Category: Unsolved


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The disappearance of New York State Supreme court Associate Justice Joseph F. Crater has been highly publicized; but few realize that a predecessor in that office had vanished just as mysteriously as Crater, 100 years before.

 

John Lansing had fought in the American Revolution and served as a legislator, mayor of Albany, and state chancellor. From 1790 to 1801 he sat on the New York Supreme Court and was chief justice in 1798. For years he was part of the political group around the wealthy Clinton family, but he alienated them by refusing to run for governor as they desired. Instead, he remained as chancellor until his retirement in 1814, then became a regent of the state university and a business consultant to Columbia College. It was the second capacity that he was staying at a hotel in New York City on December 12, 1829. He went out that evening to mail some letters so that they would catch the night boat up the Hudson to Albany, and he was never seen again. The search was extensive, for Lansing had been one of the best-known figures in the public life of the state. Yet the 75-year-old man had disappeared into the winter night as completely as if he had never lived.

 


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Isidore Fink was shot dead at 10:30 PM on March 9, 1929, in the back room of the Fifth Avenue Laundry (which he owned) at 4 East 132nd Street in New York City. The police were alerted by a neighbor, Mrs. Locklan Smith, who had heard screaming and the sounds of a struggle. When the officers arrived, they found that the doors to the room in which Fink lay were locked, and so they gained entry by lifting a small boy into the room through a transom window.

Fink had been shot twice in the chest and once through the left hand, which showed powder burns. No gun was found in the room. There was money in Fink’s pocket and in the cash register.

At first police theorized that whoever shot Fink, who always bolted the laundry doors when he worked at night, had climbed through the transom window. But the window was small, as was the boy who was hoisted through it; and the question of why an escaping murderer should climb through a small window instead of leaving by the door seemed unanswerable.

A second theory was that Fink had been shot from the hallway through the transom, but the powder burns on Fink’s body showed that he had been shot from close range. More than two years after the crime, New York Police Commissioner Edward P. Mulrooney called the murder an “insoluble mystery.”

 

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In 1809 England sought to persuade Austria to join the confederation opposing Napoleon, Benjamin Bathurst, a 25-year-old diplomat who had already distinguished himself in foreign service, went to Vienna to promise an attack on the French who were occupying Spain in return for Austria’s alignment with England. It proved a bad bargain: Napoleon was victorious at Wagram on the Danube River, and Austria was forced to code territory to him.

That fall, Bathurst began to make his way back home through Germany. On November 25, traveling under the name of Koch and posing as a wealthy merchant, he and his secretary and valet stopped at an inn in Perleberg. A witness at the inn reported that he seemed very nervous. He asked the commander of the local garrison to provide armed guards against mysterious pursuers – perhaps agents of Napoleon.

In the middle of the evening, as his coach was preparing to leave, Bathurst went out into the otherwise deserted street, walked around his horses . . . .

And was gone.

His valet, who had been at the rear of the coach with the baggage, cast a look down each side of the coach and saw only the hostler who had harnessed the horses. His secretary, standing in the doorway of the inn to pay the bill, had not seen him return. The soldiers stationed at each end of the street had seen no one pass.

The authorities searched first the inn and then all of Perleberg. Inquiries from the British Foreign Office brought a denial from Napoleon that his agents had been involved. Stories circulated that Bathurst had been robbed and murdered, that he had secretly gone on to a port and been lost at sea, and so on – but all that is known about Benjamin Bathurst’s disappearance from a quiet street in a small German town is summed up in the words of Charles Fort, that tireless collector of events that have no rhyme or reason: “Under observation, he walked around to the other side of the horses.”

 


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