The Author Who Disappeared into Thin Air.



If you are a writer, you have undoubtedly gotten a rejection from a publisher.  You know how badly that makes you feel.  But does it make you feel badly enough to jump off of a bridge?  Or end it all in some other dramatic fashion?

That is exactly what many thought happened to Dorothy Arnold on December 12, 1910.  They thought she went away somewhere and offed herself.

Dorothy Arnold
Dorothy Arnold

Dorothy Arnold just about had it all.  She was the descendent of some adventurer who arrived in America on the Mayflower.  She was the niece of a U. S. Supreme Court justice.  She was schooled at Bryn Mawr and at age twenty-five, pretty and pleasingly plump, she was back at home living with her old-ish parents.  Her father, Francis, was an affluent businessman and they resided in an elegant Manhattan apartment.

Of course, the Arnolds loved their pretty daughter, but they were not very supportive of her writing ability.  She had been fiddling around with writing for awhile and was starting to focus her attention on short stories.  She got the nerve to submit one to a magazine.   When she got a rejection, she thought she would never hear the end of it.  Her parents made fun of her dreams to be a writer.  At this point, Dorothy begged to go live in an apartment in Greenwich Village so she could get the feel for being a real writer.

Her father laughed.  He basically told her that really good writers could write where they were, and did not need to go anywhere special to do that.  He was probably also thinking of the rascally (to his mind) Junior (George) Griscom.  Dorothy and Junior were quite friendly and Dorothy had even spent a week alone with him in Boston, earlier in the year—shocking and scandalous behavior for the time.

Junior, who didn’t need to work, still resided with his parents and December found him tagging along with his parents on a trip to Italy.  While he was there, he and Dorothy carried on steady correspondence.  One of her letters to him (after a second short story was rejected) stated:  The magazine has turned me down.  Failure stares me in the face.  All I can see is a long road with no turning.  She finished with something cryptic:  Mother will always think there was an accident.

     One afternoon, Dorothy decided to leave her parents apartment for a short shopping excursion.  Her mother offered to go with her to look at a ball gown, but Dorothy said she did not wish to trouble her.  The sun was shining brightly.  The busy street was crowded with people.  Dorothy, in good humor, was in plain sight of many.  Along the way, she gabbed, chatted and exchanged pleasantries.  Then suddenly—poof!  She was gone.  She was nowhere to be seen.

What happened to her?  Did she run away?  Was she abducted?  She was never found, and nothing more was heard from her.

Junior was in the clear.  Not only did he claim to know nothing, he was in Italy.  They had to cable him in Florence about the incident.  Dorothy’s publicity-shy parents were slow to seek police involvement.  Her father conjectured that she was murdered and thrown into one of the lakes in Central Park.  Some thought she was the victim of a back street abortionist.  Some thought she was kidnapped into white slavery and taken to Mexico.  Some even thought she was living the high life in Hawaii.

Then, there was the possibility that she had gone off somewhere and killed herself.  The investigation of all possibilities was murky.  Ten years later a person who was involved with NY Missing Persons gave a speech at a high school in which he stated that Dorothy’s parents and the police had always known where she was.  He later argued that he was misquoted and misunderstood and retracted his statement.  No one ever knew anything, he said.

Like most missing persons, the heiress was sighted at different locations all over the world for over thirty-five years.  She was never proven to be seen again, after that December afternoon in 1910, on one of the busiest streets in the country, with people that she knew all about, and police officers, an arm’s length away.

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