John Melvin Wipert

Above: Wipert, circa 2009


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: June 2009 from Northway, Alaska
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth: May 13, 1949
  • Age: 60 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'8, 190 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian male. Gray hair, blue eyes.
  • Bar

    Details of Disappearance

    Wipert was last heard from sometime in mid-June 2009. He was working as a caretaker at the Ptarmigan Lake Lodge in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve near Northway, Alaska; his duties included protecting the property from marauding bears. He hasn't been heard from since. The lodge is situated only a few miles from the Canadian border. Wipert had been hired by the lodge's owner, Urban Rahoi, in May. Rahoi planned to buy him a plane ticket to the lower 48 states in August.

    Wippert's absence was discovered when Rahoi dropped by with groceries in the first week of July and found the property deserted. One door had been taken off its hinges and another had its hinges cut in half. The freezer was fully defrosted and there was bacon in the sink and rotting food on the counter. Two horses stabled at the lodge, a bay gelding and a black gelding, disappeared along with Wipert. Both are branded with a star and half-circle. He left a third horse in the corral and nine more in the stables. The horse in the corral was starving and dehydrated when Rahoi found it. Wipert left a note saying, "Gone to check out the cabin. Back tomorrow night." However, there is no cabin within a day's ride of the lodge.

    It's possible that Wippert tried to travel on horseback to Beaver Creek, 35 miles to the north. He had told Rahoi he wanted to go to Canada along the White River, and Rahoi recommended the Beaver Creek route instead. He left maps of the United States and Canada spread out in the lodge, and the Beaver Creek route was marked. Wipert is unfamiliar with the area, and he left his driver's license and clothing.

    An extensive search of the area turned up no indication of Wipert's whereabouts. Foul play is not suspected in his case, but it remains unsolved.


    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Alaska State Troopers
    Tok Station

    Fairbanks Station


    Source Information
    Alaska Department of Public Safety
    The Anchorage Daily News
    The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
    The White Horse Star


    Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated December 31, 2009; casefile added.

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