Left and Right: Joel circa, 1967
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: May 10, 1967
Missing From: Hannibal, Marion County, Missouri
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: July 25, 1954
Age: 12 years old
Height and Weight: 5’6″ and 100 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Male, Brown hair, Brown eyes, Joel has a scar on his forehead and a dark complexion, his nicknames include Joe and Joey
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white t-shirt and blue Jeans
Details of Disappearance
Joel was last seen with his younger brother, William Hoag, and their friend, Edwin Dowell on May 10th 1967 in Hannibal, Missouri. They were last seen in the south side area. The three of them were off to explore a cave known as Murphy’s Cave, near the Highway 79 construction project. They were carrying 1 scout shovel, flashlights, and a homemade lantern at the time.
The Hoag brothers had been punished the night prior to their disappearance since they had snuck off to the cave without permission. They were not supposed to leave their yard at the time, they snuck away while their parents were out. The boys were last seen at 5:15 pm as they watched the construction from up the road. The boys were never seen or heard from again.
Investigators believe the boys may have gotten trapped inside the cave. During the day, construction work caused a cave in at Murphy’s cave. They believed he boys were unable to get out. Extensive search and rescue operations occurred for the boys but no evidence of their whereabouts were ever found.
Another cave was searched in 2006, a construction workers were building a new elementary school on Highway 79 and discovered a small cave. Investigators looked for the bodies of Joel, William, and Edwin but the boys weren’t there. Investigators believe the boys are deceased even if they weren’t in the caves and have placed a memorial marker in the area of the cave.
Many have been skeptical of the boys true fates since no evidence of them being in the caves was ever found. There’s been speculation that the boys might have been abducted and that something else was responsible for their disappearances.
A new book written by John Wingate, a Hannibal native, suggests that the boys might have been slain by serial killer John Wayne Gacy. John was convicted of murdering 33 boys and young men in the Chicago, Illinois area between 1972 and 1978.
The theory is that John encountered the three boys near the caves and offered them a lift home. Instead, he took the boys to a nearby wooded area where he assaulted and killed them. The possibility also stands that he might have buried them in that location as well. Wingate started to heat from 3 different psychics when he started making trips to both Hannibal and Illinois to sign his book.
The 3 psychics suggested that Gacy was actually responsible for the boys demise. The first psychic showed up at Wingate’s book conference and became visibly upset because she felt the boys presence as he spoke. Several weeks later, another psychic called one the sisters of the Hoag brothers and said she believed without a doubt that John Wayne Gacy was in fact responsible for the deaths of her two brothers and their friend.
Another woman from Wyoming who is a psychic claimed that when she was looking at photos of the three boys, she saw visions of the boys being assaulted and slain by Gacy.
Apparently, this wasn’t the first time that Gacy’s name came up in connection to the three boys in Hannibal. When he was arrested for his crimes in 1978, many rumors and questions went around as to whether Gacy could’ve been in Hannibal at the time they disappeared.
It was discovered that Gacy was living and working in Waterloo, Iowa in 1967 while his mother was living in Little Rock, Arkansas at the time. If Gacy was to go and visit his mother, he would take Highway 61 which takes you right through Hannibal.
There is also the fact that during the huge search for the boys in 1967, man people in Hannibal reported seeing a “mystery man” hanging around the cave entrances for a couple of days while the road construction took place. The boys were known to be playing in the caves in the days before they disappeared. The man was never seen again after the boys disappeared.
There was some skepticism towards the 3 women all sensing a connection to the boys and Gacy but it’s been noted that they all corroborated each other’s information independently. Two of the psychics did tell Wingate that the mystery man was actually Gacy. John would’ve been 35 years old when the boys went missing in 1967.
He also drove each of the women around Hannibal to see if they indicated any areas of interest in August and September of 2018. He said all 3 of them indicated some of the same areas and locations in relation to Gacy and the boys. He said “In all three cases, we’d find ourselves standing at the same location on three different days” and described it as beyond coincidental.
One of the psychics also suggested hat Gacy could’ve been responsible for two other disappearances in the Monroe City area. John Wagner was last seen in Monroe City after he dropped his little brother off at a school dance in February of 1968. In June of 1977, Rickey Enochs left his home in Monroe City with an unidentified individual in a vehicle with Illinois license plates and was never seen again. Both boys remain missing.
Gacy has not been proven to be the killer of the Hoag brothers and Edwin but there’s much speculation that he was involved. He was executed by lethal injection on May 9th 1994. He was a diagnosed psychopath who showed no remorse for any of his crimes.
At the time of their disappearances, Joel and William lived with their parents and their siblings which included 5 brothers and 4 sisters. Their family owned Hoag’s Tavern which was a popular restaurant on Main Street. Joel and Edwin both attended Hannibal Junior High at the time they went missing and were in the 8th grade.
Their disappearances remains unsolved and there’s no trace of what happened to them that evening.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Hannibal Police Department 573-221-0987