The Bizarre Vanishing of Stacey Arras

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It started as a leisurely horseback riding trip at the scenic Yosemite National Park, in California. On July 25, 1981, 14-year-old Stacey Arras was out at an area of the park called Sunrise Meadows, along with her father George, and a group of six others on an excursion that was to last several days. The group made their way up to a cluster of cabins at the Sunrise High Sierra Camp, which lies around 9,400 feet above sea level and where they had planned to stay for the night and get some rest before heading out on their trip in the morning along a trail called the High Sierra Camp Loop. The camp itself is situated in a picturesque alpine meadow and holds up to 34 people in nine cabins, and it also features various activities and hiking trails. As soon as they arrived, Stacey changed clothes and went out on a short hike along one of these trails planning to go take photographs of a nearby lake. No one knew that she was about to go hiking off the face of the earth, and that she was about to just seemingly blink out of existence.

Before leaving, Stacey asked her father if he wanted to join her, but he declined, instead saying that he wanted to relax for a while. She headed off on her own, and considering this was peak season there were many other people around there. One of these was a man in his 70s named Gerald Stuart. Stacey told her father she was going to take a walk near where Gerald was sitting at the time, on a boulder just 100 feet away from the cabins. At the time the weather was good, and the trail she intended to take was an easy, flat run that only stretched 1.5 miles through non-challenging terrain, so there would have been no indication at all that there was anything to be concerned about. In fact, Stacey had not even changed into hiking boots, instead heading out on her walk in flip flops. She walked over to Gerald and chatted with him a bit as she took some pictures, before telling the old man that she was going to head to the water. Gerald offered to go along with her and the two headed off.

Stacey Arras

At this point they were still very close to camp, and many of the people staying there clearly saw Stacey and Gerald walking along the trail. At some point, Gerald would sit down to take a breather, with Stacey saying she was going to scout ahead and be right back in a minute. Gerald and several others at the camp, including a camp tour guide, watched Stacey walk behind some trees, and this would be the last time anyone saw her. When the girl did not come right back like she had said, others staying at the camp decided to go up along the trail and see what she was doing. At this point there still wasn’t any panic, and only a short amount of time had passed and it was just assumed she was just taking photos, but walking along all the way to the lake showed no signs of her. Several runs along the short length of the trail turned up nothing, and they even passed another group of hikers, but they had not seen Stacey. It was as if she had evaporated into thin air.

At this point there was more of a sense of urgency, with searchers calling out for Stacey and fanning out into the woods, but the only thing that could be found was a lens cap for her camera eerily sitting in the middle of a nearby meadow right near where she was last seen. After about an hour of searching to no avail, authorities were called in, and a massive search operation was launched, involving 150 people including 67 Mountain Rescue Association volunteers, using tracker dogs and helicopters scouring the vicinity. They found nothing at all. There were no tracks found, none of her belongings, even the dogs could not pick up a scent. It was almost as if she had never been there at all.

And that is where the case still stands today, with theories flying about what might have happened to her. One is that it could have been an animal attack, but if this was the case there would be expected to be more of a commotion and signs of this occurring such as blood, torn clothing, and tracks, and one would also think that the girl would have shouted out. Another idea is that she got lost, but by all accounts, it is an easy, short hike, within site of the camp. How would she so thoroughly get lost in such a short span of time so close to camp on such an easy trail? Another idea is that she might have been abducted, but again, who would have been able to spirit her away to quickly, quietly, and decisively, and why? Still another idea was that she ran away, but why choose that camp to do it, and why run off wearing nothing but flip flops? None of it makes sense. Adding to the sinister undercurrent is the fact that the Yosemite Park service has reportedly been very reticent to provide any information on the case. Missing persons researcher and author David Paulides, who has written the Missing 411 series of books, has on many occasions tried to file Freedom of Information Act requests on the Stacey Arras case, and has been thoroughly resisted. He has said of this:

So there was essentially nothing about that case for 25, 30 years. I made a request on it through Yosemite for the freedom of information act, to get a copy of the report. A special agent for the parks service named Yu called me, and asked me why I wanted the report. And I explained that we were doing some research on search and rescue and we were specifically looking into people who disappeared at Yosemite and we wanted to see what in the report that was there, and he said there was nothing there. And I said ‘well are there any suspects, is it a criminal case?’ He said ‘nope. It’s a missing persons case.’ I said ‘Has anybody looked at it in the past 10 or 20 years?’ He says ‘not that I can think of.’ And I said ‘so there’s no suspects, there’s no work done on the case, she hasn’t been found?’ ‘Correct’ And I said ‘okay well, could you send me a copy of the case?’ And he said ‘nope.’ I said ‘why not?’ He says ‘because it’s an open case, and you’ll never see it.’ And I said ‘but we’ve gotten dozens and dozens of missing persons cases from the parks service. Why not this case?’ He goes ‘you’ll never see it.’ And I said, “what do you mean I’m not going to get it? It’s an open missing person’s case. Any criminal elements?” “nope.” I said “Are there any suspects?” “Nope.” “Well why won’t you give it to me then?” And he says “well, we never give away these cases.” I said “wait a minute, I have dozens and dozens of these cases from your agency all over the US.” He said “no you don’t.” I said “yes I do!” And we get into this talk. He challenges me, he’s rude. He says right from the get go I’m never going to get this, and so far he’s right. And we got off the phone.

I went to my local congressman Ian Campbell, I appealed through him, his representative in Washington DC went and met with the representative from the department of the interior, and I got an answer back saying they won’t release the case. The family of Stacy got a hold of me, they publicly asked for the case, it was denied. They made an appeal through the parks service, so the family could read the case, and this has dragged on I think for two or three years, and they still haven’t seen the case. So what happened to Stacy? Don’t really know. But according to the freedom of information act, and what the law is intended to do, is give us access to information that our government has. This isn’t a criminal case, there are no suspects, there’s no crime that is thought to have occurred. Nobody can explain to me or that family why we can’t see that case.

As far as I know, Paulides still has not gotten his hands on that report, despite several more appeals from both himself and Stacey’s family. Why should he come up against so much stiff resistance on this particular case for the National Park Service? Why should this be if it is a simple missing person case? Is there some sort of conspiracy or cover-up going on here, and if so, why? Whatever the answers to this may be, it adds a layer of menace to an already spooky case. We are left to wonder, what happened to Stacey Arras? How could she go so completely missing without a trace within mere moments? Where did she go and why is there so much apparent resistance to further investigation into the matter? It seems to be quite likely we will never know for sure, and it is yet another unsettling vanishing that will likely stir speculation and debate for some time to come.

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