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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.
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.
My new book is available now! It’s a remarkable and astonishing true story, a horrific twist in a most vexing Midwest mystery.
A new Amazon review just posted today. Thanks Mike in Hawaii!
”I grew up near Hannibal. MO. The Lost Boys were about my same age and I went to school with the author of this book. I’ve toured the caves where this event happened – but never any idea these caves were so massive – until seeing the cave illustrations in this book. I liked the book so well, that I bought three more for friends and family. It’s a great unsolved mystery. For me, the potential ties to the notorious John Wayne Gacy are the most intriguing. If you like unsolved mysteries – you’ll love this book.”
If you’ve read Lost Boys of Hannibal and really enjoyed the storytelling, please post a brief review on Amazon. Thank you!
May 10, 1967 was the last day of normalcy for the Hoag and Dowell families in historic Hannibal, Missouri, Mark Twain’s boyhood home. Joel and Bill Hoag, gregarious kids from a family of thirteen, and their neighbor, Craig Dowell, went off to play and never came home. The search for the trio centered on nearby subterranean cave networks exposed during highway construction. More than three-hundred cavers and other volunteers participated in the month-long effort to find the lost boys, but nary a sign of them was ever discovered.
The story, captured in my last book Lost Boys of Hannibal: Inside America’s Largest Cave Search, remains one of America’s most vexing mysteries. Today, we remember Joey, Billy, and Craig, and their families, as we reflect on this terrible loss.
The Hoag boys were childhood friends of mine. Joey and I, and so many other kids, were modern day Tom Sawyers and Becky Thatchers, exploring the hills, forests and cave openings in our cave-riddled state. Missouri is known as the Cave State with more than seven-thousand caves identified, and more being found regularly as land development progresses.
My next book, Souls Speak, continues the story of the lost boys, as we pursue an astonishing lead into their shared fate. This remarkable paranormal investigation, will be published and available in June 2019.
The May issue of Hannibal Magazine has an interesting article related to my last book, Lost Boys of Hannibal. It details the many letters of encouragement and sympathy sent to the boy’s families in 1967. I held these letters in my hands three weeks ago; wish they’d been available when I wrote the book. The letters are now in the possession of the Hannibal History Museum.
The article begins on page 15.
#lostboysofhannibal #johnwingate #hannibal
I recently returned from Hannibal where I participated in the Travel Channel production of a story about the caves and the 1967 disappearance of the three boys, believed lost in the cave systems. The incident is documented in my last book, Lost Boys of Hannibal: Inside America’s Largest Cave Search.
The producer told me the piece will air sometime in October. Details later as we know more about date and time.
#travelchannel #johnwingate #hannibal #missouri caves #lostboysofhannibal