- Historic Sites
The Girl Who Never Came Back
Dorothy Arnold’s baffling disappearance, fifty years afterward, is still unsolved
August 1960 | Volume 11, Issue 5
Even so, Junior had his moments of independence and so, it appeared, did Dorothy. Soon the newspapers revealed that she and Griscom, whom she presumably met while at Bryn Mawr, had at one time called themselves engaged. After this came a real shocker: recently the two had spent a week together in Boston!
During the summer of 1910 Dorothy had dutifully gone with her family to their summer home at York Harbor, Maine. Then, in mid-September, she had asked her parents if she might spend a week in Cambridge with a former college classmate named Theodora Bates.
Her parents extended permission, and on September 16 Dorothy departed. But she did nor go to Cambridge. Instead, she stayed in Boston, where she was met by Junior Griscom, who had arrived the day before and registered at the Hotel Essex. On the morning of Dorothy’s arrival Junior had gone to the Hotel Lenox, where he reserved a room and bath for her. During the following week, the two were seen together constantly. Looking animated and happy, they made no effort to hide their identities, or their presence in Boston. At the Lenox, Dorothy registered under her real name, with the correct New York address. Two days before leaving Boston, she visited a pawnshop on Boylston Street, obtaining $60 for $500 worth of assorted personal jewelry. Again she used her right name and address. It was the sharp-eyed pawnbroker who exploded to the press and police the story of her Boston sojourn.
On September 24, Dorothy had returned to York Harbor. Griscom went back to Pittsburgh, there to prepare for a trip to Europe with his father and mother.
Early in October the Arnolds returned to New York. It was at this time that Dorothy made her request for a Greenwich Village apartment, and wrote her two stories. Then, just before Thanksgiving, she again drew her former classmate, Theodora Bates, into the complicated web of her life, when she decided to visit her friend in Washington, D.C., where Theodora was teaching.
Dorothy arrived at Theodora’s home at 1820 Mintwood Place late Wednesday night. On Thanksgiving morning she expressed a desire to remain in bed. That same morning a bulky envelope was delivered for Dorothy. Here indeed is a riddle deep within a riddle; this was Thanksgiving Day, when businesses closed down and no daily mail was delivered. Dorothy may have requested the General Post Office in New York to forward her mail over the weekend, but it is unlikely that this would have been done with such exceptional dispatch even if she had left postage for special delivery.
Nor did Dorothy ever speak of knowing anyone in Washington who might have brought the package to Theodora’s door. Yet the package did arrive, and Theodora always maintained that it came by regular United States mail. On accepting the package at the door, Theodora jumped to a fast conclusion. She decided that it contained the rejected manuscript of Dorothy’s second short story, “Lotus Leaves.” Yet there is nothing to support this assumption. Dorothy, still lolling in bed, did not open the envelope or even comment on it, but tossed it aside indifferently. Theodora, although her curiosity was fully aroused, asked no questions for fear of hurting her friend’s feelings.
On Friday, Dorothy further astounded Theodora. She came downstairs for breakfast fully dressed for travel, and carrying her bag. “Why, Dorothy,” Theodora exclaimed, “it’s only Friday and you were to stay until Monday.” Dorothy shook her head. “Oh, no,” she said, “I always planned to leave today.”
At the Arnold home in New York, Dorothy’s mother was equally astonished when her daughter reappeared. “Why, what’s happened?” Mrs. Arnold demanded as Dorothy stepped through the door. “We didn’t expect you back until Monday.” Again Dorothy answered firmly, “I always intended to come home today.”
She spent the rest of the Thanksgiving weekend at home, reading and sewing. On Monday she paid a visit to the general delivery window of the Thirty-fourth Street post office, where she received several letters with foreign postmarks. Presumably these came from Griscom, who had arrived with his parents in Italy. Back home, she retired to her room and answered Griscom with a letter which he saved and later returned to the family. For the most part it was cheerful, feminine, and chatty, but toward the end there appeared an intriguing paragraph: “Well, it has come back. McClure’s has turned me down. All I can see ahead is a long road with no turning. Mother will always think an accident has happened.”
Dorothy’s emphasis on her mother, the supposed semi-invalid overwhelmed by a domineering husband, was partially explained in the six silent weeks following Dorothy’s disappearance. Mrs. Arnold, it turned out, was not only capable of doing things on her own, but also had a remarkable reserve of energy.
At the press conference on January 26, Francis Arnold stated that his wife, whose bad health had been worsened by the shock of Dorothy’s disappearance, had retired to a rest home at a New Jersey resort. There she had gone to escape the anxious hours of waiting in the Arnold home. Newspapermen were asked not to search for her, and out of deference to the lady’s health, age, and social standing, they did not. Instead, they cabled European correspondents to locate Griscom. He was quickly found in Florence, where he admitted receiving on December 16 a cable from John Keith. It read: DOROTHY ARNOLD MISSING. FAMILY PROSTRATED. CABLE GARVARMCOM IF YOU KNOW ANYTHING OF HER WHEREABOUTS .