Mail: sticky messages in smart mailbox

I have a smart mailbox in Apple Mail, which includes messages that are unread and which aren’t in any of half a dozen “proper” mailboxes. It’s worked nicely for some time.

Under Mail in High Sierra on my iMac (2013), however, four messages have become stuck in this smart mailbox. They have been read; they are not “unread”, in that they do not appear in bold; but they don’t disappear from the mailbox. I can choose another mailbox and return; I can quit mail and start again; but they are still there.

They sometimes appear in the “unread count” next to the mailbox name, and sometimes not. If I mark them as unread, then as read again, they will disappear from the count but they’ll still be in the list when I select the mailbox. If I quit Mail, they feature again in the count.

I’ve tried re-syncing the accounts (my Mail has three mail accounts: two of the messages are in one account and two in another). I’ve restarted the Mac. I’ve told Spotlight to ignore the whole disk and then to re-index it, in the hope that that might have something to do with it. I’ve deleted the smart mailbox and re-created it from scratch.

No dice. The damn things are still there. They have various different dates; other messages received on those days and read do not appear.

In Mail under Sierra on my MacBook Pro, there’s no such problem. The unread messages show up; the read ones don’t.

I’ve run out of things to try. Any ideas gratefully received.


I have seen this occasionally in Mail, although not recently. Probably not in High Sierra, but in several earlier Mac OSes.

A quick fix I found by trial and error, is to move the message to a different “proper” mailbox. You can move it right back, but moving the stuck message seems to “dislodge” it from tha Smart Mailbox. In fact the quickest way is to delete the message (i.e., move to Trash) and then Undo. So it’s two keystrokes: Delete key, Command-Z.

This fixes the immediate problem, but it doesn’t prevent it coming back, seemingly at random, with future messages. I have no idea how to prevent that, or what the cause is. Although, as I say, I haven’t had the issue for a long time.

Have you tried rebuilding the Smart mailbox where these messages are located and also the mailbox the Smart mailbox got them from?


Yes. As I wrote, I’ve not only rebuilt the smart mailbox, I’ve re-created it from scratch; and I’ve also rebuilt all mailboxes. No change.


What happens when you try Jeffrey Jones’s suggestions?


Weirdly, I’d not seen them because they didn’t arrive as email.

They seem to have worked - thanks, Jeffrey.

Jolly odd, though.


The problem is that iCloud is filtering a lot of mail from TidBITS and TidBITS Talk as spam for reasons I haven’t yet been able to figure out. This is one of the aspects of running a mailing list that sucks time—just dealing with the reports, trying to figure out the headers, and reporting the problem to Apple took non-trivial time yesterday and today.