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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
Guests at Griscom’s hotel recalled that as he read the wire, Junior seemed agitated. “Arnold is making serious trouble,” some thought he muttered. He immediately replied: KNOW ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. JUNIOR . In the weeks following, he received other messages inquiring whether Dorothy had appeared in Florence, all of which he answered in the negative. Then, on January 16, a young man and a heavily veiled woman came to visit him. After two hours they departed, taking with them a packet of letters.
It took no master-mind to figure that the young man must be Dorothy’s older brother, John W. Arnold; he could easily have boarded a transatlantic liner in the six weeks before the story of Dorothy’s disappearance broke in the newspapers.
But who, the world wondered, was the heavily veiled woman? Was it Dorothy herself? When John Arnold returned alone to New York at the end of January, he refused to say. Some quick detective work on the part of the European correspondents revealed—to everyone’s consternation—that the veiled lady was none other than Mrs. Francis Arnold, whose privacy at the New Jersey rest home was still respectfully honored by the newspapers. She and her twenty-seven-year-old son had sailed for Europe on January 6; apparently she had remained abroad after he returned in the hope that Dorothy might still turn up near Griscom.
John W. Arnold’s arrival in New York added still another angle to the baffling case. Ship-news reporters, who had unexpectedly found him aboard the Savoie of the French Line, peppered him with questions. He professed to be totally unaware of his sister’s disappearance, claiming that he had been in Europe on a business trip since November. At the law office of Garvan & Armstrong, to which he hastily repaired, young Arnold was angered to learn that his father had a few days before released news of the missing girl to the press. He stated virtuously: “I am sorry my father should have seen fit to give out the story. I do not care to say anything more until I shall have had a chance to consult with my family.” One of the questions he chose to disregard was whether he had fought with Griscom over the packet of Dorothy’s letters, and whether he had obtained it only by knocking Junior down.
During February, Griscom returned to America with his mother and father. In New York newspapers he inserted ads in the Personal columns signed Junior, which begged Dorothy to communicate with him. No word ever came. The nation’s police, working along various theories of suicide, elopement, amnesia, and personal rebellion, found only dead ends. Reporters were no more successful. Once the headline DOROTHY ARNOLD FOUND spread across the newspapers of the country, but this turned out to be a hoax. But through all the furor Francis Arnold persisted in his stubborn assertion that Dorothy had been murdered in Central Park.
Now, fifty years later, Dorothy’s body has yet to float to the surface of a reservoir. Nor has it been found buried anywhere. There have been no deathbed confessions of identity; Dorothy has not reappeared from a life of shame. The girl who seemed to have everything has never come back in any shape or form.
What, then, happened to her?
Some believe that she may have slipped and fallen on the icy pavement, suffering a concussion that brought on amnesia. Yet no one saw her fall that day, and no hospital received a girl with a concussion or a blanked-out mind. Others point out that the drugging and abducting of attractive girls was fairly common in 1910. But this could hardly happen at midafternoon on one of the busiest streets in the world.’ Or to a healthy girl like Dorothy, so capable of fighting.
More likely is the possibility that she contrived, or connived in, her own disappearance. But to do this, Dorothy Arnold must have been either supersensitive or else supremely callous. Did the rejection of the first stories she ever submitted to a magazine, which coincided with her father’s stern refusal to let her live in Greenwich Village, or to see more of the idle Griscom, plunge her into a mood of suicidal despair?
In favor of a suicide theory, the New York World dredged up the story of Andrew Griscom, a young cousin of Junior’s. Dorothy had met him at Bryn Mawr, perhaps before she knew Junior. Shortly after, Andrew Griscom had leaped from the deck of a transatlantic liner because his Philadelphia Main Line family would not allow him to marry an English governess. This may have left a lasting mark on the impressionable Dorothy, becoming her pattern of behavior when disappointed in life and love.
WAS MISS ARNOLD LED TO SUICIDE BY AUTO-SUGGESTION ? asked the World , tying her story to Andrew Griscom’s death. This theory might seem to be borne out by the steamship folders found on Dorothy’s desk. But at the same time no passengers were reported missing from ocean-crossing liners during the early days of her disappearance. A more reasonable possibility is that Dorothy leaped from the Fall River side-wheeler which left New York at five P.M. daily; suicides favored these overnight boats, for no passenger list was kept. Passengers merely walked aboard, chose a cabin, and paid on getting off. It would have been simple for her to jump into Long Island Sound during the night.