Tuesday, February 10, 2015

You be the judge

In the days before daytime television was filled with Judge Whoosiz and The Persons' Court, Joseph Force Crater was about as famous as a judge can become in America...and he didn't do much to become all that famous.  All he did was...disappear.

His honor
He was only 41 years of age, but he sure looked a lot older, didn't he? He'd only been a judge for a few months on August 6, 1930, when he interrupted a summer vacation in Maine to return to New York. He'd gotten a phone call at his vacation home in Belgrade Lakes and hopped a train for NY, telling his wife he had to "straighten some people out."

It was no secret that he enjoyed the company of prostitutes to straighten himself out.

Who those people were back in the city who needed straightening, we don't know.  We do know that the good judge went to his office and spent the morning pulling files, reading through them, and sorting them in piles on his desk.  Then, he sent his aide, Joseph Mara, to cash two checks totalling $5100.

With the money in two envelopes in his suitcoat pocket, Judge Crater left to go to dinner with a friend and one of the innumerable women he canoodled with behind his wife's back, the plan being to attend a Broadway show.  Sometime that evening, he slipped out of sight and has not been seen again.

Although he was heard from, it would seem.  A few months later, his wife came back from a long vacation trip and opened a secret drawer of her dresser.  In the drawer were four envelopes she had not seen before.  One contained $6,690 in currency, one had stock-and-bond certificates, the third had life insurance policies on the judge with a combined value of $30,000, and the fourth contained a note to Mrs. Crater that ended with: "Am very weary. Love, JOE."

Whaaaaat?  The police were sure they had checked the dresser and had found no envelopes.  But they figured that while the Mrs was on her trip, “someone, either the missing judge or a trusted person acting in his behalf, had gained entrance to the apartment, placed the four envelopes in the secret drawer and got away unnoticed.”

So from 1931 til 2005, your guess was as good as anyone's as to where Judge Crater went.  But NY police reported that
His favorite madam,
Vivian Gordan.
a woman who had died earlier that year had left a handwritten note stating that her husband and several other men, including a police officer, had murdered Crater and buried his body under the Coney Island boardwalk. And it just so happens that the area she described was torn up in the 1950s to build the New York Aquarium.  

So I guess we'll never know.

Next week on Mysteries We'll Never Solve:  Where's the McRib?

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