Monday, December 13, 2010

Mystery Monday: The Disappearance of Judge Crater

On August 6, 1930, Judge Joseph Force Crater disappeared after hailing a cab in Manhattan on 45th Street near Eighth Avenue after dining at a Times Square restaurant with his mistress and a friend. He had just withdrawn $5100 from his two bank accounts.

It is the longest unsolved missing person's case in the NYPD.

Following the Judge's disappearance, "Pulling a Crater" became a part of the lexicon, as did "Judge Crater, please call your office," by comedians.

Novelist Peter Quinn wondered about his disappearance for years ~ his father was a justice at the same courthouse as Judge Crater ~ and he decided to fictionalize the story in The Man Who Never Returned, through the eyes of a detective in 1955. This past August, Alan Feuer interviewed Quinn for an article in the New York Times. Quinn's fascination and involvement in this case is detailed in this informative article.

In August 2005, authorities announced they had received notes left by the wife of an NYPD officer, after her death at age 91. The notes alleged the judge was buried under the boardwalk in Coney Island. Author Richard J. Tofel expressed skepticism of the woman's account in his book, Vanishing Point: The Disappearance of Judge Crater and the New York He Left Behind.

Sounds like some intriguing books for my Christmas list!


  1. Kathleen - This is an absolutely fascinating story! I'd heard of the expressions, but didn't know the full story behind them until I read your blog post. Thanks for the really interesting story!

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Margot. I'm sure you're not alone ~ many have heard the expressions, but don't know the origin. Don't you love learning something new each day? I do!

  3. This story is so intriguing. So many unanswered questions. I too had heard the expressions but never knew where they came from. Thanks for sharing.

    Thoughts in Progress

  4. Thanks, Mason! I always thought this was an interesting case, and since it happened so long ago and is rarely in the public eye (with the exception of the publicity surrounding the above-mentioned books, and the news about the letter received by the NYPD), I thought it might be a fascinating case to profile.

  5. I can see why this type of story would appeal to you, after reading some of your novel! It is facinating, these stories where the footprints just suddenly vanish. It's human nature I think for us to want to know the ending of something--we hate things left unfinished.

    Hope you're doing well, Kathleen!

    Angela @ the Bookshelf Muse

  6. Hi Angela,
    It's such a pleasure to have you visit ~ thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. You're absolutely right, I am fascinated by this kind of story where authors attempt to explain what really happened ~ and you're so right about human nature, and how we left things unfinished. I am doing well, thanks ~ still working on my book, but I hope to submit it very soon to several agents for their review. Thanks again for your wonderful advice.
    Best wishes for 2011!

  7. This one sounds as fascinating as the mystery about Jimmy Hoffa, although I don't think there's much doubt about Hoffa death, only where the body is buried.

  8. Hi Patricia,
    You're right ~ he's buried somewhere, but where ~ that is the question!
    Thanks for stopping by!

  9. carl rettich was a bootlegger, who lived in his mansion in providence, and his mansion had secret passageways, and cellars, and the police mentioned judge crater as being someone who could have been buried in the secret cellar.

  10. the disappearance of bootlegger danny walsh in 1933 is more fascinating than jugde crater, in fact the 2 of them were said to have been taken to the murder mansion in r.i, once owned by gangster carl rettich.