Did Trenny Run Away?

It is often thought that Trenny may have run away from the park that day, either by hitchhiking out or having had someone meet her in a prearranged location to drive her away. 

 

- Trenny had no clothing or purse with her that day. She had left her purse in her Mother's car that morning when she was droppped off at school.  Wouldn't you at least take that with you if you were planning on running away?

- Trenny had $200 in her drawer at home and $1000 in her bank account.  None of this money was taken along with her that day.

- If Trenny wanted to run away from the park, why bother hiking to Andrew's Bald and back first?  Why not just leave from the Clingman's Dome parking lot? Or from home, for that matter. 

- No hints were dropped prior that she planned to leave

- Trenny would have had to have known the destination of the trip in advance in order to arrange for someone to pick her up and take her out of the park. She also would've needed to have a location planned to meet her ride.  She was not experienced in the Park in regards to these locations.

- Trenny was wearing a fellow student's jacket

- Trenny's older brother Robert was home on leave when Trenny vanished.  He was in the Navy and Trenny hadn't seen him for awhile.  He and Trenny were close and she was enjoying his visit.

-Trenny had injured her foot a couple of weeks prior to her disappearance and was taking medication for it.  She left the medication at home.  The medication was antibiotic in nature, as she had punctured her foot on a small stone, jumping hurdles in the backyard.  She was not taking painkillers.

- Trenny had never visited the Park before, or gone on an all-day school field trip.

 

 

 

Robert Gibson Jr. Trenny's older brother

Equation for Disaster

   40 Students

+ 1 teacher as a chaperone

+ field trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

+ 1.5 hours from Knoxville

- cell phones (it's 1976)

\ into small groups of students walking at different paces

x trees, shrubbery, leaves on the ground, slippery trails

x temperature dropping, rain moving in

= what could possibly go wrong?

Trenny's signature in a 1976 Bearden Echo Yearbook

Class of 1978 Bearden High

 This weekend marks the 40 year class reunion of Bearden High, Knoxville Tennessee.  Sadly, one of the alumni is missing.  A pretty, green-eyed girl with long, reddish brown hair.  Trenny Lynn Gibson.

 

 Trenny is frozen in time as a 16 year old girl.  Today, at 57, likely she would've gone on to have a college education, career, a family, or a combination thereof. Instead, on October 8, 1976, she attended a field trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and vanished into oblivion. No trace of her was ever found.  Now, nearly 42 years later, many more questions than answers remain.  

 

 Trenny lives on through sites such as this one.  Her case is featured in several books and the trail that she disappeared from can be found on YouTube. Hopefully, her classmates will reminisce about her with fondness on this day.  May she not be forgotten.

Happy Birthday Trenny

 Today, August 17, 2018, marks the occasion of Trenny's 58th birthday.  In 2018, we have witnessed the resolution of many cold cases, we now know the identity of Lyle Stevik and The Bucksin Girl, we witnessed the capture of the Golden State Killer,  the murders of April Tinsley, Ashley Freeman and Lauria Bible have been solved as well this year.  May 2018 be the year that Trenny's case is solved, too.  Happy Birthday Trenny!

 

And in the end,

It's not the years 

in your life that count

It's the life in your years.

 

Abraham Lincoln

Back To School

September 7, 1976.  School began on this day at Bearden High.  Students said farewell to the lazy, hazy days of summer and sleeping in late in the mornings.  A little more than a month later, one of the students from the junior class, would vanish into oblivion and 42 years later remain missing.  In that time, Trenny would become the subject of what not to do on a hiking trip, the paranormal,  cryptozoology, true crime, unsolved mysteries, and reach urban legend status.  But the fact remains, she is still missing.  And how much more do we know now about that day, than was known nearly 42 years ago? 

Trenny's sophomore picture on site owner's mantle

The house Trenny resided in when she disappeared. 1427 Whitower Dr. Knoxville

42 Years Ago Today, October 8, 1976-October 8, 2018

42 years ago today, on a misty Friday afternoon, Trenny Lynn Gibson, appeared to go to the right of the trail she was following, while on a school field trip to GSMNP, and vanished into oblivion.  It was supposed to have been a good day, fun, free from the confines of a classroom, out in the fresh Fall air, in the beauty of the Smokies. Talking, joking and hiking with friends.  Instead, everything went south in a hurry around 3 pm that afternoon.   Trenny disappeared.  One of the classmates that I interviewed that was on the trip that day, and among the last to see Trenny,  commented " Without a doubt, Trenny's disappearance was the most surreal event that I have ever witnessed".  No trace of Trenny has ever been found, at least not any trace that's been released to the general public.  Others know differently.  One of the things that I've found while researching this case for more than 13 years, is that it's like peeling an onion, layer after layer.  Each layer brings forth something else to the surface.  New information comes to light.  People are breaking the veil of silence, and beginning to remember more about that day, memories that haven't been called to mind for years.  Last week, Mitzie Sue Clements, was located after being missing for a week.  She vanished in an area in close proximity to where Trenny disappeared, after separating from her daughter and hiking alone.  Sadly, the resolution was not a positive one, she was located deceased, after an intensive search complete with drones, doctors, portable cell phone towers, etc.  Hers was the 11th death in the Smokies of 2018.  Save for the doctors, cell phones and drones were technology that was not available in 1976 when the search was on for Trenny. Perhaps if they had been available, she would have been found, and we wouldn't have been left to wonder all these years.  Last August, Austin Bohanan was missing in the Smokies for 11 days, and survived. He was able to tell his story.  Trenny cannot, for she is still missing, and unable to cry out for justice.  It's the duty of the living to do so for her.

 

I promise to be your strength 

whenever you fall weak.

I promise to be your voice

when you can't find the words.

 

Emily Thurston

The Trail Went Cold

  Earlier this morning, Trenny's story had the honour and distinction of being the 100th episode of the podcast "The Trail Went Cold".   Would like to give a big thank you to Robin Warder who is the creator and host, as well as a big shout out to Lesley Cvetnich, who looks after the content of "Appalachian Unsolved", for making this happen.  I know wherever Trenny is, she is thanking them as well. My voice can be heard in a voice cameo at the end.

 

 

If you you listen to podcasts about unsolved crime or are a fan of "Unsolved Mysteries", I urge you to check out " The Trail Went Cold".  Robin profiles many of the still unsolved cases that appeared on the tv series,  as well as others that did not.  He recently covered the "Keddie Cabin Murders" for Halloween.  It slightly beat out the "Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders" by listener poll, another case that I have given much study. 

www.trailwentcold.com

Look to this day-

for it is life,

the very life of life.

In its brief course lie all

the realities and truths of existence;

the joy of growth, the beauty of creativity;

the splendor of action, the glory of power.

For yesterday is but a memory.  And tomorrow is only a vision;

but today well-lived makes every yesterday a memory of happiness, and tomorrow a vision

of hope.

 

The words above appear at the top of the first few pages of the 1976 Bearden Yearbook.   The school year began on September 7, 1976.  Almost 1 month later, something unthinkable happened.  While on a field trip to GSMNP, with her ornamental horticulture class, Trenny was walking alone around 3pm, with students both in front and behind her.  They were near a rock overhang.  She stopped for a brief second,  and seemed to be looking at something off to the right of the trail.  To the students that witnessed this, it appeared that she then stepped off the trail.  It was misting rain and foggy that afternoon.  

Thinking she would meet them at the bus parked in the Clingman’s Dome parking lot, the students continued onward.   A short time later,  they realized that Trenny was not among the group of teenagers in the parking lot.  She never came back.  Not that day, or any of the days to follow.  Nearly 43 years have passed since that October day, back when Gerald Ford was president, a brand new car would cost around $4100, gas was $0.59 per gallon, and Trenny has not returned.  Not a word from her.  Her dear father, brother and sister, whom she was very close to, have since passed away.  Surely if she were alive, she would have contacted someone by now.  Reached out somehow.   Sadly, she cannot.  Except through blogs and sites like this one, where she has a voice, though someone must speak for her.

Where are you, Trenny?  Where did you go? What happened to you?  What made you step off of the trail? Why were you hiking alone?  

And most importantly :  Who harmed you and why?

 

Generation Why

Trenny was featured on last Saturday's episode of Generation Why.  This podcast was among the very first, starting in 2012 and created by two friends, Aaron and Justin.  They both live in and around the Kansas City, Missouri area.  I reached out to them last November about doing an episode on Trenny's story and we collaborated back and forth in January and early February of this year.  Check it out.

Trenny Gibson Is Missing - 318 FEB 23 0:00:00 0:47:48

 

Trenny’s words in a 1975 Bearden Junior High Yearbook to her friend Caroline Bright.

 

Natuonal  Missing Children’s Day

May 25, 2019

 

 

Dennis Lloyd Martin

 

 

June 14, 2019 will mark 50 years since a little 6 year old boy from Knoxville, Tennessee, vanished in the Spence Field area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Despite an intensive search that began nearly immediately, Dennis Martin was never found.  He and Trenny Gibson were the two missing children, that Ranger Dwight McCarter lamented that he was not able to find. 

 

Dennis Martin, 6, the son of Knoxville architect William Martin, went missing June 14, 1969 at Spence Field in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Despite the effort of some 1,300 searchers including U.S. Army Green Berets, no trace of the boy was found. 

There is no video clip yet

August 17, 2019. Happy Birthday Trenny

Happy Birthday,  Trenny, # 59 for you.  We miss what you may have become, the sky would have been the limit.  So far this year, the identity of Orange Socks (Debra Jackson) has been determined, the murders of Jay Cook and Tanya Cuylenborg have been solved, the perpetrator tried and convicted. Many cold cases are now being resolved through the use of genetic genealogy. May 2019 be the year that your mystery is solved.  

Find A Grave

Trenny has been added to the Find A Grave site, as another place of rememberance. 

 

 

October 8, 2019

Trenny vanished 43 years ago today in the GSMNP, never to be seen or heard from again.  For that many years, her brother has been without a sister, her mother without a daughter,  and for the students she attended Bearden High with, they’ve been without their classmate.  Where did Trenny end up that Fall day, when she stepped off trail for just a moment?  Why did the tracking dogs track her scent to Collins Gap?  Why were there small size Adidas tennis-shoe prints at the Double Springs shelter?    All points to ponder, as 43 years have passed, a lifetime to some.  But here we are asking ”where did Trenny go?”