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Why Are People Disappearing From Nome, Alaska?

There are lots of unusual things about the city of Nome, Alaska, including a series of strange disappearances. Many people have gone missing over the years, and there are a few theories as to why.

Some believe alien abductions are to blame, while others point to even more sinister reasons.

But perhaps there’s a more down-to-earth explanation for why these people seem to have left Nome without a trace.

About Nome, Alaska

Nome is a city of around 3,800 people on the southern shore of the Seward Peninsula, on Alaska’s western coast. The nearest body of water is Norton Sound, part of the Bering Sea, which divides the United States from Russia. That’s a distance of about 160 miles.

Though it’s no metropolis, Nome is Alaska’s westernmost major city. It’s about 540 miles west of Anchorage.

What Is Nome, Alaska Known For? 

Many communities are lucky to have any claim to fame at all, but Nome has several reasons for its notoriety. The first is its importance as a gold mining center, dating back to the early 20th Century. Even more people around the world know it as the finish line for the famous Iditarod dogsled race.

Nome also is known for being a place that’s successfully independent while being somewhat isolated. The city has no highways leading to other cities, towns, or villages. To get there or leave, you generally have to schedule a flight or take a boat. This makes it an unusually remote city, but that’s something that many Alaskans deal with already.

Finally, those strange disappearances are another reason Nome, Alaska, has made a name for itself. Discussions about them often include talks about this being a place with a high number of UFO sightings.

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Couple smiling and taking a selfie in Alaska
Many people visit Alaska with big dreams, but what lies ahead can be terrifying.

Why Are There No Roads to Nome, Alaska?

There are roads in Nome, of course, but the ones that lead to and from it don’t link to other communities. They are more or less paved scenic roads that come to a sudden end.

There are three of these highways, the longest of which is 85 miles. The reason is the terrain is mostly mountains and wetlands, and it’s expensive and difficult to construct roads.  

Is Nome Alaska a Good Place to Live?

If you don’t mind harsh winters and being so isolated, Nome isn’t a bad place to live. But it’s not the best, either. The website Niche gives Nome an overall grade of C, with its highest marks for its diversity and nightlife. However, the town’s C- in the crime category isn’t quite as impressive. Nome earns a B in jobs and ranks 27th in Alaska as a place for young business professionals. Another site, BestPlaces, lists the average cost of a home in Nome as $293,000. It also notes that “Nome’s cost of living is 20.6% higher than the U.S. average.” 

Besides its lively bars and restaurants, Nome has lots of cool history and plenty of gorgeous scenery to explore, including beaches and mountains. When conditions are right, you can even see the northern lights from Nome.

Why Are People Disappearing from Nome, Alaska?

The reports of missing persons in Nome are real, but many may have exaggerated the circumstances from time to time. At least two dozen people have gone missing in the last few decades. A documentary-style film that came out in 2009 put a sensationalist sci-fi spin on the Nome, Alaska disappearances.

The movie, called “The Fourth Kind,” starred Milla Jovovich as a psychologist who uncovers disturbing truths through her patients’ memories.  It’s a work of fiction, but over time, the story has transitioned into real-life rumors. 

While some buy into the alien abduction theory, others wonder whether a serial killer had been at work in Nome. However, according to an article in the Anchorage Daily News, an FBI investigation into Nome’s disappearances pointed to other causes. Spoiler alert: Alcohol may have been involved, as well as the extreme weather. 

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Man hiking solo in Alaska
If visiting Nome, Alaska, make sure to be very cautious and stay on high alert!

Did Alcohol Contribute to the Nome Alaska Disappearances?

That lively nightlife scene may sometimes lead to tragedy. Since the saloon days of the Gold Rush, Nome has always been notorious for its wide-open alcohol consumption. In fact, for many years, the drinking establishments stayed open until 5:00 a.m.

That newspaper article describing the investigations into Nome’s mysterious disappearances offered the following conclusion. “The FBI spent months checking on more than 24 disappearances and suspicious deaths before concluding that the common tie among all of the cases was not a serial killer but excessive drinking and a wicked winter climate.” 

Many of the victims, it explains, may have simply wandered off drunk, passed out, and succumbed to hypothermia. In some cases, authorities believe they may have drowned in the icy waters of Norton Sound.

Is It Illegal to Get Drunk in a Bar in Alaska? 

The irony in this is that, technically, intoxication inside a bar is illegal in Alaska. This is one of those laws that’s been on the books for years, and law enforcement enforces it somewhat selectively. In particular, police use it when someone is so seriously over-served that they’re dangerous to themselves or others.

Of course, we don’t know all the details, but maybe stricter enforcement could have saved some lives. On the other hand, bartenders and servers are likely trained to know when and how to intervene properly when necessary.

Is Nome Alaska Safe?

The heavy drinking in Nome paints a picture of a spirited place, but it may be unfair to call it wild and lawless. Sadly, though, there is some truth to Nome’s reputation for being somewhat dangerous. And it’s not just non-violent crimes like burglaries. That report card from Niche includes some sobering statistics that include relatively high rates of heinous crimes.

The crime rates are a part of Nome’s big picture – adding to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Maybe many wildly embellish some of the reports, like some of the fanciful theories about the Nome, Alaska disappearances. They didn’t happen all at once but gradually over four decades. It appears there’s nothing spectacular about them at all, and the simple explanation points to careless human error. 

Would you like to book a flight to visit Nome, Alaska? Tell us in the comments!

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