Mysterious Death in Washington: The Case of Marcia Moore

Marcia Moore was born in May of 1928 the only girl among 4 brothers. Her father, Robert Lowell Moore went to Harvard, and after finishing school, he and his roommate Earnest Henderson started a small business as flippers. They’d buy depreciated businesses and reinvigorate them, selling them for a profit. In 1934, they took a chance on  a small hotel in Boston for nothing more than the back taxes owed to the city. Because it already had a large, bold sign out front, they kept the name. You may have heard of it- The Sheraton? They saw so much success, that they kept the hotel too, and expanded it into what we know as the modern day chain of hotels and more. 

Though her parents worked incredibly hard, they also recognized the importance of relaxation, so they owned what they called a meditation retreat in California, where they would head for some peace and quiet as needed. Despite this forward thinking, above all else her parents valued education, and pushed the kids to study and work hard. 

And they were all quite successful in their own way! Marcia’s brother Robin went on to write the Green Berets and the French Connection, widely popular books which were adapted into conservative Oscar winning movies. 

But Marcia never quite took to the conservative side of her family. She always really loved the time they spent learning about meditation and other cultures as children, and she pursued that even further when she married her first husband Simons Roof. The pair had three children: Luisa, Christopher, and Jonathan. As a family, they explored India learning about hinduism and furthering their spiritual practices. 

Though Marcia and Simons’ marriage ended after 14 years, Marcia continued her love for what were considered fringe studies at the time. I think it’s important to remember how brave and bold it was for Marcia to take on topics which many people at that time, including members of her own family, considered debunked or even dangerous! She wrote a notable dissertation on astrology, then after a brief second marriage, she wrote a series of books on spiritual topics with her third husband Mark Douglass. Her total works were later compiled into a collection, which you can find near Boston at the Concord library. The titles she published are: 

  • Reincarnation, the Key to Immortality, with Mark Douglas, Able Trust edition, ISBN 978-0-912240-02-2, 1968.
  • Diet, Sex and Yoga, with Mark Douglas, Able Trust edition, ISBN 978-0-912240-00-8, 1970.
  • Astrology in Action, with Mark Douglas, Able Trust edition, ISBN 978-0-912240-03-9, 1970.
  • Journeys into the Bright World, Para Research Inc, ISBN 978-0-914918-12-7, 1978.
  • Astrology: The Divine Science, Able Trust edition, ISBN 978-0-912240-04-6, 1978.
  • Yoga, Science of the Self, with Mark Douglas, Arcane Publications York Harbor, ASIN: B0006X5POC, 1979.

When the relationship with Mark Douglass dissolved, Marcia met a charming anesthesiologist named Howard Altounian. He became her fourth and final husband and the two moved to a suburb of Seattle Washington. Howard also had a love for the New Age movement, which began increasing in popularity. Howard and Marcia  began to experiment with Spiritual uses for psychotropic drugs, including treating things like PTSD. Marcia had never been much of a drug user, but a new drug Ketamine had been gaining popularity in the counter-culture world. The theory was that, taken in appropriate microdoses, users could achieve higher states of consciousness allowing them to connect with other realms. Marcia was especially drawn to tapping into her past lives, as reincarnation had been a staple in her studies, having written a book on the subject ten years earlier. 

Howard and Marcia pursued the work through legal, scientific means, but the research was their own and it meant that Marcia was taking Ketamine DAILY for nearly 18 months. Her husband had already stopped, and the two had published a book together on their findings- Journeys into the Bright World. But Marcia was convinced that there were more discoveries to uncover, and that she was close to a breakthrough of the metaphysical variety. 

In the book “Dematerialized: The Mysterious Disappearance of Marcia Moore” by Joseph and Marina DiSomma, it appears as though one of the New Age beliefs that could be achieved through high enough consciousness was Dematerialization- where the soul moves onto another plane of existence and the physical body simply ceases to exist- vanishes into thin air. 

And vanishing into thin air appeared to be exactly what Marcia did. On the morning of January 15th, 1979, Howard Altounian called authorities to report his wife missing. The night before, he had left home to see a movie and when he got back, Marcia just wasn’t there. My research showed some conflicting information about what she took with her, or why he waited until morning to call, but what I do know is that everyone agrees that Howard was absolutely devastated. 

Of course the search for Marcia began immediately. For two years, many different theories were investigated while all parties who loved her simply hoped to find her alive and well. No trace of Marcia was seen for nearly two years, when someone found her partial skull in the woods, 3 miles from her home. The skull was only the top portion, and was identified easily through dental records due to the gold crowns Marcia had. The skull showed a hole in the top portion that is still debated to this day, with someone believing its a gunshot wound and others believing its simply deterioration from exposure. Her death was, and has remained classified as undetermined. 

Of course we have to consider the possibility of suicide. The hole in the skull could have been from a self inflicted gunshot wound. I wasn’t able to find any detail as to whether or not that possibility has been forensically analyzed, but the condition of the skull is reported to have made it impossible to tell. – Maybe a bullet, maybe nature. It’s true that there were no shell casings or bullets found near her body. I have heard conflicting reports as to the validity of her suicidal tendencies as well. Though some report that Howard says she had spoken of taking her life since beginning her ketamine routine, he also has been reported as saying that she’d NEVER do such a thing because of her beliefs in reincarnation. Marcia would never want to risk having to start her journey over or worse, get stuck in this lifetime doomed to repeat it. 

Marcia’s family seems to have a very different takes on what ended the heiress’s life, even different takes among the relatives. Her brother Robin has been very vocal in his assertion that Marcia was murdered due to her involvement with the occult. He claims that she told him she’d been threatened by a cult and a coven of witches, and he also says that when he was in Rhodesia two years earlier he received a mysterious letter offering condolences on the death of his sister. At the time, he’d called Marcia and she was fine, but now he believes wholeheartedly that the complaints and occurrences are connected to her death.  He believes that the reason we have only found her skill is because it was served cleanly in a satanic cult human sacrifice ritual. 

Conversely, other relatives seem to believe that the loving grieving husband knows more than he’s admitting. Dr. Altounian spoke of the mental health issues that the ketamine usage was causing for his wife, but her friends and family found that description to be different from what they say- they all felt she was happy, optimistic, and making plans for the future, including starting a magazine about reincarnation. Marcia’s niece Elizabeth remembers the adults of the family openly speaking about their suspicion of him as they settled her estate. It’s often reported that the family was embarrassed by Marcia’s lifestyle- both her relationship track record and her New Age beliefs. Elizabeth has said that while they all suspected it, there just wasn’t enough passion and rage to get the gentleman to break character and fight for those beliefs with no clear proof.

That being said, Howard and Marcia had been living exclusively off of Marcia’s trust fund. When his wife went missing, the community turned on him for his strange beliefs and strange circumstances. He ran out of money and had to move just to find work again as a doctor. It’s hard to see what benefit he would have gained from this. 

The most logical, and maybe popular theory is that Marcia died of exposure after a ketamine overdose. According to Altounian, Marcia had been depressed and despondent. He worried that her ketamine usage was having a long term effect on her, and he had begged her to stop but she was committed to her beliefs that she was close. Is it possible that she snuck a dose and took to the woods for a meditative experience? Or perhaps that she took too much and wandered off in a confused state? Ketamine is a heavy sedative- its a horse tranquilizer and has been used as a date rape drug- if she simply passed out in the woods, she would be likely to die on a cold winter night in the pacific northwest. That being said, why was she not found for two years? I’ve heard some whispers that that area had been searched right after her disappearance, so it seems odd that her remains went unnoticed. And that theory only counts for exposure being responsible for the disappearance of the rest of the body and the hole in the skull. 

Or maybe, just maybe, Marcia Moore reached such high consciousness that her soul ascended and her body simply dematerialized.

From there, the story of Marcia Moore grew as cold as her case. Though those who loved her life tried their best to keep her memory alive, her story faded from the headlines. Until a discovery in September of 2021 connected Marcia Moore to an eerily similar decade old John Doe case all the way across the country in Maine. 

On November 4th, 2010, a pair of men were out deer hunting in the woods of Stacyville Maine. Stacyville was a small town at the base of Mount Katahdin, right on the border of Penobscot and Aroostook Counties in the northern part of the state. The men came across a badly decomposed body, and state police were immediately called in for removal and autopsy. 

The man was estimated to be in his 50’s, around 5’9 and 150lbs. He wore nice clothes and seemed well cared for. His outfit included a plaid button down long sleeve shirt, khaki’s, sneakers, and a canvas jacket- all name brand. In his briefcase he had a sweater and bottles of juice and water. The item that really stuck out to everyone though was the hand knit beanie cap he was wearing, with the name CHRIS on the front. 

For more than 10 years, the Stacyville Doe was compared to missing persons, and his description was shared far and wide with absolutely no results. Who was this mystery man on the mountain? 

Then in 2021, a woman named Sydney Copp was listening the podcast by Josh Hallmark called True Crime Bullsh**. On this particular episode, Josh shared the story of the decade old mystery of the man known only as the Stacyville Doe. Sydney’s ears perked straight up, because Josh was describing a man she’d been looking for all this time. 

Sydney and many other students in the town of Concord Massachusetts had a teacher they’d absolutely adored back in 2010. The students noticed an abrupt absence, and had put together a facebook group looking for their lost teacher called “Where is Mr. Roof?” Over the years they’d tried to file a missing person’s report, but no one could prove any harm had come to him and it was assumed he’d gone off on his own. When Sydney heard the description of the Stacyville Doe, the clothes especially sounded like her long lost teacher. She immediately brought the information, especially the description of the hat, to her facebook group. With their support and encouragement, Sydney  contacted the Maine state police. By September of that  year, the remains were finally positively identified through DNA as that of the beloved teacher, Christopher Roof from Concord Mass. 

Big news in a small town, the resolution to this mystery was assigned to reporter Alex McDougall for the Bangor Daily News. Alex began to research who Christopher Roof was and how he came to be alone and unidentified in the mountains more than 300 miles away. The first thing that he found was that Christopher was both literary and brilliant. Perhaps he’d gone to the woods to follow in the footsteps of those like Thoreau. 

The next discovery McDougall made was that Christopher’s family history contained a family mystery. As he looked through property records he realized that Chris’s mom had met a similar fate when he was in his 20s- disappeared mysteriously, found in the woods, cause of death forever unknown. Chris Roof, the identified Stacyville Doe, was the son of Marcia Moore from her first marriage to Simon Roof. 

If you have any information about the undetermined death of Marcia Moore in 1979 please call the Washington state police. If you have information about the undetermined death of Christopher Roof in 2010 please call the Maine State police.


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