It’s an April evening in Montana when Patricia Meehan’s vehicle crashes head-on into oncoming traffic. Miraculously, she survives and witnesses spot her standing dazed at the side of the road. But then she disappears, sparking a mystery that will haunt her family for the next 30 years.
Dolly and Thomas Meehan welcomed their daughter Patricia into the world on November 1, 1951, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After spending her youth in the city, Patricia had aspirations to work in daycare, and she began studying early childhood development at college in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
However, in 1985, Patricia – then in her 30s – had a change of heart. Always an animal lover, she decided to pursue a new career as a ranch hand. So, she moved to Bozeman, a Montana city located in the picturesque Rocky Mountains. There, she picked up casual work in order to supplement her income.
By April 1989, Patricia was settled in Bozeman – although things were far from perfect. Apparently, she was suffering from depression and seeking professional help. However, she kept in contact with her family and no one could have predicted the bizarre direction that her life was about to take.
At around 8:15 p.m. on April 20, 1989, a woman named Peggy Bueller was driving with her dad along Montana Highway 200. Heading west, Peggy was just outside the small town of Circle, MT, when she spotted a car traveling the opposite way. Worryingly, it was on their side of the road.
Fortunately, Peggy was able to get out of the way in time to avoid an accident – but the driver behind her wasn’t so lucky. Moments later, the vehicle collided with a car belonging to Carol Heitz, an off-duty police dispatcher. Yet somehow, despite the accident, both drivers appeared to escape unhurt.
According to Carol, a woman with blonde hair climbed out of the wrecked vehicle and approached her. But when the blonde woman got there, she simply stared into space – as if she was in some kind of stupor. By this time, Peggy had stopped at the side of the highway – and she, too, witnessed some strange behavior.
Apparently, Peggy saw the woman scale a barrier by the road before looking at the aftermath of the collision from the other side. And after spending a few moments staring, she wandered off into a field. She never reappeared. Peggy then left her father with Carol while she drove to town to fetch help.
Soon, police arrived on the scene – but the unknown woman was still nowhere to be found. However, officers were quickly able to trace the vehicle to Patricia Meehan. Apparently, she had last been seen by her landlord in Bozeman, who pointed out that she had been acting strangely. But how had she ended up almost 400 miles away from home and where was she now?
As the authorities searched the area they discovered a line of footprints that they thought belonged to Patricia. However, after following the trail of steps through the night, they lost track of them. And as morning dawned, there was still no sign of the 37-year-old – nor any indication of where she might have gone.
Soon, Dolly and Thomas made their way to Montana along with Patricia’s brother, Terry. Desperate to locate their missing daughter, the family handed out more than 2,000 leaflets across the Pacific Northwest. Meanwhile, volunteers began scouring the area by foot, on horseback and on ATVs.
But even though Patricia’s family acquired a helicopter to search the region, they could find no clues as to her whereabouts. Understandably, the police were baffled. Had Patricia hitched a ride out of the area, they wondered, or had she stowed away in a nearby vehicle? The truth, much to the Meehans distress, remained a mystery.
Frustratingly, there was no indication as to what Patricia had been doing in Montana before her disappearance. Although police recovered a camera from her vehicle, the film inside it revealed little – just a photograph that Patricia had taken of herself, showing her staring, unsmiling, into a mirror.
But as the search continued, sightings of Patricia began pouring in. The first was reported by a policeman in Luverne, Minnesota, almost 700 miles from the scene of the accident. Apparently, he had spotted her sitting alone in a restaurant, drinking water for several hours until the establishment closed.
Afterwards, the possible-Patricia made her way to another restaurant. The officer followed her, but when questioned she would not give her name. Moreover, the woman said that she was from both Israel and Colorado. Apparently, when the Meehans showed the witness actual footage of Patricia, he was able to positively identify her.
According to Patricia’s family, this behavior was unusual. “This is not like her,” Dolly told the Spokane Chronicle in 1989. “We think that she has amnesia, that she is confused and scared. We’re quite sure that she does not know who she is.” Meanwhile, sightings of Patricia continued to be reported.
On May 5, staff at a South Dakota roadside restaurant claimed to have seen Patricia sipping coffee there through the night. And later that day, a waitress more than 200 miles away in Murdo, SD, reported having seen the missing woman passing through with a man of a similar age. Then, on May 19, there was a sighting of Patricia close to her Bozeman home.
Apparently, a waitress had served breakfast to a woman matching Patricia’s description. After wolfing down her meal, the diner then claimed that she needed to go shopping. Moreover, another member of staff stated that the customer had been talking aloud, but to herself, appearing to be confused by her surroundings.
Later that month, Patricia was spotted in Washington, where an ex-boyfriend of hers lived. And by June 1989, there had been more than 25 reported sightings of the missing woman. However, none of them led to any concrete leads. “Doing something like this is really hard,” Thomas told the Spokane Chronicle. “It’s like chasing the wind.”
Then, in August 1990 police in Idaho picked up a homeless woman who bore a startling resemblance to Patricia. Could she have been the source of at least some of the sightings? Sadly, to this day, the Meehans still have no idea what happened to their missing daughter. Did she wander off into the wilderness to meet an unknown fate? Or is she alive somewhere, oblivious to the fact that her family have been searching for her for years? For now, at least, the mystery remains unsolved.