9-year-old Michael Henley And The Polaroid Mystery.

The picture was dropped or placed in the car park of a convenience store in Florida in 1989. The girl in the image has been said to be a 19 year old who vanished called Tara Leigh Calico. The boy is unidentified.

This young lad went on a hunting trip with his father and one of his dad’s friends. The trio went into the Zuni Mountains in New Mexico. The date was the 21st April 1988. They set up camp and within 20 minutes noticed that the 9 year old was missing.

Michael Henley was missed within 20 minutes of camp being set up. He was found two years later, seven miles away from where he was last seen.

A month long search started with volunteers, the family and the National Guard. Weather became cold and snow fell but the efforts to find the boy continued.

In June 1990 the boy’s remains were found about seven miles from where the camp had been set up. The verdict was the child had died of exposure.

The Polaroid Picture

What made this very sad case infamous was the finding of a Polaroid snap in a convenience store car park. A shopper passed a parked van as she went in to get her shopping. When she came back the below picture was where the vehicle had been.

The picture was dropped or placed in the car park of a convenience store in Florida in 1989.


The store was in Port St. Joe, Florida a 23 hour, 1550 mile drive from the Zuni Mountains.

The Zuni Mountains are on the western end of those lines. They are impressive yet barren looking. Those hills, with snow coming down, would be a trial for an adult, never mind a 9 year old.

According to reports the van was likely a Toyota panel van and it was described as white in the text I read. Due to the type of film used Polaroid could say for sure it was a recent picture.

The image was shared across the nation’s TV airwaves. Michael Henley’s family believed the boy was him. Meanwhile the family of another disappearing youngster said the girl in the shot was their own Tara Leigh Calico.

Ms Calico was 19 years old when she went missing while on a bicycle ride on 20th September 1988. The location she was last seen was about 75 miles from the Zuni Mountain spot that Michael Henley had vanished from.

Efforts to Identify of The Children In The Polaroid Picture

The local Sheriff’s office and their experts said the girl was not Ms Calico. The FBI were not sure and someone asked New Scotland Yard. They said it was Ms Calico. Family drew attention to a scar that was the same from the victim to the girl in the image. They also said that the book in the picture (lower left as you look at it) was one of Ms Calico’s favourites.

Tara Calico was on a familiar bike ride when she was last seen on 20th September 1988.

When Michael Henley’s body was found in 1990 and the cause of death was not seen as suspicious this obviously put a question mark over the image. I suppose it doesn’t technically make it an impossible that it shows Michael Henley, it does make it highly unlikely.

The Confusion In Disappearing People Cases.

First to round off the Polaroid case. If you have not seen this before a full rundown of the mystery can be found in the links below. I was tempted to say the picture being placed for all to find was a hoax. They have happened before. Not long ago a video was doing the viral rounds that seemed to show a guy holding a young woman hostage. It was a prank.

People do strange things and I would get no pleasure in staging an image of terrified young people, but I will bet there are plenty of people who would find it funny.

What makes me suspect it is no prank is that the Polaroid was found face down in the parking space. I grant you anyone from that time would have seen it and known what it was. So it is likely someone would have picked it up and taken it to the police. If I imagine the picture to be a fake what about the book? It is not only the favoured book of a young missing woman , but it is the only thing clearly displayed apart from the poor wretches themselves.

What I don’t know is how the person taking the photograph would have known about the importance of the book. Did they get Ms Calico to tell them of something only the family would be able to connect to her? I doubt she would have had it with her on a routine cycle ride.  Please tell me what I am missing.

Returning To The Case Of Michael Henley

On the face of it, and given those on the ground say it, this poor nine year old strayed into the wilderness and died. Yet as he lay there undiscovered a single photograph had him the victim of an abduction. Currently we have the case of Deorr Kuntz. This toddler is still missing from 2015. All the circumstances look suspicious. The family are roundly in the frame for his murder. There was an incredible effort put into a search for him. There is no trace. As fascinating as the details are to us, sitting safe with our loved ones, what conclusion can we come to?

The incident and circumstances that led to the death of Michael Henley all those years ago should give us pause for thought. Strange things do happen out there in the wilds. Only time and evidence often hold the key to any solution.




Tara Leigh Calico