4. Percy Fawcett
Percy Fawcett may have been as mad as he was brilliant. A natural adventurer who usually sported his trademark Stetson hat pushed down above his steely, blue eyes and Cavalier facial hair, Fawcett began his life as an artillery officer in the British Army. While in uniform, Lieutenant Colonel Fawcett served in Sri Lanka and World War I, and during his time in Morocco, he was knee-deep in espionage for his country. Along the way, he found time to develop a passion for exploring South America, especially then-uncharted parts of the Amazon and Bolivia. As Fawcett’s stories of escaping hostile natives and nature’s deadliest predators made international news, he became such a celebrity that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, used some of Fawcett’s tales as material for his 1912 novel The Lost World.
After many treks in the Amazon, Fawcett began to develop a novel idea of his own. Namely, he believed that a lost city, Z, existed in the heart of Brazil’s Mato Grosso rainforest. The idea so consumed him that Percy took off in search of the city in 1925. This was his final exploration, for the courageous, if not reckless, Fawcett disappeared deep into the Amazonian jungle and has never been seen since.
The most common belief is that Fawcett was murdered and cannibalized by a local tribe. However, some uncovered evidence may point to the fact that Fawcett intentionally got lost so that he could go about creating his “Grand Scheme,” a secret commune practicing a strange, cultish religion dedicated to theosophy and his own son Jack. Theosophy, which influenced some of the more bizarre aspects of Nazi ideology, is an esoteric philosophy that was incredibly popular among well-heeled individuals during the 1920s. If Fawcett was indeed influenced by theosophy and the desire to create his own religion, then the story of his disappearance would make for an Indiana Jones movie.