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Runaway Train: John Lango

          Our next Runaway Train case brings us to a small town in Pennsylvania. As 1987 turned over to 1988, 17 year old John Lango left his home, never to be seen again. What happened to John? Let’s explore.

Who Is John?

          John Lango was born on February 5, 1970. He was a friendly young man who got along well with his family and generally got along with his classmates. He was an energetic guy who liked music and break-dancing. A pair of Adidas shoes were his most cherished possession. At the time of his disappearance, John was a senior at Pottsville Area High School. Though he did get along with everyone and fit in across the board despite the cliquey-ness of high school, one of John’s friends did comment that he had seemed to be a bit “sullen” in the year prior to his disappearance, and had offhandedly spoken about running away to New York City – it is unknown what triggered this mood change, and if it had any bearing on his disappearance.
          John stood at around 6’1 and weighed around 185 lbs at the time of his disappearance. He was last seen wearing a gray jacket, blue jeans, and Adidas shoes (though apparently these were a different pair than his prized pair). He has red hair, blue eyes, and a burn scar on his upper right arm.

(One of the last known photos of John.
via the Republican Herald)

The Disappearance

          On the evening of December 31, 1987 John got into an argument with his girlfriend. They apparently could not agree on where they were going to ring in the New Year, so they went their separate ways for the night. John ended up drinking with friends at his home. At this gathering, there was some sort of altercation. This has never been described in detail, though we do know that the police were called as a result. Not wanting to deal with the situation, John left the home at around midnight, January 1, 1987. This is the last time he was seen.

The Investigation

          At first, investigators considered John to have been a runaway, due to the fact that he left the home of his own accord. However, as time went on, and he was not heard from, the idea that foul play was involved in this case was given more credence, Unfortunately, this seems to be the extent of the investigation. There are seemingly no further interviews, sightings, or leads – at least that we, as the public, are privy to. His social security number has not been used since his disappearance.

(An age progression of John to age 44.
via NamUs)


          It is clear that John left of his own accord initially, but that he did not intend to stay gone for long. He left in the heat of the moment after the fight at his home, and he left behind all of his important belongings. Based on what little we know, the only theories I can come up with are that John was either the victim of a random act of violence, perished in an accident, or he took his own life. All of these theories are made more likely by the fact that he disappeared on New Year’s Eve night – meaning drinking was likely prevalent across town. We’ll tackle these theories one by one. This, of course, is all speculation.
          First, the theory that John was the victim of a random act of violence. This could mean a mugging, assault, or murder. We know that alcohol consumption lowers inhibitions, so it’s not too far-fetched to think that John may have encountered someone drunk who decided, for whatever reason, that a teenager alone was a perfect target for whatever they wanted to do. It doesn’t have to make sense to us. Logic doesn’t apply to drunk people.
          Next, the idea of an accident. When I say accident, it could mean many things. He may have been struck by a drunk driver – again, we know alcohol flows on New Year’s – and moved off of whatever road he may have been on if he was walking. Some accounts of John’s disappearance say he got into a car – maybe whoever was driving that car got into an accident in which John sadly died and, not wanting to get in trouble, the driver hid John, never to be found. Or perhaps John was walking and, drunk himself, found himself hurt and unable to get help. Maybe he was off road. Maybe he got into a body of water.
          Finally, the hardest to consider, is the possibility that John took his own life. We know that one of his friends said that he had seemed more down in recent months. Perhaps that, combined with the alcohol consumption, led to an impulsive decision to end his own life. Suicide is often the result of an impulsive decision. Again, the bodies of water are a distinct possibility here – the Schuylkill River runs through Pottsville. Again, this is all speculation based on the very few, very vague pieces of this puzzle that we have.

Investigative Agencies

          If you or anyone you know have any information about the night John went missing or what happened to him after, please reach out to the Pottsville Police Department at 570-622-1234, in reference to case number 88000330. John’s NamUs Case Number is 7220, his National Crime Information Center case number is M-376251763, and his National Center for Missing and Exploited Children case number is 601795. John has been missing for over thirty years. He and his family deserve answers.


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