|The Vandiver Mystery|
by Stormy on July 24, 2007
It's the stuff tabloids are made of – real life events that confuse and confound and open the door to speculation and conspiracy theories. Murder and foul play. Perhaps if you visit rural southern Indiana, you can help solve a crime.
It was almost 60 years ago that the Vandiver family mysteriously disappeared deep in Crawford County's cave country. The year was 1949 when the disappearance was reported by William Messamore. The police and hundreds of volunteers searched the Hemlock Cliffs area, where the Vandivers lived, for days, but turned up absolutely nothing. It was as if they had simply vanished.
At the time Tom Vandiver, his wife Beatrice and Beatrice's daughter by a prior marriage, Wanda, were living with Messamore in his Hemlock Cliffs area home. Their own house had burned down four months earlier and being unemployed, Tom Vandiver was unable to relocate his family.
On any other day this event may have gone unnoticed and simply faded away in dusty old newspapers, but then William Messamore was arrested for a 1948 bank robbery in Kevil, Kentucky. At his trial he implicated Tom Vandiver as an accomplice, but the police were never able to establish a link. Messamore was sentenced and incarcerated at Alcatraz. Even though he was questioned about the Vandiver disappearance several times after that, he stuck to his story that he does not know what happened to the family that was living on his property.
To make things worse in this soap opera mystery, there are reports that 16 year old Wanda was Messamore's girlfriend. Messamore was 32 at the time of her disappearance, exactly twice her age! This relationship, too, Messamore denied.
The mystery was revived in 1986 when Messamore died. He never confessed to the Vandiver disappearance and never left any clues as to what may have happened. Tall tales blossomed in the area. Were Messamore and Vandiver accompaces? Did Messamore kill the Vandivers to get a full share of the loot? Did Vandiver take the money and his family and left Messamore "holding the bag"? Did the Vandivers accidentally find out that Messamore was a bank robber and were killed to be silenced? Did the reported relationship between Messamore and Wanda come to the Vandivers' attention and they were killed to keep the affair a secret? Did the Vandivers simply pick up and leave, seeking fortune in far away places? Or perhaps the earth really did open up and swallow the family...
The locals never forgot this mystery and Messamore Spring Cave is named after the infamous bank robber, as are Hemlock Cliffs, locally known as Messamore Cliffs. The locals say that if you're ever wandering out in the woods in those parts, you should keep your eye out for human remains, possibly still waiting to be discovered in one of the old cracks in the sandstone that covers the landscape.