Between our Alexas and our iPhones and our social media platforms, it feels like most of our lives are captured in some form, be it text, video, or photos. Most of what we record is mundane and boring – but sometimes it also captures the uncanny and tragic. Sometimes our last thoughts or actions are preserved.
In Oxygen’s new series, Final Moments, premiered Sunday April 3rd at 7/6, Investigators’ efforts to solve a case depend on dissecting the victim’s final moments, using their recent interactions with family and friends, surveillance footage, text messages, and social media posts to create a timeline.
Before you watch the show, learn about some of the strangest and most eerie final moments ever captured, before someone disappeared, died under strange circumstances, or was killed.
1. Elisha Lamb
Perhaps the most famous case of weird ending material, Elisa Lam’s death has spawned some truly wild and bizarre conspiracy theories. Lam, a 21-year-old Canadian student, also known by her Cantonese name Lam Ho Yi, was traveling alone around Los Angeles in 2013 while staying at the Cecil Hotel. After she mysteriously disappeared from the building, investigators withdrew surveillance recordings of her in the hotel elevator before disappearing. The footage was undeniably disturbing: Lam is seen pushing buttons, peering around the elevator door and seemingly trying to hide from someone in the elevator, often making strange gestures.
Tragically, Lam was eventually found dead in the hotel’s water tank, naked with her clothes on the floor. It was discovered after hotel guests complained about the water pressure and color of the water.
Investigators found no evidence of foul play, and her death was ruled an accidental drowning. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2013. To this day, the weirdness of the elevator’s surveillance footage inspires conspiracy theories about her death and the Cecil Hotel (which has an interesting past!).
Brandon Swanson did the right thing when he accidentally drove into a ditch after midnight on May 14, 2008. He disappeared anyway.
Brandon was a 19-year-old freshman at Minnesota West Community and Technical College celebrating the end of the school year with friends that night. When he got stuck in a ditch near his home in Minnesota, he thought, he called his parents to ask for help, and they set out to find him.
“He was absolutely certain that he knew where he was,” said his father, Brian Swanson. said CNN in 2010. But when Brian and his wife, Annette, got to where Brandon had told them he would be – as they spoke to him on the phone the entire drive – they saw no sign of him. They flashed their lights and asked him to flash his lights as well, but to no avail. Brandon and his parents just couldn’t find each other, and eventually his father returned home, dropped Annette off, and returned to look for him. Brandon then stayed on the phone with his father for 47 minutes while trying to go to a place where his father could pick him up.
But at one point, Brandon yelled an expletive and the line went dead, according to CNN. He was never seen again, despite an extensive search of phone records in the area where he was during the calls. Officials said there was no sign of foul play, Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported in 2018.
It’s still unclear what happened to Brandon to make him scream and cut off the call, or what happened to him afterward.
3. Lars Mittank
On June 30, 2014, Lars Mittank, a 28-year-old German, traveled to Bulgaria with friends on vacation, leaving the country for the first time to Mel Magazine. Unfortunately, he would never return home to his parents.
Mittank got into an argument with sports fans who got physical on the trip – and one hit had ruptured his eardrums, according to the German news website Mirror. He told his friends he couldn’t travel back with them as the pressure in the cabin could aggravate the injury, so he stayed behind and took antibiotics for the night. His friends said everything had been normal for him that week, Mel Magazine reported.
That changed when he reached the hotel. He started calling his mother and said he was being followed and had to go into hiding. According to the outlet, he asked them to cancel his bank cards. Security footage from the hotel later showed him hiding in an elevator and pacing the foyer that night.
He did make it to Varna airport, but after being examined by the airport doctor to get clearance to fly, Mittank said something strange: “I don’t want to die here.” Then he sprinted out of the room, past the gates, just outside the airport. He then ran across the parking lot, scaled a high barbed wire fence, and ran into the woods, according to Spiegel. He had left his cell phone and luggage behind.
Nobody ever saw Mittank again. It is unclear what happened to him. Security footage of his run out of the airport has been viewed millions of times on YouTube in various video compilations, earning him the nickname “The Most Famous Missing Person on YouTube” according to Mel Magazine.
4. Gabby Petito
The disappearance of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old woman on a road trip with her boyfriend in September 2021, made national headlines. Part of the reason the story likely captivated so many people was that Petito had been documenting much of the road trip with boyfriend Brian Laundrie on TikTok and Instagram, with the social media posts seemingly describing a blissful, romantic, outdoor adventure revealed. The reality, as it turned out, was very different.
Petito was reported missing by her family after Laundrie returned from traveling without her to his parents’ home in North Port, Florida, apparently claiming they got into an argument and that he left her behind. An extensive search began for Petito and soon for Laundrie, who also disappeared after the disappearance was reported.
Weeks before Petito disappeared, a witness called 911 in Utah to report seeing a “gentleman hitting the girl.” Petito told Utah Police that she did in fact hit Laundrie, who the police report said had visible injuries. Ultimately, authorities decided not to make any arrests and separated the couple for the night, although another witness told them they saw Laundrie try to stop Petito from getting into their van, with Petito hitting him several times as she was tried to get in.
That was on August 12th. Same day, Petito posted an Instagram about a rock formation they explored in Arches National Park and described the experience as “relaxing” and “beautiful”.
On September 19, Petito’s remains were found in Wyoming’s Grand Tetons National Park. She had been strangled to death. Weeks later, Brian Laundrie was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot at a Florida wildlife sanctuary. The FBI says he claimed responsibility for Petito’s death in a notebook found near his body.
When someone enters a bar, they have to leave – right?
In the early hours of April 1, 2006, Brian Schaffer, a 27-year-old medical student at Ohio State University, was at a bar with two friends, William “Clint” Florence and Meredith Reed, to celebrate the arrival of spring on Break. He had previously gone to dinner with his father before bar hopping with Florence and eventually bonding with Reed. The trio had arrived at around 1:15 am for a finale at The Ugly Tuna Saloona in Columbus, Ohio. Somehow the three got separated – and they couldn’t find Schaffer again, Mel magazine reports.
Shaffer was soon reported missing. Police checked the bar’s surveillance tapes, where they could see him entering the bar with his friends at around 1:15 am and exiting at 1:55 am. Then he apparently entered the bar again. It was not later seen that he walked in front of the camera “Dateline.” What happened to him? How did he leave the bar without appearing on camera, or without appearing on other nearby surveillance footage? These questions have never been answered.
Schaffer is still missing today.