The Ben McDaniel Disappearance

The Ben McDaniel Disappearance

On August 18, 2010, at around 7:30 PM, Ben McDaniel was seen by two other divers as he descended into the water heading for a popular underground cave.

One of the divers who spotted him was actually an employee from a nearby diving shop who had access to the cave. He followed Ben to the water cave entrance to unlock the gate and let him in.

He turned out to be the last known person to see Ben McDaniel.

This article covers the Ben McDaniel disappearance…


The oldest of three brothers born to Shelby and Patty McDaniel, Ben had not exactly been the luckiest soul in life.

He had a rather miserable failed marriage behind him and his construction company had folded to leave him in complete bankruptcy. A hefty tax debt (est. $50,000) was also hanging over his head.

He decided to return to his parent’s Memphis home in an attempt to cheer himself up and catch up with family members. Whilst there, his parents offered to pay for him to take a break from it all at Santa Rosa Beach, where the family maintained a beach home.

The Dive

Ben had loved diving as a kid and Santa Rosa Beach gave him the chance to re-discover that passion.

The cave he was diving into on August 18, 2010, was extremely treacherous and the state had debated banning it following 13 deaths attributed to it in the 1990’s.

Local diving institutes in the area decided to lock it up and only really experienced divers were allowed into it.

Santa Rosa Area beach West
Santa Rosa Area beach West

That day, the divers who spotted Ben knew he was a keen diver so they opted to follow him and pass on the key so he could enter the cave.

Two days after the dive, when McDaniel’s truck was noticed to still be in the parking lot, the Holmes County Sheriff’s Dept. was notified.


When the truck was searched officials found nothing more than Ben’s keys, wallet (containing $700) and cellphone.

A mass of volunteer divers and cadaver dogs turned up to help out and try and locate the stranded Ben inside the cave, but they only found two oxygen tanks at the underwater entrance.

After 36 days of exhaustive search efforts by professional diving teams Ben’s family decided to offer a lucrative reward to anyone who could find out more information on their son.

Not long after this reward was made public, a local diver became trapped inside the cave during his search effort and died. The reward was withdrawn in an attempt at stopping anyone else getting harmed.

Ben McDaniel’s Disappearance

Several theories have been proposed over the ensuing years, including foul play, a staged effort to avoid the impending financial ruin and Ben being trapped or lost inside the cave.

If you have any thoughts or opinions on the subject we have covered here today, please leave them in the comment section below.

6 comments on “The Ben McDaniel Disappearance

  1. Thanks for the backdrop into this young man’s life, and the sad story behind it. Too bad his body was never found as that would have provided more peace for the family as to his disappearance. Those dangers on the beach there must be well known in that community and I thank you for stories such as this.

  2. Hi Chris. Thanks for the opportunity to navigate through your site. It’s very interesting, especially the mystery of the Ben who disappeared. My wife and I love to watch “Mysteries at the museum”. We find some of the stories fascinating, especially the paranormal activities and unexplained mysteries. I can still remember an article about a guy who also tried to evade taxes by faking his death in a plane crash. The plane was suppose to crash in the sea, but fell short. Police found him in a caravan park in a small tent where he tried to commit suicide.
    All of the best for the future.

    1. Wow a pretty depressing story there Adrian LOL 🙂

      Anyway – great to hear that you enjoyed your visit here and all the best to you!

  3. I’m inclined to say fake death due to his financial issues, and that would explain the lack of body, but to fake your death you want people to think you’re dead, not just missing, so why would he choose this method. He was an expert diver so he knows a body would need to be found like the other 13 were. Interesting. Where is he??

    1. The financial issues do seem to be a big red flag but as you rightly point out…where is he? He must be an extremely clever man to stay hidden for this long…

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