The Mysterious Case of Hannah Upp

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 7 | Posted Feb. 20, 2009

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A scene from Oliver Herring's work.

Update: Hannah Upp has been found. Literally. According to the New York Times, deckhands on a Staten Island ferry boat pulled Hannah Upp out of the New York Harbor shortly before noon. Upp was taken to Richmond University Medical Center, where she is reportedly listed in stable condition.

It was a close call. According to a spokesman for the transportation department quoted in the Times article, the 23-year-old schoolteacher was "almost completely incapacitated" and "not responsive" when they pulled her out of the water.

About 4:00pm, Hannah's brother Daniel "Wally" Upp, updated the "We're not Giving Upp (on Hannah)" Facebook group--now up to over 3,100 members--with the message, "At long last, we are able to confirm that Hannah has been found and is safe!"

He discourages readers from believing initial media reports about the rescue.

"The media has already heard and some have immediately taken the most sensationalist route possible, but please don't put much credit in what they are saying/guessing/making up," wrote Wally Upp.

Multiple New York media outlets have quoted investigators and police, stating the belief that Upp jumped into New York Harbor in an apparent suicide attempt.

For family and friends of Hannah Upp, the 23-year-old New York City schoolteacher who's been missing nearly two weeks, the question has been a straight javelin to the heart.

Upp, a Bryn Mawr College grad, class of '07, was last seen in her apartment in the Hamilton Terrance area of East Harlem around 2:30pm on Aug. 29, before vanishing without a trace. It was as if the cracks in the city's busy streets swallowed her whole.

Family and friends mobilized quickly. The tight-knit Bryn Mawr alum, who were g-chatting about Upp's disappearance by Monday, set up blogs and drilled through social networks like MySpace and Facebook, scattering Upp's picture and information across the country within hours.

Initial postings yielded few details: Upp, who had plans to visit and stay with her mother for the weekend, had been expected to return to work on Tuesday, Sept. 2 to begin her second year teaching Spanish at Thurgood Marshall Academy for Social Change, a public charter middle school based in Harlem. (Upp was a fellow in New York Teaching Fellows.)

But Upp never made it to her mother's house.

When she hadn't returned to her apartment by Sunday evening, her roommates called her cell phone but it went straight to voicemail. Monday evening, frantic, they went into her bedroom and discovered all her keys, phone, purse, wallet, subway card and her passport, her only ID.

The slow-curdling, anxiety hit boiling point. What had happened to Hannah Emily Upp?

By all accounts, Upp is an optimistic soul, fun, spunky, and prone to throw spontaneous dance parties. "People love to make saints of people when tragedies strike, but there is no exaggeration here," says Kaitlin Menza, who shared a dorm hall with Upp at Bryn Mawr. "She is one of those classic Bryn Mawr girls--absolutely convinced that she is going to change the world. She's one of the good ones, and it is stuff like this that makes people lose their faith in the world."

Though TV news coverage by the big three networks was minimal (only NBC ran the story on Sept. 5), by the weekend most people who go online daily, thanks to grassroots online campaigns, had seen the photo of a pretty, apple-cheeked smiling girl with a white rose tucked behind her ear.
Information on Upp was posted to websites of magazines, newspapers and high-traffic blogs, like New York magazine and the Gawker media network.
Some questioned why the mainstream news media wasn't giving the story play. On the surface, Upp's disappearance had all the race and class dynamics--and drama--that drives a story to the top of a news cycle: a bright (white) young attractive altruistic professional, the daughter of conservative religious clergy, disappears while teaching at an underserved school in Harlem.

But though the story didn't catch fire with the national media, news and pleas for information sprawled across the Internet at startling speed. By Tuesday morning, the Facebook group "We're not giving Upp (on Hannah)" had swelled to almost 3,000 members, and by this morning there were more than 17,000 Google hits for "Hannah Upp."

Though the search continues to grow, the big question--What happened to Hannah Upp?--has begun to crack and splinter as evidence mounts that she may not have been abducted after all.

On Sunday Sept. 7, the New York Post confirmed that Upp had gone "AWOL" for three days last year and had received a "slap on the wrist" from the principal of the school for not showing up.  On Monday, Sept. 8, Upp was sighted in the Apple store on Fifth Ave. near Central Park. Her family reviewed the videotape and confirmed it was her.

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Comments 1 - 7 of 7
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1. L K Tucker said... on Sep 11, 2008 at 03:11PM

“Upp may be a Dissociative Fugue victim. They typically have full or partial amnesia but retain functionality. The fact that she was seen in a computer does not mean she was successful sending email. College students have been disappearing and taking nothing with them for years. There is a long list. The only other high school teacher to go missing like this is Tara Grinstead, a grad student also. There had been other indications in that case. Grinstead is still missing. Brian Shaffer, Maura Murray, and Michael Negrete are examples of missing students. Each case is different but the stories have facts that show Subliminal Distraction was there. SD was discovered when it caused mental breaks for office workers. It appears and is explained in first semester college psychology. It's basic human physiology of sight. VisionAndPsychosis.Net is a five year study and history that includes these disappearances. http://VisionAndPsychosis.Net”

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2. Lauren said... on Sep 17, 2008 at 07:08AM

“It makes me mad that this girl wasted the resources of the NYPD for this long. They could have been handling real missing persons cases and other crimes. She needs serious psychological help. I understand she may have been scared of her teaching job, but there are more graceful ways to bow out of something than running away and causing your family and friends sorrow.”

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3. Gary Biester said... on Sep 19, 2008 at 03:41PM

“Apparently she was another well-meaning starry-eyed milk-fed wacky West Coaster who wanted to impart her wisdom unto us savages in NYC. So she goes and gets a job teaching the worst students (we call them "felons") in the system. Is it any wonder that she chose to disappear right before the school year started? Then she winds up "trying" to commit suicide, but she never really intended to, did she, because she was found, very much alive, in the SI Ferry harbor? So how was she supposed to have helped rough, tough inner city kids, when she is a weak-kneed poser herself?? She gives white people a bad name.”

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4. Trevor Hale said... on Sep 23, 2008 at 11:29AM

“It was fairly obvious from the get-go that foul play wasn't involved. Upp had admitted that she blew off a mandatory teacher's conference to go alone to a movie matinee in Times Square. And this was after being off the entire summer, mind you. Plus, she had gone AWOL for three days the previous school year. So when her "disappearance" coincided with the start of the school year, it wasn't much of a leap that she was just hiding out. I just hope the kids at the Thurgood Marshall Academy have been provided a competent replacement. Obviously, Upp hadn't set the bar very high. Staffers at the school had acknowledged that there were a few episodes during the 2007-08 school year that made them question if Upp was able to handle the teaching job. NYC is a tough town. Perhaps it's best for Upp to return home to Oregon [or wherever; it doesn't matter] and live with her mother and get the counseling, therapy and medication she needs.”

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5. hector diaz said... on Nov 18, 2008 at 07:37PM

“that was my teacher last year in 8th grade”

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6. L K Tucker said... on Apr 3, 2009 at 12:21PM

“I note the other posts want to blame Upp for her episode. If she created the circumstances for Subliminal Distraction and had the mental break it is known to cause. She like the students who disappeared had no choice.

Anyone that creates the situation to cause this mental break will have psychiatric symptoms.

Upp is lucky to be alive.

VisionAndPsychosis.Net is a six year investigation of Subliminal Distraction.”

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7. Maria said... on Dec 1, 2011 at 05:28PM

“For all those individuals saying that Upp is just someone who was running from a problem you should do your research before making such accusations. It stated in a few other articles that Upp was suffering from a dissociative disorder known as dissociative fugue. It was not her conscious decision to leave, in fact this episode was most likely triggered by the stress involved with a new school year.”


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