Allan Kaplan left the Banana Boat Lounge in Boca Raton, Florida around 2:00 am on Friday, December 9, 1977. The 39-year-old, a successful restauranteur who was the president of Allan Kaplan Restaurants Inc., left the lounge with 19-year-old model Sharon Wead, but the two got into separate cars and drove off in different directions when they pulled out of the parking lot. Allan headed back to his apartment in nearby Boynton Beach, Florida, but what happened after he arrived there is unclear; he failed to show up for work in the morning and he was never seen again.

Hugh Merrill, the assistant manager of Mark XV, one of Allan’s restaurants, reported him missing on Monday after discovering that no one had spoken to him since he left the Banana Boat Lounge. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office took the missing person report but initially believed that Allan had likely left on his own. Four days after Allan was last seen, one of his restaurants was broken into and $4,000 was missing from the safe. Detectives thought it was likely that Allan had taken the money and run off with it. After investigating, however, they determined that the theft had likely been committed by someone else.

Palm Beach County Detective Charles Fortunato found Allan’s car in the parking lot of his apartment building, but there was no sign of Allan. When he searched Allan’s apartment, he noticed a few things that concerned him. “All of his friends say he was a very tidy guy, but when we went into the apartment, we found clothes and hangers on the floor and the bed hadn’t been made.” The detective’s concern grew when he noticed several things that Allan had left behind. “He left his briefcase that contained important papers, his passport, and a ticket to the Bahamas.” He had recently bought a new car, and it was found parked in its usual spot in the apartment complex’s parking lot.

Investigators spoke with Allan’s neighbors and found one woman who recalled hearing his apartment door slam shut around 7:00 am on Friday morning, about five hours after Allan had left the Banana Boat Lounge. Detective Fortunato said that the neighbor hadn’t seen if Allan was the person who slammed the door. “The question is, what happened to Kaplan if that was him leaving the apartment? Did he leave willingly with someone else, did he just walk away, or was he kidnapped?”

After interviewing Sharon Wead and the bartender who had been working at the Banana Boat Lounge the night Allan went missing, detectives were certain that Allan had made it back to his apartment safely. Both Sharon and the bartender were able to identify the clothing that Allan had been wearing; the items were found in his apartment, indicating he had gotten changed after arriving home. What happened after that remained a mystery.

Sharon, who had been one of the last people to speak with Allan, told investigators that he had already been at the Banana Boat Lounge when she and a friend arrived there late on the evening of December 8, 1977. There had only been one open seat at the bar, and Allan had gotten up so that Sharon and her female friend could sit together. The three had chatted for a while, and Allan had escorted Sharon to her car when the bar closed. “He’d been at the bar before me, but he walked out perfectly normal. He was a perfect gentleman.”

Allan’s neighbors didn’t know him very well; they told detectives that he was a quiet man who worked long hours and seemed to keep to himself. When he wanted to relax, he would spend a few days in the Bahamas.

Three weeks after Allan was last seen, detectives hadn’t made any progress on the case. Detective Fortunato told reporters that he believed Allan had been a victim of foul play. “We don’t have any evidence that he has met with foul play or that he would take his own life. But at this point, we have to think that something has happened to him. He would have told someone he was leaving or contacted someone by now…things just don’t add up.”

Allan was divorced and his ex-wife lived in California with the couple’s two daughters. She told detectives that he failed to send his children any presents for Christmas, something he had always done in the past. He had also failed to contact a woman he was dating who lived in Ohio. She said that Allan frequently traveled to the Bahamas, but he would always let her know before he left. They had plans to get together during the holidays, but she hadn’t heard from him since he went missing.

Investigators made a public appeal for information about Allan, and they received dozens of tips. Unfortunately, they were unable to develop any substantial leads and Detective Fortunato admitted that they had no idea what had happened to him. “It’s a weird case. We know a lot about his family and his work, but we know next to nothing about his private life. He could have been involved in the Mafia or leaving for the priesthood.”

A month after Allan vanished, Detective Fortunato was struggling to make sense of his disappearance. “There are all kinds of theories, but that’s our problem. We can’t find any reason for him to take off or for anyone to do anything to him.”

Allan had moved to Florida in June 1977; prior to that, he had been a restaurant consultant in Ohio. He purchased two restaurants in Boca Raton from an Akron, Ohio company that had filed for bankruptcy. Both restaurants were doing well at the time of Allan’s disappearance; it didn’t appear he had a financial motive to disappear. Although the original owner of the restaurants had filed for bankruptcy, within a couple of months Allan had turned both businesses around and each one was quite profitable when he vanished. He had ample money in the bank, but neither his bank accounts nor his credit cards had been touched since he went missing.

Seven months after Allan was last seen, detectives still weren’t sure what had happened to him. Palm Beach County Detective Fred Mascaro told reporters, “We have no reason to think it wasn’t foul play…the case is at a standstill.”

After learning that Allan frequently flew to the Bahamas, detectives considered the possibility that he was involved in drug trafficking. They were unable to find any evidence of this, and those who knew Allan best were certain that he hadn’t dabbled in any illegal activity. Detective Mascaro stated, “Everything’s been gone through extensively. His whole background has been checked.”

Detective Mascaro admitted that the case was starting to go cold. “The case is just de*ad. We don’t know what happened. He could be in a morgue as a John Doe somewhere around the country, but we may never know.”

Years went by and Allan’s fate remained a mystery. In 1986, Detective Mascaro told reporters that the case was one of the most baffling of his career. “That case is going to haunt me for 100,000 years. His background never showed any major criminal activity…nobody inherited a lot of money from life insurance policies. Thus, our leads for suspects were minimal.” The lack of tips had been frustrating. “I wish I knew what happened to that man. He disappeared off the face of the earth.”

Allan’s ex-wife, Barbara, told reporters that she was certain he had been mur*dered as there was no way he would have willingly abandoned his daughters. “It’s still a really sad thing. I don’t think my kids have ever come to terms with it. It’s difficult.”

Allan Terry Kaplan was 39 years old when he went missing from Boynton Beach, Florida in December 1977. Allan had only been living in Florida for six months when he vanished; he had moved to the area from Ohio after buying two restaurants in Boca Raton, Florida. The circumstances surrounding his disappearance are murky and detectives admit they have no idea what happened to him, but they believe he was likely a victim of foul play. Allan has brown eyes and black hair, and at the time of his disappearance, he was 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed 190 pounds. It’s unclear what he was wearing when he went missing, but there was a suit missing from his apartment. He normally wore eyeglasses and one ring on each hand. If you have any information about Allan, please contact the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office at 800–458–8477.

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