Lifelong friend Gary Rush died this week. We’ve been friends since the age of four. Before that, our mothers were childhood friends. Gary’s failing heart beat its final time and he slipped into eternity, the evening of April 19 while a patient at Boone Hospital in Columbia, MO. Gary was prominent in my first book Lost Boys of Hannibal. He was friends with the Hoag boys, and Gary may have joined them that fateful evening in May 1967 if not for his guitar lesson. Gary knows the truth now. Godspeed my friend. Rest in peace, and we’ll see you down the road.
What a journey it has been. My first book, Lost Boys of Hannibal: Inside America’s Largest Cave Search, chronicled one of the nation’s most vexing mysteries. In May of 1967, three Hannibal, Missouri boys, two of whom were childhood friends of mine, went missing after being seen near caves exposed during highway construction. Missouri is the Cave State, with nearly 5,000 identified caves, and Hannibal’s underside is criss-crossed with many dark, narrow passages. Despite a month-long search by the nation’s top cavers, the three boys were never found.
We fast forward to 2018.
I wrote a follow-on book, Souls Speak: Missing Children Reveal their Serial Killer from Beyond, after three evidential psychics identified the boys as the abductees and victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. My year-long investigation revealed that all three psychics independently identified the precise location in Ralls County Missouri where they say the bodies of the three boys are buried. Gacy went on to be put to death in the 1990s for the murders of 33 young men and boys in the Chicago area between in 1972 and 1978. Souls Speak laid out a credible theory that placed Gacy in Hannibal in May 1967. He lived in Waterloo, Iowa and drove through Hannibal to visit his mother and sister in Little Rock Arkansas on Mother’s Day.
Now, new information in this remarkable paranormal, true crime story.
We discovered more evidence about Gacy’s travels to Hannibal, and his possible role in the boys’ murders, during a conversation with Shawn Jackson, a cousin to Gacy’s nephew Ray Kasper. In February 2021, while in Hannibal for a family medical matter, New Mexico resident Steve Sederwall, a retired law officer and a childhood friend of Craig Dowell’s, tracked down Jackson who lived in Hannibal for several years in the 1980s and 1990s, and now resides in a small-town west of St. Louis.
Sederwall told me that in a phone conversation with Jackson, he broached the topic of John Wayne Gacy and his possible travels through Hannibal in 1967. Jackson readily acknowledged Gacy regularly drove through Hannibal in the 1960s and 1970s, en route to visit his mother and sister in Little Rock, Arkansas. “He always stayed at the Holiday Inn,” Jackson told Sederwall. This is a big break in our ongoing investigation as it proves Gacy was regularly travelling to Hannibal. The Holiday Inn where Gacy overnighted was located on the western edge of town, just east of Highway 61, the route Gacy would have driven from his home in Waterloo, Iowa, four hours away by car.
When the topic of Hannibal’s three lost boys was mentioned by Sederwall, Jackson openly acknowledged that he, too, had wondered whether his depraved distant relative might have been involved in their abductions and deaths. Jackson spoke to Gacy occasionally at Menard Prison and once even raised the subject. “I asked him if he knew anything about those three boys in Hannibal who went missing. He was evasive about the matter and quickly changed the subject,” Jackson related. It seems clear Gacy was uneasy with the topic and didn’t want to discuss the matter with one of the few people with whom he still maintained a semblance of a normal relationship.
As time progresses, we’re discovering more about Gacy’s travels and his increasingly likely role in the murders of three children taken and dispatched in the bloom of their lives. Shawn Jackson’s admissions are important additional pieces to the puzzle.
For more information, visit John Wingate’s author blog CardiffHill.com, and visit him on Facebook (AuthorJohnWingate) and Twitter (@CardiffHill).
Both of John Wingate’s books were published by Calumet Editions, and are available on Amazon.com.
The historic Murphy’s Cave in Hannibal, MO., the site of the 1967 search for three lost boys, as documented in my books Lost Boys of Hannibal and Souls Speak, is the focus of a new effort to better map the maze cave network. Nearly two miles of the complex cave passages were first mapped between 1959 and 1967, and that map was very helpful during the 67 search. Now this new effort, with new technology, promises to provide a much more accurate snapshot of this most complex maze cave. The effort began earlier this month by a team of cavers led by Kirsten Alvey-Mudd. Here is her first report!
“It’s not often one gets the opportunity to be the first person in over 50 years to enter a legendary cave in their own hometown. Especially one with as infamous a history as Murphy’s Cave in Hannibal, Mo. There’s few who grew up in Hannibal of recent decades not familiar with the Lost Boys who disappeared on May 10, 1967 and were suspected to be lost or buried in Murphy’s Cave passage while blasting of bluff for the construction of Highway 79 was being conducted. The largest cave rescue in US history unfolded involving cave rescuers from all over the nation, but no evidence of the boys or their bodies were ever found within the cave. After thorough search and the completion of a cave map, respect and concerns resulted in it’s entrance being blasted, filled shut and seemingly sealed forever.
Fast forward 50+ years to October 2, 2020. The new landowners of the Old Quarry House property (along the edge of where inaccessible cave passage lay silent beneath the hills) is removing a woodchuck den and building a retaining wall when they accidentally backhoe into passage just 5ft inside the hillsides edge. Cold air is blasting from the hole.Hannibal being the childhood home of MoBat Executive Director Kirsten Alvey-Mudd, she made contact with the landowner to discuss permitted access to assess stability for exploration. She and Mark Twain Grotto alum Dave Mahan assessed safety and tried to estimate where this new entrance might lie on the existing 1967-69 cave map on file. Dave conducted a surface survey and took measurements from where the original barrel entrance once existed.On October 3, a remote control car with camera was used to explore passage conditions. We began assembling an exploration team.October 22, Kirsten came ahead to set logistics with the landowner and pre-dug the entrance for better access into the first 3ft pocket not far inside.
On October 24, a 4 man team of MoBat volunteers Quintin Heaton, Desarae Garcia, Jim Mudd, Kirsten and the owner were the first humans to enter the cave in 50+ years. Much digging using small hand trowels and hoes was needed to make both entry and passage feasible. The route is small, requiring mostly belly crawling at approximately 2ft wide and most between 6 inches and 1.5 ft tall with a few small areas about 3ft tall. 56 2gal size buckets (5gal won’t fit in the passage!) of clay were removed to facilitate exploration far enough to see that we could indeed access main passages and were not in an area collapsed off by the blasting.
We dug for 4 hours to make 43ft of belly crawling passage navigable. Dead end side passages totaling another 46ft were measured along the route for attempting to locate the exact area on the existing map. We stopped at a T junction with a 90° angle turn which will require additional digging of the 8 inch high passage to reach more comfortable 3ft tall passage that can be seen approximately 10ft away. She’s blowing hard and going.Not unlike Mark Twain and Cameron Caves, Murphy’s is a complex maze cave of fissures in the limestone characterized by numerous intersections. Murphy’s passages are MUCH smaller, the majority of them being no more then 2 feet wide and 1-2ft high. Progress will be slow going as there is little room to work in or dump dug debris. All dug clay must be removed all the way back to the entrance and dumped outside to keep from blocking the passage behind us. We are still unsure how much of the originally mapped passage can be accessed since the blasting which sealed the original entrance and additional blasting which created highway 79.This project and it’s potential re-mapping will NOT be open to the public as it will require skilled and experienced cavers.
The owner asks that individuals please respect the on-going construction and restoration of the Old Quarry House on the property and NOT stop by to disturb work crews, take photos or ask questions. There is little to see. A board covers the entrance until a proper angle iron cave gate can be constructed in the near future. This is a highly dangerous site.NO human remains or evidence of the missing Lost Boys was seen. Only a few small animal bones and an old spike were found in the passage. Cave crickets, several species of spiders, armadillidiidae and small isopods were the only living creatures seen.We will keep the public updated after each future expedition.” Thanks to Kirsten Alvey-Mudd
Want to do a good deed? Please ask your local library to carry copies of my books, Lost Boys of Hannibal and Souls Speak. When libraries carry these books, people who cannot afford copies can still get a chance to read them. So anything you can do to help get these books in YOUR library is much appreciated!
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding writing, superb book
Reviewed in the United Kingdom
Excellent book. The writing style is gripping without becoming sensationalist. At times the descriptions of the cave networks were so well constructed that I felt claustrophobic and uncomfortable while reading. The author made me feel like I was almost experiencing what the lost boys and rescue teams went through. I highly recommend this book to anyone. I’m not a caver, it’s simply an enthralling true story very well told.
The genesis of Souls Speak…
On July 15, 2018, I called Lynnie, the oldest sister of the two missing Hoag boys. Her first words were, “John! Gacy killed them! They were his first kills!”
With that startling and chilling statement, the conversation launched me on a year-long odyssey that points to serial killer John Wayne Gacy as the man who abducted, tortured, and strangled three Hannibal boys, then buried them in a single hastily dug grave. The location, preserved with GPS coordinates, is only a few miles from where Joey and Billy Hoag, and their friend Edwin Dowell, were last seen on the early evening of May 10, 1967.
My latest book, Souls Speak: missing children reveal their serial killer from beyond is the product of the year-long probe, conducted with three experienced clairvoyants who peered across the boundary between this world and the heavenlies and connected with the etheric spiritual energy of the boys and Gacy himself.
The Hoag boys were friends of mine, and over these past five decades their families and many friends have grieved them.
Writing about the missing boys incident has brought its challenges. A relative of Edwin Dowell has sent threatening messages promising harm to me and my family. The relative, only a little boy when the three Hannibal boys went missing, is still engaging in juvenile behavior born of trauma. My team’s sole goal is to find the boys so they may be put to rest.
This is why it’s fun and fulfilling to be an author. Not all reviews are kind, but most are, like this one:
“John Wingate, your books have my coworkers and I obsessed with this case! We analyze and obsess over it daily! We love your books! You have told their story in the most beautiful and sincere way! Bless your heart for everything you’ve done to help bring them peace! ❤️✝️”
The Travel Channel show about the lost boys of Hannibal will air again January 11 at 1 p.m. central time. We shot the show last summer.
The show includes a discussion with me about the findings in my two books, Lost Boys of Hannibal and my latest book, Souls Speak.
Here’s the audio from my November 13 interview with Jim Dewey of WTAD radio in Quincy Illinois. Go 9:30 in to hear the twenty minute interview.