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Crime News Final Moments

Strange Surveillance Videos, Eerie Texts —The Creepiest Final Moments Captured Before Deaths And Disappearances

When these victims seemingly vanished or died unexpectedly, it was a shocking tragedy only made more disturbing by their last words or moments seen on camera.

By Becca van Sambeck

Between our Alexas and our iPhones and our social media platforms, it feels like the majority of our lives are captured in some form or another, whether it be through text, video, or photo. Most of what we record is mundane and boring — but sometimes the eerie and the tragic is captured, too. Sometimes, our last thoughts or actions are preserved.

How to Watch

Watch Final Moments on Peacock and the Oxygen app

In Oxygen's new series "Final Moments," premiering Sunday, April 3 at 7/6,  investigators' efforts to solve a case hinge on dissecting the victim’s final moments, using their last interactions with family and friends, surveillance footage, text messages, and social media posts to build a timeline.

Before watching the show, learn about some of the strangest and most eerie final moments ever captured before someone vanished, died under strange circumstances, or was killed. 

1. Elisa Lam

Maybe the most famous case of strange final footage, the death of Elisa Lam has spawned some truly wild and bizarre conspiracy theories. Lam, a 21-year-old Canadian college student also known by her Cantonese name Lam Ho Yi, was traveling in Los Angeles by herself in 2013 when she stayed at the Cecil Hotel. After she mysteriously vanished from the building, investigators pulled surveillance footage of her in the hotel elevator before she disappeared. The footage was undoubtedly unsettling: 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 water tank, naked with her clothes at the bottom of it. She was discovered after hotel guests complained about the water pressure and the color of the water.

Investigators found no sign of foul play, and her death was ruled an accidental drowning, The Los Angeles Times reported in 2013. To this day, the oddness of the elevator surveillance footage continues to inspire conspiracy theories surrounding her death and the Cecil Hotel (which does have an interesting past!).

2. Brandon Swanson

Brandon Swanson did the right thing when he accidentally drove into a ditch after midnight on May 14, 2008. He still vanished.

Brandon was a 19-year-old freshman at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, out that night celebrating the end of the school year with friends. When he got stuck in a ditch close to his home in Minnesota, he thought, he called his parents to ask for help and they headed out to find him.

"He was absolutely positive he knew where he was," his father, Brian Swanson, told CNN in 2010. But when Brian and his wife, Annette, arrived at where Brandon told them he'd be — as they stayed on the phone with him the entire drive — they saw no sign of him. They flashed their lights and asked him to flash his lights, too, but to no avail. Brandon and his parents simply couldn't locate each other, and eventually, his father returned home, dropped Annette off, and returned to look for him. Brandon then stayed on the phone was his dad for 47 minutes while attempting to walk to a place where his father could pick him up.

But at a certain point, Brandon yelled out an expletive and the line went dead, according to CNN. He was never seen again, despite an extensive search of the area phone records put him at during the time of 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 yell and cut the call, or what happened to him afterward.

3. Lars Mittank

On June 30, 2014, Lars Mittank, a 28-year-old German man, traveled with friends on vacation to Bulgaria, the first time he'd left the country, according to Mel Magazine. Sadly, he would never return home to his parents.

Mittank got into an argument with sports fans that turned physical on the trip — and one hit had burst his eardrum, according to German news website Spiegel. He told his friends he couldn't travel back with them, as the change in cabin pressure could aggravate the injury, so he was staying behind and taking antibiotics for the night. His friends said everything had been very normal with him that week, Mel Magazine reported.

That all changed once he reached the hotel. He started calling his mother, saying he was being followed and needed to hide. He told her to cancel his bank cards, according to the outlet. Security footage from the hotel later showed him hiding in an elevator and pacing back and forth in the foyer that night.

He did make it to the airport in Varna, but after being examined by the airport doctor to get the all-clear to fly, Mittank said something odd: "I don't want to die here." He then sprinted out the room, past the boarding gates, right 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.

No one ever saw Mittank again. It's 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 moniker of "The Most Famous Missing Person on YouTube," according to Mel Magazine.

4. Gabby Petito

The September 2021 disappearance of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old on a road trip with her boyfriend, made headlines across the country. Part of the reason the story likely gripped so many people was because Petito had documented much of the road trip with boyfriend Brian Laundrie on TikTok and Instagram, the social media posts seemingly revealing a blissful, romantic, outdoorsy adventure. The reality, it turned out, was very different.

Petito was reported missing by her family after Laundrie returned from the trip without her to his parents' home in North Port, Florida, apparently claiming they had gotten into a fight and he had left her behind. An extensive search began for Petito, and soon one also began for Laundrie, who also vanished after the disappearance was reported.

Weeks before Petito disappeared, a witness has called 911 in Utah to report seeing a "gentleman slapping the girl." Petito told Utah police she had actually been hitting Laundrie, who had visible injuries, according to the police report. Ultimately, authorities decided not to make any arrests and separated the pair for the night, although another witness did tell them they saw Laundrie try to prevent Petito from getting into their van, with Petito hitting him multiple times as she tried to climb in.

That was on August 12. That same day, Petito posted an Instagram about a rock formation they explored in Arches National Park, describing the experience as "relaxing" and "beautiful."

On September 19, Petito's remains were found in Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming. She had been strangled to death. Brian Laundrie was found dead in a nature preserve in Florida from a self-inflicted gunshot weeks later. The FBI says that in a notebook found near his body, he took responsibility for Petito's death.

5. Brian Schaffer

When someone walks into a bar, they have to leave it — right?

In the early morning hours of April 1, 2006, Brian Schaffer, a 27-year-old completing medical school at Ohio State University, was at a bar with two friends, William "Clint" Florence and Meredith Reed, celebrating the arrival of spring break. He had gone to dinner with his dad earlier before bar hopping with Florence and eventually connecting with Reed. The trio had arrived around 1:15 a.m, for a final around at The Ugly Tuna Saloona in Columbus, Ohio. Somehow, the three got separated — and they couldn't find Schaffer again, Mel Magazine reported.

Shaffer was soon reported missing. Police checked out the bar's surveillance tapes, where they could see him enter the bar at around 1:15 a.m. with his friends, then back outside at 1:55 a.m. He then seemingly re-entered the bar. There was no sight of him leaving on camera later on, according to "Dateline." What happened to him? How did he exit the bar without appearing on camera, or without appearing on any other nearby surveillance footage? These questions have never been answered.

To this day, Schaffer remains missing.

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