Dennis Martin, a six-year-old resident of Knoxville, was visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park along with his father, grandfather and older brother on Father's Day weekend in 1969. The camping trip was a family tradition for the Martins. The family hiked from Cades Cove to Russell Field and camped overnight. The next day, they hiked to Spence Field near the Appalachian Trail, where they planned to spend the night.
Martin disappeared on June 14 at 16:30 while playing hide-and-seek with his brother and other children from a separate family they came across; he was last seen by his father going behind a bush to hide, intending on surprising the other children when they walked past. After not seeing him for about five minutes and when all of the other children had returned to the camp site, his father became concerned and began searching for him. His father ran down the trail for nearly two miles, until he was sure he couldn't have gotten any farther. After several hours, they sought help from National Park Service rangers.
The area where Martin disappeared is marked by steep slopes and ravines. Wild animals such as copperhead snakes, bears, feral hogs, and bobcats inhabit the area. A downpour broke out shortly after Martin's disappearance, dropping 3 inches (7.6 cm) of rain in a matter of hours. The rain washed out trails and caused streams to flood. Temperatures on the night of June 14 dropped to nearly 50 °F (10 °C). It's possible Martin died after succumbing to the cold of the torrential rain or from other threats in the area.
Search efforts, including a separate search by the National Guard and Special Forces found no trace. Heavy rains during the first day's search hampered efforts, and heavy mist the next day. Up to 1,400 people were involved in the search effort, potentially obscuring possible clues. Footprints were found in the area, but dismissed as being Martin's and determined by park officials to have been left by a Boy Scout participating in the search. The child-sized footprints led to a stream, where they disappeared. The tracks indicated that one foot was barefoot, while the other was in an Oxford (the type of shoe Martin was wearing) or a tennis shoe. Retired park ranger and author Dwight McCarter believes that the prints likely belonged to Martin, as the tracks were not part of a group and none of the Boy Scouts were searching while barefoot.
A shoe and sock were also found. By June 22, 56 square miles (150 km2) of ground had been covered. More than a thousand searchers continued to look until June 26, when the search was cut back. The search was abandoned on June 29, after a last search. The search was officially closed down on September 14, 1969. As of 2019, it is still the largest search in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
---------- Me and the wife we on our way to celebrating our 20th, so we past the time with podcast. This was such a sad case to listen to. A kid can just disappear... without a sound and no trace. Other freaky thing is other people have dissapeared from that park over the years as well.