The disappearance of Dennis Martin remains a mystery with much speculation, including a possible coverup by the FBI.

Sara B
Photo byFamily Photo/Knoxville News Sentinel Archive

In 1969 the Martin family ventured into the Great Smoky Mountains on their annual camping trip with a devastating outcome. The story of Dennis Martin is a tragedy and remains a mystery to this day, as well as speculation, and has been a popular topic amongst YouTubers and podcasters.

Theories range from alien abduction, bigfoot, feral humans, or other unknown creatures, and according to FBI records, it was a case of a missing child with no proof of what happened. But, before speculations on the subject, there are the facts, according to the FBI records.

Dennis Martin was six at the time of his disappearance on June 14, 1969. Dennis was on his first overnight camping trip with his father, William, brother Douglas, and grandfather, Clyde. An annual trip with the boys to hike into the Great Smoky Mountains, camping along the way.

There were no complications on the first day of the hike, starting from Cades Cove and hiking to Russell Field, where they spent the night, and on the second day, they walked to Spence Field, a spot closer to the Appalachian Trail. The plan was to spend the night at Spence Field, where Dennis goes missing.

On June 14, between 4 and 415, the family was preparing the campsite when another family friend joins the group. Their name was also Martin, and they had a child with them, a boy.

The boys want to play a trick on the adults; Dennis, his brother Douglas, and the friend plan to hide in the woods, and when the adults get closer, they jump out and scare them. Although Douglas and the other Martin boy go together into one area, it is reported that the boys did not want Dennis to ruin the surprise as his red shirt might give them away, he was to hide alone and he did as instructed.

Dennis went to another spot to hide; the whole time, it was reported that Martin saw where Dennis had gone and was not worried; he said he turned his head for 3 minutes, and that was all it took for Dennis to disappear. Within that period, the other two boys jumped out, except Dennis.

William gave Dennis a few minutes to appear, but he never did; William started to call his son within 5 minutes of not seeing him, and he did not reappear. William then took off to where he last saw his son, but nothing. He ran at least 2 miles through the woods looking, knowing that a 6-year-old could not make it much further than that alone.

The area outside the campsite is full of vegetation, deep ravines and full of wild animals. Dennis was described as a quiet boy and would not usually call out, but he would always respond to his name; he was about six months behind in his mental age; he was last seen wearing a red t-shirt, short green trousers, and oxford shoes.

The area the family was camping at was Spence Field, which included two shelters, with the AT running east and west through Spence Field, and including the two trails is a jeep road lead that leads out of Spence field.

When those in the area did not find Dennis, Clyde, the grandfather, hiked to Cades Cove ranger station; he arrived there around 8:30 pm. After the rangers were notified, three ranger from Cades Cove went to Spence field to check the area and questioned other campers there. No one saw anything.

That night a heavy rainstorm began, at least 2.5 inches, which did not help search efforts, as the terrain became muddy, and any scent for the dogs could have been lost. However, the rangers and family members continued the search throughout the night.

The next day the search intensified; local rescue and hiking clubs, a helicopter, and the FBI were involved in military and special forces. The special forces had their own contained communication not shared with anyone; many feel this was suspect to something more than a missing person.

Bloodhounds and the red cross were used to assist; at one point, there were up to 1400 searching for Dennis, and the rain continued. By Day five, FBI agent Jim Ride checked into the Martin family to see if he had any enemies or if anyone would want to do the family harm, but still no trace or any leads.

By day six, psychics and clairvoyants were calling in and giving the family hope and tips; unfortunately, those, too, were negative. The search continued until day 16, when the search operation was stopped.

A meeting was held with the Martins, FBI, District Ranger, and Sub District ranger, and they questioned ¨where do we go from here?¨ There was no evidence of kidnapping, so they will continue investigating it.

Chief Ranger also would allow 3 of his best men to continue the search with any volunteers who chose. The search for Dennis miller was the most extensive in national park history.

Many speculated, wondering if the other Martin family was the target and not Dennis, as well as a lady calling from Florida stating a man named Mr. Doe, who was on the search, kidnapped him and he should be watched; the FBI followed up and was still negative.

On July 21, 1969, five weeks after Dennis's disappearance, the FBI received a phone call; the man, Harold Key, stated that he was in the park the day Dennis disappeared. He heard a scream late in the afternoon and saw a man moving in the bushes; his daughters reported that it was a bear.

However, the man also stated it looked like a man carrying something over his shoulder in some reports. The man also did not know the park well and unsure how close to Spence field he was. The agency had requested that the man goes to the park with an agent to point out where he saw the ¨man or bear¨, and he did. The rangers and agent both agreed it would have been impossible for it to be a scream from Dennis.

The FBI report continues stating they followed up on the credible leads, and Mr. Martin did express his disapproval as to why they did not follow up on all the tips. Also, the FBI states that Mr. Martin has become increasingly under the influence of visionaries and unwilling to accept that his child is most likely dead.

A bit harsh, but it appeared the FBI was at a loss, was the bear or human in the woods the primary catalyst for the rumors that surrounded the case, as well as getting David Paulides involved in later years.

Many people believe Dennis was the victim of cannibalistic feral humans living undetected in the national park and Appalachian mountains. Those who believe this theory also think the FBI covers up these ¨Wild Men¨ who live in the mountains.

The idea of something else many feel it is why reports of the green beret were there, investigating to make sure nothing gets out that shouldn't. There have been reports of a man stating he saw a child's skeleton in the park; however, it was reported years later, and when rangers went to investigate, nothing was found.

David Paulides is an ex-police officer dedicated to proving the reality of bigfoot and other conspiracy theories exist, and is involved with the many disappearances of children in national parks and has established the Missing 411.

However, this theory has been seen by many as irrelevant, yet how do we know what is out there if we do not ask questions? Was Mr. Martin on to something that the child's body was never found, nor a trace of him? Is there something else out in those woods?

Whatever you prefer to believe in the disappearance of Dennis Martin is your choice. What did happen was a little boy went missing, and no trace was discovered. Maybe a tragic accident, with the wildlife, the rain, and the rivers that could have washed his body away, leaving no evidence; also, the FBI files report indicates 80 missing pages.

Was there more at play since special forces were called in? Was it to ensure that no one ever finds out what happened to Dennis Martin? I can only say it was a tragedy that no parent ever wants to face; RIP, Dennis Martin.

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