Unsolved Mysteries . . . The 1975 Disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa


James Riddle Hoffa (1913-1975?)
James Riddle Hoffa (1913-1975?)

His middle-name befitted the man. Riddle. He became one of the greatest of all time . . .

It was the year of the rabbit–1975. And it was memorable one, in so many ways. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the reigning Super Bowl Champions. Later in the Fall, the Cincinnati Reds would take the World Series. The Ford F-150 pickup truck, seemingly around forever, was just introduced that year.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was in the theaters. Betamax video was just released. Pet rocks were the rage. All in the Family was number one on TV–followed by Maude and The Bionic Woman. Helen Reddy had the number one song, Angie Baby. Everyone was afraid to go in the water.

Thanks to Spielberg and his shark named Bruce (after his attorney).

"Bruce," the mechanical shark from the '75 hit movie "Jaws"
“Bruce,” the mechanical shark from the ’75 hit movie “Jaws”

10cc was on the radio, but they weren’t in love. Van McCoy was doing The Hustle, ushering in a short-lived era of disco. Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond were big name. And the incredibly powerful voice of Freddie Mercury blasted out of the dashboard about every ten minutes, it seemed, with his dark and jingly rock hit, Killer Queen.

I was a twenty-five year old kid that summer. I worked on the afternoon shift at the local General Motors plant, in the quality control department–inspecting outsourced diesel engine parts from three-thirty in the afternoon ’til midnight.

The Author--in the summer of '75
The Author–in the summer of ’75
The sacred bike.
The sacred bike.

The mornings were for sleeping–and mid-day for riding my beloved bright orange Schwinn World Voyager bicycle. Sometimes I’d do ten or twenty miles, up and down the Hines Drive bike paths–and then head off for work.

But I was young then. And in shape. Nowadays, I’d get tired driving that far in the car.

I was right on the cusp of twenty-six, which would happen on August 10th. It must have been the first or second of August that year that I returned home from one of those rides, and collected the morning newspaper from the front door of my apartment. The headline was startling. Jimmy Hoffa, the long-time and very shady Teamsters Union president had gone to lunch on July 30th with some local crime figures. He didn’t come home that evening. Jimmy Hoffa had disappeared.

And he would never come home again either–missing–to this very day. It was good timing to create an instant legend. The Godfather movie was still so new it was on everyone’s mind. Everyone loved–and feared the mafia–back in those days.

Probably no one would ever say that Jimmy was an especially nice guy. He got to be where he was by climbing over mountains of dead bodies. Some figuratively–others–not so much. Hoffa was convicted back in 1965 of corruption (bribery and jury tampering) and spent the next two years appealing his conviction.

He failed–and got a twelve year sentence. Old Jimmy only served five of it however, and then was pardoned by President Richard Nixon. Part of the deal was that Hoffa couldn’t involve himself in union activity until at least March of 1980.

Far too long for Hoffa.

He wanted back in immediately, and was more than willing to do whatever it would take to make it so.  Including dealing with the devil. Frank Fitzsimmons was the interim Teamster President, and he wanted to stay right where he was.

Turned out that the Detroit Mafia wanted old Frankie to stay too. They had far better access to the rich Teamster Pension Fund under Fitzsimmons, than they would have had with Hoffa.

So Hoffa went to lunch with a couple of wise-guys at The Machus Red Fox restaurant on Telegraph Road in Bloomfield Hills, hoping to make a deal. He got one all right–and apparently one he couldn’t refuse. Jimmy, and any and all traces of him disappeared that day–never to be seen again.


The Machus Red Fox restaurant in 1975.
The Machus Red Fox restaurant in 1975.



Hoffa’s car was found in the parking lot, and that was it. The search was on–for nearly forty years now–and sometimes just a little bit obsessively.

For years, as I would drive past the Red Fox on my way to work, I would almost always turn my head and glance into the parking lot–as though he would be there–somehow missed in all the excitement.

Like Bigfoot and The Loch Ness monster, if anybody ever actually finds the long lost body of Jimmy Hoffa, it’s going to be somewhat of a disappointment. In a strange sort of way, it would not only end the mystery, but it would spoil the suspense.

It’s kind of like finding the wreck of The Titanic in 1985. Closure kind of ruined the story. It was a lot more fun when we didn’t have an idea in the world of where it might be–except for on the bottom of the North Atlantic–somewhere.

Finding Hoffa’s body would bring closure too–and closure would be the death knell for a dog-gone awfully fine who, and how-dunnit.

But, oh how they have tried over the past four decades.

Digging up driveways and tearing up old house foyers searching for bloodstains, and tearing down old barns. Prying open smelly barrels in landfills. Searching with ground detecting radar and cadaver smelling dogs.

It’s all come to nothing of course. Kind of like The Lost Dutchman Mine, allegedly in The Superstition Mountains of southern Arizona. If anyone actually ever found it, the State Legislature would have to declare it to be “the wrong Lost Dutchman Mine,” and instigate a renewed search for the right one.

Arizona could never afford to give up that many tourist dollars.

I don’t think we can afford to give up the search for old Jimmy Hoffa either. It’s just been way too much fun–and has become an enduring–and somewhat endearing part of American pop culture and folklore.

Where do I think old Jimmy is? Easy–and I bet I’m right too. Not a lot of people know or remember anymore, but at one time there was a robust and thriving industry under the streets of Detroit. Salt- mining. There are literally hundreds, if not thousand of miles of old, dark and unused salt-mine tunnels under the City of Detroit.

And that’s where I personally think he is. I don’t think he ever left the city. Buried–and buried deep–in salt. Probably perfectly preserved–and like old Lot’s wife–at last, an honest and solid pillar of the community. Old Jimmy–finally the salt of the Earth.

But do I want someone to go look for him there and maybe actually find him?

Heck no . . . not in a million years.

The salt-mines of Detroit.
The salt-mines of Detroit.


As always–thanks so much for reading.  Next up–a twenty-four karat gold-plated novel and motion-picture gem–and all time classic.

hoffa 6

To Kill A Mockingbird.

Until then–Goodnight.

Dumb Joke of the day:  Where does a one-legged waitress work?  Answer:  IHOP