Sunday, 5 March 2017

Where is Johnny Gosch?

I went down such a rabbit hole when reading about this case that I'll have to do it in two parts and will probably go back to add more updates.  When I sat down to write about this I thought it would be a quick summary but with all the conspiracy theories, unconfirmed sightings and alleged contact I ended up reading about it for longer than I expected.
This is a quite popular unsolved case, so you've probably already heard about it before, but join me in exploring it in depth. 

Oh also! To everyone who comments and contacts me over at Tumblr, thank you for your kind messages!


It started off as a Sunday like any other in West Des Moines, Iowa.
It was September 5th of 1982; Johnny Gosch woke at the crack of dawn, as he routinely did for his morning paper round. With his little Dachshund at his side, he dragged his red newspaper wagon behind him, off on his early morning mission to deliver the daily news to the neighborhood. On this day, however, there was one difference- Johnny was alone. At 5:45am, he left the house without supervision.

I found an interview with his mother Noreen (HERE) where she goes into more detail about the night before / morning her son went missing. Apparently there had been strange routine phone calls to the family home usually late on a Saturday night or early on a Sunday morning. Johnny's father would always hang up, or say "wrong number", but on the night before Johnny's disappearance, he suspiciously said "yes alright okay' and hung up. This made Noreen understandably suspicious and does make you wonder if he had anything to do with his sons abduction.

(Noreen Gosch. Image source: Johnnygosch.com)

Johnny had continuously asked his parents if he could be a paper boy as he wanted to earn money in order to buy himself a dirt bike. They were reluctant at first, but eventually caved in and agreed that he could have a paper round as long as he was accompanied by either his mother or father.
It wasn’t long before disgruntled local residents made calls to Johnny’s family home, complaining that they hadn’t received their morning papers. His parents were alarmed. Usually John senior would accompany him; however this was the first day he had not.
 Johnny’s father headed out along the usual route to look for his son, only to find the abandoned newspaper wagon, still full with the untouched bundles of the Des Moines Daily Register, and the boy’s pet dog close by.

A neighbor claimed to see 12 year old Gosch conversing with a man in a blue two tone Fairmont from his window. As far as I can gather Johnny was with a couple of other paper boys at the time, and the man (described as “Stocky” in most reports) specifically asked Johnny for directions “Hey kid, where’s 86 street?”

(Pic from Wikipedia)

Johnny was described as a polite and helpful young man, however his mother said in an interview that Johnny had told one of the older paper boys that he was suspicious of the man, and felt frightened by him and said he was going home. As Johnny pulled his red wagon behind him he had no idea that he was being followed by another man on foot. This unidentified man kept his distance but an eyewitness reported that he appeared to walk out from between two houses on the street.
Johnny disappeared without a trace. 


It is believed that Johnny was possibly dragged into the vehicle by both men and kidnapped. This is certainly something his mother believes. Police searched the local and surrounding area for many weeks but found no body and no trace of the missing 12 year old. Some videos state that Johnny’s mother was unhappy with the police investigation and the response time of local authorities.

She contacted and questioned those who had seen Johnny that morning (including the other paper boys who would have seen him at the paper drop, and the father of one of the boys who picked up a bundle for his kid that day.) The cops, despite only being two streets away, took just under an hour to show up.

One detail I didn't see much in typed articles was that (according to Noreen) one of the witnesses (a sixteen year old paper boy who was with Johnny when the blue car stopped to ask directions) was that the man stopped his engine, opened the passenger door and put his feet out on the pavement. He only started up his engine again when Johnny Gosch broke away from the group as he got a bad vibe from the stranger. His mother states that before the guy drove off he apparently turned the inside light (dome light) of the car on and off a total of three times.You can listen to the radio interview talk about that detail here. 
Could the flashing of the dome light have been a signal to someone?
Was it already light that morning around 5:45am?

The same sixteen year old witness was the one to describe the other unidentified man who came out from between the houses and followed. Although the kid lost sight of all three and the car when Johnny walked around a corner out of his sight he claims to have heard a dog growling (assumed to be Johnny's Dachshund), a car door slam shut (assumed to be the blue car they had just interacted with) and a vehicle screeching away. He said that he saw that same blue car running a red light and roaring off towards the interstate.

Noreen gave a very detailed interview in 2005 where she informed the host about how unhelpful local police were regarding Johnny’s case. Despite witnesses stating that they saw the car, the man, the license plate etc. Johnny was still entered into the database as a runaway.


She claims that police went as far as to refuse help from surrounding counties, even rejecting aid in the form of helicopters, dogs, and manpower and volunteer search parties. One officer was even said to drunkenly climb a picnic table in front of volunteers and yell about how Gosch was “nothing but a runaway”.  At the start of the interview she even mentions that the day before her child went missing they were spectators at his brother’s football game. 

Apparently Johnny went to buy snacks and suddenly disappeared from view, only to be retrieved by his father who found him talking to a police officer under the bleachers. Nothing was said about the conversation other than the officer was telling the 12 year old that he should consider joining the force when he was old enough.

The FBI also said to have rejected the case. According to Noreen both branches were agitated that she was even perusing the case of her missing child.

She received a tip by phone call one day (conversation recorded she says) and after the local authorities predictably rejected it and showed no interest, she relayed the tape to 20/20 (news station)

The anonymous caller tipped Noreen off on a premeditated kidnapping of another paper boy, this ominous prophecy was fulfilled when Eugene Wade Martin went missing from Des Moines in August of 1984. (Read his Charley Project page here)

Strangely half a year later and hundreds of miles away in Oklahoma a woman reported a sighting of Johnny. She was coming out of a local convenience store when a young boy ran up to her, identified himself as Johnny Gosch and pleaded for help. Before she could react, she claimed two men dragged the boy away and bundled him into a car before roaring off. Despite their efforts to follow the lead, nothing came of it and the trail was once again cold. The Goschs hired a PI to investigate the case, and continued to follow leads on their own initiative.

A couple of year’s later two men came forward claiming that they knew Johnny. Incredibly, one of them claimed to be the driver of the blue car neighbors had seen in the street that day. (However he doesn’t at all fit the witness description of a “Stocky” man, rather he’s quite thin looking, or at least was in the interview video) He apparently broke down in tears before Johnny Gosch’s mother, apologized and admitted to her that he had helped kidnap her son.


He said that he too had been a victim and was forced to kidnap other boys. The man was a convicted felon (in jail for molesting a boy) by the name of Paul Bonacci. He is not considered a credible witness by the authorities, however Noreen Gosch believes his story that he was part of a pedophile ring and was once being held on a ranch with her son in Colorado. Apparently Noreen said that Bonacci knew details about her son that the media did not report, and that he could describe the birthmark he had on his chest. Bonacci showed her a brand he had one his skin, referred to in many reports and interviews as “The rocking X”- an X sitting on an arc, a sort of half circle.

(image source: iowacoldcases)

Looking around online for information and opinions on Bonacci some people suggest that he just read up extensively on the case and got a bit obsessed with Johnny Gosch through the media.  A poster on this thread  suggests that Bonacci was contacted by a PI and was probably financially motivated. It wouldn’t be impossible to entertain the idea that he was also relaying information not printed in the media to the convict.
(What do you think? Leave a comment with your theories!)

Later, another man came forward and confirmed Bonacci’s story, he claimed he was also a victim and he too had the rocking X on his skin. According to Noreen Gosch his name was Jimmy Gibson and she believed him.

Noreen and her husband John differed in the strength of their belief in these accounts, with Noreen fully believing and John stating that he believed less than half of the information Bonocci provided and thought that a lot of it was lies. It’s possible that Noreen simply wanted to believe, to hold on to the idea that her son was still alive and that he could be recovered.

I found a news reportfrom the Chicago tribune in 1985 that talks about a $1 bill with the words “I am alive. Johnny Gosch” written on it. Apparently the note was taken seriously and put through handwriting analysis, which came back as a positive match against Johnny’s handwriting sample. The bill was found in Sioux City, Iowa. The story also says that Johnny’s mother also received phone calls from (according to her) her son asking for help, but they were unable to trace the origin of the calls.


Astonishingly Noreen claimed to have been visited by her son during the early hours of the morning in 1997. He identified himself and asked to come in. Johnny would have been in his late twenties at this point, and she said he looked very different, with long, straight, black hair. He stayed for a total of three hours before leaving, saying it was risky for him to be there. There was another man with him, he remains unidentified but seemed to have some authority over her son. They did not discuss where he was residing.

The above picture is from abovetopsecret and Johnny is supposed to be the kid on the right.

John and Noreen eventually divorced after a decade of marriage and for a while, the case was cold until 2006 and when some photographs were dropped on Noreen’s doorstep. The pictures showed three boys bound and gagged with white rope, belly down on a bed. 

According to summaries of the case there was also another black and white photo of one of the boys, whom Noreen claims to be Johnny, and the rocking X brand appears to be on his upper arm. 
When compared to the colour version of the same one, though, there doesn’t seem to be any mark there. Noreen believes that these photos depict her missing son, despite the fact that an officer in Florida claimed that it was a sick joke and the photograph was of three children having an escape contest, and that he had made contact with the minors to check on their wellbeing. 
I found a close up crop on one forum of the boy who is supposed to be Johnny and it looks edited. Probably edited to resemble his likeness. You can visit the abovetopsecret forum here to see users discuss the images.

According to the Johnny Gosch website (which I believe is ran by Noreen) she received the package of photographs on her birthday.

Johnny Gosch has never been found.

12 comments:

  1. This case will never be solved. There's too much phony info mingled into the story. I think the tragedy drove his mom crazy.

    When you take away the false confessions, bizarre comments and incidents from his mother, there's actually very little info on this case.

    I always thought he was murdered by someone in his neighborhood that he knew. It was basically the crack of dawn, not many people out, and it was likely someone who knew Johnny was on his route.

    I don't think its a coincidence that Johnny was abducted the first time he went on his route alone. IMO it was a crime of opportunity. His killer was probably shocked that Johnny was alone this time and he took advantage of the situation. Once the cops realized Johnny was abducted the first time on his route alone, every single house in his neighborhhod should've been searched.

    I think Eugene Martin suffered an identical fate. Not abducted/murdered by a stranger....it was a neighbor.

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  2. Come on.... That's what the cover up wants everyone to believe... If u go deep into the case people have died because they knew the truth. It's child trafficking by wealthy public figures... Listen to episodes 5&6 of sword and scale podcast and get ready to have ur mind blown...

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  3. Agreed. Sword and Scale covered this story way better than any other I've seen/heard

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    1. Links for those who are interested!

      http://swordandscale.com/sword-and-scale-episode-5/
      http://swordandscale.com/sword-and-scale-episode-6/

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    2. I read so many books on this case and finally discovered Sword and Scale. You are so right. Their podcasts were well done. This case was drastically covered up and there were too many associated deaths for them to be a coincidence.

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  4. So true sword and scale. There was too many high profile men who knew too much and got killed along the way... Only God can bring justice to poor johnny. He will always be in my thoughts. God will save him.

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  6. Bonacci is solid. He never claimed to be the driver of the car. He was down low in the back seat with another boy and was supposed to hold Johnny down, gag him with chloroform, and keep a blanket over him. You have tons more to read on the investigation. The story is way more brutal than what you've described here. Gosch's story is very disturbing, but Paul Bonacci's story and what this kid (a very happy, humble, married 50 year old man and a father of two now) went through is so chilling and so unreal, when you find out the details your mind will want to crawl out of your skull and wrap itself around something spiky to cause enough pain confirming that this crap is real and not just some hellish nightmare! I mean bat shit crazy!

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    1. oh yeah there's a lot more too it for sure. I think you'd have a write a book to cover everything.
      Hopefully anyone reading this will decide to carry on reading about it elsewhere, this case is massive

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  7. If Johnny is alive he’ll be a grown man wouldn’t u think he would of shown up by now? I don’t blame Noreen if my child was kidnapped it would probably drive me nuts not knowing what ever happened to him.. ppl do take advantage of the victims families, which is sick ., I really hope she finds closure

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