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What Really Happened To Amelia Earhart? Check Out The 8 Best Theories!

Nobody knows for sure, but some of these theories are pretty ingenious. Amelia Earhart’s disappearance has been the subject of books, movies, and news stories. Find out what most likely happened to the lost plane.

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1. She ran out of fuel over the Pacific Ocean.

Air Facts Journal / Via

This theory is generally accepted to be the most likely explanation for the plane’s disappearance. The plane was on its way to refuel on Howland Island, but Amelia radioed that she was unable to locate the island. Low on fuel and circling in search of the island, it’s likely that she eventually crashed into the Pacific Ocean.

2. She was sent to spy on the Japanese.

PBS / Via

In the years leading up to WWII, there was plenty of reason to keep an eye on the expanding Japanese empire. One theory is that Franklin D. Roosevelt sent Earhart to spy on the Japanese, but she was captured. This idea was the basis for the 1943 movie “Flight for Freedom,” but it seems unlikely. First, her flight was widely publicized at the time, which would be a curious way to handle a spy mission. Second, her route went across South America, Africa, and Australia, an itinerary that specifically avoids territory controlled by the Japanese at that time.

3. She was stranded on Gardner Island and died before rescuers could find her.

AP / Via

This theory has become much more popular in recent years. In 1940, a skeleton was found on Gardner Island, which is now called Nikumaroro. The skeleton was mistakenly identified as a male, but more recent analysis has concluded that the bones belonged to a white female. Pieces of a civilian plane have also been found on the island, though it’s likely that the plane itself would have disappeared into the ocean. People who know about the evolution of aircraft materials say that the parts are from the correct era. In the days after the crash, people around the world claimed to receive over 100 distress calls from the downed pilot.

4. Maybe she just ended up in New Jersey?

Woodbridge News Tribune / Via

A book titled “Amelia Earhart Lives’ proposed a theory that the pilot was taken prisoner by the Japanese and eventually brought back to America in secret. The author of the book claimed that Amelia was then living as a New Jersey banker named Irene Bolam. The book was withdrawn after Bolam filed a lawsuit, denying the claims. Analysts who have compared photographs of Bolam and Earhart have concluded that they are probably not the same person, but the theory persists.

5. Amelia was captured and worked as “Tokyo Rose.” / Via

A number of theories involve Amelia crashing or landing in Japanese territory and being taken prisoner. Some Americans at the time believed that Amelia might be one of the feminine radio personalities known as “Tokyo Rose.” Amelia’s husband actually listened to hours of the programs to see if he could recognize her voice, but none of the broadcasters seemed to be his wife. After the war, Iva Toguri D'Aquino was convicted of treason for her role in Japanese propaganda as the most prominent Tokyo Rose. D'Aquino was eventually pardoned, and her citizenship was restored in 1977.

6. She was captured and showed up in a photo on Emirau Island.

UPI / Via

Emirau Island is not particularly close to the place where Amelia last used her radio, but a sailor in the U.S. Navy saw a curious photograph in the hut of a native islander. The picture appeared to include Amelia Earhart, a missionary, and a Japanese officer. When reported, the picture was allegedly taken by naval intelligence officers. While the picture hasn’t been seen by the public, it more likely contains a lookalike. Around 500 Allied POWs were unloaded from a raiding vessel onto Emirau Island in 1940.

7. She disappeared with Fred Noonan to escape the limelight.

AP / Via

Amelia Earhart was a feminist ahead of her time, and she only reluctantly agreed to marry George Putnam. According to one source, he proposed six times before getting her to accept. At the wedding, she wore a brown suit and plain platinum ring, and her vows didn’t include the word “obey.” Her prenup included stipulations that were similarly ahead of their time: “On our life together I want you to understand I shall not hold you to any midaeval [sic] code of faithfulness to me nor shall I consider myself bound to you similarly.” Likely in connection with her unusual marriage, Amelia was eventually rumored to have a romantic relationship with her navigator, Fred Noonan. It seems possible that the two could have used their disappearance to escape the scrutiny of the public eye.

8. She was abducted by aliens.

Deevolution at Memory Alpha / Via

Sure, it’s out there. However, when there are so many conflicting theories, it can be hard to completely rule out the argument that Earhart disappeared because of an encounter with extraterrestrials. In fact, Star Trek: Voyager did an episode titled “the ‘37’s”, where Earhart is found on a faraway planet, together with other people and artifacts from that era of Earth’s history.

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