I would think if the man had told about finding the bones in the first place that probably nobody would have pressed charges if this ended up to solving this case. He should have hightailed it out of there straight to the police department. I'm sure it probably is illegal to get ginseng from land owned by a national park but that pales in comparison to the finding of this poor little boy and maybe putting an end to the torment of his family.
I have always thought Dennis just became lost and ended up passing away of exposure/dehydration or something like that. Maybe he was distracted by something when he went around the other way to scare his parents. He could have stepped into the woods to take a look at something then somehow got turned around and started going the wrong way. It seems very likely that the child's bones were his but we will probably never know now. The odds of a pedophile/kidnapper lurking nearby at the very time Dennis was playing seems a lot less likely than him just getting lost.
These Smoky Mountain disappearances (Trenny Gibson, Pauline Melton, Dennis Martin) are pet cases of mine because I live just a short distance from the area and usually visit several times a year. That is a very vast forest out there, easy for a small child to be lost in.
What's your take on the shoe print that was found a few days after the search that resembled Dennis' shoes that he was last seen wearing? Investigators believed they were not likely to be his shoe prints because their had been a previous rainstorm before the prints were discovered, and they said that area had already been searched. But is it at all possible that the rain may not have washed away this print in question? Especially if this area was protected in some way? As I remember, the shoe prints the ranger said, resembled a track of "one shoe off and one shoe on." But he adds, "they stopped near a bush." and I do recall that a stream or river was nearby.
I believe if the weather had been more cooperative that the investigators might have been able to have said for sure what happened to him.
Are Dennis' parents still living? Any other information about relatives and family friends? I would suspect that they have declined interviews in later years, and understandably so. Because to live with that pain and horror of not knowing what happened to your lost child and what he may have gone through. I can't even comprehend that kind of devastation. It's too emotionally upsetting to put into words.
If any family members do speak, I think it is important for them to know that Dennis, no matter where he is, will NEVER be forgotten!
I'm not sure what to make of the shoe print. It could have belonged to Dennis. He might have lost the other shoe somehow. I think one of the articles stated there were so many searchers all over the place that some of the evidence could have been obliterated.
Such a shame that the man who found a skeleton waited so long to report it. If this was Dennis then his family would have had some remains to lay to rest and a gravesite to visit instead of never knowing.
I too agree that the weather conditions heavily contributed to erasing all traces and I think it possibly contributed to Dennis' death also.
I believe that after Trenny Lynn Gibson went missing in the Smokies there was terrible weather for several days afterward also. Things like that can erase a person's tracks quickly and perhaps interfere with the tracking dogs' ability to pick up a scent.
One of the newspaper articles also contained a video presentation with the ranger, and a summation that claimed that when the area was searched there were no children present. However, in most cases, unless the shoe print was protected by the elements of the rain, it would seem that it would have been washed away with any other evidence that could have clued to Dennis' disappearance and the paths he traveled.
That skeleton is the strongest painful and heartbreaking evidence for me, more than the shoe print. I agree with the other poster that unless there was documentation of another child or children getting lost and never being recovered in the Smokies, that those remains could have been Dennis'. I put the likelihood at about 60%. And the only reason that I don't go higher, is because we don't know the number of years or time element that those bones could be traced back. Do we know for sure that John Doe knows for sure that the remains resembled a small child? Or did John Doe just think that the bones looked like a small child and over the years, it was reported as such?
Had this evidence been turned over to the police and analyzed for DNA, it might have given this poor family some closure and peace so that they can finally sleep at night. And whoever told Dennis to go in a different direction in the first place from the other children who were planning to scare the adults? I don't know how you recover from that kind of sorrow and pain?
This case NEEDS TO BE SOLVED!
I read a book about this case called Disappearances in the Great Smoky Mountains. My theory is that the boy fell into growth below where they were hiking, and they just couldn't see him. He might have died immediately so he couldn't respond to the calls of the family.
When a bear attacked some small children in Cherokee National Forest, clothing and blood left a trail to follow straight to the bear. But it's not impossible that Dennis wandered off and was then attacked by a bear on some side trail or in the forest. I would never take small children out on a trail like that in March or April because that's when hungry bears come out of hibernation and there just isn't much food around.
I'm the proud mother of a new attorney!
It's better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. ~ James Thurber
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing ~ Edmund Burke
Why shouldn't truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense. ~ Mark Twain
Poor Trenny. What happened? How & why did she get separated from the group? Did she fall, slide down a hill, get disoriented, get knocked out, injured.. then die from exposure, get attacked by an animal... what? I often woner about these cases... does the family eventually just give up & move on? I understand that just because people may not have an active presence on the internet, doesn't mean they don't still care about their lost loved one. And I guess you have to close the door at some point and move forward, to mentally survive. And some family members are now older and may not be aware of how many people are online discussing their loved ones. But regardless.. I can't help but wonder, is anyone still looking for her, and so many like her....?
I am just going to speculate here,
But considering the weather reports and what we know about the case from the past, all the rain and fog, any indications of the temperatures. What do you believe is the most amount of time Dennis could have survived without injury? Just getting lost and wondering away? I won't venture a guess yet because I would be interested in knowing a time composite from other members.
The second point for consideration. It is assumed from the case reports that family members began searching within five minutes of of Dennis not returning. The story says that the adults knew that the children had snuck up on them before. This was Dennis' first overnight camping trip. But it sounds like he had been in the area before on previous family outings. Assuming that Dennis had some familiarity with the area, I am trying to think of how far he could have gone before he could not find his way back or no one could no longer find him?
How far could a little kid run or travel in five minutes to never be seen again? That's one of the things that is so haunting to me in my mind. Such a short time span to be missed by everyone through several months of searching afterwords.
Now, note that in studying these outcomes, this just assumes getting lost through natural causes without the issues of injury due to falling into a river, a canyon, or getting mauled by an animal. One of those outcomes could have happened in a short time. Even an abduction, but that seems like a stretch to me. Of course, if those skull bones were tragically Dennis' that rules out the abduction theory.
Another question for study might be, why does the family believe more in the abduction theory over anything else? I think tragically, the horror of the skull bones they might have have just rejected the thought of them being Dennis' remains. Maybe it is easier for the family to think abduction, because for them, it might be the only way to their glimmer of hope that Dennis might be alive and that he might someday escape and return to them.
Maybe that hope for the rest of their lives is better for them in coping than a tragic closure if that skull had been analyzed and turned out for the worse, that yes, it was this poor little boy.
I think it's so hard to try to differentiate that yes, you can't give up hope, but closure can be important too because it can bring peace to the pain. What do you all think about this?
I stumbled on to Dennis's story this morning and have been reading all day.
I am haunted to by how far could he have gotton in 3-5 mins.How far were the footprint and skull found from where he was last seen?I am trying to picture in my mind how he went into the brush and turned around to see his father.I don't think he would have let them out of his sight,unless he saw something and wander towards it and got lost
I have also read a lot of stories over the yrs about crazy people stalking the trails for people hiking alone..it is very possible someone saw this family and saw Dennis and stalked him.The Trail Side Killer comes to mind and there was other family camping and a little girl was kidnapped-I think I remember her name as Susie and the killer kept calling her mother-what a thing to do to a mother!
It would be wonderful if the family had some type of closure and could rest,but keeping Dennis in the news,even after all these yrs can still lead to a tip about what happened to him.I don't know what happened but I will keep Dennis and his family in my prayers.
I agree with everyone else that it would be extremely helpful to know where the foot print and the skeleton were in relation to where he was playing. Also, where were the adults in relation to the kids, and in what direction did he run to hide?
This link posted by someone else earlier shows the area they were in. If he ran off to the left, he could have tripped and fallen down the big hill. If he hit his head and was knocked out, he couldn't call for help (or if he did, it's possible they wouldn't have heard him). I think it's quite possible for him to have just kept sliding or rolling down that hill until he was so hidden they never saw him. The following rain would have help to cover his body more or wash it further away.
By the time the searchers got near to where he had rolled to, he may have already been dead or unable to respond.
We would really need to try to find out the direction he went, and the hazards in the immediate area. One question inquired if Dennis may have turned around and saw his father. I have no recollection of that, so if anyone can expound on that, this would also help in studying the case!
The reports kind of mesh together over time, and because sadly so many years have passed, it is hard to keep the information straight. But it has been said that Dennis "disappeared behind a bush and was never seen again." But than, there is information that says that Dennis took off in another direction, alone. Did the adults or other children SEE him disappear behind the bush? Behind anything for that matter? Or was the view of everyone else abstracted from site? When the other children were playing, or the adults looking, did anyone look back to see the direction that Dennis was going? Again, if they did not, how do we know that he disappeared behind a bush, or thicket brush?
I was reading another article on the case, or maybe it might have been on a comment section on line somewhere, and one of the people familiar with the area was saying that because the thicket is so intense and extreme, you could have someone as little as 5 feet away, and not be found. A comparison was drawn that one time a small plane went down in the Smokies, and it took about A YEAR for them to find it. It might have been Ranger McCarter who cited this, not sure. However, he said, if it took a year to find an airplane, it could be almost impossible to find a lost child in that type of terrain. Any roaring rapids could drown out sounds of screaming, yelling, crying, or distress as little as ten feet away.
Do any of you have Google Earth installed on your computer? I don't. But maybe if you do, you might want to check Great Smokey Mountains National Park and narrow the searches down for the following where each event took place: Google Maps might help as well. Here are key places and events in this heartbreaking case:
Russell Field: This is where the whole family was the day/night before the tragedy. They hiked the next morning to Spence Field.
Spense Field: The site of the tragedy, where Dennis Martin vanished without a trace after splitting off from his brother, and the unrelated Martin family friends' children when planning to sneak up and scare the adults at the site. This was on June 14th, 1969. The time is estimated to be between 3-4:30 PM depending the account you read. Don't know how much the articles account for time zone changes. 4PM seems to be the most accepted time of the tragedy.
Sea Branch: (Rowan's Creek) The area where a witness heard a "sickening scream" on the afternoon that Dennis Martin vanished and saw an unkempt man about three minutes later moving in the woods toward the scream. The time frame he gives is about 7PM. The distance is about 7-9 miles from Spense Field. Researchers and investigators saw that was too far for Dennis to have traveled. McCarter said that the witness heard a child scream. Other reports just say it was a sickening scream. The FBI did not investigate this area because they believed it was too far. McCarver said "It is possible for a physically strong man to carry a small child between the two points." He believes more significantly, that "Dennis could have reached that area alone."
I don't know though. Carrying a kid for 7-9 miles. That seems almost impossible. Most investigators account for the investigators assessment that the distance was too far and the scream heard was an animal.
West Prong (Near Pigeon River): The area where the Oxford type shoe print similar to what Dennis was last seen wearing was found. Investigators did not examine the shoe print finding in detail because the area had already been searched. However, it is noted that there were no small children involved in the search. This print was found at least after one rain storm had already been in the area.
Tremont's Big Hollow (also try Tremont Big Hollow) The area where the skull bones of a small child were found a few years after Dennis went missing. The man knew McCarter, but did not report the skull until 1985, because he had been illegally hunting ginseng, and did not want to be prosecuted. Ranger McCarter and investigators searched in 1985, found nothing. It is believed that over the years, animals destroyed the remains. The area is 3-3 and a half miles away from where Dennis was last seen at Spense Field, and 9 miles away from where the scream and unkempt man were reported by the witness.
I do believe that an injury situation in the Dennis Martin case is very possible. He might have fallen into an underwater area, being whisked away too fast to call for help. Horrifyingly, he may have also fallen into an underground area and might have been either killed or so severely injured that the searches could not do anything because it was too late.
It seems like there were many areas underground or underwater that no matter how many searches and types of equipment they had, the rescue team may not have been able to penetrate those areas.
Last edited by Satch; 08-01-2011 at 03:06 AM.
A small thought that hit me this weekend. When the adults first started searching for Dennis, he might have deliberately run and hid from them, thinking he was playing a funny joke on them. Then he actually did get lost and was so far away by then, they couldn't hear him. Night came and he he wandered even further away with the rain washing away his tracks.
If coincidence never happened, there wouldn't be a word for it.
guys I found some really good photos of Spence Field where Dennis was last seen,I think I read they were by the shelter and these photos show just how dense it can get.I am still trying to figure how to post them,I am not good at doing it,but I will try and try today until I get it..
It is interesting that you brought this up, because I'll bet that very few (if any of the investigators even thought of this.) In fact, I didn't think of this until I read your post. I wonder what the investigators would say if they read this?! This certainly makes sense. Sure, hide somewhere for a joke and than as they call out his name, move further and further away trying to be funny. And than, Dennis becomes more focused on the joke than his surroundings, and either gets so far away that no one sees him, or meets up with a tragic fate being unaware of his area.
There was a comment on some message board from some guy's father who was involved in the search. Both parties agree about the ease in which someone could get lost our injured in the Smokies if they were not experienced and aware of their surroundings. The son claims that his Dad said, there are several areas of foliage. Foliage is deep thicket of trees, flowers and terrain that is bunched together, and he claims that when you go off the trail if you are not careful, there are some areas of foliage that actually have deep holes and caverns. He believes Dennis was walking along, got into an unsafe area somehow, and slipped and fell in a pit covered by foliage.
This kind of goes along with the posts above, about him falling and injuring himself so badly in the fall, or tragically being killed because of the impact of the fall. The foliage would cover up the very deep cavern or pit, and it would be impossible for the investigators to find him in that instance.
I don't know if the rescue teams searched pits or caverns and/or what equipment they would need to get down to them, for their own safety as well.
The theory that he fell into something; a pit, cave, mine, whatever is good except...his body would never have been found. If those bones were his (and we don't have any reason to suspect they are anyone else's), how did they wind up above ground?
I can not find Pigeon Lake or Tremont Hollow,but I did find Spence Shelter and West Prong.hope this helps in trying to follow a route he might have taken.
I tried to do the Google Earth thing, but I couldn't find some of the locations. The ones I did find weren't the correct distances from each other, so I don't know if any of it is right.
I found a pretty detailed map of the park, but it doesn't show any of the locations we're looking for.
I'll keep looking and see if there's a better map out there.
Trenny Gibson in 1976
Thelma Pauline Melton in 1981
Dennis Martin vanished in 1969 and the reports of the skeletal remains specifically said a "small child." and that this was found a few years after Dennis vanished. The exact year would be best for historical reference. However, a few years later, would probably be between 1971-1974 in that range. Way before the other two disappearances. Trenny Gibson was 16, but 1976 is a little too far from 1969 to represent "a few years later."
The ultimate question I guess for the Webslueths forum would be, could this man who claimed to have found the skull bones come to Webslueths here to post anonymously and talk in more detail about the experience? I would hope that he would not be chastised for not reporting the skull, until 1985. It just seems that he holds one of the keys to the strongest piece of physical evidence in this case. Very powerful evidence. And since he waited until 1985 to report the find, I think the details that the man would have could be of incredible importance and insight. Given the magnetite of this case, maybe some of the details may be a little hazy, but there are at least generalizations that I am sure this person has never forgotten.
The only thing I could guess would be Dennis' body going from below ground to above ground might be weathering erosion. However, that would be a lot of erosion over an approximate five year period of time. From a scientific perspective, I don't know how long it would take for a body to decompose to a skeletal structure. (Sorry for the morbid details.) Bad weather over time would have certainly hastened the process.
I think the main focuss is the skeleton as evidence and any possible relationship to the Oxford Shoe print in terms of distance and time elements. The questions raised by the poster above are outstanding!
Here is Wikipedia information about Spense Field and Tremont, which I assume is part of Tremont's Big Hollow. Note that Wikipedia is not always the most accurate because anyone can add to the database, but at least it might be a good starting resource:
Spense Field: [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spence_Field"]Spence Field - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia@@AMEPARAM@@/wiki/File:Spence-field-appalachian-trail.jpg" class="image"><img alt="" src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e2/Spence-field-appalachian-trail.jpg/275px-Spence-field-appalachian-trail.jpg"@@AMEPARAM@@commons/thumb/e/e2/Spence-field-appalachian-trail.jpg/275px-Spence-field-appalachian-trail.jpg[/ame]
This link below shows a picture of one of the Spense Field shelters, and a very brief, slightly inaccurate account of the case. It states that the other Martin children, the Carter Martin Family were cousins. Other accounts say that the Dennis Martin family met them on the mountain, but were not related.
The picture of the shelter does not take into account the vastly wooded area and the thicket of these areas. It seems to imply that the children went around the shelter and Dennis, "never returned from his side of the shelter." This is a contradiction to him disappearing behind a bush or brush. It does however say that the shelter has since been replaced with a much larger one.
One possible scenario here is that he could have accidently been bitten by a venomous snake hidden in the foliage.
I have heard there are poisonous snakes in the area, and tragically, if Dennis was running along as part of a joke to get as far away from the adults as possible, he could have yelled, or cried out and not be heard. He also could have cried out and not have have been heard if a strong wind, or rushing creek drowned out his cries for help, just running or walking around, normally.
On average, how long would it take a person to die from a venomous snake bite if help is not reached and the poison is not extracted from the body?