Dorothy Arnold

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For the American film actress, see Dorothy Arnold (actress).
Dorothy Arnold
Dorothy Arnold (heiress).jpg
Dorothy Arnold
Born Dorothy Harriet Camille Arnold
(1886-07-01)July 1, 1886
New York City, New York, U.S.
Disappeared December 12, 1910 (aged 24)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Status Declared dead in absentia
Education Veltin School
Alma mater Bryn Mawr College

Dorothy Harriet Camille Arnold (July 1, 1886 – disappeared December 12, 1910) was an American socialite who was last seen walking in New York City. She was a Mayflower descendant and a graduate of Bryn Mawr College.

On her last outing, Arnold was on her way to buy a new dress, and was reported as acting normally. She told a friend in the street that she was going for a walk in Central Park, but was never seen after this. When her father publicised her disappearance, it led to many false leads and some hoax messages. The family interrogated a close male friend of hers and seized some letters she had sent him, but these apparently revealed nothing, and he declared that he still wanted to marry her. One theory was that she had committed suicide on having her short stories rejected by a magazine. The circumstances surrounding her disappearance have never been resolved and her fate remains unknown.

Family and education[edit]

Arnold was born in 1886 in New York City.[1] She was the second of four children of perfume importer Francis Rose Arnold and his wife Mary Martha Parks Arnold (née Samuels).[2][3][4] She had an older brother, John (born December 1884) and two younger siblings: Dan Hinckley (born February 1888) and Marjorie Brewster (born August 1891). Arnold's father, a Harvard University graduate, was a senior partner of F.R. Arnold & Co., a company that imported "fancy goods."[5] He was a descendent of English passengers who arrived in America on the Mayflower while Arnold's mother hailed from Montreal, Canada.[5][6] Due to their social standing, the family was listed in the Social Register.[2][4]

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.[7][8]

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."[9] 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.[10] 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.[4][11]


On the morning of December 12, 1910, Arnold informed her mother that she intended to go shopping for a dress to wear to her younger sister Marjorie's upcoming debutante party. Mary Francis offered to go with her daughter but Dorothy declined the offer telling her mother she would call her if she found a suitable dress. She then left at around 11 a.m.[12] 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.[9] While at Brentano's, Arnold purchased Engaged Girl Sketches, a book of humorous essays by Emily Calvin Blake.[13] The clerks who waited on Arnold in both stores later said that she was courteous and did not exhibit any unusual behavior.[14] 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 and that Arnold seemed to be in good spirits. King then excused herself to meet her mother for lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria.[9] King recalled that Arnold told her she was going to walk home through Central Park. King last saw Arnold on 27th Street shortly before 2 p.m. when she turned to wave goodbye for a second time.[9][15][16]

By the early evening, Arnold had failed to return home for dinner.[4] 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.[9]


Fearing that their daughter's disappearance could be potentially socially embarrassing and would draw unwanted media attention, 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.[17] 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.[9]

Pinkerton investigators searched area hospitals and other places that Arnold was known to frequent but found no trace of her. They also questioned Arnold's friends and college classmates about her whereabouts but none had seen her. As John Keith had found literature for transatlantic steamliners in Arnold's room the day after she disappeared, Pinkerton investigators theorized that Arnold might have decided to elope with a man to Europe. The agents searched marriage records but none were found bearing Dorothy Arnold's name. Agents were then dispatched overseas to search steamliners arriving from New York. While several women matching Arnold's physical description were found, Dorothy Arnold was not.[14]

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.[9] On January 25, 1911, Francis Arnold held a press conference at his office informing the press of his daughter's disappearance and offered a $1,000 reward (approximately $25,000 today) for information leading to her whereabouts. During the press conference, reporters asked Francis Arnold if it were possible that his daughter was still alive and had simply run away with a man because he 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."[9] Reporters soon discovered that the man whom Francis Arnold said had "nothing to do" was in reference to George Griscom, Jr., a man whom Arnold had been seeing. Griscom (who preferred to be called "Junior") was a 42-year-old engineer who came from a wealthy Pennsylvania family with whom he still lived in Pittsburgh. The two had met while Arnold was attending Bryn Mawr College.[10] 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 in a hotel with George Griscom, Jr. Arnold's parents found out about the rendezvous 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.[17] The two saw each other for a final time in early November, shortly before Griscom, Jr. left on a vacation with his parents.[18]

After Arnold's disappearance, George Griscom, Jr. was found vacationing in Florence, Italy. The Arnold family sent him a telegram on December 16 asking for information about Dorothy's disappearance. In a return telegram, Griscom, Jr. denied any knowledge of Arnold's whereabouts and claimed to know nothing of her disappearance. In early January 1911, Arnold's mother Mary and her brother John travelled to Italy to forcibly interrogate Griscom, Jr. They met Griscom in his hotel room in Italy on January 16. Griscom, Jr. continued to maintain that he knew nothing of Arnold's disappearance. Mary and Francis Arnold then demanded that Griscom, Jr. give them the letters that Arnold had sent him. Dorothy's brother John later claimed the letters contained nothing of importance and destroyed them. Upon his return to the United States in February 1911, Griscom, Jr. told the press that he intended to marry Dorothy Arnold once she was found and on the condition that mother approve of the marriage.[18] He spent thousands of dollars for ads in major newspapers asking Dorothy Arnold to come home.[19]

Rumors, theories, and alleged sightings[edit]

In the days following the public announcement of Dorothy Arnold's disappearance, circulars with her picture, physical description and information about the reward were distributed throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. The New York Times continued to cover the story on a near daily basis.[20] The publicity lead to investigators receiving 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 upwards of $5,000 for Arnold's return, but these proved to be hoaxes. By the end of January 1911, police said they still believed that Arnold was alive and would return on her own accord. Arnold's family however said they had come to believe that she was dead.[21] Around this time, Francis Arnold told the press that he believed from the start that his daughter had been attacked and killed while walking home through Central Park and her body had been thrown into the reservoir.[9] He cited two clues (which he would not publicly disclose) that confirmed his suspicions.[22] Police dismissed Francis Arnold's theory because in the days leading up to Arnold's disappearance, temperatures had dropped to 21 °F and the reservoir had frozen solid.[23] 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.[24]

Numerous theories and rumors 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.[17] After her second short story was rejected, Arnold wrote a letter to Griscom, Jr. expressing her disappointment over her failed writing career and alluded to suicide stating, "Well, it has come back. McClure's has turned me down. Failure stares me in the face. All I can see ahead is a long road with no turning. Mother will always think an accident has happened."[10] Some of Arnold's family members and friends also said they believed that Arnold had committed suicide but felt she killed herself because her relationship with Griscom, Jr. was faltering. The New York World also supported this reasoning after they discovered that Andrew Griscom, a cousin of Griscom, Jr.'s, jumped to his death off of an ocean liner after he was forbidden to marry an English governess.[17]

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 said she 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.[25] Shortly after this, the New York City police announced that they had decided to stop investigating Arnold's disappearance as they said 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."[26] Police continued to investigate reports of sightings but none led to Dorothy Arnold.[25]

One of the more widespread rumors was that Arnold had become pregnant, sought an abortion, had 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.[27] While the district attorney said he believed that Arnold had in fact died at the clinic, Francis Arnold said she thought the story was "...ridiculous and absolutely untrue".[28] 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.[28]

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.[19][29] 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.[29] 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.[29] Police followed up on Glennoris' story and excavated the cellars of several homes in the area, but were unable to locate any human remains.[19]


In the ensuing years, numerous alleged sightings of Arnold all over the United States were reported, but they all proved to be false. The Arnold family also continued to receive letters from women claiming to be Dorothy Arnold. These too proved to be false.[30] The case gained attention again in 1921 when during a lecture in New York, Captain John H. Ayers of the Bureau of Missing Persons claimed that Dorothy Arnold's fate had been known to the Bureau and her family for some time. Ayers refused to elaborate and would not say if Arnold was either alive or dead.[31] The following day, Ayers claimed that he was misquoted and denied that Arnold's fate was known.[9]

In the weeks following his daughter's disappearance, Francis Arnold spent approximately $250,000 trying to find his daughter.[4] He continued to say he believed that Dorothy had been kidnapped and murdered until his death on April 6, 1922.[28] In his will, Francis Arnold intentionally made no provisions for Dorothy stating that he was "...satisfied that she is not alive."[10][32] Dorothy's mother, Mary Martha Arnold, continued to say she believed her daughter was still alive until her own death on December 29, 1928.[3][4] Shortly after Mary Arnold's death, John S. Keith, the Arnold family lawyer, stated he believed that Arnold had committed suicide because of her failed writing career.[33]

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. ^ 1900 United States Federal Census
  2. ^ a b Katz, Hélèna (2010). Cold Cases: Famous Unsolved Mysteries, Crimes, and Disappearances in America. ABC-CLIO. p. 46. ISBN 0-313-37692-1. 
  3. ^ a b "Dorothy Arnold's Mother Dies". The Reading Eagle. December 29, 1928. p. 2. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ a b Harvard College (Class of 1856) (1906). Memorial of the Harvard College Class of 1856: Prepared for the Fiftieth Anniversary of Graduation. Geo. H. Ellis. p. 11. 
  6. ^ Raybin Emert, Phyllis (1992). Mysteries of People and Places. Macmillian. p. 32. ISBN 0-812-52056-4. 
  7. ^ Bryn Mawr College Calendar: Register of Alumnae and Former Students, 1920. Bryn Mawr College. 1920. p. 36. 
  8. ^ Register of Alumnae and Former Students. Bryn Mawr College. 1922. p. 17. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Churchill, Allen (August 1960). "The Girl Who Never Came Home". American Heritage (Johnson Publishing Company) 11 (5). 
  10. ^ a b c d Talley, Robert (September 27, 1932). "The Dorothy Arnold Mystery". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 4. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Arnold Girl Is Called Suicide". The Milwaukee Sentinel. December 31, 1928. p. 2. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  12. ^ Raybin Emert 1992 pp.32–33
  13. ^ Raybin Emert 1992 p.33
  14. ^ a b Katz 2010, p. 47
  15. ^ Watkins, John Elfreth (1919). Famous Mysteries: Curious and Fantastic Riddles of Human Life that Have Never Been Solved. John C. Winston Company. p. 175. 
  16. ^ The Vanished Heiress: What Happened To Dorothy Arnold?
  17. ^ a b c d "What Happened To Dorothy Arnold?". Spokane Daily Chronicle. January 2, 1965. p. 14. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  18. ^ a b Katz 2010, p. 48
  19. ^ 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. 
  20. ^ Katz 2010, pp. 48–49
  21. ^ Katz 2010, p. 49
  22. ^ "Griscom Gets Message From Dorothy Arnold". The Evening News. February 22, 1911. p. 2. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Will Drag Lakes In Search Of Girl". The Pittsburgh Press. January 30, 1911. p. 14. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Dorothy Arnold's Body Is Not Found". Herald-Journal. March 19, 1911. p. 6. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  25. ^ a b Katz 2010, p. 50
  26. ^ Katz 2010, p. 51
  27. ^ "Dorothy Arnold Story – Arrests in Pittsburgh Private Hospital Elicit Remarkable Tale" (PDF). New York Times. April 10, 1914. 
  28. ^ a b c "Dorothy Arnold's Father Does Not Believe Story". The Gazette Times. April 10, 1914. p. 2. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  29. ^ 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. 
  30. ^ "Dorothy Arnold In Los Angeles, Claim". Gettsburg Times. March 10, 1914. p. 2. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Dorothy Arnold Mystery Solved, Says Capt. Ayers". New York Times. April 9, 1921. 
  32. ^ "Father Left Nothing To Missing Dorothy Arnold". The Reading Eagle. June 19, 1924. p. 6. Retrieved May 7, 2014. 
  33. ^ "Mrs. Arnold Dies With 18-Year Vigil In Vain". The Pittsburgh Press. December 31, 1928. p. 1. Retrieved December 3, 2014. 

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