I am a Millenial. This means my youth consisted of listening to John Walsh and the spooky-voiced, John Walsh on the terrifying true crime shows, America's Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries.
Nearly every episode of America's Most Wanted featured a missing child due to Walsh's own son being abducted and murdered. I can still feel the iron grip of my mom's hand on my Barbie pajamas as she gasped in horror. Glancing from the thundering counsel TV and my young face -- which looked startlingly similar to the blonde-haired cherubs plastered on the screen.
I blame these two shows and the internet for my unforgiving paranoia when it comes to child abduction. There is a cold sweat that drips down my spine in Target when my kids think it would be funny to hide in the clothing racks. I have envisioned my children's disappearances pretty much daily and it's the thing that goes bump in the night for me almost every day.
I see the faces of parents missing their children on TV and my soul aches for them. When it finally comes out the child has been murdered, or, never shows up again, a little piece of my heart shatters for their family.
However, there are a few cases that surprise all parties involved. The cases that span past those crucial first 48 hours and then weeks, months, years and suddenly, presto, their child has been found! These families are the exception to the rule and give hope to those other parents pacing their nights away waiting for the calls.
These are 15 of those children who reappeared years after disappearing in thin air:
15 Boy Discovered Four Years After Going Missing
FBI agents in Missouri were nearing the end of their search for a local boy when they raided a restaurant worker's small apartment. Lucky for them, that local boy was in that apartment. Even luckier? So, was teenager who had been missing for years.
It was four days after Ben Ownby was abducted from his school bus stop in Kirkwood when agent stormed the apartment of Michael J. “Devo” Devlin, 41. To their relief, they found Ownby along with Shawn Hornbeck, a teenager who had been abducted from his rural neighborhood four years earlier.
Hornbeck was abducted while riding his bike. From there, Devlin tied him up in his apartment and, at one point, attempted to strangle him. Devlin only stopped after Hornbeck swore he would never tell anyone.
After that, the Hornbeck pretended to be Devlin's son after Devlin threatened to hurt Hornbeck's family if he didn't comply.
The rescue has been dubbed the "Missouri Miracle" and it is nothing short of that.
Thankfully, Devlin was arrested and sentenced to 74 life sentences in prison and currently resides in the protective-custody wing of the state Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, in northwestern Missouri.
14 Boy Heroically Saves Himself And Another Missing Child
A seven-year old boy in California in 1972 was abducted on his way home from school and held captive by a child molester for seven years before breaking lose and saving another kidnapped child.
Steven Stayner was abducted by Edward Murphy, an accomplice who was coerced into snatching a child by Kenneth Parnell, a child molester who took the boy 200 miles away to live in a cabin for seven years.
When Stayner entered puberty in 1980, Parnell lost sexual interest in the boy. Parnell decided to abduct another child to bring to the cabin -- and was successful in kidnapping five year old Timothy White.
Stayner was motivated by the second abduction to escape. He didn't want another child to go through the abuse he was exposed to. So, while Parnell was working his night shift, Stayner took White and hitchhiked to a police station.
Initially, Stayner just wanted to return White to his parents, but eventually revealed his identity and was returned to his family as well.
Parnell was arrested and sentenced to seven years in prison, but was paroled after five.
13 Abducted Child Solves Her Own Cold Case
For a 23 year old Atlanta woman, the details surrounding her birth and family didn't add up. She began to question her true identity in her teen years and eventually discovered she was stolen by her "mother" when she was just 19 days old.
Carlina White knew something was amiss when, as a teen, she became pregnant and asked her mother for her birth certificate so she could receive prenatal care. The woman who claimed to be her mother, Ann Pettway, told White she didn't have one because Pettway said she bought White from a drug addict when she was a baby.
This didn't sit well with White for a several years. Finally, she consulted the National Center for Missing and Exploited children and found a grainy baby picture. She knew it was her.
Sure enough, DNA test proved she was, indeed, the missing 19-day old infant.
White's parents had taken her to the hospital due to a fever. Pettway, dressed as a nurse, took the baby from the Harlem hospital and named her Nejdra Nance.
Pettway was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
12 Woman Abducted And Abused By Her Own Father
It's one thing to go missing and yearn to be reunited with your parents for years, but what if you are missing for over two decades and the person responsible is your own father? That was the horrific case for one girl who lived for 24 years being raped in a dungeon build by her father.
In 1984, Josef Fritzl lured his teenage daughter, Elisabeth into his cellar, drugged and raped her. Afterwards, he told his wife Elisabeth joined a cult and rain away. He then continued to keep Elisabeth in their soundproof cellar for 24 years.
It gets worse.
Not only did he rape her and keep her prisoner but Elisabeth birthed seven of her father's children while living in the cramped "home" he created. Fritzl took three of the children to live with him and his wife, Rosemarie, after telling his wife they were left on their doorstep by their runaway daughter.
The nightmare came to a halt when Elisabeth convinced Fritzl to take their 19-year old child to the hospital when she became very ill. Doctors immediately caught on to the situation after realizing the woman had never seen the outside world.
Fritzl is in his 80's and serving a life sentence in a prison for the criminally insane.
11 School Security Guard Holds Girl Captive For 10 Years
A 14-year old in Pennsylvania went missing for a decade -- however, the girl had never left her hometown. Actually, she was being held and raped by her middle school security guard just a few miles from her family's home.
Tanya Kach was in 8th grade when the security guard, Thomas Hose, convinced her to runaway from her family. When Kach did, he abducted her and brought her to his parents' house for the next 10 years.
Hose held Kach captive in the second floor of his parents' home. He fed the girl peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gave her a bucket to use as a toilet.
Eventually, Hose let Kach out into society and, eventually, she worked up the courage to confide in a deli worker that she had been kidnapped -- resulting in the arrest and imprisonment of Hose.
Hose was sentenced to a maximum prison sentence of 15 years but could be out in as little as 5.
10 Girl Survives Brutal Kidnapping For 8 Years
Another Austrian girl survived eight years of abuse from her kidnapper. The girl withstood upwards of 200 beatings and rapes a week while being held captive.
Her name is Natascha Kampusch and she was abducted by Wolfgang Priklopil when she was 10 yeras old.
Priklopil kept the girl in his cellar below his garage, shaved her head and made her work as a half-naked domestic sex slave. Priklopil also forced Kampusch to refer to him as "My Lord" or "Maestro" -- telling the girl she was no longer Natascha, but his property that he kept handcuffed to himself.
"When I was 14, I spent the night above ground for the first time. I lay stiff with fright on his bed as he lay down next to me and tied my wrists to his with plastic cuffs. I wasn't allowed to make a sound," Kambusch said.
Kampusch escaped her dungeon when she was 18 years old. Learning the police were about to find him, Priklopil killed himself by jumping in front of a train.
9 Girl Imprisoned For 18 Years By Religious Extremist Couple
It was the story heard 'round the world. Little Jaycee Dugard who was abducted and held prisoner for 18 years by religious extremist couple, Phillip and Nancy Garrido.
The Garridos abducted Dugard when she was 11 years old and kept her in a ramshackle shed on their property -- where Phillip would continuously rape and abuse the girl for the next 18 years.
Throughout the years, Dugard birthed two of Phillip's children before she was 15 years old.
"I can't fathom how I kept it together or, you know, I must've been checked out, you know, on a different level. You know, [I was] present, but not present for, you know, some of it, because it's terrifying on its own. But being alone, how did I even do that?" Dugard recalled.
Dugard and her daughters were rescued in 2009 when Dugard confessed to authorities her true identity.
Phillip was sentenced to over 400 years in prison and Nancy was sentenced to a mere 36 months.
8 Three Girls Saved After Over A Decade In Kidnapper's Home
Neighbors reported seeing a woman carrying a baby, screaming for help and pounding on windows of a Cleveland neighborhood. Others said they saw women on leashes in the same home -- police visited three times but it took the bravery of one woman to free herself and three other captives in one of the most harrowing horror houses of all time.
Ariel Castro held kidnapped three teenage girls, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, between 2002 and 2004 and kept them in his home for over 10 years.
The trio owe their freedom to Berry, who kicked the door of the house open and escaped with her six year old daughter -- who was conceived (with Castro) and birthed in the Cleveland home. Berry managed to get help from a neighbor who called authorities and saved the remaining captives.
Castro kept the girls locked in bedrooms and repeatedly raped (resulting in up to five pregnancies) and abused them over the 10 year entrapment.
7 Japanese Girl Held Hostage By Lunatic For Over 9 Years
A girl in Japan was headed home from school when every parents' worst nightmare struck -- she was coerced into a vehicle by a mentally unstable man who kept her hidden in his house for the next nine years.
Fusako Sano was 9 years old when a man grabbed her and kept her in the second story of his home for nearly a decade. Sano said the man cut her hair, made her wear men's clothing and made her terrified to step foot outside his home, which she didn't for her entire time in captivity.
The man's mother also lived in the home, but never went to the second story. She said her son was an angry person, so she didn't want to be in his personal space.
Sano was saved after the man brought her to the hospital for exhaustion and caused a scene. Police were called to investigate an dSano immediately identified herself and was then reunited with her family.
6 Man Pretends To Be FBI Agent To Abduct Little Girl
It was 1948, and little Florence Sally Horner was attempting to shoplift a notebook on a dare from her friends. A man caught her, told her he was an FBI agent and then kidnapped her -- taking the girl across the country as a sex slave.
Frank LaSalle, the pretend FBI agent, took 11 year old Horner on a 21-month road trip from New Jersey to California, all the while coercing the child to participate in sexual acts. LaSalle took on odd jobs, pretending to be Horner's father to anyone who asked.
Thankfully, after nearly two years as a hostage, Horner was able to get away from LaSalle long enough to call her sister telling her to, "Send the FBI!"
LaSalle was arrested and sentenced to up to 35 years in prison, but, tragically, Horner passed away a mere two years after her rescue in a car accident at the age of 15 years old.
5 Eight Children Found Captive In "House Of Horror"
A dozen young people, including eight children and four handicapped young adults, were found being held captive in a "House of Horrors" in Philadelphia. One of the children had been abused and tortured in the dungeon for two years.
The dozen victims are said to be related to victims or suspects in the alleged kidnapping ring where up to 50 missing children are said to be involved.
A 19 year old, Beatrice Weston, was rescued from the dungeon who went missing when she was just 17 years old. The woman suffered many injuries including many burns from the torture she was exposed to.
The victims were kept in a dank, dark boiler room with a mattress and board on the floor.
The kidnappers are being held on $2.5 million bail for kidnapping charges. The four criminals were keeping the young, disabled adults hostage for years in order to collect their Social Security benefits.
4 Girl Found In Mexico After 12 Years Missing
Sometimes it's family friends that take children. Sometimes strangers. Sometimes relatives. However, how does one prepare a child to be abducted by her own mother? That was the fate for one Texas girl who went missing with her non-custodial mother for 12 years.
Sabrina Allen went missing when she was just four years old after her parents, Dara Llorens and Greg Allen, divorced in 2002.
Llorens took her daughter into Mexico and managed to avoid authorities by changing both of their hair colors.
Little Sabrina hadn't seen her father in over 12 years and he was overjoyed when he heard she had been saved."I'm so grateful she's back in Texas, I haven't been able to see her yet. I understand she's been subjected to intense parental alienation. We have a long road ahead of us," Greg said.
Greg told media that Sabrina was in very bad shape after her trauma with Llorens.
"I'm going to ask her if I can give her a hug. She's in pretty bad shape is my understanding. I just pray for healing, I have a family, I've been remarried 10 years, I have young kids at home. My kids they're little they don't understand (why Sabrina can't return home immediately), they're so excited, they know Sabrina has been missing for years," Allen tearfully told reporters.
3 Girl Kidnapped And Lives In Jungle For Five Years
It's a real life story that sounds straight out of a children's book -- but for Marina Chapman, the fact that she was kidnapped, left in the jungle and survived for five years is her true life story.
In fact, Chapman published a book called "The Girl With No Name: The Incredible True Story of a Girl Raised By Monkeys" which details how the five year old survived being dropped in the jungle by being, you guessed it, raised by a tribe of monkeys.
It's suspected Chapman was kidnapped for a ransom gone wrong and, instead of killing her, the kidnappers decided to dump her in the Columbian Jungle and let Mother Nature take care of her.
The capuchin monkeys are known to be accepting of children and took Sabrina in as one of their own -- teaching her to catch animals for food with her bare hands.
Sabrina was then abducted from the jungle and sold into a brothel. From there, Sabrina managed to escape.
2 Boy Wants To Live With Kidnapper
An Ohio teen was abducted by his non-custodial father when he was just five years old, spending the next 13 years kept away from his mother and on the run -- now, the teen is saying he forgives his dad.
Julian Hernandez's father, Bobby Hernandez, was scheduled to babysit for the boy at his mother's home. Instead, Bobby left a note saying he abducted him and the duo immediately went on the run, changing their names and going into hiding.
However, even though it sounds like a nightmare situation for a child, Julian claims his time with his dad was nothing short of good parenting.
"The time I've spent with him is the only time I've ever truly felt at home and at peace," Julian said.
Julian's mother seems to think her ex-husband is nothing but a con-man and has caused Julian to be brainwashed.
Bobby was sentenced to four years in prison with five years supervised release to follow.
1 Two Toddlers Found Safe 30 Years After Being Kidnapped
The case had run cold. The years had ticked by. Hope was dwindling. But, the outcome was positive when two toddlers that went missing in 1985 were found safe 30 years later.
Kelly and Kimberly Yates had gone missing from their father's home on Rhode Island. Thanks to an anonymous tip in Texas, it was discovered the girls were taken by their non-custodial mother, Elaine Yates.
The girls have grown to ages 32 and 35 and appear in good health.
Russell Yates was surprised to finally find his daughters he lost all those years ago.
“I’ve always been trying to find my children,” Russell Yates told CBS. “Now at least, it’s up to them to get in touch with me.”
A few weeks prior to the kidnapping, Russell said he and Elaine had an argument after she found out he was having an affair. Elaine then threatened to take the girls in the night and leave and Russell punched her in the face. A few days later, Elaine and the girls disappeared.
Elaine has been arrested on abduction charges.
Sources: ABC, Saint Louis Post-Dispatch, LA Times, NY Times, NY Times, The Sun, ABC News, Telegraph, ABC News, NY Daily News, LA Times, CBS News, Gizmodo, ListVerse, Daily Mail, ABC 7 News, The Week, CBS News, AOL