Dorothy Arnold

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the American film actress, see Dorothy Arnold (actress).
Dorothy Arnold
Dorothy Arnold (heiress).jpg
Dorothy Arnold
Born Dorothy Harriet Camille Arnold
(1885-07-01)July 1, 1885
Disappeared December 12, 1910 (aged 25)
Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Status Declared dead in absentia
Education Veltin School
Alma mater Bryn Mawr College

Dorothy Harriet Camille Arnold[1] (July 1, 1885 – presumed dead December 12, 1910) was an American socialite who disappeared while walking on Fifth Avenue in New York City in December 1910.[2]

Early life[edit]

Arnold was the second of four children born to wealthy perfume importer Francis Rose Arnold and his wife Mary Martha Parks Samuel Arnold.[3][4][5] She had an older brother, John, and two younger siblings: Hinckley and Marjorie. Arnold was the niece of the magistrate Rufus Wheeler Peckham.[3] The Arnold family was listed in the Social Register.[5]

Arnold was educated at the Veltin School in New York City and attended Bryn Mawr College where she majored in literature and language. She graduated in 1905.[6][7]

After graduating, Arnold continued to live at the family home on 108 East 79th Street and attempted to begin a career as a writer. Two months before she disappeared, Arnold asked her father if she could take an apartment in Greenwich Village in order to write. Francis Arnold forbade Dorothy to move out of the family home telling her that, "A good writer can write anywhere."[8] Arnold continued to pursue a writing career but found no success. In Spring 1910, she submitted a short story to McClure's magazine which was rejected. Arnold's friends and family, who were largely amused over her writing aspirations, teased her about the rejection. This prompted Arnold to rent a post office box to receive correspondence from magazines and publishing houses. She submitted a second short story to McClure's, "The Poinsettia and the Flame", in November 1910. That story was also rejected. According to Arnold's friends, the second rejection left Arnold dejected and embarrassed.[5][9]


On the morning of December 12, 1910, Arnold left her parents' home in Manhattan intending to go shopping for a dress to wear to her younger sister Marjorie's upcoming debutante party. According to the Arnold family, Dorothy had approximately $25-30 cash in her possession. Arnold walked from her home on 79th Street to the Park & Tilford store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 27th Street. She charged a half pound box of chocolates to her account, placed the candy in her muff and then walked to nearby Brentano's bookstore. While at Brentano's, Arnold purchased a book by Emily Calvin Blake. Outside the bookstore, Arnold ran into a female friend named Gladys King. King recalled that the two spoke briefly about Marjorie Arnold's upcoming debutante party before King excused herself to meet her mother for lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria. King recalled seeing Arnold on 27th Street shortly before 2 p.m. when she turned to wave goodbye for a second time.[8]

By the early evening, Arnold had failed to return home for dinner.[5] As she never missed meals without informing her family, the Arnolds became worried. They began calling Arnold's friends to find her whereabouts but no one had seen her. Shortly after midnight on December 13, Elsie Henry, one of Arnold's friends, phoned the Arnold family home to see if Dorothy had returned. Henry later said Arnold's mother Mary answered the telephone and told her that Dorothy had returned home. When Henry asked to speak to Arnold, Mary hesitated and told Henry that Dorothy had gone to bed with a headache.[8]


Fearing that their daughter's disappearance would draw unwanted media attention and possibly be socially embarrassing, the Arnold family did not report Dorothy's disappearance to the police for weeks. The morning following Arnold's disappearance, the family contacted John S. Keith, a family friend and lawyer.[10] Keith arrived at the family home and searched Arnold's room. Keith discovered that all of Arnold's clothes (save for the outfit she was wearing) and belongings were in her room. Keith also found personal letters with foreign postmarks in her desk, two folders for transatlantic steamliners on the desk and burned papers in the fireplace. The burned papers were presumed to be the manuscript Arnold submitted to McClure's that was rejected. Over the following weeks, Keith visited jails, hospitals and morgues in New York City, Philadelphia and Boston but did not find any sign of Arnold. After Keith's search proved fruitless, he suggested that the Arnold family hire the Pinkerton detectives to investigate. Pinkerton detectives immediately sent out circulars to area police stations and offered a $1,000 reward for Arnold's return.[8]

Pinkerton investigators also searched area hospitals and other places that Arnold was known to frequent but found no trace of her. Arnold's friends and college classmates were also questioned about her whereabouts but none had seen her. Upon searching Arnold's bedroom, her family discovered brochures for steamliners that were traveling to Europe. Investigators theorized that Arnold may have decided to elope with a man to Europe and informed Pinkerton agents overseas to search steamliners arriving from New York. While several women matching Arnold's physical description were found, Dorothy Arnold was not.[11]

After Keith and the Pinkerton detectives could not find Arnold, they persuaded Francis Arnold to call the police. The police advised Francis Arnold to hold a press conference in order to get as much publicity as possible. Francis Arnold resisted the suggestion but eventually gave in. On January 25, 1911, Francis Arnold held a press conference at his office informing the press of his daughter's disappearance and expressed that he believed that Arnold had been attacked and killed while walking home through Central Park and her body had been thrown into the reservoir. Reporters asked if it were possible that his daughter was still alive and had simply ran away with a man because Francis Arnold did not allow his daughter to date. Francis Arnold vehemently denied this stating, "I would have been glad to see her associate more with young men than she did, especially some young men of brains and position: one whose profession or business would keep him occupied. I don’t approve of young men who have nothing to do."[8] Reporters soon discovered that the man whom Francis Arnold said had "nothing to do" was reference to was George Griscom, Jr., a man whom Arnold had been seeing. Griscom (who preferred to be called "Junior") was a 42-year-old bachelor who came from a wealthy Pennsylvania family with whom he still lived in Pittsburgh. Reporters also discovered that, in September 1910, Arnold had lied to her parents and told them she was going to visit a former Bryn Mawr classmate in Boston. Instead, she spent a week with George Griscom, Jr. Arnold's parents found out about the rendezvous with Griscom after Arnold pawned $500 worth of jewels to finance their week long stay. Arnold's parents forbade her to continue the relationship with Griscom because they found him unsuitable though she kept up a correspondence with him.[10]

After Arnold's disappearance, George Griscom, Jr. was found vacationing in Naples. He sent a telegram to Arnold's family denying any knowledge of Arnold's whereabouts and claimed to know nothing of her disappearance. In January 1911, Arnold's mother and her brother John travelled to Italy to forcibly interrogate Griscom, without results. Griscom could only hand over a package of letters where Arnold had mentioned her depression over a story she had written which had been rejected by a magazine. Upon his return to the United States in February 1911, Griscom spent thousands of dollars searching for Arnold by paying for ads in major newspapers asking her to come home.[12]

Rumors, theories, and sightings[edit]

In the days following the public announcement of Dorothy Arnold's disappearance, investigators received calls from people across the United States who claimed to have seen Arnold. These calls were investigated but proved to be false. The Arnold family also received two ransom notes demanding at least $5,000 for Arnold's return but these proved to be hoaxes. By the end of January 1911, police still believed that Arnold was alive and would return on her own accord. Arnold's family continued to believe that she was dead and that her body was in the reservoir in Central Park. Police dismissed this theory as in the days leading up to Arnold's disappearance, temperatures had dropped to 21 °F and the reservoir had frozen solid. The police searched Central Park anyway but found no trace of Dorothy Arnold. In the spring when the reservoir thawed, police searched the water but did not find a body.[13]

Numerous theories and rumor regarding Arnold's disappearance continued to arise. One theory was that Arnold had slipped on an icy sidewalk, struck her head and was in a hospital with total amnesia. This theory did not pan out as there were no women matching her description in area hospitals who had sustained a concussion. Others theories arose that Arnold had been drugged and abducted but that theory was considered unlikely as Arnold was last seen on a busy street in mid-afternoon. George Griscom, Jr. theorized that Arnold had committed suicide because she was despondent over her failed writing career.[10] Before her disappearance, Arnold wrote a letter to Griscom expressing her disappointment over her failed writing career and alluded to suicide stating, "All I can see ahead is a long road with no turning. Mother will always think an accident has happened."[14][8] Some of Arnold's family members and friends also believed that Arnold had committed suicide but felt she killed herself because her relationship with Griscom was faltering. The New York World also supported this reasoning after they discovered that Andrew Griscom, one of Griscom's cousins, committed suicide after he was forbidden to marry an English governess.[10]

In early February 1911, Francis Arnold received a postcard bearing a New York City postmark that read "I am safe" and was signed "Dorothy". While the writing matched that of Dorothy Arnold's, Francis Arnold believed that someone had copied Dorothy's handwriting from samples that were featured in the newspaper and that the postcard was nothing more than a cruel joke.[15] Shortly after this, the New York City police announced that they had decided to stop investigating Arnold's disappearance as they believed Dorothy Arnold was dead. New York City deputy police commissioner William J. Flynn stated, "That now seems the only reasonable way of looking at the case. [...] The girl has now been missing for 75 days and in all that time not a single clue has been found that was worth the name. [...] We have no evidence that a crime has been committed and the case is now one of a missing person and nothing more."[13] Police continued to investigate reports of sightings but none led to Dorothy Arnold.[15]

One of the more widespread rumors was that Arnold had become pregnant out of wedlock, sought an abortion, died during or after the botched procedure and was secretly buried or cremated. This rumor gained some credibility when, in early April 1916, an illegal abortion clinic being run out of the basement of a home in Bellevue, Pennsylvania was raided by police. The clinic was operated by Dr. C.C. Meredith and became notoriously known as "The House of Mystery" after numerous women from the area went missing after visiting the clinic. One of the doctors who worked at the clinic, Dr. H.E. Lutz, testified to the district attorney that Dr. Meredith told him that Dorothy Arnold had died there after experiencing complications from an abortion. Dr. Lutz claimed that like many of the women who had undergone abortions at the clinic and died, her body was burned in the furnace.[16] While the district attorney believed that Arnold had in fact died at the clinic, Francis Arnold thought the story was "...ridiculous and absolutely untrue".[17] The family attorney, John S. Keith, later told the media that two months after Arnold disappeared, he got a tip from an attorney in Pittsburgh that Arnold was in a local sanitarium. Keith claimed that he and two detectives traveled to Pittsburgh but discovered that the woman was not Dorothy Arnold.[17]

Later in April 1916, a convicted felon named Edward Glennoris, who was then imprisoned in Rhode Island for attempted extortion, claimed that he was paid $250 to bury the body of a young woman in December 1910. Glennoris claimed that an acquaintance known only as "Little Louie" hired him to drive a woman from a home in New Rochelle, New York to West Point, New York. At the home in New Rochelle, Glennoris and Little Louie were met by two men, one named "Doc" and another that Glennoris described as a "wealthy, well dressed man" who reportedly matched George Griscom, Jr's description.[18][12] They loaded the unconscious woman in the car and drove her to a house in Weehawken, New Jersey. During the drive, Glennoris said that Little Louie told him that the woman was Dorothy Arnold. Glennoris also said that he recognized Arnold and was able to identify a signet ring on the index finger of her left hand that matched a ring she owned.[18] The next day, Little Louie contacted Glennoris to "finish the job". Upon returning to Weehawken, the man whom Glennoris identified as "Doc" informed the men that the woman had died at the home during an operation. Glennoris and Little Louie then drove the woman's body back to the home in New Rochelle, wrapped her body in a sheet and buried her in the cellar.[18] Police followed up on Glennoris' story and excavated the cellars of several homes in the area but were unable to locate any human remains.[12]

In the ensuing years, there were numerous alleged sightings of Arnold all over the United States, but all of them proved to be false. The case gained attention again when during a lecture in New York in 1921, Captain John H. Ayers of the Bureau of Missing Persons claimed that Arnold's fate had been known to the Bureau and her family, but refused to say if Arnold was either alive or dead.[19] The following day, Ayers claimed that he was misquoted and denied that Arnold's fate was known.[8] In 1928, the Arnold family lawyer, John S. Keith, stated he believed that Arnold had committed suicide because her writing career had failed to take off.[9]

In the weeks following his daughter's disappearance, Francis Arnold spent approximately $250,000 trying to find his daughter.[5] Despite having no supporting evidence, Francis Arnold continued to believe that Dorothy had been kidnapped and murdered on the same day she disappeared.[17] He died on April 6, 1922. In his will, Francis Arnold intentionally made no provisions for Dorothy stating that he was "...satisfied that she is not alive."[14][20] Dorothy's mother Mary Martha Arnold continued to believe her daughter was still alive until her own death on December 29, 1928.[4][5]

In popular culture[edit]

In her 2009 young adult novel Lost (ISBN 978-0-7614-5535-6), author Jacqueline Davies combines the story of Arnold's disappearance with that of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Watkins, John Elfreth (1919). Famous Mysteries: Curious and Fantastic Riddles of Human Life that Have Never Been Solved. John C. Winston Company. p. 175. 
  2. ^ The Vanished Heiress: What Happened To Dorothy Arnold?
  3. ^ a b Katz, Hélèna (2010). Cold Cases: Famous Unsolved Mysteries, Crimes, and Disappearances in America. ABC-CLIO. p. 46. ISBN 0-313-37692-1. 
  4. ^ a b "Dorothy Arnold's Mother Dies". The Reading Eagle. December 29, 1928. p. 2. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Frank, Pat (February 2, 1947). "Lost Ladies - Where Are They Now?". The Milwaukee Sentinel. p. 37. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  6. ^ Bryn Mawr College Calendar: Register of Alumnae and Former Students, 1920. Bryn Mawr College. 1920. p. 36. 
  7. ^ Register of Alumnae and Former Students. Bryn Mawr College. 1922. p. 17. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Churchill, Allen (August 1960). "The Girl Who Never Came Home". American Heritage (Johnson Publishing Company) 11 (5). 
  9. ^ a b "Arnold Girl Is Called Suicide". The Milwaukee Sentinel. December 31, 1928. p. 2. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c d "What Happened To Dorothy Arnold?". Spokane Daily Chronicle. January 2, 1965. p. 14. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  11. ^ Katz 2010, p. 47
  12. ^ a b c Gethard, Chris (2005). Weird New York: Your Travel Guide to New York's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 37. ISBN 1-402-73383-6. 
  13. ^ a b Katz 2010, p. 51
  14. ^ a b "The Dorothy Arnold Mystery". The Tuscaloosa News. September 27, 1932. p. 4. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Katz 2010, p. 50
  16. ^ "Dorothy Arnold Story - Arrests in Pittsburgh Private Hospital Elicit Remarkable Tale" (PDF). New York Times. April 10, 1914. 
  17. ^ a b c "Dorothy Arnold's Father Does Not Believe Story". The Gazette Times. April 10, 1914. p. 2. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b c "Voluntary Confession of Prisoner May Clear Up Five Year Old Mystery Of Girl's Disappearance". The Lewiston Daily Sun. April 18, 1916. p. 1,7. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Dorothy Arnold Mystery Solved, Says Capt. Ayers". New York Times. April 9, 1921. 
  20. ^ "Father Left Nothing To Missing Dorothy Arnold". The Reading Eagle. June 19, 1924. p. 6. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 

External links[edit]