WASHINGTON—Emphasizing the need for parents and law enforcement officers to take immediate action, officials at the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a statement Friday confirming that the first 48 hours are the most crucial in locating children who had vanished through a portal to a fantastical world.
The agency’s top investigators—who have reportedly worked on numerous cases in which children had gone missing after crawling through a small hole in the hedges, discovering an ancient cave hidden behind a waterfall, and wandering through a magical gateway on a part of the family’s estate they were forbidden to visit—stated that the chances of recovering a child from an otherworldly realm of kaleidoscopic colors and fanciful creatures drops by almost 90 percent after the first two days.
“As soon as we learn a child has disappeared down a pool of light underneath their staircase or through a strangely shaped attic door they had never before noticed, we must act fast to assemble search parties and cover as much enchanted territory as possible,” said investigator Joe Phillippe, who urged parents to contact authorities immediately if they believed their child had passed into a gleaming world of crystal palaces or been transported back in time to the age of King Arthur. “If they’re not found within that critical 48-hour window, children typically become disoriented in the thick fog and dense forest of a land where it’s always night, or they’re led astray by a well-dressed fox who promises to take them to a place where kids can play all varieties of games. At that point, they become almost impossible to locate.”
“That’s why it is so important that we devote all the necessary resources to recovering a lost child before they ride on the back of a giant bird to a secret island,” Phillippe added. “After that, it’s simply too late.”
Phillippe said the first few hours can be especially critical in uncovering clues that could pinpoint a missing child’s whereabouts, such as the footprints of a tiny gnome the child followed as it scampered into the woods, a ribbon that fell from their hair as they ventured down into a glowing well, or small patches of snow remaining in their bedroom after a blustery passageway to a wintery kingdom opened beneath their bed. The investigator added that it was vitally important that members of search parties remain alert at all times as they scoured the homes or grounds where children went missing, listening closely for the faint sound of the children’s disembodied voices echoing softer and softer as they descended deeper into a fantastical world.
Additionally, officials emphasized the importance of quickly identifying key witnesses who may have knowledge of which enchanted realm the children might have vanished into, such as the mysterious old man at the town clock shop who sold them a golden pocket watch, or any neighbors who may have heard the children’s cries as they were carried out a window and into the sky by a dragon made of paper.
Phillippe conceded, however, that if a child has disappeared into a world that can be seen only by children, the odds of safely retrieving them fall to almost zero.
“Ideally, within the first hour or two after a child has gone missing, there should be a qualified team of investigators onsite to perform a thorough sweep of the premises to search for any mirrors that appear to be made of silvery liquid, small doorways hidden among tangles of tree roots, or storybooks open to a page the child might have leapt into,” Phillippe said. “The tragic fact, however, is that if these portals aren’t found quickly enough, these children may already be toiling under the rule of an evil queen who at first seemed kind, or sailing across the ocean using a large walnut shell as a boat.”
“And that’s not even factoring in the challenge of positively identifying a child within a particular world where people age 30 times faster than normal,” he continued.
In addition to emphasizing the need for quick action, officials urged the public to take proper precautions to reduce the risk that children would go missing into another realm in the first place, such as disallowing them from playing hide-and-seek in a dusty old mansion, or keeping an eye on them during family walks through the woods to ensure they don’t lag behind by themselves to look at a strange symbol carved into a rock.
Moreover, authorities warned that children were at far greater risk of stumbling into a portal to another world if they were left in the care of an unkind governess or sent to live with their grandmother in the country.
“When Elizabeth and William went out to play in the garden one day last summer, I thought it would only be a matter of time before they came home hungry for supper,” said Tabitha Newsom, whose children went missing after crawling through a hollow log into a world where everything is made of gemstones. “But once I’d contacted the authorities, they had already been enlisted to lead the Army Of The Seven Pendants and were embroiled in a tense battle with the Ruby Kingdom. They were gone.”
“I never should have allowed them to follow that giant, glimmering butterfly,” she added.
Authorities noted that after 48 hours, only a handful of children are ever recovered, and those who are often take years to work through the trauma of being held captive in the dungeon of Upside-Down Castle or watching their sister get turned into a statue.