Kidnapping and abduction aren’t just modern crimes. These missing person cold cases are over a hundred years old–but the details are still shocking.
America’s First Kidnapping
In 1874, a pair of little boys were kidnapped from the front yard of their family home in Philadelphia. Only one of them came home.
Walter (6) and Charley (4) Ross were lured into a buggy while playing outside their affluent family’s mansion. It’s the classic story of “strangers with candy.” The two men had given the boys treats before, so when they offered to take the children to buy firecrackers, Walter and Charley were all too trusting.
They released Walter, leaving him at the general store, and drove away with Charley. The kidnappers demanded $20,000 from the Ross family–that’s nearly half a million dollars in today’s money. Unbeknownst to the kidnappers, the Rosses were actually in major debt. Despite that, the boys’ father tried to meet their demands but was unable to contact the kidnappers.
Investigators at the time connected the Ross kidnapping to another incident later that year. The suspect, William Mosher, had been killed in a robbery. His partner claimed that Mosher was the one who had taken little Charley, but that the kidnapper died without telling anyone what he’d done with the boy.
The Lady Vanishes
What happens when a wealthy socialite disappears at the turn of the century? Sadly for Dorothy Arnold, her parents preferred to avoid a scandal rather than contact the police.
Dorothy was 25 years old in 1910, the beautiful and popular daughter of a prominent New York Family. She told her parents that she was going shopping for a new dress on the day she disappeared.
Investigators later pieced together her day. She went to a candy store and bought herself a treat, then to a nearby bookstore. In both cases, Dorothy used her family’s line of credit to make the purchases. After chatting briefly with a friend she met outside the bookstore, Dorothy simply vanished.
Keep in mind that she was rich, attractive, and dressed to the height of fashion. It would be like one of the Hadid sisters disappearing on Rodeo Drive!
When she failed to come home for dinner, Dorothy’s parents reached out discreetly to her friends to see if they had any news. Instead of contacting the police, they called a lawyer. He searched the room and found only a few burnt papers in the fireplace. He checked with morgues and hospitals for Dorothy but found nothing.
Finally, six weeks after she vanished, the Arnolds called the police. Even then, the family refused to let investigators make the case public. Although the story eventually made it to the press, Dorothy was never found.