David Robert Sampson, age 21, went missing from Seattle, Washington on March 1, 1977.

He was a student at University of Washington, and left the school abruptly, following evidence of a major personality change due to a recent religious conversion.  He has never been seen again.

He had a green hiking pack, a blue sleeping bag, extensive survival gear, a bible, and religious materials when he vanished.  He wore a blue or green ski jacket, blue jeans, and hiking boots.  His interests included botany, ‘alpine survival hiking’, and environmental concerns.

I can’t find any mention of ‘alpine survival hiking’ on the internet, and have no idea what it means, unless it was an indication that he’d wanted to go hike on the Swiss Alps.

I thought the religious conversion, the abrupt departure from his college, and the interest in environmental concerns may suggest he’d joined a cult, although research of some of the more well-known cults didn’t seem to mesh with bible-toting.  There are several that promoted environmentalism, however.  Hare Krishna was probably the most well-known.

So I researched some religions – the first being Jehovahs Witnesses, because of the mention that he’d been carrying ‘religious materials’ in addition to his bible.  They didn’t, and still don’t, seem to have a strong stance on environmentalism.  I couldn’t find a solid link from the 1970’s between any religion and environmentalism.   Some have stated that environmentalism WAS viewed as a religion, although that appeared to be long before environmental issues became associated with liberals in the 1970’s.

If anyone has any experiences with religions, cults, hiking groups, or environmentalist groups that might have an idea of how this all might play together, I’d be very interested!

That said, I have no reason to believe he’s deceased.  But since I always browse through the unidentified files when researching a case, here are a few that are possible, although not exactly convincing:

This is the best timing compared to David’s disappearance, found about six months later.   The victim was found in a landfill along with trash that had been brought from Seattle.  The height is off by about 4″  (victim listed as 5’8″ while David is listed as 6’0″).  The dark brown/black hair color matches that of David.

This one was found in the woods in 1978, and was believed to have died between 1975-1979. (huh?! Seriously, that’s what it says.)  His hair was brown, and braided.  He wore a metal braided ring.  The height is exactly right.

Lastly, this one was found in 1983 and he is believed to have died between 1970-1981.  He was found at the mouth of an animal den near 42003 SE 166th St in North Bend, Washington – same county as Seattle.  Age at the time of death cannot be determined, nor can height and weight.

David was born in the Bakersfield area of California.  His case never got any mainstream media publicity, that i can find, until very recently, when he was featured by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in a slideshow of Washington’s cold case missing persons.  It only repeats the information that is on NamUs and doesn’t offer any clues as to where he might have gone.

Lastly, I wanted to mention that there seems to be something unique about David’s mouth in the photo posted above.  I’m not sure if it’s a result of smeared ink, or if someone tried to draw in part of the lips with a pen, or if there actually is something unusual about his upper teeth and/or lips near the corner of his mouth.





If you would like to support the efforts of Whereabouts Still Unknown, please use the links below.  Donations are not expected, but are greatly appreciated and will help the site continue!


8 thoughts on “David Sampson

  1. Scientology? (“Clearing the planet” being a concern of theirs, albeit not exactly environmental.)

    Were the People’s Temple people working as far north as Seattle at the time? I can’t remember–I think there were places outside the SF Bay Area besides Guyana.

    Man, 1977 and fringe religious groups or cults–that could be a lot of things. I wish we knew more about what “religious materials” he had with him.

  2. i think there’s a good chance he may have suffered from mental illness. the age is right for a first episode, and religious delusions are very common.

  3. Ananda Marga founded by Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ananda_Marga) does pay a vivid attention to environmental issues. I used to be the member of their spiritual community, and I still – though rarely – visit them out of interest for the New Age esotericism. I can’t say they appear to be grimly fanatical, yet, there is definitely an air of something disturbing and authoritarian about them. Perhaps, the Hinduist perception of any human soul as part of the God’s entity – when placed within the frame of Western mentality – makes people think they are superior and therefore must pursue some kind of disturbing salvation mission. Besides, the history of this spiritual movement contains a number of controversies as well, and it’s rather hard for me to tell where the truth lies.
    There is an Ananda Marga unit in Seattle, I know that for sure. Still, I don’t know much about how the things went in the America of the 1970’s since I come from Russia and our country has – for the obvious reasons – a totally different picture of religious history.
    Hope this helps a little. Good luck to you.

  4. I believe that “alpine” is used in mountaineering circles sometimes merely to refer to climbing (or skiing) in mountain ranges with high-altitude conditions that resemble those of the actual Alps, in Europe. “Survival hiking” seems like a made-up sort of phrase that indicates preferring to hike with minimal equipment and food, as in a “survival situation.”

    No way of knowing, of course, but it sounds to me like he died up on some mountain in the Northwest. After a year of wind, snow, rain, and animal scavenging, there’d be nothing left of a body in the open but some scattered bones in a wilderness, like many of Ted Bundy’s victims; soon enough, not even that much.

  5. I am interested in the comments above since I AM DAVID’S MOTHER. Yes, I am still alive and well, still know no more than I provided to the authorities, &, no leads have come up with anything. King County Missing Persons Dept. keeps him in the national data base but has no news. Yet just knowing that people care is comforting. God bless all of you who are watching and caring.

  6. Martha, If You give me your email, or someway I can send you this pic, then you will see how much this person looks like him…

  7. ‘alpine survival hiking’ is as user Tiger above suggests: merely a survivalist skillset that specializes in the alpine zone. Comprehensively it’s snow camping & survival, a very specialized & seasonal hunting/gathering schedule, and rock & ice climbing (presuming one pursuing so advanced a pastime has the fundamentals of backpacking firmly in-hand). The alpine zone in the Cascades is usually deeply snowed-in in winter, and uninhabitable except with extensive preparation and shelter.

    I’m pleased to see Ms. Sampson in this thread. If you happen to revisit these comments Ms. Sampson, can you shed some light into the talk of religious conversion? The specific name of the church David was interested in would be perfect, but even your general impressions of this church & his mindset at the time would be great.

    I’m in Seattle and this is the first I’m hearing of David’s disappearance. As a fellow spiritual man and solo backpacker this case interests me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s