What Happened to Amelia Earhart? 5 Theories That Attempt to Explain Her Disappearance

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Amelia Earhart was known for breaking barriers. She became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger in 1928, and then followed up her historic feat four years later by becoming the first woman to pilot an airplane over the Atlantic. Earhart became the first person to fly from Hawaii to America's coast in 1935. 

While attempting to fly around the world at the equator in 1937, Earhart, who was born in Kansas, disappeared without a trace over the Pacific Ocean. It's a mystery that has yet to be explained to this day, but there are numerous conspiracy theories surrounding Earhart's final flight.

Read more: One Chart Reveals the Most Widely Believed Conspiracy Theories in America

Alien abduction

In one rather outlandish scenario, theorists claim Earhart was abducted by extraterrestrial beings. A website that claims to speak with the dead through spiritual mediums has offered this theory. 

"She was abducted by extraterrestrials and taken to another planet which is located thousands of light years using a technique that consists on going through the space by a tunnel that the terrestrial scientists call worm holes," a "spiritual entity," according to the blog site. "She was left there in suspended animation."

The theory proposes that Earhart made contact with aliens during her historic flight, and was either abducted or killed by the extraterrestrial beings. 

Eloped

Another theory contends Earhart used the disappearance to elope with her navigator and sea captain Fred Noonan. According to the Women of Action Network, the 1943 film Flight for Freedom attempted to portray a love connection between Earhart and Noonan — and it led to her faking her death. However, there is no concrete evidence that proves this theory.

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U.S spy

A popular theory claims Earhart and Noonan were secret U.S. spies and never intended on making their historic flight. 

"Earhart went down while on a mission for the U.S. government to fly over and photograph the Japanese-mandated islands of Truk (now Chuuk), Saipan and the Marshalls," the Women of Action Network states. "This theory suggests that while on the most dangerous leg of her attempt to fly around the world, Earhart was shot down or simply crashed on one of the islands and was either executed instantly by Japanese soldiers or captured and taken to Saipan." 

A new book titled Amelia Earhart: Beyond the Grave by W.C. Jameson tries to expound on this theory. Jameson writes that then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent Earhart on a secret mission to record Japanese military, according to Fox News.

New identity

One theory purports that Earhart survived the historic flight, and returned to the United States under a new identity. According to Rollin C. Reineck, a former Air Force colonel and author of Amelia Earhart SurvivedEarhart later married and became Irene Bolam, until her death in 1982, National Geographic reported.

What may have actually happened

In 2014, researchers uncovered that a fragment found on an uninhabited island called Nikumaroro in 1991 was from Earhart's aircraft, the "Lockheed Electra," according to Discovery News. The findings appear to provide evidence that Earhart and Noonan were castaways on an island, perhaps making a forced landing onto the atoll. 

"This is the first time an artifact found on Nikumaroro has been shown to have a direct link to Amelia Earhart," Ric Gillespie, executive director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, told Discovery News. "Earhart sent radio distress calls for at least five nights before the Electra was washed into the ocean by rising tides and surf."

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