Hannibal News

Author of 'Lost Boys' book on cave disappearance to speak in Hannibal

A May 1967 photo was taken near one of the new cave openings that appeared while construction crews were building what is now Mo. 79 at the south end of Hannibal, Mo. When three local boys disappeared after being seen near one of the cave openings, search crews from around the country explored these and other nearby cave openings in a futile search for the lost boys. | Submitted photo
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Mar. 7, 2018 8:50 am
John Wingate

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Author John Wingate will be in Hannibal this weekend to talk about and sign copies of his book about the 1967 disappearance of three Hannibal boys in a cave complex on the south end of town.

Wingate will make a public appearance at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum, 120 N. Main St. His talk in the museum's gallery auditorium is free. Copies of the book, "Lost Boys of Hannibal: Inside America's Largest Cave Search," will be available for sale in the museum's gift shop.

Wingate spent his first 11 years living in Hannibal -- not far from where a massive search took place in May 1967, when three Hannibal boys were reported missing in the underground cave complex that extends across the city's south side near what is now Mo. 79.

Wingate, whose family moved to Quincy, Ill., in 1964, was friends with two of the boys -- brothers Joel Hoag, 13, and Billy Hoag, 11 -- who vanished May 10 along with another local boy, Edwin Craig Dowell, 14.

More than 200 cavers from across the nation converged on Hannibal to search the labyrinth of underground passageways, but the missing boys were never found -- despite search efforts that persisted for more than a month.

Wingate's book came out last year in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the boys' disappearance. It offers insights into what happened before and after the boys vanished and turned Hannibal into the center of an international news event.

Wingate, a writer and communications consultant who now lives in Minnesota, interviewed many cavers who searched for the youths.

In an interview last year, Wingate said he wrote the book to commemorate one of the most tragic events in Hannibal's history.

"We need to honor the boys, and we need to honor the 200 to 300 people who, in many cases, risked their own lives to try to find them," he said.

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