A Family Of Five Disappeared Without A Trace In 1958 In Oregon's Strangest Cold Case

On December 7, 1958, the Martin family set out from their home in Portland, Oregon, toward the Columbia River Gorge to collect decorative greenery for the approaching Christmas festivities. Back in the house, dishes were left piled up in the sink, and clothes were left in the washing machine, suggesting the family had planned to return pretty quickly. But the sad fact is the Martins would never return. The family vanished that day, and nobody knows what happened to them. There’s no shortage of theories, though, and one of them is especially disturbing.

Family history

Barbara Cable married Kenneth Martin on November 28, 1929. They quickly got to work on starting a family, bringing son Donald into the world first, followed by Barbara — better known as “Barbie” — Virginia, and Susan. By 1958 the kids had reached the ages of 28, 14, 13, and 11, respectively. Donald, by far the oldest of the bunch, was actually living in New York by this point, having been posted there by the Navy.

A popular bunch

The Martin clan were a popular bunch, big on involvement with their local community. They were always keeping busy, whether it was organizing local talent competitions, setting up Kool-Aid stands, or even by putting on parades. Christmas was an especially beloved time for the group, with family patriarch Ken playing Santa each year and gifting local kids with candy canes.

An invitation to dinner

The afternoon the Martins went missing, some relatives had invited them to dinner at their place. Ken had declined, telling them that he and his family had already made plans to go to the Columbia River Gorge that day. They were going to collect some plants out there, which they’d then fashion into Christmas decorations.

Disputed timings

The exact time the Martins left their home is disputed. A neighbor named Ella Chinn claimed she’d seen them depart at around 2:00 p.m. But Frank Womack, who was apparently outside giving his car a wash at the time, felt differently. He asserted the time had been closer to 1:30 p.m. But regardless of whatever the precise time was, Ken, Barbara, 14-year-old Barbie, 13-year-old Virginia, and 11-year-old Sue all, at some point, hopped inside their cream-and-red car and set out.