As unbelievable as Northup's story is, it was not uncommon – historians have documented hundreds of such kidnappings of free African-American men and women.
What makes Northup's story so unique is that by his own wit and will, he freed himself from bondage, and survived with his humanity intact – then wrote a best seller about the odyssey. Then he slowly began to reconstitute his life. Or did he?
The available evidence suggests that after his freedom, Northup's life was anything but quiet and contemplative. Indeed, his final years are a bona fide mystery, even today, with a string of tantalizing clues.
"We believe that he was kidnapped or killed, or both," a relative of Northup's rescuer wrote in a letter after Northup dropped out of sight. His last public sighting mentioned in a newspaper was in 1857, only four years after his freedom."