I might need to add a subtitle to my Searching for Stories blog. I’m thinking “Journeys Down the Rabbit Hole.”
Searching city directories for examples of what information can be found in them in preparation for an upcoming presentation, I discovered that Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936 contained something I hadn’t seen in other directories – a two-and-a-half page “Chronology of Local Events, January 1, 1935 to April 1, 1936.”
I was fascinated with the detail. “May 2, 1935 – Three killed by lightning – storm causes $80,000 damage to city.” “May 15 – Fire causes $25,000 damage at St. Joseph’s Orphan’s Home; 208 children led to safety.” “June 18 – Federal Government announces plans to build vault at Camp Knox for safe-keeping of substantial part of its gold supply.” “Aug. 29 – Stone lifted from Mammoth Cave mummy; ancient man in poor condition.” Story after story to investigate.
And then I saw this – “Oct 11 – Mrs. Ella Rogers held legally dead.” I had to know. In a coma? Removed from life support? Who was she? What happened to her? My subscription to GenealogyBank.com called to me. My 90-minute trip down the rabbit hole led to nearly 25 articles in newspapers from Lexington, Kentucky to Portland, Oregon, about the mystery disappearance of a pretty young widow.
After a trip to Chicago, she returned to her swanky Louisville apartment. She didn’t even unpack her suitcases, but had friend, Hal Harned, to dinner on October 7, 1928. Just as he was leaving, a taxi waiting for him in the street, the lights in her apartment went out. Harned offered to help, but she insisted she could take care of it herself. Ella was never seen again.
Harned tried to reach her the next day and made repeated telephone calls on the days following. Not hearing back, he contacted her father-in-law.  When the police investigated they found no trace of the woman. The dishes from her dinner with Harned were still on the table. Her suitcases still unpacked. Only her purse and the key to her apartment were missing.
The janitor of her building was investigated but eventually released due to lack of evidence. Police dragged a nearby pond but found nothing. Dead ends abounded – suspicious ash found in the building furnace was determined to be not from bones, but from coal. The “blood spots” on a wrench turned out to be rust. Theories of suicide, kidnapping and even death at the hands of hired thugs were floated, but nothing panned out.
Eventually, after seven years with no trace, no contact, no activity in her bank account, Ella McDowell Rogers was declared legally dead.  To this day the case remains unsolved.
I’m not sure why I like to chase rabbits like Ella Rogers down the hole. But It sure beats anything I can find on TV. How about you – any of you get sucked into an afternoon of research on a complete stranger? Feel free to share what you find in the comments section.
 Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936, (Louisville, Kentucky: Caron Directory Company, 1936), 11. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, accessed 4 September 2016
 Caron’s Louisville City Directory for 1936, (Louisville, Kentucky: Caron Directory Company, 1936), 12. From Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011, accessed 4 September 2016
 “Mystery Cloaks Missing Widow,” New Orleans States, 17 November 1928, p. 2, col. 6.
 “Believe Young Widow Victim of Foul Play,” Omaha [Nebraska] World Herald, 28 December 1928, p. 2, col. 4
 “Suicide Hinted Now in Case of Missing Widow,” Lexington [Kentucky] Leader, 24 November 1928, p. 1, col. 8.
 “The Mystery of the Vanishing Lady,” The [Portland] Oregonian, 28 October, 1945, page 109
 “Court Rules Woman Dead,” Lexington [Kentucky] Leader, 11 October 1935, p. 27, col. 7
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.