Dorothy Harriett Camille Arnold was born to Francis Rose and Mary Parks Arnold on July 1, 1885. Francis Arnold was a graduate of Harvard and a senior partner at FR Arnold and Co, perfume and cologne imports, the family considered members of the high society of New York and listed in the New York Social Register (Monroe). Dorothy was one of four children and dreamed of becoming a writer. Unfortunately for Dorothy, her submissions were rejected by the magazines she wrote to and she was mocked by her family for her desires. She seemed to have abandoned her ambition for a while and embrace the life of a socialite (“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). She had been well educated, attending Veltin School for Girls and Bryn Mawr College for literature and language. After graduating in 1905, she moved back in with her parents despite their lack of support for her dream and set up a secret P.O. box to correspond with publishers (Monroe).
Dorothy got ready to go shopping on the morning of December 12, 1910, wearing a blue serge coat and an intricate black velvet hat adorned with white roses and pale blue lining. She took a large fox muff with her. She told her mother, Mary, that she was going shopping for a gown to wear at her sister’s upcoming event. Mary offered to go with her, but Dorothy declined, possibly because Mary had been ill at the time (Monroe). She departed around 11 AM with little more than $25 (Barclay). She charged a box of chocolate to family credit at Park & Tilford candy store before heading to Brentano’s Bookstore, where she bought a book also on family credit. After leaving Brentano’s around 2 PM, she ran into her friend, Gladys King, who said she appeared to be in good spirits at the time. She told King that she was planning on walking through Central Park and was never seen again (Monroe)(Barclay)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”).
It was when the usually punctual Dorothy didn’t arrive home for dinner that her family became concerned (Monroe). They began calling her friends and asking if they had seen her before deciding to see if she would return before taking further action. Unusually, when her friend Elise Henry called the home after midnight on December 13th to inquire about her, Mary told her that Dorothy had returned but was unwell and couldn’t come to the phone (Monroe)(Barclay)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”).
When Dorothy had not returned by the morning, John Kieth, a friend of Dorothy’s brother John and a lawyer, was called in by the family. He began by searching her room, where he found nothing unusual save some burned papers in her fireplace that were assumed to be rejection letters from magazines (Monroe). He found nothing that suggested she ran away, as none of her belongings appeared to have gone missing, and began searching hospitals and morgues with no luck (Barlcay). In an effort to avoid a scandal, the Pinkertons were called in to avoid going public. Unfortunately for the Arnold’s, the Pinkertons were unable to find anything new and advised they go to the police (Monroe)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). Six weeks after Dorothy vanished, in mid-January 1911, the Arnold’s finally contacted the police, though Francis continued to insist on keeping the disappearance out of the public eye. Three days later, he agreed with police and contacted the press (Barclay).
Her disappearance was officially made public on January 25, 1911, in a press conference held in Francis’ office (“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). At the conference, Francis announced her disappearance and offered a $1,000 reward for her return (Monroe). Francis swore he would spend every bit of his fortune to avenge her, as he believed she had been murdered while walking through Central Park (Monroe)(Barclay)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). The reward he offered, worth approximately $30,000 today, was never claimed (“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”).
There are theories as to what happened to Dorothy Arnold that day. Her father believed she had been murdered, and possibly robbed, while walking in Central Park and her body disposed of in the reservoir. Francis ordered the Central Park Lake and reservoir to be dragged for her remains, but both had frozen over before she disappeared. He believed he had evidence of her murder, but never brought the clues forward (“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”).
In April of 1916, Edward Glennoris, serving time in the Rhode Island State Prison for extortion, converted to Christianithy and admitted his role in her disappearance (Monroe). According to his confession, he had been paid $250 to dispose of the body of a woman around the time Dorothy Arnold vanished. Glennoris claimed he had initially been hired by a man called “Little Louie” to transport an unconscious woman from Rochelle, NY to Weehawken, NJ or West Point (Monroe)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). He reported that “Little Louie” told him she was Dorothy and that she was wearing a signet ring Dorothy had been wearing when she disappeared (“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). Glennoris said he met two men when he arrived at the house, a man called “Doc” and a well-dressed gentleman some believe to have been Dorothy’s secret boyfriend, George Griscom Jr. “Little Louie” called him the next day to tell him that she had died and offered him the $250 to bury her in the basement. Searches of the basement of the house he identified turned up no evidence of a body (Monroe)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). Francis Arnold told reporters that Clennoris’ story was not true (“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”).
In 1914, Doctors C.C. Meredith and Lutz, along with Nurse Lucy Orr, were arrested for running an illegal abortion clinic in Pittsburgh, PA (Monore). It is also reported that the arrests occurred in April 1916, and that the clinic was in Bellevue, PA, not Pittsburgh (“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). Lutz claimed that Meredith had admitted to playing a role in her disappearance, claiming she had come in for an abortion and died during the operation. According to Lutz, Meredith had disposed of her body by incinerating her in a furnace in the basement (Monroe)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). However, some evidence contradicts the theory that she died during an illegal abortion. In late November, after spending Thanksgiving with her friend Theodosia Bates in Washington D.C., she had complained of feeling unwell and confided in her friend that she was having her period. If she did indeed have her period at the end of November, she would not have known if she had become pregnant between that time and when she vanished in mid-December (Monroe).
Dorothy did have a secret boyfriend, George Griscom Jr, who she intended to marry despite her parents’ disapproval. Griscom was 20 years older than Dorothy and she had visited him a year before her disappearance, telling her parents that she was visiting a college friend (Monroe). While Griscom had been in Italy at the time (Monroe)(Barcley)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”), her parents suspected he had something to do with her disappearance. Even though he insisted he knew nothing of her disappearance when telegraphed soon after she disappeared, Mary and John both traveled to Italy to confront him in person in January 1911. They met him in Florence, Italy, in his hotel room, where he professed his love and concern for the missing socialite. He continued to deny knowing her whereabouts, even after John punched him in the jaw (Monroe). While some still suspect Griscom may have been involved, the myriad of ads he took out searching for her lead others to believe him (Barlcay).
The final theory held by many is that Dorothy Arnold simply died by suicide, depressed due to her continued rejections from magazines and her parents’ disapproval of Griscom (Barclay)(Monroe)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). Griscom believed it was plausible, as journal entries and at least one of the letters she had written to him showed her disappointment and depression in the continued rejections of her writing (“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”)(Monroe). According to her friends, including King, she had shown no signs of depression and had made plans for the upcoming weeks (Barclay)(Monroe)(“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”).
Despite the thousands spent by the Arnold family in search of her, the police called off the investigation after 75 days and claimed she had died (“New York’s Most Infamous Disappearance”). On Valentine’s Day 1911, the family made it clear that they were under the belief that she had died. Francis Arnold begged District Attorney Charles Whitman not to continue the investigation and the case (Monroe), 110 years later, remains unsolved.
Monroe, Heather. “The Peculiar Disappearance Of Dorothy Arnold”. Medium, 2019, https://heathermonroe.medium.com/the-peculiar-disappearance-of-dorothy-arnold-e5f8fef3c52c.
“New York’S Most Infamous Disappearance”. The True Crime Edition, 2021, https://www.truecrimeedition.com/post/dorothy-arnold.
Barclay, Shelly. “Disappearance Of Dorothy Arnold – Historic Mysteries”. Historic Mysteries, https://www.historicmysteries.com/dorothy-arnold/.