The Disappearance of Donald Ferris Shafer // Cold Case // 1981

4 min readDec 27, 2021

Donald Ferry Shafer was just 15 years old when he vanished from Dickson City, Pennsylvania.

Even though he was last seen on March 6, 1981, authorities wouldn’t take an official missing person report on him until 2013.

How is that even possible? What don’t we know about the case of Donald Ferry Shafer?

We do know that he was a troubled kid, but he was….just a kid. A teenager who seemed lost and defiant, although certainly, he isn’t the only teenager to ever suffer from understanding his place in the world.

Donald Shafer left his home in Dickson City that March day and was never seen again.

Where is Donald Ferry Shafer?

Donald Shafer seemed like a kid that might have slipped under the radar, at least to local authorities.

He had a history of running away and being a troubled kid, and when his family tried to report him missing shortly after they last saw him, the authorities didn’t listen.

Was it because he had a track record of running away from home?

Because of the lack of interest in his case, there isn’t much information known about Donald and his life growing up.

He was living in Dickson City, Pennsylvania in March 1981. Dickson City is located in Lackawanna County, just north of the much bigger city of Scranton.

Dickson City had its fair share of troubles. It was a dying town, with the population getting smaller and smaller almost every year. In the 1930s, the town had almost 13,000 residents. The town would decline steadily, all the way to 2018 when the population was barely 5000.

The town itself had once been a booming coal-mining town. It has since migrated into a retail mecca, for all things shopping.

Donald lived with his family in Dickson City, according to his missing person file. He did spend some time in Montana, however, specifically at the Yellowstone Ranch for Boys and Girls.

The Ranch is a residential treatment center for troubled children in Billings, Montana.

The facility is well-known for treating children with all types of issues, including…


Jen is the host of the missing persons podcast: "Where are they?”