Note to readers: I’m enjoying a bit of “down time” today…I don’t have any trivia games to write about – and my husband and I are watching Halloween-inspired movies. Today, it’s The Mist (very Lovecraftian Stephen King story). Last night, we watched The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Addams Family and Dark Shadows. If you bothered to read the question I posted about “What actress am I” and haven’t figured out the answer yet, I will tell you that the actress is in Addams Family Values!
Now back to the blog!
In 2005, a teenager from Alabama named Natalee Holloway went to visit a Dutch dependency and was never seen alive again. In 2014, two Dutch female tourists went hiking in a Panama jungle and were also never seen alive again.
The 2005 case made national news – we couldn’t avoid stories about Natalee Holloway, who went on a spring break trip to Aruba…and disappeared. It was only when Hurricane Katrina made landfall that the news coverage started shifting to cover something ELSE besides Natalee Holloway’s disappearance.
I never even knew about these Dutch female tourists until today. And once I learned about them, I was instantly captivated! I learned about them by clicking on one of those Internet slide shows that shows photos of people/things on their last days on Earth – the Titanic, the Challenger crew, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Otto von Bismarck (his deathbed photo is quite haunting)…and the last slide of was Kris Kremers.
This is one of the last known photos of Kris Kremers before she died in a Panama jungle near Boquete. I do not own this photo.
You’ve probably never heard of Kris Kremers, have you? She was a 21-year-old Dutch tourist who was on a six-week trip to Panama with her friend Lisanne Froon (22). Both women went hiking in the jungle hoping to check out the Continental Divide. Their remains weren’t discovered until months later. Investigators believe their deaths were accidental, with at least one of the deaths resulting from fall from a cliff. One of the women’s hiking boots was found – with the foot STILL in it. A backpack was discovered with belongings including about $80 cash (USD), passport, camera, cell phone, etc. Yeah, I’m thinking robbery was probably not a motive. No marks were found on the bones, which would rule out being mauled by wildlife – or cannibalism.
Lisanne Froon (left) and Kris Kremers (right) at an airport in Amsterdam before their fateful trip to Panama – I do not own this photo. To see more photos like these, click here.
I have kind of a soft spot for this case. For one, I learned Lisanne Froon was 6-feet tall (us tall folks are instantly fascinated with other tall people). Though I don’t really know how their friendship dynamic worked, I can kind of sense that Lisanne (the accomplished athlete, the experienced alpine hiker) was the “sensible” one – and the more vivacious Kris (who seemed to kind of come alive in photos) was the “goofy one.” A similar dynamic has always been at work with me and my friend Michelle (I’ve always been the “sensible one,” she’s more of the “wild child”). Though when we get together we are BOTH kind of goofy! Great friendships are almost always based on this kind of balance – yin and yang. If friends are TOO much alike, that’s where contention comes in. I don’t know a damn thing about these women – but I’m willing to bet they had this kind of “balance” in their friendship.
Selfie of the two hikers Kremers and Froon – (I do not own this photo).
I talked a bit about this case with my husband – who spent a couple of summers in Panama in the early 1990s, when his dad was stationed there in the U.S. Army. He said that the remote areas of Panama were pretty ripe with dangers that weren’t just limited to the terrain or the wildlife. In the case of wildlife, one of the biggest threats in the area is a poisonous snake commonly referred to as a fer de lance. He nearly encountered one while he was hiking up steps (two-by-two – this is an important plot point) on a trail near an old Mayan settlement in Costa Rica (right across the border from Panama). He luckily missed a step that a fer de lance was using for its afternoon siesta. His parents nearly had coronaries when they saw how narrowly he missed his appointment with potential death! He jokes that this is why we we will never win the lottery – because he uses up his luck in much more important situations such as this one!
The “fer de lance,” aka Bothrops asper is considered to be one of the most dangerous snakes in the Western hemisphere. It’s described as “irritable and fast-moving.” Dangerous combo! I live in a U.S. state (Michigan) where the most dangerous reptile is a Massasauga rattlesnake – which tends to AVOID people.
“You watch out when you go into the interior,” he said. This was the general warning from Army folks, natives, and other non-natives who lived there. In addition to rough, difficult to navigate jungle terrain – there were also…bad elements in the way of “bandits.” Having your car break down on the side of the road could result in a very real threat to your life if a not-so-nice “resident” decided to take advantage of your…situation.
There are folks who actually live off the land in the Panamanian jungle. People in the Embrera tribe spend their days fishing – and living off the other “fruits” of the forest. Their land is virtually inaccessible during the rainy seasons. If you plan to travel here, pay close attention to the “rainy” and “dry” seasons. The rainy season tends to run from April to November. The Embrera tribespeople are actually friendly to the tourists who are adventurous enough to manage to find them – and will trade their hand-made products with them. Read more about them here.
The Panamanian interior is exactly where these women went, resulting in what can only be guessed was their own personal horror film. Perhaps something similar to The Revenant only without the CG bear? Prevailing theories are one of the women (dubbed holandesas by the locals) was injured (perhaps in a fall), and the other tried to help her – dying of exposure days later. Cell phone evidence shows that multiple attempts were made to contact both 911 (emergency services in Panama) and 112 (international emergency services). The last attempt to call for help was on April 11.
We still don’t know what REALLY happened to these women. Truth be told, it’s a very sad story! Dying of exposure or the result of a fall in a rain forest is NOT how I want to go…and I’ll end this with a quote from a Daily Beast article…
There is a tale told among the local Ngobe that the ghostly, keening cries of the holandesas can still be heard to echo through the canyons above the Rio Culebra in early April, when the rainy season begins.