People who like true crime stories will sometimes talk about people who went missing in national parks. Most of the time, these disappearances are very strange, and the person just vanishes without a trace. This didn’t happen in a national park, but a young boy went missing while camping and hasn’t been seen in almost 46 years. This is Kurt Newton’s case.
On July 28, 1971, Kurt Ronald Newton was born to Ronald and Jill Newton. Kimberly, his older sister, was also happy to see him.
Kurt was raised in Manchester, Maine, which is close to the south of the state. When he was young, a neighbor called him “the cutest, sweetest snot-nosed kid you ever saw.” Mother Jill said that he had a “sweet face,” but she was worried that he liked her too much. Kurt was shy and didn’t like to be away from his mom for long periods of time. He didn’t like being in the woods either. When he wouldn’t go in with his sister one day, he told his mom it was because “monsters were in there.”
The Newtons decided to go camping as a family over Labor Day weekend in 1975. They went to Natanis Point Campground, which is in a remote part of Chain of Ponds Township, not far from the border between Maine and Quebec. This trip should have been a lot of fun for 4-year-old Kurt and 6-year-old Kimberly. But things changed that Sunday morning.
I found a few different possibilities for when Kurt was last seen, but most of them were between 10 and 11 a.m. on Sunday. Mom washed a pair of muddy shoes for Kurt. It had rained a lot over the weekend, so there was a lot of mud around. His sister was playing, and his dad was going out to get wood for the fire. A camper next door said that Kurt called for his dad as he rode away on his tricycle.
Most sources said that Lou Ellen Hanson, who was 11 at the time, was the last person to see Kurt. She called out to him and asked if he knew where his parents were, but he didn’t answer and kept pedaling.
Kurt’s tricycle was found unharmed less than an hour later on a steep hill near a dump site less than a mile from the campground. John Hanson, the father of Lou Ellen Hanson and a volunteer at the campground, found the tricycle. He didn’t think much of it at the time. No one had yet noticed that Kurt was missing, so he thought that a kid had just left it there. When he brought it back to the campsite, Kurt’s mother started to worry. She asked people who were camping if they had seen Kurt, but no one had. When she heard that his tricycle had been found at a dump, she said, “Oh my God, someone has taken him!” At 12:22 p.m., the owner of the campground told the police that Kurt was missing.
From here, police started what became known as the biggest search in Maine’s history. Multiple searches were done of all the roads and trails within five miles of the camp, as well as the dump and the area around it, the campground, and the buildings on or near it. There were military helicopters and dogs called in. They didn’t find much, though.
Kurt couldn’t be found anywhere near where his tricycle was found. If he had been walking around the area, his shoes should have left clear marks in the wet sand, but none were found. Beyond the dump, the road was hard to walk on because it was full of bushes and trees, some of which had fallen across the road. So, he probably couldn’t have gone this way. There were also no tricycle tracks on the road, which is probably because his wheels were smooth.
Jill Newton thought she heard a child’s voice in the woods near the dump just before it got dark on December 31. She called Kurt’s name for about 15 minutes, but he never answered. Even when other people looked, they couldn’t find anything. Ronald Newton told the police that he and a friend would call for Kurt every hour for the rest of the night from different places.
That night, it was below freezing, so Kurt wouldn’t have been able to stay outside for long without a place to stay. The next day, dogs could smell Kurt’s pyjamas, but they couldn’t smell anything else. Ronald Newton hurt his ankle early on and couldn’t do much, but he still called for his son every night.
On September 12, the search was officially over. More than 3,000 people spent over 2,000 hours and more than 20,000 miles looking for Kurt. But they hadn’t found much.
In addition to the searches, the police talked to everyone at the campground. One camper said that after Kurt was last seen, she saw a white station waggon at the campground. She said that the station waggon drove away so quickly that a cloud of dust was left behind. No white station waggons were registered at the campground, and no one else had seen this car.
And the police didn’t think anything was wrong. They thought Kurt had probably left the campsite and gotten lost on his way back. Said State Police Lieutenant G. Paul Falconer:
“From the start, we never ruled out the idea that Kurt was taken, but there are no signs that he isn’t in the woods.”
According to State Police Detective Richard Cook, head of the investigation at the time:
“There are so many children in the cities, why would a kidnapper go to one of the most remote campgrounds in the state to try to find a child riding a tricycle alone down a deserted road?”
But Kurt’s parents still thought he had been kidnapped and maybe taken to Canada. Before going back to Manchester, they stayed in the area for two more weeks.
About two years later, when Kurt would have started school, they sent posters to every school district in the country saying that he was missing. It took about six months and cost more than $5,000 to do this. Some schools answered with pictures of students who looked like Kurt. The police looked into these clues, but none of them led to anything.
Several people have said they saw Kurt over the years, but none of them have been proven to be him. A man who was camping in the Canadian Rockies said he saw a boy who looked like Kurt. That same week, two waitresses in a Vermont restaurant said they saw a boy who looked like him. He was found in the end, but it wasn’t Kurt. About four months after he had gone missing, he was seen again in New Orleans. This boy was as shy as Kurt and would only answer to names that started with a “k.” Later, the boy was found out to not be Kurt. In 1979, when an article about Kurt’s disappearance was printed in Yankee Magazine, even more people said they had seen him. But none of these clues led to anything.