Left and Center: Joseph circa, 1974
Right: Age Progressed to age 56
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: January 27, 1974
Missing From: Hammond, Lake County, Indiana
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: July 21, 1962
Age: 11 years old
Height and Weight: 4’0″ and 65 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: White Male, Brown hair, Brown eyes, Joseph previously broke his arm at the age of 5 and is known to wear eyeglasses
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A tan trench coat over a brown hooded corduroy shirt or jacket, green rubber hunting boots with yellow tops, Joseph was also wearing his glasses on the day of his disappearance
NCMEC Number: 847615
Details of Disappearance
Joseph Spisak was last seen in Hammond, Indiana on January 27th 1974. That morning, he delivered newspapers along his paper route and stopped on McCook Avenue to drop off his bag and toboggan at home and proceeded to go back out.
After he delivered his papers, Joseph was usually known to attend mass at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church which was located just a few blocks away from his home in the 700 block of McCook Avenue. He never arrived back home for lunch.
Joseph’s family had a rule that it was ok to not be home for breakfast or lunch, but you had to be home by 5:00 pm for dinner. That was their family time they all had together. His parents called a friend of Joseph’s when he didn’t make it home for lunch and the friend said he saw Joseph playing on the grounds of the Morton School.
When supper time came, Joseph had not returned home and his parents began to worry. They started calling different people and when they discovered he was with no one, they called the police and reported him missing.
Police officers checked his residence and surrounding areas to ensure Joseph wasn’t hiding or sleeping somewhere. Extensive searches conducted in the next few weeks took place in other neighborhoods and areas, no trace of Joseph was ever found.
Joseph was last sighted walking near the Catholic cemetery along Kennedy Avenue near the Norfolk and Western railroad tracks by witnesses whom were friends of his. Other witnesses saw him on the tracks walking southeast near the Hessville Cemetery at 169th and Arizona.
He was never seen or heard from again afterwards. There were many theories regarding Joseph’s disappearance. Investigators considered that the boy might have runaway from home on his own accord. There were multiple sightings of Joseph after he went missing but they were either unconfirmed or letdowns.
There was once a lead that Joseph had been traveling with a man from southern Indiana. The man and Joseph were said to have traveled from Milford, Indiana to Hazard, Kentucky. There were reports that a child matching Joseph was living on the top of a small mountain in Hazard and police traveled there to see if the child was him but it turned out not to be.
His family never believed he ran away, however. Joseph was close to his two younger brothers, Thomas and Steven, and the three even shared a bedroom together. They said that if he had any plans of leaving, they would’ve known about that. He only had the clothing he was wearing that day and had only $5 in his pocket.
When his siblings, Elsa and Thomas, got older they started to look for answers in Joseph’s case. They got calls from people who claimed that Joseph came and knocked on their doors during the morning of his disappearance. He told them a person in a blue car was following him as he did his paper route.
Investigators believe that Joseph might have been abducted by a stranger on the day he went missing. Serial killer John Wayne Gacy was checked out as a possible suspect in the boys disappearance. When Joseph went missing, Gacy was already 2 years into his 6 year killing spree and was known to kill in Illinois.
Gacy has also been looked in in relation to the 1967 Missouri disappearances of William and Joel Hoag and Edwin Dowell. He’s also been considered in the Monroe City disappearances of Rickey Enochs and John Wagner. Enochs vanished in 1977 and Wagner in 1968.
After Gacy’s killing spree was discovered, the bodies of multiple young men were found buried near his home. Joseph’s dental and medical records were sent away to be compared against his unidentified victims. ￼It’s unknown if Gacy had any involvement in Spisak’s case and he was executed by lethal injection in 1994.
There were also nasty rumors that implicated his father in his disappearance. There were rumors that his father killed him and buried him at the family’s residence. Investigators searched and found no evidence that Joseph was buried anywhere. His family is not suspected in his case and his father was cleared after the dig.
Investigators have found no trace of what happened to Joseph. In 2019, renewed efforts were made to find him and investigators have collected DNA samples from his family and have put his case on various missing persons agencies.
At the time of his disappearance, Joseph lived with his family which included his siblings and parents in their home on McCook Avenue. He had a brother born after his disappearance. Joseph was known to like baseball and had a baseball mitt plus his prized baseball collection. He left both of those behind as well as his matchbox car collection and his second pair of glasses. His father passed away in 2006 but his mother and siblings are still alive.
Joseph’s disappearance remains unsolved and the circumstances surrounding his case are unclear.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Hammond Police Department 219-852-2906