"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

On March 2, 1931, the (Bridgewater, New Jersey) "Courier-News" reported on an elderly woman's disappearance:
Bernardsville--Searching parties went over fields and woods on several local and nearby roads over the week-end, seeking Mrs. Anna Christopher, 80, who has been missing from the Order of the Eastern Star Home in the Mountain Colony since an early hour Thursday morning, but no trace of the woman was found.

Several Boy Scouts, under the leadership of the Rev. Vincent C. Bonnlander and Orrin E. Runyon, together with Police Captain Cavanaugh, were in charge of the search Saturday.

Yesterday, State Troopers Wallace and Carmody of the Morristown Barracks, with Captain Cavanaugh, Police Commissioner Joseph Dobbs and Fire Commissioner Edward S. Spinning, and 10 members of Congdon Lodge, F. and A. M., did the searching work, but without success.

Mrs. Christopher had expressed fears of "being killed" and had done considerable worrying about insurance papers supposed to be kept in Hoboken. She had left the home Wednesday afternoon, but was subsequently found along a road leading from the home into Bernardsville.

Mrs. Christopher was for some time a guest in the Isabella Home in New York up until about six months ago, having left that institution upon several occasions. She was sent to the nearby O.E.S. Home by Loyal Chapter, 77, O.E.S., Hoboken, for a probationary period.

No trace of Mrs. Christopher was found. Many years went by, and then...

"Courier News," March 6, 1947, via Newspapers.com

A mystery of 16 years was apparently solved yesterday with the identification of the body of Mrs. Anna Christopher, missing inmate of the Order of Eastern Star home for the aged, which was found in a closed space over a dormer window in the organization's former quarters in Mt. Airy Rd.

Workmen tearing away the ceiling of a second floor bedroom for the present owners, Dr. and Mrs. John Currence, observed a scrap of rag wafted down from between the laths. Probing further they made the gruesome discovery, finding the fragments of bones, clothing and other articles lying in a small space between two rafters over since 1931.

Police and Somerset County officials who were summoned, succeeded in establishing identification through a $3 check, a wedding ring and Mrs. Christopher's false teeth. Mrs. Christopher, who was believed to have come originally from Hoboken, entered the home for a three-months probationary period, after having been in similar Eastern Star institutions in New York. She was 78 years old at that time.

On Feb. 27, 1931, she was reported missing from the Bernardsville home, and a widespread search throughout the area ensued. Police, Boy Scouts and volunteers organized parties and combed the fields, woods and roads. Anxiety was heightened by Mrs. Christopher's frequently expressed fear of "being killed," and she had also openly worried over insurance papers she was supposed to have in Hoboken.

Considerable conjecture was expressed as to how the woman entered the cramped space, and why the entrance she had apparently used was later sealed. One theory was voiced that Mrs. Christopher had found the opening which workmen had temporarily left, and after she had crept inside, her means of escape was cut off.

There appeared to be some possibility that on entering the small area she had suddenly taken a drop of about two and a half feet to a second floor sub-ceiling, which knocked her unconscious, and prevented her leaving before her route was sealed off.

The case is under investigation by Prosecutor T. Girard Wharton and his assistants, with the skeleton--all that remained--in the possession of Dr. Edgar T. Flint of Raritan, county physician, for examination and reconstruction. Prosecutor Wharton said last night no evidence of foul play has been unearthed.

Information as to the woman and the circumstances of her disappearance are being sought through old records of the Order of the Eastern Star. The house stands in Nichols Rd. about three miles from the center of Bernardsville. It was given up by the Order of the Eastern Star in 1940 and recently was purchased by Dr. Currence. Considerable remodeling is being done by V. G. Hughes, contractor. Working on the ceiling when the discovery was made were Jack Ike of Gladstone. John Zovodny or Bernardsville, Henry Skinner of Bernardsville and Harry Sutton of Fairmount. They reported their discovery to Police Chief Clarence Pope of Bernardsville and the prosecutor's office was notified.

Detective Joseph Navatto and Assistant Prosecutor Leon Gerofsky reporting to Prosecutor Wharton on the finding of the remains, said that in the entry way to a bathroom on the second floor are two side panels about three feet high and 14 inches wide leading into attic spaces under a sloping roof. There is some flooring and then only 3 x 10 rafters. At the far end is an opening nine inches wide and three feet high, which runs along for a distance of six feet into a space over the dormer window. In this space there is no flooring, only rafters.

In this space, the remains were found--just the bones, some of which were broken away, and pieces of clothing. To the left lay a small purse and near it a wedding ring, inscribed "A. P. to L. P. May 21, 1887," which apparently had fallen from the woman's finger. In the small purse were three one-dollar bills of the small size and a check for $3, dated Feb. 13, 1931, payable to Mrs. Anna Christopher at the Hoboken Trust Company and signed "Loyal Chapter, 77, Order of the Eastern Star, Edwin G. Irwin, treasurer."

Prosecutor Wharton said that Loyal chapter made a report to the state convention of the Order of the Eastern Star in September, 1931, that the woman had been reported missing, which sets the date of her disappearance between February and September in that year. Dr. Flint has reported to the prosecutor that the bones are those of a small woman, also indicated that she passed into the space over the dormer window through passage only nine inches wide, the only means of ingress. Prosecutor Wharton said the woman was more than 70 years old at the time of her disappearance.
I couldn't find any later information about the mystery, which leads me to assume authorities concluded the poor woman was the victim of a tragic accident. Reading between the lines, it seems quite possible that Mrs. Christopher suffered from dementia, which might have led her to do something as inexplicable as crawling into the tiny space where her remains were found.

Still, I would like to know if Anna's fears of "being killed" were merely an pitiful delusion, or a clue to something more sinister.

[Cf. The disappearance of Carrie Selvage.]


  1. I think dementia is about the only reason the poor woman would crawl into such a restrictive space. Was she searching for something, or hiding from something? And were either just in her mind? And didn't anyone notice a smell?...

  2. Have you ever smelled a rotting human corpse? If no one noticed that odor then that was one unhygenic place.


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