Up and Vanished

Schoolteacher Tara Grinstead up and vanished over a decade ago. But does anyone truly up and vanish? Payne Lindsey doesn't think so...

The title Up and Vanished is a bit misleading. It’s evident from the very first episode that nearly no one, and I mean no one, ups and vanishes. There’s always another story and a story behind that story.

This’s exactly what creator and host Payne Lindsey sets out to prove — that no one simply vanishes. A fan of Serial (podcast) and Netflix’s How to Make a Murderer, he wanted to try his hand at cracking the cold case of missing schoolteacher Tara Grinstead who up and vanished over a decade ago.

Missing woman, Tara Grinstead

It is evident that Lindsey is a documentarian. With his Anderson Cooper-esque voice, his mixture of interviews, and cut-aways that let you tag along on his own explorations of the crime scene, you’re in for quite an audio masterpiece. Even his catchy opening music has a way of enticing listeners.  I’d say without a doubt, Lindsey has found his medium.

Oddly, I’m not a fan of television shows in this vein. You know the ones that plague T.N.T with reruns. Perhaps that’s because the acting is usually B grade at best, though there are the rare occasions it dips to C when once upon a time rappers decide to play detectives. Ugh…but in Up and Vanished there is no acting, and you can’t make these characters up. It has me wanting to know right along with Lindsey. What happened to this lovely former beauty queen?

Possibly I’m drawn in because of the quirky detective who helps Lindsey, and the authentically southern townspeople. It’s got a bit of an S-Town feel to it, and I have to say, I miss my John B. (if you caught my last blog). I’ve been on a bit of a southern slant lately as well, being from N.C. and all, and it takes place in Ocilla, Georgia. It also could be that it reminds me of the brief summer my husband and I spent in Augusta, Georgia.

As I listen to the crime unfold, I’m so thankful I no longer live in the bowels of the south. I was not made for it, and trust me, they were equally glad to see my tattooed-mohawk-wearing-self be on my way. Not to step on any toes, but after having spent that summer there below the Mason Dixon, the fact that this takes place in South Georgia, doesn’t surprise me. I’m actually more surprised more people don’t vanish there. It is a stark land all its own in many parts where anything can happen. (No joke. I once literally drove by a man rolling his I.V. along the sidewalk wearing his hospital gown and no shoes in 100 degree heat.)

I think the best rationale for tuning in to this podcast is more about the writer in me. What writer isn’t a bit of a sleuth? There’s also the factor that it seems crazy to me that in this day anew age a woman like Tara, a well-loved former beauty queen who helped young people, can go missing and the cops can’t seem to crack it for years.  Download the first one and you’ll be right along with me rooting for Lindsey, holding out hope that they can find who knows what happened to Tara, and grasping for the glimmer of hope they might just find Tara herself.

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Suzanne Crain Miller is a screenwriter, poet, novelist, teacher, reporter and music blogger who resides in Raleigh, N.C. She lives with her husband,...
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