© 2022 NPR Illinois
Stand with the Facts
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Click here to be "In the know." Subscribe to the NPR Illinois Daily newsletter.

Hannibal's Lost Boys Mystery Endures 50 Years Later

Hannibal Courier-Post

In Hannibal Missouri, along the Mississippi River, there's a monument remembering 3 youngsters who disappeared.

Craig Dowell, Joey Hoag and Billy Hoag went missing May 10, 1967.

The belief is they went into a cave to explore. 

"It was a pretty common thing to do," said Eric Dundon, the Managing Editor of the Hannibal Post- Courier who recently wrote an update on this story.  Dundon pointed out witnesses who identified the boys as heading toward Murphy's Cave on that fateful day, but no one saw them enter.

Billy was the youngest, just 10 years old.  His brother, Joey, was 13 and Craig was 14.  To this day, no evidence of the boys has been found.

When they were first reported missing, a massive search ensued.  It became national news.  And after frustration set in, theories arose.  Some thought they ran away.  Others raised the possibility of foul play.

“When you have people, specifically children, go missing seemingly out of the blue, it made people concerned. Not just for the safety of children in the caves but for the safety of children in general,” Dundon said.

The sadness and shock made this a cautionary tale.

“I had somebody who commented that after the boys disappeared, he was not permitted to play outside alone for several months after that.”

Dundon said most in the town have stuck with the original explanation. 

“I think the majority of people still believe they are somewhere in the cave system,” Dundon said.

Related Stories