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Gray Ghost 12-12-2005 12:57 PM

The Disappearance of Douglas Legg
This story has long interested and saddened me. I was wondering if anyone had any info. or theories as to what might have happened. I'm especially interested in those who remember the ordeal, or are familiar with the Santanoni/Newcomb area. The disappearance took place years before I was born, and while I have read some info. on it, I still feel somewhat left in the dark. -GG

redhawk 12-12-2005 01:53 PM

Do you have a link to the story?

pondhopper 12-12-2005 02:12 PM

It's the second story down:

Dad spent several days looking for him.

mike1889 12-13-2005 11:09 AM

I was camping with my family in 1971 at Lake Harris campsite in Newcomb when Douglas Legg disappeared. I was seven but remember the search being a big deal in Newcomb. My father and brother assisted in the search by dragging Newcomb Lake. There is a book about the history of Camp Santanoni called Santanoni, From Japanese Temple to Life at an Adirondack Great Camp and here is a link to it: It contains a lengthy chapter on the search for Douglas Legg and is a very interesting book.

I suspect he walked for miles beyond the search area and died of hypothermia. It was a sad event for sure. Every time I go to the Camp, I think of it and wonder what happened to him.

Adkleaddog 12-13-2005 04:13 PM

I remember camping that summer in Johnsburg during the Garrow search as a Grandfather, myself and a family friend were quite nervous when we found out he was somewhere in the area.....Wells is "just over the hills" from where we were. :eek:

Needless to say, we didn't venture too far from the lake.. :Peek:

Wildernessphoto 12-13-2005 09:41 PM


Originally Posted by pondhopper
It's the second story down:

Dad spent several days looking for him.

Good link Pondhopper! I was amazed as I read through all the stories, the fact the search teams found skeletons of other hikers that were missing during the search for the lost individuals. Makes me wonder how many people are laying out there in the woods...

Gray Ghost 12-13-2005 10:36 PM

I wonder the same thing, Gary. I wonder, is there a site that lists missing hikers in the ADKs?

I first heard of the Legg story back in the mid-nineties when supposedly the Navy guy came forth claiming he saw a skelelton. It came back to the front of my mind when I read about it again in James R. Burnsides' Exploring the 46 Adirondack High Peaks. The disappearance is mentioned in the chapter on Colden, if I'm not mistaken, (the author and his son were out hiking a couple of days after the boy disappeared) and Burnside describes how rangers were telling hikers to keep a lookout for the kid as he had reportedly been seen begging for food, and even raiding people's camps, and at that time they believed he was hiding out in the moutains. Supposedly the boy was big for his age, so they surmised he was upset about something, and had the strength to hide out since he new the moutains fairly well. It's hard to believe an eight year old would do that, but it's interesting to see the way the situation was being handled back then.

My great uncle helped out with the search, and he claimed that after a while it became almost a media circus, and the searches were poorly organized at times. He also said many felt someone in the family may have killed the boy. One thing is for certain, it is a haunting story, and whenever I go to the High Peaks, Douglas, and so many other hikers who never made it back, are on my mind.

redhawk 12-14-2005 01:55 PM

The thing to remember about many of those "missing" hikers is that they were experienced people who felt their experience allowed them to cut corners a novice wouldn't.

It's so easy to step a few feet off the trail and get lost up here especially from late spring to early fall when there is so much ground cover. That's why compass and map are always necessary. :beatdead:

shaggy 12-14-2005 03:22 PM

I only heard parts of the story and I heard that the case settled down, and then somebody wrote a book about it, and was interviewing the Uncle and somehow people started believing that the uncle murdered the boy and then sold camp santanoni. Yeah, I really have no idea what I just said, but it was told to me this summer while on the trail.


Adk Keith 12-16-2005 10:14 AM

The Rockefeller funding to develop a search and rescue program, mentioned in the article, also resulted in the designation of the Forest Rangers to be the responsible agency for the training and execution of searches in the state. Prior to that, there was no single agency responsible. In other states without a designated agency, you will often see a real circus when there is a search, with often poorly trained law enforcement agencies competing instead of working together. Volunteer organizations in other states are often times responsible for running searches. New York's model works very, very well.

I had remebered that the Legg boy had learning disabilities, but that article doesn't mention that so maybe my memory is faulty again......

Gray Ghost 12-16-2005 11:27 AM

That probably explains why the search was supposedly circus-like, since it took place before, or actually helped establish, the new protocol.

redhawk 12-16-2005 01:13 PM


Originally Posted by Gray Ghost
That probably explains why the search was supposedly circus-like, since it took place before, or actually helped establish, the new protocol.

True, and even today there are very few states that are truly prepared or co-ordinated for SAR. Even New York State has a long way to go. I think there are about four or five states that have good programs in place.

Please don't construe what I have said as a criticism of any SAR people or the Rangers. The problem is not with them but with the overall organization and co-ordination (or lack thereof) of the agencies involved.

I think on a 1-10 basis, NY State is bout a 7. Which considering the overall preparedness is quite good.

Alaska, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Washington State are probably the top five.

trouthunter 12-16-2005 05:12 PM

I was a camper at Deerfoot Lodge (boys camp), just outside Speculator ,when Garrow was on the loose. He actually stole the car from our camp. It was one of the counselors cars. I heard that when Garrow was shot and caught he was wearing a shirt that was in the car.I was very young but I remember the troopers combing the camp with bloodhounds,roadblocks,and headcounts on a regular basis. Anybody think this would make a great movie? I know it makes a great campfire story for the kids when camping!

Gray Ghost 12-16-2005 09:58 PM

My in-laws live just down the road from where Garrow grew up and the mine where he hid the girl's body. I've seen the mine myself. Scary times.

Douglas Legg I'm afraid may remain a mystery. It's too bad they don't really scour that island (or whatever it is called) to search for his body. I guess they were short of funds the last time they looked.

Becca 12-17-2005 09:52 AM

I found this old article on Garrow, interesting read.

pterrie 12-17-2005 10:54 AM

I was a counselor at a camp on Long Lake when Doug Legg disappeared, and I spent a long, chilly, rainy day on the search, in a group led by a member of the faculty--Rainer Brock, I think--at the Huntington Wildlife Forest. The whole affair was indeed a media event, unlike anything that has happened before or since in Newcomb. Given the roughness of the terrain, I think the search was quite effectively run. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of acres of dense forest were closely examined. I've been back to the Santanoni Preserve several times since then and have always thought the kid probably drowned very close to where he was last seen; there are many small ponds and wetlands on the property, close to the main camp. I also remember the rumors that quickly began circulating--that Doug was murdered by some adult in the family or that the whole thing was a fraud, staged by the family hoping the publicity would increase the value of the property. I find both of these notions ridiculous. The poor child wandered off into the woods, and his family was crushed.

Phil Terrie

Gray Ghost 12-17-2005 11:26 AM

Nice to hear something from someone who was there, Phil.

Trailpatrol 12-18-2005 09:20 PM

This I remember...
The search for Douglas Legg was what got me involved in search and rescue. SAR was what led me to become a ranger. I was a reporter for WTKO/WEIV-FM in Ithaca at the time, and I covered the search and it's aftermath for the station.

To say that the search was poorly managed is probably a bit broad, because at the time, search management (and the Incident Command System) did not really exist yet. William Syrotuck, (founder of the nation's first SAR dog unit, and one of those who searched for Dougie.) had yet to publish his ground-breaking studies on lost victim behavior, probability of detection, and search techniques, upon which SAR management would be based. It was run as best it could be under the circumstances. Literally everyone from Boy Scouts to Green Berets were involved in the search at one point or another. When hope started to wane, the family put out a plea for any able-bodied woodsmen to come search for the boy. When they still failed to find him, the family paid for a composite unit of Los Angeles County Mountain Rescue volunteers and the Syrotuck's fledgling American Rescue Dog Association (ARDA) from Seattle to be flown in from the west coast. In 1971 the "Sierra Madre group" as they were called, and ARDA were the best in the country in the SAR business.

One of my friends and mentors, Trooper Jim Suffolk, the near-legendary State Police bloodhound handler of the 1970s and 80's, was walking out the door of the SP barracks/kennel in Oneida headed on vacation when the phone rang, telling him to throw his dogs in the truck and head to Newcomb. He used the lights and siren the entire way. About a week into the search, the major (Troop Commander) came looking for him, and told him he couldn't keep racking up OT, particularly when he was supposed to be on vacation. Jim took his best hound, raced up to the barracks kennel in Ray Brook and left his dog there. He then sped back to Oneida, dropped off the truck, picked up his station wagon (already full of camping gear and clothing), and headed back to Ray Brook. He picked up the bloodhound and headed back to Santanoni, and the search. If I remember him telling it right, he did it all non-stop, except for getting fuel.

Abbe Keith from LACO, one of the leaders of the MRA team, told me years later that of all the searches they had been in since the late 1940s until 1971, nothing compared to, or could have prepared their crew for the terrain, vegetation, humidity, and bugs of the Adirondacks in July. Syrotuck and his group from Washington State faired somewhat better, having trained in the Olympic rain forests. They were teamed with a couple of Air Force officers from Griffith AFB, who later founded the Adirondack Rescue Dog Association.

Seeing the Los Angeles team in action, a number of (mostly) guys went back to their communities and formed volunteer SAR teams. Some are still around today, including the Oswego County Pioneers SAR, Wilderness (formerly Tompkins County--my old team) SAR, Boonville SAR, and Lewis County SAR. These teams banded together in 1972 to for the New York State Federation of SAR Teams. The search also caused Gov. Nelson Rockefeller to place the Forest Ranger force of the newly (re-)organized DEC in charge of SAR operations in the Adirondack Preserve.

A number of years back, but after I moved out here to MN in 1988, there was a report of a skull and some bone found by some hunters on a swamp island near Santanoni. (Not the ones mentioned in the article) But when the went back, they couldn't find anything. Over the years, Dougie Legg, Steven Thomas, and some others remain mysteries the mountains aren't ready to give up...yet.

Gray Ghost 12-18-2005 10:07 PM

Very good insight. I wasn't trying to generalize with my comments; again, I was just going on what I've been told by various people. Having covered the story, you must have a hypothesis of your own. What do you think happened and was there any real consensus on what "might have" happened at the time?

Trailpatrol 12-18-2005 11:42 PM

What happened?
I'll be honest with you: Personally, I think the boy wandered into a bog by accident, panicked, and was sucked down, never to be seen again. Jim Suffolk and Leo ????, the NYSP bloodhound handlers back then, felt that way, too, if I remember right. The five air-scenting SAR dogs from Seattle and New Jersey were only trained for wilderness-area search. It would be the 1980s before we discovered dogs could be trained to locate human bodies under water.

There were theories about some "hippies" (news quote, not my wording) in the area kidnapping him. There was a lot of cabin squatting in the mountains at the time; Mostly by young people who did not believe in private ownership of the forests, but a good number of them also came out to help look for Doug. That theory had a lot of adherents, though. My SAR team leader back in the mid-70s always felt he was mad at getting sent back to get long pants, so he ran away, and that in 20-30 years he would show up and say. "Hi, I'm Doug." Don't hold your breath on that one.

There was a short-lived TV show in 1973 called "Sierra" (from the producers of "Emergency") about the National Park Rangers. The ad for the show in TV Guide read "The mountains are no place for amateurs. Some amateurs don't know that. That's where we come in." Or as Jesse Hawkes (Robert Conrad) put it so succinctly in the (fortunately) short lived "High Mountain Rangers", "The mountains don't play favorites." Douglas Legg, Steven Thomas, David Boomhower, and many others show that even in the media, there is a gleam of truth...sometimes

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