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Tara Calico: The Girl in the Photograph

The Missing Girl and the Polaroid 

Tara Calico’s disappearance is an oddity, to say the least. Thirty-five years since the 19-year-old disappeared in New Mexico, a polaroid found in Florida could be the answer to the mystery. 

Tara went missing while on a bike ride on the 20th of September 1988. It was the same route on New Mexico State Road that she took every day. The same sunny stretch of road that she had been riding for years. 

As Tara left the house, she jokingly told her mother that she should come looking for her if Tara didn’t return by noon. 

At noon, Tara never came home. 

No one witnessed the abduction, although several witnesses observed a 1953 Ford pickup with a camper shell following closely behind Tara on her bike. 

It seemed like Tara was abducted in broad daylight and nobody was even around to see it… 

When Tara did not return home, Tara’s mother promptly notified the police and the local community began campaigning and searching for Tara’s return. There was no sign of Tara nor the breadcrumbs left behind. 

The case then sat cold and Tara’s family suffered in anguish… Decades passed and the 20th century turned into the 21st century. 

In 2008, the Valencia County Sheriff's received a photograph. It was a Polaroid. The photograph showed a young girl and a boy, bound and gagged in the back of a van. It was a truly horrifying and spine-tingling photo. 

The picture was found 1,500 miles from where Tara disappeared. 

The boy was believed to be Michael Henley. 

The Other Boy 

Nine-year-old Michael went on a camping trip with his father in the Zuni Mountains, New Mexico. Michael went missing at a campsite. 

Their first thought was that Michael wandered off into the wilderness. A snowstorm hit the area and Michael wasn’t found. 

Michael was a Caucasian male, 4’6 and 65 pounds - nine years old with a birthmark on his right eyelid. 

In 1990, Michael’s remains were found just a few miles from the campsite. He was identified through dental records. This may rule him out as the other boy in the photograph, although some family members maintain that this was Michael in the photo - despite his discovery in New Mexico. 


How a photo can emerge twenty years later and nearly 1,500 miles away is shocking. And the photo is horrifying. 

The film of the Polaroid dated the photograph to have been taken after May 1989 - this means the photo could have been taken up to 9 months after Tara’s abduction.  

The photo was found in the parking lot of a convenience store in Port St. Joe, Florida. 

The vehicle that Tara was “photographed” in was a Toyota Cargo van. 

Both the FBI and Scotland Yard in London investigated the picture and the slight scar on Tara’s leg is significantly similar to the girl in the picture. Scotland Yard confirmed Tara’s identity using scientific forensics. 


Pieces of Tara’s walkman along with the cassette tape were found 19 miles east of Highway 47. This is an hour away from Tara’s hometown Belen. 

Tara could have left the walkman and cassette intentionally to leave a trail. 

Two additional photographs emerged which could also be linked to Tara. One photograph was found near a construction site in Montecito, California. 

The first photograph is a disturbing image of a woman being bound by a manic-looking man. A woman is put into a painful and degrading situation. This photograph was dated after February 1990. They appeared to be on an Amtrak train. 

The second photo shows a blurry picture of a young girl with tape covering her mouth and a blue-striped fabric behind her. Similar to the pillow in the Toyota van photograph. 

In the infamous photograph, there is a copy of a novel V.C Andrews’ My Sweet Audrina. 

This was Tara’s favourite book. It was the only stand-alone novel published during Andrews’ life (who gained fame for the Flowers in the Attic series). 

It tells the story of post-traumatic stress, rape and disease. 

The placing of the book could be a taunt to Tara’s family - or a message regarding her fate. The book being in the photograph is yet another chilling mystery in this possible abduction. 

In 1998 Tara was officially declared dead (despite the absence of a body) and the case was ruled a homicide. The FBI is offering $20,000 for information that will lead to the discovery of Tara Calico. This case is horrifying, disturbing and shocking. 

How these photos can emerge, with other victims, and a trail of breadcrumbs and yet, no further information - it’s horrifying. 



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