High school field trip in 1976 sees Knoxville teenager "disappear into thin air"
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
On October 8th, 1976, 16 year-old, Teresa "Trenny" Lynn Gibson went with 35-40 of her classmates from Bearden High School in Knoxville on a field trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The students were hiking around 1.8 miles to Andrews Bald from Clingman's Dome and then back on the Forney Ridge Trail.
The group separated into smaller groups when they arrived at the trail depending on how fast they could walk. Despite there being such a large group, there was only one teacher supervising, in addition to the bus driver.
According to some accounts, no one was informed by the school where they were going until they actually arrived or were on the way to the trail head.
Trenny hiked with several different sections of her classmates at different paces during the day. She was last seen at approximately 3:00 p.m. near Clingman's Dome, walking on a moderately steep trail with sharp drop-offs and dense undergrowth on both sides and she was said to have left the path to the right after spotting something.
She was wearing a blue blouse, a blue and white striped sweater, a borrowed brown plaid heavy jacket, blue jeans, blue Adidas shoes and a diamond and star sapphire ring.
Trenny was never seen again and her body never found.
Tracker dogs were called out and were able to pick up her scent and they followed it by Clingmans Dome Tower.
Some of the dogs last detected her scent along the roadside about a mile and a half from Collins Gap but then then the dogs stopped.
The dogs led officers to a local road where cigarettes butts and a beer can found in the area near the road where the sniffer dog had come to a halt.
By October 12th, four days after her disappearance, the search was scaled back to about 20 people. Extensive searches of the park continued until the end of October 1976, but Trenny has never been found. The chief ranger told reporters he was almost certain she was not in the park.
A second search from April 18 to May 5, 1977 also failed to turn up any leads.
A fellow Student, Robert Simpson was said to have been implicated as Trenny's hair comb was found in his car, but police did not consider him a serious suspect.
Robert and Hope Gibson, parents of Trenny, alerted authorities about a past incident in which a young man had tried to break into their home. Hope Gibson shot him, and the young man later threatened to harm Trenny.
Knox County deputies looked into the incident, but the lead went nowhere.
Searchers went back to the park in 1981, but again nothing. She had vanished off the face of the planet.
If you have any information on the disappearance of Trenny Gibson you are asked to call the Tennessee Bureau Of Investigation at 615-744-4000.