On September 25, 1981, 58-year-old Thelma Pauline Melton (Polly) headed to the Deep Creek Trail in the Smoky Mountain National Park with her husband Bob and two friends. She loved the mountains and spent as much time as she could in the Smokies.
One of her favorite places was the Deep Creek Trail, and she’d spent nearly 20 years visiting the location and making the hike.
Once they arrived Bob parked their Airstream trailer and stayed inside. Due to Bob’s health and age, being that he was around 20 or so years older than Polly, he wasn’t able to join them on most of the hiking excursions. However, Polly and her two friends gladly readied themselves for a leisurely hike. The trail they were taking was listed as ‘easy’, so there wasn’t any difficult terrain to be particularly worried about.
Polly and her friends began hiking the trail, and on their way back to the campsite she began picking up her pace and walked ahead of her friends, quickly leaving them behind. They saw her walk over a small hill and then go out of sight, they assumed they would see her back at the trailer. At around 4:30 pm they made it back to the campsite, Bob was inside but Polly was nowhere where to be found and Bob hadn’t seen her since she’d left for the hike.
Polly’s friends went back to the area they last saw Polly and they began searching for her but were unable to locate anything that pointed in the direction that she may have gone. She was reported missing at 6:00 pm that evening, and a much larger search effort was soon underway.
Over the course of that week, over 150 people searched for Polly, as well as nine search dogs. At one point a dog alerted to a tree that was downed, and searchers believe she may have stopped to rest there for a moment. They didn’t pick up on her scent at any other location.
Not so much as a trace was found of Polly…
Of course, the notion of kidnapping entered the minds of the searchers, until they realized that Polly was a large woman… She was 5’11 and weighed around 180lbs. Her stature, along with the fact that she’d disappeared in broad daylight, with a number of other people on the trail at the time lead authorities to believe that an abduction would nearly be out of the question. There was also no indication that anyone had gone off the trail.
According to Polly’s day-to-day routine, not much out of the ordinary happened on the day she went missing. The only thing unusual was that she decided against going to the volunteer job she went to every day, passing out meals to the elderly. The day before that, however, it was reported that she made several phone calls using the work phone. She’d never used the phones in the 4 years that she had been volunteering, law enforcement was unable to trace the phone calls so we don’t know if they were in any way connected to her disappearance.
Her pastor did advise that she had been struggling with depression after her mother had passed away earlier in the year. She’d also been prescribed Valium in 1979 as a muscle relaxant but had stopped taking them before 1981. Yet, her husband’s bottle of Valium was discovered to be missing after she disappeared. However, it’s never been determined that Polly was the one who took them. Her pastor also mentioned that he thought Polly may have been having an affair with another man at the time. This has never been substantiated.
Polly did suffer from high blood pressure and nausea and was taking medication for both at the time of her disappearance. She didn’t have the medication, her identification, or any money with her when she vanished, just a pack of cigarettes.
Probably one of the most intriguing things about this disappearance is that in April 1982, a check was written to Polly Melton and cashed in Birmingham, Alabama. Investigations into the check were a dead end.
Could Polly have planned to vanish that day? Was she so dissatisfied with her life that she would choose to walk away from it? Maybe she did meet someone. Maybe she met someone that she could enjoy life with. You would have to admit that for an active lady, which Polly seemed to be, it would be difficult to be with someone who wasn’t healthy enough to participate in the things you enjoyed… So what if she met someone, and spent all that time on her work phone arranging everything. And then, on that day, she quickened her pace so that she could leave her friends behind, went to a predetermined location to meet, and make a new life with her lover.
Of course, that is all wild speculation on my part…but it would definitely be a better alternative than any other explanation.