It was July 2, 1938 - and the Beilhartz family had decided to go camping deep within the Rocky Mountain National Park as a summer vacation. On the day in question, they were going to Estes Park to do some fishing - and were hiking along a trail close to a creek by the name of Roaring River at approximately 8am. Their son, Alfred Edwin Beilhartz, was roughly 4 years old at the time, and was walking along at the back of the line formed by his family. His parents would eventually realise that he had seemingly fallen severely behind and was now no longer anywhere they could see him. This would begin a desperate 10-day-long search operation throughout the region - but Alfred Beilhartz would never return...
Bloodhounds and the Damned Dam Edit
His parents briefly performed a preliminary search to try and find their missing son (he was just one son of apparently ten children in the Beilhartz family), and when they had no luck they decided to call in the park service for assistance. The rangers were operating under the assumption that Alfred may have fallen into the nearby creek and drowned, and so they proceeded to dam the river. This dam consisted of a fence line adorned with barbed wire - there was no way that his body could be carried downstream and not be instantly found by the team of rangers searching for the unfortunate child. When this returned no results, they dragged the bottom of the river for good measure, but also found nothing to indicate where Alfred had gone. After five days, they gave up searching the river.
His parents told the rangers that they were certain that he must have been abducted. They knew that their son wouldn't just leave his family - and they were (unsurprisingly) unconvinced that he had fallen into the river. At this point, the rangers called in some bloodhounds from the nearby Colorado State Penitentiary. According to David Paulides (one of the usual suspects when it comes to discussing cases such as this) claimed that the bloodhounds were able to follow the boy's scent '500ft uphill' from where his parents had been when he vanished. This is obviously exceptionally bizarre, seeing as he disappeared when he was behind them as opposed to in front of them as the scent trail suggested. More bloodhounds were apparently called in, and followed the same paradoxical trail, only to lay down in defeat when they reached a fork in the road. The search was eventually called off after a total of 10 days spent looking for the missing child.
The Devil's Nest and the Mystery Man Edit
Meanwhile - on July 3rd - William J. Eells and his (unnamed in the newspaper report) wife were also hiking in the Rocky Mountains National Park. They had made it quite far up the Old Fall River road when they got tired and decided to stop for a rest. While resting, they decided to look up at the beautiful slopes of Mount Chapin - only to see a young boy sat on a rock in a section of the mountainside known as the Devil's Nest. This spot was six miles west of where Alfred Beilhartz had intially vanished from, and Mr. Eells expressed his disbelief that any child could have gotten up to that spot without assistance.
The child - presumed to be Alfred at this point - apparently made a 'shrill noise', walked out to look over the ledge and then left the scene. Paulides says that it was as if he was jerked back out of view, but Wikipedia instead asserts that he simply walked out of sight. The Eells decided to retreat to the carpark, where they heard the news about the missing boy. Upon returning home, they checked the newspaper and confirmed that the photograph of Alfred Beilhartz within it matched the child they had seen in the Devil's Nest. They promptly drove back to the park and talked to the rangers, but the rangers stated that it would've been 'totally impossible' for Alfred to have made his way up to the slope in question - and that the rangers themselves couldn't even manage it themselves in under two days and without carabiners and ropes. They did eventually send a group of over 150 men to search Devil's Nest, but they came back empty handed.
The next development in this increasingly-bizarre case came on July 8th, when the FBI announced that it was performing forensic tests on a piece of 'soiled' bandage that had been found in an abandoned cabin in the park. The disclosure of this finding was prompted by the insistence of the boy's parents that their son must've been kidnapped. Apparently Alfred had a blister on his foot at the time he had vanished, and his mother had bandaged it using similar material. It is unclear what came of this test, but I can be fairly sure that nothing did - otherwise there would be information available about it.
On this same day, a woman by the name of Mrs. CA Linch who lived in Big Spring, Nebraska, allegedly saw Alfred and a mysterious man walking along a highway together as she and her husband were driving from Big Spring to Ogallala. She told her brother-in-law WB Linch (of Lincoln, Nebraska) about her sighting, and he then went to speak to a Denver detective sergeant by the name of Fred Renovati two days later on behalf of his sister-in-law. He said that she 'was positive the boy was the one whose picture she saw'. Seemingly nothing came of this odd lead either.
Held to Ransom? Edit
Alfred Beilhartz had been missing for five months when his father was given a ransom note in November. It contained instructions for leaving $500 (equivalent to $8,900 as of 2018) in a tin can one block away from the Beilhartz family home in return for the safe return of their missing son in 24 hours, and also ominously said that 'the boy doesn't take to us'. However, by the 29th of that month the police were fairly certain that this was a hoax. This belief was all but confirmed by another police announcement announcement a day later saying that they had investigated two possible suspects - who were accused of attempting to extort money from the family. The suspects were not named and were apparently not being held, but here is where the trail of information about the Beilhartz disappearance stops - and so it is difficult to know what happened next. I imagine that it would've been announced if the suspects were confirmed to be guilty, but the ransom note was also never confirmed to not have been a hoax so really any thing could have happened only Alfred himself could know.
Disappearance of Alfred Beilhartz on Wikipedia and all of the newspaper clippings provided as sources for that page. Some of the stranger details of this case were, of course, pointed out by David Paulides in an interview he did for MUFON on the 19th of February 2013 - which can be enjoyed here.