She's Missing in St. Thomas, Has Vanished Twice Before

The 'New Yorker' looks at the disappearance of Hannah Upp
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 27, 2018 12:11 PM CDT
Updated Mar 31, 2018 2:45 PM CDT
Sapphire Bay, St.Thomas, is seen in this stock photo. Hannah Upp's things were found at her favorite beach: Sapphire.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – There are said to be five people still unaccounted for in the Virgin Islands after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Hannah Upp is one of them, and it's not the first time she's gone missing. She famously vanished in September 2008, where the then-23-year-old failed to show up for the first day of school at her teaching job at a Harlem middle school. Over the weeks that elapsed, she was spotted in various places—an Apple store, a Starbucks—but it was only 20 days later that she was pulled from the waters west of New York City, floating face down and appearing dead. She wasn't, but it emerged that during those three weeks, "her own biography had been inaccessible to her," as Rachel Aviv writes for the New Yorker. The last thing she recalled was going for a run the day she went missing.

Upp was determined to have dissociative fugue, in which one loses his or her identity, may assume a new one, and may set out on a journey. Aviv dives deep into what we know about fugue and famous cases of it, along with the apparent hallmarks of Upp's: She disappeared for two days in Maryland several years later, and then again in September in St. Thomas. In the New York and Maryland cases, the timing was similar, and she ended up near bodies of water. That led friends on St. Thomas to head to Upp's favorite beach there, where her sundress and car keys were found; her nearby car held her passport, wallet, and phone. Aviv writes that in her first conversation with Upp's mother, she said "it was important that an article about her daughter’s experience 'let it stay a mystery.'" And so it remains, though Aviv fills in many blanks in the full story.

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