Yuba City, CA

The Unexplained Disappearance of The Yuba County Five

Sara B
Photo byDDPonUnsplash

February 24, 1978, five men disappeared: Gary Mathias, Bill Sterling, Jack Huett, Ted Weiher, and Jack Madruga. The five men were from Yuba City, California, and were headed to a college basketball game in Chico, CA.

The group became known as the Yuba County 5 when it appeared in the headlines, as they failed to make it home after the college basketball game. So what happened?

According to reports, their car broke down on the way to the game. However, to this day, no one knows what happened to these five men. After the car broke down, a tow truck driver brought the men to a local restaurant, The Straw Hat Pizza.

Witnesses stated they stayed there for a few hours, and once they left the restaurant, no one ever saw them alive again, or one of them ever again. After they were reported missing, a search party began. According to those searching, they looked everywhere and never found a trace of the men.

They did not even find the car or lead. However, there was no news, good or bad. Eventually, the vehicle was located 26 miles from The Straw Hat Pizza, unlocked and undamaged. Unfortunately, the car left no clues about what had happened to the men.

The search then expanded, asking locals if they had seen the men, but no one had seen them. So, did they vanish into thin air? People began to wonder if foul play or something more dark and sinister, unknown forces were involved.

Four Months Later June, 1978

A clue finally is found four months after the men went missing. A local hunter found the decomposed remains of one of the men, Ted. He was located only 7 miles from the Pizza restaurant.

The body was alone and lying on his back, and his shoes were placed beside the body. Yet that seems odd, but it only gets more suspicious after it is examined. He was found to be missing several teeth, as well as his clothes contained traces of toxic moonshine alcohol. The medical examiner determined that he had lived for 8-13 weeks after his disappearance due to his beard growth and weight loss.

No other injuries were found, fatal or not, and his official death was caused by exposure. And it was weird that he removed his shoes and jacket before dying, especially since it was the middle of winter. No one could explain what had happened and where the other four men had been since they were last seen together.

Three months later, in August 1978

This time, hunters found the remains of Jack. The body was found similar to that of Ted. His body was lying exposed on a mountain and miles from where he was last seen. The official cause of death was unable to be determined due to the time and condition of the body.

Yet he, too, was found without any clothes on, so the experts determined he died of hypothermia. However, he was so far up the mountain, and without clothes the officials found this strange. The two men appeared to have separated, but three were still missing.

November 1978

Nine months after they initially went missing, Chuck and Bill were found by loggers in the forest. They were discovered on a hillside, high on the mountain, and it was thought they climbed up the hill. Yet the forest was dense and heavily wooded, with steep slopes.

They also were not dressed for the weather, and like the others found, a cause of death was not able to be determined. Yet it was unclear why these men ventured into the woods without proper clothing. Gary was the only one who remained unfound.

Some reports claim he was never found, and one report claims he was found. In June 1979, a local reported finding remains partially submerged in a creek. It was determined that his cause of death was drowning; however, many questioned what happened to him as well as the other men.

Yet there is one theory that many believe is possible: Gary had a schizophrenic episode. He had a history of psychiatric behavior, leaving many to speculate what happened to these men.

However, there are discrepancies in reports. Some say that Gary was never found, and the body discovered was not his. If it is believed that Gary was never found, and it is what many sources say, some think that he led the men into the mountains to die.

The Yuba County Sheriff, Jack Beecham, believes the men were forced or manipulated and is unsure if Gary played a role in this theory.

The story has created a buzz in the area and left many questioning what happened to them. Was it a case of the supernatural or simply bad luck? Theories have been spreading since they disappeared that night.

Some theories are that they ate bad food and became delusional and confused, causing them to wander off into the woods and separate. Others wonder if it was a case of alien abduction or paranormal involvement.

Except in 2016, there were reports that investigators hid one piece of evidence that might help make sense of the story. Ted´s autopsy. This autopsy showed that his body contained radioactive materials, and it exceeded the average amount of radioactivity that should be found.

This made several think that it was a covert military operation and experimenting in the woods, and others believed aliens abducted them. The mystery remains, as no one knows what happened to these five men who went missing.

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I share legends, myths, and bizarre history, sometimes news.

Pasadena, CA

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