KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) -— It’s been more than 40 years since Thelma Pauline “Polly” Melton disappeared while hiking with friends in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The 58-year-old went hiking with friends in the Deep Creek area on September 25, 1981. Around 4 p.m. Melton picked up her pace and walked ahead. Her friends told investigators they watched as she walked over a hill on the trail and out of their view.

The friends assumed Melton had returned to the campground where an Airstream owned by Melton and her husband was parked, but when they arrived half an hour later Melton’s husband — who had remained behind — said he hadn’t seen her.

Around 6 p.m., the group reported Melton missing to a park ranger.


  • Height: 5 feet, 10 inches
  • Weight: 180 pounds
  • Eye color: brown
  • Hair color: Auburn/red
  • Other: Wearing a pink and white blouse; tan slacks; low-cut tan shoes and eyeglasses. She was also wearing diamond-studded white gold wristwatch and a wedding band.

Melton was said to be familiar with the trail, and no indication was found that anyone had ventured off the path. She was taking medication for high blood pressure and nausea at the time of her disappearance.

The Charley Project, a website that seeks to raise public awareness for thousands of “cold case” missing people, reports that Melton was grieving the death of her mother that year, but was not considered to be suicidal.

The site also reports that Melton, who is reported to have smoked two packs a day, had cigarettes with her, but no cash, ID or medications on her when she disappeared.

Authorities say nearly 400 people go missing in Tennessee each year. That’s 5 people for every 100,000. Check this list of people missing from East Tennessee to see if you can help locate someone.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is the investigating agency for this case.