Thelma Pauline "Polly" Melton - Strange Disappearances from U.S. National Parks

Thelma Pauline "Polly" Melton, Disappeared September 25, 1981, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Thelma Pauline "Polly" Melton disappearance

58-year-old Thelma Pauline Melton, often called “Polly” by her friends, was hiking with two of her friends on the Deep Creek trail near the Deep Creek and nearby campground in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

It was an easy trail that Polly had been hiking for 20 years and she knew the area well. For some reason during the course of the hike at around 4 pm, she decided to quicken her pace and rounded a bend or hill in front of her friends and literally disappeared forever. 

Great smoky mountains Deep Creek

Her friends searched the area where she had been just moments before, but could find no sign of where she had gone. She suffered from high blood pressure and nausea for which she took medication, making it seem unlikely she could have got a long way in a short time. Her friends had actually been teasing her about her slow pace not long before she disappeared. Melton's friends assumed that she had returned to the campground where the Airstream trailer owned by Polly and her husband was parked. Her companions arrived at the campground at approximately 4:30 p.m., but there was no sign of Polly. Her husband was inside the trailer, while his wife and the others hiked the trail, but he had not seen Polly since the group left. Her medical problems had caused her to lose her driving licence and she did not have any car keys with her.  

Great smoky mountains Deep Creek trail sign

The two ladies and her husband reported Polly missing at around 6 pm and a large search was launched, but no sign of her could be found. Authorities were unable to even get a good set of tracks to follow, which would have made things easier considering Melton’s left shoe had apparently had a noticeable crack in the sole which would have made her tracks easy to differentiate from those of other hikers. No trace of Polly Melton has ever been found and she remains missing.

One theory is that Polly ran off with a secret lover. She had no children and worked at a facility as a volunteer serving meals to the elderly. She did not sign up for work on the day she vanished, which was a little unusual and on the last day she worked, the day before she vanished, she used the telephone at work several times to make local calls, the first time ever that she had done this in the 4 years she had been there. Perhaps Polly arranged for someone to pick her up whilst on her hike, to make it look like she was lost in the woods, thinking that this way would be easier on her husband, rather than him knowing she left him for somebody else. This is postulated as a reason why she picked up her pace and moved ahead of her companions on the trail.