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The Girl Who Never Came Back
Dorothy Arnold’s baffling disappearance, fifty years afterward, is still unsolved
August 1960 | Volume 11, Issue 5
When he arrived at the Arnold home, Keith was taken directly to Dorothy’s room. Everything there seemed in perfect order, and Mrs. Arnold and Marjorie assured him that all of the missing girl’s clothes were hanging in the closet, except for what she had worn the day before. Opening a desk drawer, Keith found a pile of personal letters, some with foreign postmarks. On the desk-top he noted two transatlantic steamship folders.
Getting down on his knees, Keith peered into the fireplace: here he discovered a small mound of burned papers. But when he probed with his finger, he saw no writing visible on the charred remains. As Keith rose to his feet, John Arnold suggested that the burned papers might be Dorothy’s rejected manuscript.
Dorothy Arnold’s formidable father had not only inherited a large sum of money, bt he had made considerably more as the head of F. R. Arnold & Company, importers. To a young lawyer like Keith, Francis R. Arnold was potentially a valuable client. To obtain the old man’s business, Keith was fully prepared to become, for the moment, a private detective. He now suggested a search of morgues, hospitals, and even jails. Further, he offered to conduct this grisly search himself, still without informing the police. Over the weeks following, he spent days in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia walking down lanes of hospital beds, examining nameless corpses, and peering at unfortunate young females languishing in jail.
But his search led nowhere, and finally Keith recommended that the family call upon the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Pinkerton officials listened to the story of the disappearance and immediately mailed a descriptive circular on Dorothy to police departments all over the country. A reward of $1,000 was offered for any information leading to her return.
Presumably the police department of New York City received one of these circulars, but it stood firmly on protocol, refusing to act in the Dorothy Arnold matter until appealed to directly. This did not happen until January 22, 1911, six weeks after Dorothy’s disappearance. Then, accompanied by Pinkerton detectives, Keith and Francis R. Arnold called upon Deputy Police Commissioner William J. Flynn. Already informed by the Arnold family of the general outlines of the case, Flynn—who later became head of the United States Secret Service—advised an immediate meeting with the press. This would give the widest possible publicity to Dorothy’s disappearance; but it was also a tactic which the staid Mr. Arnold abhorred. Until this time only the family, the Pinkertons, and a few friends knew that Dorothy was missing. Mr. Arnold much preferred it that way, and vigorously resisted two days of intensive argument before he brought himself to tell the world about Dorothy. Then, on the afternoon of the twenty-fifth, he called reporters to his office.
Francis R. Arnold may truly have dreaded the notoriety this interview would inevitably bring. Or perhaps—as some suspected—he had some secret inkling of Dorothy’s fate. Whichever it was, the elderly gentleman’s behavior before the assembled press was gloomy to an extreme. As if lie wished the interview over as soon as possible, he immediately informed the reporters that he believed his dearly beloved daughter dead. “I believe [so] absolutely,” he stated, expressing the belief that she had been set upon while walking home through Central Park. Her body, he thought, might have been tossed into the reservoir.
“Assuming,” he recapitulated, “that she walked up home through Central Park, she could have taken the lonely walk … along the reservoir. There, because of the laxity of police supervision over the park, I believe it quite possible that she might have been murdered by garroters, and her body thrown into the lake or the reservoir. [Such] atrocious things do happen, though there seems to be no justification for them.”
With his point made, Francis Arnold obviously considered the interview over. But to his ill-concealed annoyance, the reporters began asking questions. One thing the gentlemen of the press could not believe was that anyone, even a sheltered heiress, could lead a life as dull and uneventful as that described by her father. Cherchez l’homme popped into the mind of one reporter, and he asked Mr. Arnold if he had objected to his daughter keeping company with men.
It was an excellent question, for the fierce old man instantly flew into a rage. “It is not true that f objected to her having men call at the house,” he thundered, “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.”
Men who have nothing to do … With this tantalizing phrase to spur them on, newsmen left the Arnold office to delve into Dorothy’s apparently placid existence. Soon they found the man Mr. Arnold meant.
He was hardly the type to sweep a girl off her feet, or rescue her from a stifling existence. Instead, he seemed desperately in need of rescuing himself. He was George C. Griscom, Jr., a plump, sideburned forty-two-year-old who lived with his elderly parents in Pittsburgh, and summered at Nantucket. Griscom urged all whom he met to call him “Junior.” When his parents traveled, he invariably accompanied them. One report said his doting mother still bought all his shirts and ties.