National Park Deaths

Mysteries of the Nahinni Park Reserve in Canada

Nahanni National Park Reserve

Nahanni National Park Reserve in the Dehcho Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada, is around 300 miles west of Yellowknife and is 11,000 square miles in area. Part of the Mackenzie Mountains resides within it and the South Nahanni River (Naha Dehé) is at its centre. It was named a national park in 1976, and a  UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. 

The park is surrounded by huge peaks and features geysers, sinkholes, deep canyons, caves, gorges, and beautiful, untouched forests. Within these stunning vistas lies Virginia Falls, a 96 metre (315 feet) high waterfall, twice as high as Niagara Falls.

The area is true wilderness and has been largely unexplored as it is accessible only by air, water or a long overland journey by food over several days.

Nahanni is from the language of the indigenous Dene people that have inhabited the region for thousands of years, and means “The People Over There,” in reference to a tribe of mountain dwelling people known as the Naha, who were once known to raid lowland settlements before mysteriously vanishing. There is speculation that they may have been the ancestors of the modern day Navajo people.

Over the years there have been many mysterious stories that have emerged from the area.  The names of park areas such as Deadmen Valley, Headless Creek, Headless Range and the Funeral Range, relate to these stories and legends

200 mile gorge Nahanni National Park

The Valley of the Headless Men, the McLeod Brothers and the Lost McLeod Mine

The First Nation people through oral history speak of an unknown evil lurking within the spectacular 200 Mile Gorge, also called the "Valley of the Headless men" and most avoid the area. The name comes from a series of unexplained incidents in the Gorge during the Gold Rush of the early 20th century.

Two brothers, Willie and Frank McLeod left in 1906 in an attempt to reach the Klondike in the Yukon through Nahanni. Nothing was heard from them for the next two years, but there were rumours of them finding a gigantic gold mine. Since then the Lost McLeod Mine, has become legendary, and many have lost their lives trying to find it in the park.

willie and frank mcleod

In 1908, another gold prospecting expedition found two bodies tied to a tree, later identified as the McLeod brothers, both of which had been decapitated. The brothers were found by Charlie McLeod, another brother, and he buried the headless men, planting a cross to mark their graves. There were seven witnesses when the grave was dug, all members of the search party.

Before their murders, a few trappers and hunters in the area say they saw a third man with the McLeods. Whether it was the third man who cut the heads off of the McLeods is unknown. There was speculation claim that the mysterious third man was seen trading gold at several Hudson Bay trading posts.

The McLeods first started  prospecting in 1904, through British Columbia and parts of Southeast Alaska. Upon arrival in the Nahanni country, they ended up on the upper Flat River where they found Dogrib Indians with coarse gold nuggets, some as large as a quarter ounce in size. They made camp in the spring in the area where they were told the gold came from. The McLeods named the stream Gold Creek. The Indians apparently were not happy with their arrival. According to conversations with the McLeods, they said the Indians had probably taken the best finds. The prospect was a small one and the brothers used some small Indian made sluices to aid in the extraction of any gold that was left. They were able to fill a toothache remedy bottle and had ten ounces of gold in a moosehide bag.

They took the sluices, which were made of hand-hewed or whipsawed local timber, and made a crude box-size boat to paddle down the Nahanni. They were about twenty miles down the river near the Cascades of the Thirteen Drops, which later was renamed to the Flat River Canyon. At this point they would have to travel about 110 miles down the Flat River, then eighty miles up the Liard River.

They started out through the canyon, but water entered the boat and they lost everything except the ten-ounce bag of gold and had to return to Gold Creek. They built another boat out of sluice box planks and a trackline from thin strips of moosehide so they could lower their possessions down the worst places in the river. Finally, they were able to make it down the canyon and up the Liard to Fort Liard.

Willie decided to work awhile for the Hudson Bay Company at the Fort, but in 1905 decided to head out in search of more gold. The McLeod’s gold camp in Deadman’s Valley was located in the spruce trees on the left bank of the Nahanni, not far below Second Canyon Mountain. One of the McLeods was in the habit of writing messages on trees. A message was found written on a broken dog sled runner that read: “We have found a fine prospect.”

The supposed third man in the party showed up at Telegraph Creek in British Columbia sometime later, tracked by the Mounted Police, who eventually traced him to Vancouver. It was estimated he had about $8,000 in gold nuggets.

The Lost McLeod Gold Mine has been the focus of countless searches.In 1963, the last group of gold prospectors in the area from Europe vanished without a trace. 

More MYSTERIOUS stories from Nahinni Park Reserve

In 1917, the decapitated body of a Swiss prospector, Martin Jorgenson,  was found next to his burned cabin near Flat River. In 1945, the unnamed body of a miner from Ontario was found in his sleeping bag, without a head. Trapper, John O'Brien, was found frozen next to his campfire, matches still in his hand. 

In 1962, the pilot of a light aircraft miraculously survived a crash unscathed and set about building a camp a short distance from the place where the plane went down. He was so well equipped to survive, with food, fuel, shelter and camp provisions from the aircraft's cargo that he was confident that rescue would come within a matter of days. So he waited and wrote his experiences in his diary. Many times he watched as searching aircraft flew overhead but none saw him. He was only six miles as the crow flies from his destination, although he was probably unaware of his exact location. For around fifty days he sat alone waiting for rescue and then he mysteriously disappeared as the diary entries stopped abruptly. Six months later,  his plane was discovered by chance, followed by the camp and his diary. To this day no further trace of him has ever been found.

Through the years other camps were found with remnants of bones and scattered equipment. It was as if someone wanted the valley to himself. Some of the deaths were investigated and it was discovered the prospectors had developed scurvy and died

The deaths have been blamed on natives, grizzly bears, fights between prospectors or supernatural causes. Attacks by the locals who lived in the valley is most likely, as they would not have taken kindly to white men trespassing on their land.

Albert Johnson - Mad Trapper of Rat River

Albert Johnson - Mad Trapper of Rat River

But there is another explanation. About forty miles from Nahanni, a loner named Albert Johnson lived in a crude log cabin.  Albert Johnson was a pseudonym and his true identity remains unknown. He too searched for the McLeods’ lost mine. Johnson later became notorious and became known as the “Mad Trapper of Rat River.”

In December 1931, one of the native trappers complained to the local RCMP detachment in Aklavik that someone was tampering with his traps, tripping them and hanging them on the trees. He identified Johnson as the likely culprit. On December 26, Constable Alfred King and Special Constable Joe Bernard, each of whom had considerable northern experience, trekked the 60 miles (97 km) to Johnson's cabin to ask him about the allegations. Seeing smoke coming from the chimney, they approached the hut to talk. Johnson refused to talk to them however, seeming to not even notice them. King looked into the cabin window, at which point Johnson placed a sack across it. The two constables eventually decided to return to Aklavik and get a search warrant.

King and Bernard returned five days later with two other men. Johnson again refused to talk and eventually King decided to enforce the warrant and force the door. As soon as he began, Johnson shot him through the wooden door. A brief firefight broke out, and the team managed to return the wounded King to Aklavik where he eventually recovered.

When Johnson was finally cornered up on Eagle River in Northern Yukon Territory and the border of the Northwest Territories.

The event became a media circus as Johnson eluded the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) team sent to take him into custody, which ended after a 150 mi (240 km) foot chase lasting more than a month and a shootout in which Johnson was fatally wounded on the Eagle River, Yukon. 

In his possession were found some gold teeth extracted from mouths of prospectors found dead in the Headless Valley. It might be assumed that Johnson was involved in their deaths, a theory the Mounties put on file.


Peter Jeffris - disturbing deaths in the mountains and National Parks

Peter Jeffris, body found November 20th, 2014, Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Peter Jeffris death rocky mountain national park

On November 16th, 2014 Peter Jeffris, 25, had planned a solo hike to summit the Longs Peak in the Rocky Mountain National Park. He aimed to summit the mountain and return the same day.

Longs Peak is one of Colorado’s "Fourteeners" and has an altitude of 14,259 feet (4346 m). It is located in the northern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and in the Rocky Mountain National Park Wilderness,  Longs Peak is the northernmost fourteener in the Rocky Mountains and the highest point in Boulder County and Rocky Mountain National Park. The mountain was named in honour of explorer Stephen Harriman Long.

Longs Peak Colorado

Peter planned to hike to Longs Peak via the Keyhole Route. This is described by the National Park service as follows:

The Keyhole Route is not a hike. It is a climb that crosses enormous sheer vertical rock faces, often with falling rocks, requiring scrambling, where an unroped fall would likely be fatal. The route has narrow ledges, loose rock, and steep cliffs.

For most of the year, climbing Longs Peak is in winter conditions, which requires winter mountaineering experience and the knowledge and use of specialized equipment. Disregard for the mountain environment any time of year has meant danger, injury and even death.

The Keyhole Route can experience winter-like conditions at any time, requiring greater skill and judgment. Be prepared to turn back during sudden, drastic weather changes.

The high elevation may affect your condition and judgment. Careful descent is the best treatment.

Don't have summit fever: Enjoy the experience, but be willing to turn around at any time.

For those who are prepared, the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak, one of the most popular routes in Colorado, is an extraordinary climbing experience.

Jeffris was a University of Colorado graduate specialising in mechanical engineering and was working at Broomfield’s Altius Space Machines. He was also an Eagle Scout.

On November 17th he failed to show up at work the next day, colleagues became worried and he was reported missing to the authorities as Peter had fortunately told some of his coworkers that he was going to climb Longs Peak on Sunday. Peter's car was quickly found at the Longs Peak trailhead and searches of the area were launched. 

There was three days of intensive searching of 20 square miles around the peak in extreme weather conditions with winds gusting at well above 80 miles per hour and temperatures below freezing. But there was no luck in finding Peter. Rocky Mountain National Park Search and Rescue Teams were assisted by Larimer County Search and Rescue, Rocky Mountain Rescue, Alpine Rescue Team, Diamond Peaks Ski Patrol, Douglas County Search and Rescue, Search Dogs of Colorado and the Colorado Search and Rescue Board. Park staff also worked with the US Air Force Rescue Coordination Centre.

Then the weather cleared up enough for helicopters to conduct a sweep and on November 20th Peter's body was found about 200 feet below an area called The Ledges. Four Search and Rescue team members were flown to the Glacier Gorge drainage and climbed approximately 1,800 vertical feet to Jeffris' body.

The Ledges Longs Peak

There were freezing temperatures and high winds in the area at the time of Peter's hike and he did not carry clothing and shelter for an overnight stay in the mountains. The Boulder County coroner later determined that he had died of hypothermia and that his death was an accident. Peter's death was the third fatality on the mountain that season.

Background the the hike

Peter had tried to get a group together to scale Longs Peak but when none of his friends could make it, he decided to climb the mountain by himself. He had solo climbed Longs several times before.

He was skilled at winter survival  but decided to pack light in the hopes of being able to move quickly and make the summit and back in less than one day which given the weather conditions and early darkness would be a major challenge. "He left a lot of gear behind at home," Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson said at the time. "When people move light, they go fast, but when something terrible happens, like they get lost or injured, that certainly can have a significant impact on how you might be able to cope with the elements and spend the night out. He was not prepared for that -- no tent, no heavy jacket." 

The camera found on the body had a selfie video he took from the summit around 4.30pm the day he died. Normally for Longs Peak, hikers will camp out and start hiking around 5am so they can summit by noon and be back off the mountain by dark. Peter reached the summit only shortly before sunset. 

On the way back down, about a 1/4 mile from the “Keyhole” Peter for some reason left the marked trail and was climbing above the normal trail across the “Narrows” (a narrow ledge leading about half a mile above sheer drop-offs), when he fell over 600 feet to his death.

Peter's mother, Jeanne Jeffris, said he had planned the climb of Longs Peak carefully and researched the route. She said he'd done this climb several times in winter and had recently purchased new gear for the hike. She said she spoke to him, when he said he'd run with his boss but was "saving his legs for the climb on Sunday." She also said he was in great shape and was a well-prepared climber

Jeffris' former scoutmaster, Tim Le Brun, says Jeffris was in great shape and prepared for such a climb."Through scouting we had been on rock-climbing adventures, on mountaineering adventures in New Mexico, we had been on survival hikes where you prepare for things like this,"

Le Brun says he's not sure what may have led to Jeffris' death,"He was a cautious person, but not at the expense of the adventure".

What happened to Peter Jeffris on Longs Peak?

It seems that Peter Jeffris was well prepared for a fast hike to the summit of Longs Peak but moving down the 14,259 feet peak at 4.30pm in darkness without support was pretty foolhardy, even for an experienced winter climber. When the weather turned bad with gales and low temperatures lacking equipment for an overnight stay he was probably doomed. Why he left the Keyhole and went off trail is a mystery but perhaps by then hypothermia or altitude sickness or even panic may have caused Peter to make rash decisions as he moved down the mountain. Perhaps something else caused Peter to tackle the area climbing above the normal trail across the “Narrows”?

Solo mountain hiking in winter is not a hobby to be recommended without adequate equipment and good weather. Peter had all the right skills, he was a cautious person, had the hike planned but even then he very sadly succumbed to the Rocky Mountains.



Jakson Kreiser - Harrowing deaths in U.S. national parks

Jakson Kreiser, Disappeared July 28th, 2012, Body found, September 13th, 2012, Glacier National Park, Montana

Jakson Cole Kreiser, Glacier National Park

The following case in the Glacier National Park is a story which is not so much strange or mysterious but shows the dangers posed if you go solo hiking in the wilderness. Even experienced, well prepared outdoors people can succumb to drowning, bears, mountains lion or fatal falls. Be careful out there!

Warning signs Glacier National Park

Jakson Cole Kreiser, 19, of Hudsonville, left Logan Pass for a day hike in the Glacier National Park on July 28th, 2012. Glacier National Park is a national park located in the U.S. state of Montana, on the Canada–United States border with the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. The park encompasses over 1 million acres (4,000 km2) and includes parts of two mountain ranges (sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains) and over 130 named lakes.

Jakson was working as a seasonal employee at Lake McDonald Lodge and it was his first year working in the national Park.

Logan Pass, Glacier national park

He planned to hike a trail known as the Floral Park Traverse, a route that begins at Logan Pass and ends at the Sperry Chalet trailhead, near Lake McDonald Lodge. But that the last day he was seen alive.

Floral park traverse, Glacier national park

The day after he disappeared a large ground and aerial search was launched in the area between Hidden Lake and Avalanche Lake which lasted eight days but found few clues other than boot prints. Park employees were assisted by North Valley Search and Rescue, Flathead Search and Rescue, Can Am Search and Rescue, the Flathead and Lake county sheriff’s offices and the U.S. Border Patrol in an extensive ground and aerial search for eight days after Kreiser’s disappearance. An average of 50 people were reportedly involved each day.

The search area was focused on the rugged and in the Floral Park area. This area includes treacherous country filled with rock cliffs, waterfalls, wet and slippery rocks and boulders, and dense vegetation.

His body was eventually found by hikers southwest of Hidden Lake on September 13th, 2012 and was submerged in about 4 inches of water in a small waterfall drainage running between two cliff bands southwest of Hidden Lake. Park rangers and Flathead County Deputy Coroner Dick Sine traveled to the site off-trail in a subalpine talus slope between two cliff bands. The slope has several small waterfall drainages, and he was in one of the waterfall drainages, about halfway down the slope. The water would have obscured Kreiser’s body from search parties.

Jakson Kreiser missing person poster

Prior to the autopsy, officials believed the likely cause of Jakson's death likely was trauma caused by a fall into water. Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Curry said the water would have been several feet deep and running fast in July, and at a temperature of just above freezing. Curry believed that Kreiser slipped while trying to cross the drainage, which was likely 20 feet wide at the time.

But the cause of death was found to be exposure caused by hypothermia or submerged cold-water drowning. 

Drowning is the No. 1 cause of death in Glacier National Park, and hikers are encouraged to travel in groups.

Kreiser’s family wrote in his obituary that “Jakson found heaven with an endless view of snow-capped mountains, tumbling waterfalls and cool glacial lakes.”. A very sad story of a solo hike gone wrong in the US wilderness.


Thank you to for some of the images from the park.

Evelyn Consuela Rosemann - Disturbing deaths in U.S. National Parks

Evelyn Consuela Rosemann, Died October 19, 1968, Nevada Fall, Yosemite National Park, California.

The body of Evelyn Consuela Rosemann, 24, was found by three hikers on the 19th October 1968, 200 feet from the base of the 594 foot high Nevada Falls in Yosemite National Park. Evelyn, whose hometown was San Francisco, worked as a masseuse in the park and had set out on a solo hike three days earlier.

According to investigators, she had somehow "been launched" from the fall or cliff and hadn't jumped and had been found partially undressed. In October, the creek leading to the fall is at a very low water level and would not have been swept away. She had a pair of badly torn, corduroy pants that were pulled down near her ankles and her sweater had been pulled up over her head. Another of Evelyn’s sweaters was lying on a rock near her feet.

The autopsy found the cause of death appeared to be a massive head injury sustained in the fall. Parts of her brain were found on a rock fifty feet from her body. The pathologist discovered she had been sexually assaulted either pre or postmortem with indications of bloodless vaginal lacerations. 

Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park

Unfortunately because this is 1968 there is little information on Evelyn's case. How did she end up so far from the base of the cliff? Was she running from someone at the top of the falls, fell over and then her body was dragged to another point at the Fall's base? Clearly a case of foul play given the vaginal lacerations and it is unfortunate that the National Park Service kept Evelyn's death low profile given the disturbing details and probably they were worried about park visitors being scared away by publicity about a potential serial killer in the area. 

James Griffin - Strange deaths in U.S. national parks

James Thomas Griffin, disappeared December 22nd, 2014, body found January 25th, 2015,  Boulder Creek hiking trail, Olympic National Park, Washington.

James Griffin, Olympic national park

James Thomas Griffin, 60, of Port Angeles went hiking in the Olympic National Park in Washington State just before Christmas 2014. He was last seen by other hikers at Olympic Hot Springs at around 4pm on December 22. He was reported missing on December 24 when he failed to show up for a Christmas Eve dinner as planned with friends.

James was  retired, single and lived alone. The weather was rainy and in the mid-30s on December 22 and 23.

Ten rescuers from the park and Olympic Mountain Rescue were aided by state Department of Emergency Management search dogs and their handlers. Joining the hunt for James was his own dog, Bud. Family members said Griffin was an avid hiker but makes slow progress because of an old leg injury, but he knew the park trails very well as a frequent visitor.

Olympic Hot Springs - Boulder Creek Trail Olympic National Park

Griffin’s daypack was found on Christmas Day about a half-mile from the trailhead of the Boulder Creek hiking trail in the Olympic peninsula’s Elwha Valley and 50 feet off the trail itself. The pack was leaning against a log, looking like items had been removed and contained his camera, stove, food, water, snacks and fire-starters.  A towel was lying on the pack and a nearby log sat a coke can and a plastic coffee mug as well as an unfinished bag of prepared freeze-dried food which had been resealed.

There were no signs of a struggle in the area and the camera contained an image of a nearby waterfall.

Despite a week-long search no other clues were found until Sunday, January 25th, 2015, when James' body was finally recovered about a third of a mile and nearly 1,000 vertical feet above the trail.

According to park officials, it appeared Griffin had stepped off the trail to prepare a snack but at some point became disoriented and could not find the trail again. Spokesperson, Barb Maynes said “There is nothing to suggest anything other than someone who lost his location and couldn’t find his backpack again, where he stepped off the trail, and became lost and disoriented,” As to why he climbed the steep hill, where his body was found, Maynes said: “If it’s dark and you can’t see anything, it’s easier to walk uphill. You’re more in control.”

The Clallam County forensic pathologist Dr. Eric Kiesel issued an autopsy report that indicated that James had died from hypothermia. His brother Robert said in an interview that the result was "really odd,”.  “It's just one of those things that happened, and nobody will ever know what the reasons were for him going up the hill.”

The case of James Griffin is strange. Why did he leave his pack and food just off the trail and climb 1000 feet up a steep hillside and then die of hypothermia? Investigators say he just got disorientated on his way back to the car and then got lost in the dark. Yet the trail is well marked. The autopsy confirmed there was no drugs or alcohol involved. Another mysterious death in the Olympic National Park. 


Hillary K Sharma - Strange deaths in U.S. national Parks

Hillary K Sharma, disappeared August 19, 2014, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Hillary K sharma death

Hillary Sharma was last seen on Tuesday, August 19, 2014, and she told friends that she was heading to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The 32,572 acre, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, covers the area along the Cuyahoga River between Akron and Cleveland in Northeast Ohio. It is the only national park in Ohio. 

Cuyahoga River Ohio

Hillary, a 30-year-old is a resident of Eastlake, Ohio was an artist and photographer and often enjoyed visiting the National Park to take shots. She had recently completed a photography course at Lakeland Community College and was enrolled in a graphic arts class. She was a graphic artist at Steve's Sports in Bedford Heights.

Hillary Sharma photo

Her friends became concerned about her safety when she failed to return and Search and Rescue workers found her blue Toyota Camry parked near the Boston Store Visitor Center in Peninsula two days later.

The ground search of the area started on Friday, August 22 with search dogs, horse patrol, boats on the Cuyahoga River, helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. They were particularly focusing on the Cuyahoga River between the Village of Boston and Station Road in Brecksville, and found some of her belongings, including a camera case.

Cuyahoga National Park trail

Then there was bad news on Thursday 28th August, a body was discovered floating in the river with a rope attached to the neck. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner positively identified the body found as Hillary Sharma.  The body was found in the Cuyahoga River, 15610 Vaughn Road in Brecksville by the Highland Road bridge around 6 p.m.after two Rangers came across it during their daily search for her.

A roommate told the Northeast Ohio Media Group that Sharma was overcoming some personal problems and trying to get her life back on track when she disappeared. Nick Baur, who said he lived with Sharma in a single story house on a quiet street in Eastlake, declined to elaborate on the nature of the problems during an interview at his doorstep. "We all deal with our own things," Baur said. "She's had some tough relationships. She's gone through a lot. She was getting back on her feet. I don't know if she went [to the park] to clear or head, or what. She does her own thing. How well do you know a person?"

Baur said he has no idea what has happened to her. But he says he knows Sharma would never do anything to harm herself.

But, an autopsy was performed and the Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the cause of death a suicide by hanging. Investigators did not report any evidence of foul play.

However, on a YouTube video on Sharma's death, there is a reference to a camera found containing pictures in which it appeared that she was running from something or someone. But, there does not appear to be any media substantiation of this claim.

This could be a simple case of suicide by a troubled woman, but her friend said she would not harm herself. It appears she strung herself up on a branch or someone else did and the branch broke and she ended up in the Cuyahoga River. Police quickly dismissed foul play, but who knows. There are strange elements to the story.