Horicon, N.Y. — On Nov. 15, 2015, Thomas Messick Sr. and a group of friends and family headed into the woods of the Eastern Adirondacks in New York for a Sunday afternoon of deer hunting. Some members of the group of seven had hunted together for decades, and they chose an area around Lily Pond near Brant Lake that they had not visited before.
The 82-year-old Messick, whose role was to serve on watch during a drive by younger members of the group, was said to have taken a position sitting on a tree stump, while younger members of the group set off to try to push deer toward him and two others on watch not far from a logging road, below a ridge. But when the group arrived back at his location an hour or so later, Messick could not be found and state forest rangers were called.
The days that ensued brought one of the most involved searches in the Adirondacks in years, as an estimated 29 square miles in remote northern Warren County were covered by more than 300 searchers. But eight years later not a trace of Messick has been found, leaving many to wonder whether he was befallen by a fatal accident, foul play or something more unusual.
The state Department of Environmental Conservation initially led the ground search, assisted by local firefighters, police and volunteer search-and-rescue groups using helicopters, search dogs and divers into the winter.
Detectives from the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation have become more involved in the case as time has passed, with investigators continuing to pursue leads as they are generated. But investigators have not disclosed whether they have any concrete ideas as to what happened.
“It’s an active investigation, we are still working every angle,” said State Police Investigator Jon Deyette, who was among those in the woods in November, 2015 as part of the initial search effort. “Missing persons cases aren’t closed until we figure out what happened.”
Messick was an experienced outdoorsman but he was missing one eye, and had no water or food other than a snacksized Snickers bar. He had a hunting rifle and a walkie-talkie.
The spot where he was last seen in the Town of Horicon is remote state land, surrounded by miles of woods and a few seasonal homes. It is generally frequented only by hikers, hunters, campers and anglers.
Messick’s family initially theorized that he walked off and either had a medical problem (he had a history of heart issues) or got lost and settled in a spot behind a tree or rock where he couldn’t be found. The forested area around Lily Pond also has some caves and crevices, as well as remnants of old mines.
But as time has passed, and no clues of Messick’s whereabouts have emerged, many theories have emerged.
Numerous online sleuths have posted videos on YouTube examining the disappearance and investigation, some questioning whether extraterrestrials could be responsible. One member of the hunting party reported a strange, unexplained noise while they were in the woods that day.
It’s not unprecedented for people to disappear without a trace in the forests of the Adirondacks, but the unsolved cases have typically involved people who are much younger and more mobile than Messick or who were in more remote areas.
A spokeswoman for the DEC said forest rangers continue to check the area for any potential signs of Messick. Rangers take groups to check the heavily wooded area to search as part of training sessions, while volunteers continue to head into the woods at times as well.
“DEC considers this an open, limited-continuous search and continues search efforts as resources are available,” the spokeswoman said.
Anyone with information regarding Messick’s disappearance is asked to call State Police at 518-583-7000.