seems unlikely as he was close to his wife and daughter Tiffany. 

He also might have just wanted to disappear for a short while to see how everyone reacted, either as a joke or for research for his book, and then either met with some unexpected accident. But others believe that just like with Tom Young, foul play might have been involved. One man disappears without a trace, his body is found shot a year later, and then another man who happens to rent the same storefront and is writing a novel about the previous owner also vanishes.

What happened to Keith Reinhard? Creative obsession whilst writing a book, suicide, murder or the Rocky Mountains terrain and weather or living a new life somewhere else in the United States? A very mysterious disappearance.