10 Things That Went Missing Without a Trace

Solomon Northup, Author of "12 Years a Slave"
This illustration, taken from the book "Twelve Years a Slave," shows Solomon Northup refusing to flog his fellow slave Patsey. Wikimedia Commons

The tragic story of Solomon Northup, a free-born African-American who in 1841 was lured from his New York state home to Washington, D.C., and then kidnapped and forced into slavery in Louisiana, became famous due to the Oscar-winning 2013 film based upon his memoirs. But most of those who were moved by Northup's successful struggle to regain his freedom probably are unaware that his life took a second troubling turn.

After returning home to New York in 1853 and publishing a book about his experiences, Northup went on a speaking tour as an antislavery activist and became involved in the Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves find refuge in Canada. But around 1863, he mysteriously dropped out of sight, and no records of his fate exist. Some believe he may have been captured and killed while serving as a Union spy, while others fear that he was kidnapped and again sold into slavery, though that seems unlikely [source: Carola]. It is known that he experienced financial difficulties and lost his property, and some speculate he might have disappeared to start life over away from his creditors [source: Robichaux]. Although his final whereabouts are unknown, in 2014 five generations of descendants posed for photographs in The Hollywood Reporter.