Archive for the ‘historical’ Category

Well, that just came out of nowhere

July 22, 2015

My ever-reliable source Jaime sent me this article about Elsie Roane. It turns out the suspect in her case is male, and still alive. He was about her own age at the time of her disappearance.

But more to the point, the police chief is quoted out of nowhere saying, “My focus right now is to find Elsie Mae and her child and give them a proper burial.”

Um…child? What child? No one previously said anything about a child.

I’m guessing she must have been pregnant at the time of her disappearance, then. I’ll have to make a note in her casefile. I wonder if the suspect is the baby’s father.

Two Smithsonian Magazine articles of note

May 31, 2015

There are two Smithsonian Magazine articles — one from a few days ago, one from 2013 — that may be of some interest to my readers.

The older one is about a Russian family of four that fled into the taiga to escape Communist persecution and wound up staying there, completely isolated from the rest of mankind, for 40-odd years. The parents had two additional children during this time period. Some geologists discovered them in the 1970s. Long story short, the mother had died by then, three of the four children died relatively soon after their discovery, the father lived into the 1980s, and the single remaining daughter returned to the taiga. I’m not sure if she is still alive, but she would be 72 now if she is. There is a book about the case.

The other is about how melting glaciers are exposing artifacts and dead bodies which were previously trapped in the ice. Some of the bodies are ancient, hundreds or thousands of years old, but others are relatively recent. One find, for example, dates from 1952.

Flashback Friday: Melvin Horst

May 22, 2015

This week’s Flashback Friday case is one of the Charley Project’s oldest: Melvin Charles Horst, a four-year-old boy who disappeared from the small town of Orrville in northeast Ohio two days after Christmas in 1928. Melvin had gone out with some friends to play with one of his Christmas toys. Then he said he would be walking home. Melvin never arrived home but they did find the toy in his front yard.

They actually charged five suspects with Melvin’s abduction after he disappeared, and two of them were convicted, but were released after a few months when it turned out the key witness in the case, a neighbor boy, had lied about what he’d seen. That same child (who seems to have been quite the fibber) went on to accuse his own father and another man of killing Melvin, but that story didn’t hold up either.

In the extremely unlikely event he’s still alive, Melvin would be 90 or 91 years old today.

ET today: George Green

May 15, 2015

Here’s another Executed Today entry from me: George Green Jr., a U.S. Army private serving in France during World War II. Nothing terribly exciting here; in fact the story wouldn’t have even caught my eye but for the detail about the urine can.

Cracked features missing people again

April 21, 2015

In their recent photoplasty, 23 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries Nobody Can Explain, Cracked has talked about Charley Project MPs Garnell Moore, Amy Bradley, Zachary Ramsay, Tara Calico, and of course the Sodder children.

ET entry: Williams Haas & Wiley

April 21, 2015

Two murderers named William were judicially fried on this date in 1897. Both crimes were pretty typical and I wouldn’t have bothered to write this one up except that they were the first to be executed in Ohio’s electric chair.

Another ET entry

April 16, 2015

This is actually from several days ago, but I forgot to post it earlier. The unlucky man here is Private Benjamin Hopper, an American serviceman who was executed for murder in France in 1945.

I spend quite a bit of time reading history books and true-crime books on the lookout for executions to write about for Executed Today. I don’t write about every execution I encounter, though; far from it. A case has to be interesting, or at least have some detail about it that catches my eye, for me to make the effort to do an entry for it.

The Hopper case certainly isn’t interesting at all: a perfectly ordinary, mundane drunken murder. But there was a detail about it that got my attention: the pathetic letter Hopper wrote to General Eisenhower, with all the misspellings. This guy had the mental capacity of a child and should never have been in the army in the first place. Though I suppose by 1945 they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

What the….

March 20, 2015

Why is the the NCMEC all the sudden profiling disappearances from 1915? I mean, I appreciate that the boy was never found and everything, but isn’t a case that old a bit beyond the scope of their operations? Are they actually going to do an age progression to 115 years? Cause that’s how old Noel Elijah Davis would be by now.

I don’t know whether to add him or not. I suppose there’s nothing in the Charley Project’s own guidelines saying I can’t, and the Dorothy Arnold case is older than that, but I’ve got thousands of cases waiting for me to put them up and more requests coming in every day and I’d rather focus on people who have a snowball’s chance of being located.

A different sort of missing

March 12, 2015

All month I’ve had a certain person on my mind: Rywka Lipszyc. I read her diary over the first few days of this month. Just published last year in an exquisite glossy, coffee-table like edition, it looks like the book is already out of print. I count myself lucky to have snapped up a good condition used copy at the reasonable price of $30.

Rywka (pronounced “Riv-ka”) was a Polish-Jewish girl in the Lodz Ghetto and kept a diary there for a six-month period from the fall of 1943 to the spring of 1944. She was sixteen, I believe. After liberation, a Red Army doctor found the diary in the ruins of the crematoria at Auschwitz. The doctor’s family kept the book for 60 years before one of them moved to San Francisco and donated it to the Holocaust Center of Northern California. It is that organization that published the book.

It is a valuable historical document and very well researched and annotated and so on. But what interests me most about the diary is not Rywka’s writing or the life she was leading in the ghetto but rather, what happened to her later.

The diary’s researchers were able to track down two of Rywka’s cousins. The three of them had been in Bergen-Belsen when that camp was liberated. All of the camp’s inmates were starving and very ill, and the cousins were evacuated to Sweden for medical treatment. However, Rywka was too sick to be moved and doctors told her cousins she would probably not live for more than another couple of days. Gradually the two girls recovered and got on with their lives. They assumed Rywka had died and one of them made a page of testimony for her.

Except she didn’t die. Further research found Rywka staying at a German hospital several months after her cousins left Bergen-Belsen. And that’s when her story ends. All the records stop: no discharge certificate, no death certificate, nothing. Rywka was just gone. She disappeared. I’ve read over 50 Holocaust diaries and this is the first I’ve come across where the author’s fate is unknown.

I have lately found myself mulling over her potential fate in my mind. Now, when a Jewish person goes through the Holocaust and their fate is unknown, you generally have to assume they were killed. But we know for a fact that Rywka survived, for a little while at least. I think it’s entirely possible that she recovered from her ordeal, cut her ties with the past and changed her name. She was very young, I think around seventeen. Everyone in her immediate family had been killed and so had everyone in her extended family, except those two cousins. And in the chaos of postwar Europe, it would have been easy to change your identity and vanish.

If the theory of a voluntary disappearance is correct, Rywka could have gone virtually anywhere. America. Canada. Israel. Australia. Brazil. Etc. She could have married, perhaps to another survivor, and started a family of her own, and had kids and grandkids. I know that many if not most Holocaust survivors chose to throw themselves into their postwar lives and never talk about the past. Rywka could, conceivably, be alive today. She’d be in her late eighties by now, but plenty of people live to be that age.

Oh, I know that the balance of probabilities is that Rywka is dead and has been dead for decades. But there’s still that sliver of possibility there, and it’s been poking at my mind all week.

Executed Today for arson

January 25, 2015

Per me, John Price Posey was executed on this day in 1788. He was a bit of a n’er-do-well, committing the crimes of theft, assault, jail escape and arson before it all caught up with him when he was 35 and he was hanged. None of this is terribly unusual, but Posey’s background is. Click on the link if you want to hear more about it.


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