Jennifer Toth

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Jennifer Toth
Born Jennifer Ninel Toth
Nationality British
Occupation journalist, writer
Notable work The Mole People
Spouse(s) Craig Whitlock (m. 1996)

Jennifer Toth is a British journalist and writer.


Born in 1967 in London, she studied history, political science and philosophy in London, New York City and St. Louis. After a 1987-8 internship at Gateway Heritage (now called simply Gateway), the periodical of the Missouri Historical Society, she graduated with a MA in journalism from Columbia University.

From 1990-1992 she worked as a journalist for the Los Angeles Times in Washington, D. C. and New York, and afterwards for the Raleigh News & Observer.[1] Toth is married[2] to Craig Whitlock, a journalist and national-security correspondent for The Washington Post.[3]

In 1993, she published her study entitled The Mole People: Life In The Tunnels Beneath New York City, featuring interviews with some dwellers of the "Freedom Tunnel." Her life was threatened by one of the mole people whom she befriended, who thought she witnessed him killing a crack addict. She consequently fled New York City. The book, published by Chicago Review Press,[4] became a world-wide best-seller, translated into Japanese, German, Italian, Spanish and Turkish.

Jim Dwyer, the author of Subway Lives, presented an influential review of "The Mole People" for The Washington Post on 25 October 1993. "The wilder stories are overshadowed by the far simpler and far more touching portraits Toth presents of injured people struggling for dignity and tenderness," Dwyer wrote. "Having aimed high, having strode beneath New York with a can of Mace from her father, and with a heart and head ready to listen, she has brought back a book of stories that no one else has told -- a book that is honest and above all, loving, to people who are nobody's friends. We should all do so well."

In 1997, Toth published "Orphans of the Living: Stories of America's Children in Foster Care," a book narrating the life stories of five young adults from North Carolina, California and Illinois who overcame heavy odds to survive their childhood in foster care. Publisher's Weekly called it an "eloquent and harrowing study," and "an excellent expose of a system that hurts those it is charged to help." [5]

Five years later, Toth released another narrative about a young man, "What Happened to Johnnie Jordan: The Story of a Child Turning Violent," that once again pierced the secrecy surrounding foster care and juvenile services, this time in Toledo, Ohio. In its review, The New Yorker wrote: "In accounts of dysfunctional families, children are often the victims of violence; here, though, a child is both victim and perpetrator. The child in question is Johnnie Jordan, a fifteen-year-old Ohioan who brutally murdered his foster mother in 1996, hacking her to death with a hatchet and then setting her on fire. Through a series of interviews with Jordan, his foster father, and others within the child-welfare system, Toth constructs an agonizing portrait of a boy who was repeatedly abused from a very young age and repeatedly failed by the system responsible for protecting him."[6]


A widely read question & answer column, Cecil Adams's The Straight Dope, devoted two columns to the Mole People dispute. The first,[7] published on January 9, 2004 after contact with Toth, noted the large amount of unverifiability in Toth's stories while declaring that the book's accounts seemed to be truthful. The second,[8] published on March 9, 2004 after contact with Joseph Brennan,[9] was more skeptical.

Documentation of the individuals and locations described in "The Mole People" have been repeatedly catalogued in a variety of other media, from photographer Margaret Morton's "The Tunnel" (Yale University Press: 1995)[10] to The New York Times[11] to the "Jerry Springer Show," which featured one of the main characters, Bernard Isaacs, the self-proclaimed Lord of the Tunnels.


  • The Mole People: Life In The Tunnels Beneath New York City (1993) (ISBN 1-55652-190-1)
  • Orphans of the Living: Stories of America's Children in Foster Care (1997) (ISBN 0-684-80097-7)
  • What Happened to Johnnie Jordan?: The Story of a Child Turning Violent (2002) (ISBN 0-684-85558-5)
  • Bajo El Asfalto (Spanish translation of The Mole People) (2001) (ISBN 84-8109-297-5)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Biography from the sleeve notes of the 1994 German edition of Mole People, ISBN 3-86153-079-1
  2. ^ "WEDDINGS;Jennifer Toth, Craig Whitlock". The New York Times. June 30, 1996. 
  3. ^ Partlow, Joshua; Whitlock&, Craig (May 31, 2011). "Craig Whitlock". The Washington Post. 
  4. ^ "The Mole People". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  5. ^ Teen & Young Adult Women…. "Orphans of the Living: Stories of America's Children in Foster Care: Jennifer Toth, Karolina Harris: 9780684844800: Books". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  6. ^ "What Happened to Johnnie Jordan?". 2002-03-25. Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  7. ^ Adams, Cecil (2004-01-09). "Are there really "Mole People" living under the streets of New York City?". The Straight Dope. Chicago Reader, Inc. 
  8. ^ Adams, Cecil (2004-03-05). "The Mole People revisited". The Straight Dope. Chicago Reader, Inc. 
  9. ^ "Fantasy in The Mole People". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  10. ^ Margaret Morton (1995-11-29). "The Tunnel - Morton, Margaret - Yale University Press". Retrieved 2015-03-27. 
  11. ^ Bragg, Rick (March 28, 1994). "Fleeing the World Underneath". The New York Times. 

External links[edit]