The Insane And Forgotten Story Of Barbara Mackle — The Heiress Who Was Kidnapped And Buried Alive For Three Days

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What Happened To Barbara Mackle? New Details About The Heiress Who Was Kidnapped And Buried Alive For Three Days
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Barbara Mackle was buried alive for 83 hours — and survived. So, where is she now?

In December of 1968, Gary Steven Krist and his partner, Ruth Eisemann-Schierthe, then 23 and 26, posed as police officers and knocked on the door of Mackle’s motel room where she was staying to recover from the flu and study for her college exams. 

The pair said that her boyfriend had been in a car accident, so her mother, Jane Mackle, let them in.

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As soon as the door opened, the two “officers” attacked Jane. They knocked her out with chloroform and left her tied up in the house as they forced Barbara into a car.

Krist and Eisemann-Schierthe made the then-20-year-old Mackle get into a fiberglass box at the bottom of a hole that they had previously dug in a forest. The kidnappers had engineered the box to where Mackle could breathe, and loaded it with food and water containing sedatives.

They shoved a sign that read “KIDNAPPED” into Mackle’s hands and took a photo.

Photo: Getty Images

Mackle was buried alive in a box two feet under the ground just 20 miles from her Georgia home and held for ransom.

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“I screamed and screamed,” Mackle wrote in her book, 83 Hours ‘Til Dawn. “The sound of the dirt got farther and farther away. Finally, I couldn’t hear anything above. I screamed for a long time after that.”

Krist and Eisemann-Schierthe demanded $500,000 for her safe return, which is equivalent to $3.5 million today. Her father paid the ransom, but the kidnappers took the money and ran.

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The FBI became involved in the search for the missing college student and she was found alive three-and-a-half days later. Mackle later said that she knew she would not die in that box and remained positive by imagining spending Christmas with her family.

Eisemann-Schierthe was arrested within 24 hours and deported back to her home country of Honduras. Krist was caught in Florida two months later and served 10 years in prison before being paroled to go to medical school.

He continued working as a doctor until 2003 and then, in 2006, he was arrested for drug smuggling and given a five-year prison sentence.

Krist's former parole officer, Tommy Morris, said that Krist chose his victim very carefully. 

“He was looking for a rich, tough-minded female,” Morris revealed in an interview in 1988. “Someone who could stand up to the trauma of being buried alive. Barbara Jane Mackle fit that profile.”

It has now been over 50 years since Mackle was buried alive. She reportedly settled down in South Florida and has never spoken about her kidnapping in public, although former president Richard Nixon persuaded her to write a book about her tragic experience.

Two movies have been made about her nerve-wracking kidnapping: The Longest Night in 1972 and 83 Hours ‘Til Dawn in 1990.

According to The Mackle Company, Barbara’s family is amazed as to how unaffected she seems by the kidnapping. “The families have gone very separate ways,” the website reads. “But from what I have heard she has had no serious after effects.”

Barbara married her college boyfriend Stewart Hunt Woodward, who died in 2013. She had two children during her 43-year marriage to Woodward: Virginia Romano and Scott Woodward.

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Sarah Gangraw writes about all things news, entertainment and crime. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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Editor's Note: This article was originally posted in May 2018 and was updated with the latest information.