For Your Halloween: A Lafayette Park Disappearance-1895

During childhood, the value of a good scary story is two-fold. It provides the thrill of hearing about something ghastly while in the comfort of one’s own relative safety.  It also challenges a young person’s sense of the assurance of that safety, as the victims in the scary story are generally typical folks that blunder into someone or something beyond their control. The feeling that it could be YOU adds to that sense of disorienting excitement, if not terror. Stephen King knows all this really well. 

When I was a kid, our family spent a long summer weekend with our father for a professional conference of his at a remote hot springs in western Montana. Being products of the baby boom, there were plenty of other children of various ages present, and lots of unstructured time after dinner around the dark and rustic resort.  

An older girl had a great story she spun breathlessly as a group of us sat in a circle telling tales and swapping misinformation. It dealt with a cousin of hers that had just reached an age of being able to help on the family farm. During the early autumn harvest of the wheat crop, he climbed onto a small platform to watch the combine scything up the grain. He slipped and fell into the path of the implement, which scooped him up before he could react and fed him into the various chopping and grinding parts of the machine. All that was left to recover were his bloody bones.

After the funeral, other children in the family, when alone in the dark, would get a shivering sense of the presence of someone very near, rasping and moaning in a low voice, “Help me, help me.” As those relatives eventually shared their experiences with each other, they came to realize that their cousin Bloody Bones was still among them, always seeking the help they could never give. 

Well, it goes from there, but you get the idea. It all seemed so plausible in the woods in the dark with senses all amped up for the thrill of some blood curdling climax to the tale. This kind of experience was best around Halloween, of course, when the disembodied and restless departed just sort of took over the imagination for a while. 

In this spirit, here is the tale of someone who might come closest to the Lafayette Park version of cousin Bloody Bones. Meet little George Susanka.

George lived with his mother and father at 1410 Dillon Street. Between 5 and 6 o’clock pm on June 13 1895, the eight year old was playing tag with his older brother Charlie in Lafayette Park. They had attended the Thursday concert in the park and now had some free time before supper. George and Charlie fell into a minor quarrel, and George sat on the steps to the lake “in a pouting humor.” The boy was last seen standing on the stone stairs leading down to the lake. His brother met with some friends and “rambled away with them.” As supper time approached, they returned for George, but he was gone. His parents waited for him until his bedtime, then raced to the Lafayette Park Police Station to report him missing. 

Police were notified that evening, and the very next day the park lake, in addition to the other two park ponds were carefully dragged with garden rakes. It was front page news in the St Louis Post-Dispatch. 

George wasn’t a wayward boy. On the contrary, he was “rather shy and quiet.”  The only places he ever went alone were to the Soulard Mission on Sunday, the Clinton Public School, and Lafayette Park. His father assumed that George left through the South gates of the park and became lost. 

Within a week, George’s distraught and desperate mother consulted a fortune teller. “The medium told her that her boy was alive and well, in the West End, and would be returned to her perhaps the next day, or perhaps in two weeks.” The father then spent the remainder of a fruitless day in searching the West End. Information went out to the press that George “was dressed in a blue and white striped shirt, black jeans, knee trousers, black stockings and button shoes”. 

On June 20, his parents recalled a seemingly insignificant event from three weeks earlier. George came running home,“breathless from exertion and fright, and told his mother that two men had attempted to catch him, chasing him to the corner, only a few doors away. His mother chided him for being so timid” but the parents now regarded the incident as very significant. Joseph Susanka, the father, offered to pay the expenses of anyone returning their son. The paper noted, “he is poor and unable to offer a reward, or he would gladly do so.” Joseph was a 44 year old tailor, whose eye condition caused him to retire early. With his first wife he had three grown sons and two grown daughters. Along with his second wife and three children under the age of 14, he was comfortable,“not rich by any means, but sufficiently strong to keep the wolf from his door.”

By June 23, The St Louis Globe-Democrat was referring to the case as “an impenetrable mystery”. The puzzle was compounded by the fact that he apparently disappeared from “one of the most conspicuous places in the most frequented park in the city.” Following a concert and on an early summer evening, the “benches surrounding the lake were always well filled,” and it seems someone should have noticed either his falling into the lake or resisting an abduction. 

“Every nook and cranny” of the park was searched, with no clue to be found. George was bright for his age, and would have had little difficulty in relating his address if asked. Poor Joseph continued searching on his own, through a number of “small circuses and itinerant shows of various kinds.” He tried the “foundling asylums and eleemosynary institutions(1) to no better purpose.” 

As is usual in publicized cases, a large number of persons came forward with clues as to the boy’s whereabouts. All were followed up, and none panned out.  Leads were pursued across the state line in Belleville and Girard Illinois. Joseph wrote to advise the chief of police in every major town in Illinois of the disappearance.

Eventually, both parents opinion turned to the thought that George had been kidnapped. An abduction might have been based only on his neat personal appearance, as the Susankas were not wealthy. George’s half-sister Emma, 17 years of age, was firm in the opinion that he was drowned in the Lafayette Park lake, and that the body avoided the nets due to being lodged in the drain. She lobbied her mother to have police drain the lake to check. 

On June 24, the eleventh day of this case, the theory turned back to the Lafayette Park lake. It was discovered that the mud at the bottom was 1 1/2 feet deep, and the body may have settled into it, and so not rise to the top. It was also speculated,“in falling in, he may have clutched some heavy stone at the bottom of the lake, to which the body is still holding on with death’s vise-like grip, preventing the body from floating. The initial dragging had been done with rakes, but on this morning, Joseph and his two oldest sons, accompanied by Lafayette Park Superintendent Leonard Hunt made a thorough search of the lake with a fisherman’s net. The call was building to drain the lake, but there were also objections raised as to the loss of a large quantity of fish and the resulting unsanitary conditions that would result from a lake draining in mid-summer. Regardless, Hunt agreed that if the seining proved ineffective, the “lake would be drained and the question of the boy’s drowning settled beyond doubt.”

The next day, the Susankas were distressed to learn that the second dragging would be done with a “twenty prong rake, two yards long and a foot and a half high” rather than netting. Leonard Hunt brought with him Mr. Chase, a minnows dealer whose specialty was the maintenance of private lakes. Chase said he could find any body by wading through the lake with a line to “which was attached a three pound weight and 144 iron hooks”. (The lake slopes from the sides toward a central drain, and is no more than 5 feet deep at any point.) Mr Hunt had no authority to spend city money on this approach and the family was unable to bear the expense themselves, so the Susankas went downtown to visit Park Commissioner Ridgely to have him issue an order to drain the lake. 

George’s oldest half-brother Joe Susanka, Jr, age 23, related that George had been in a huff over losing a game of ‘tiger,’ and pouted while sitting on the stone stairs of the lake landing. He now advanced the idea that George may have had “suicidal intent” in jumping into the lake. The rest of the family scoffed. The second dragging of the lake drew a large crowd of onlookers, and seemed largely in favor of draining the lake to end the suspense. 

On June 26, a boy who claimed to have been lost for a week and a half approached a man fishing on Creve Coeur Lake and said he wanted to go home. The fisherman said the boy matched the description of George Susanka. Joe Jr was on the first train to Creve Coeur Lake to investigate. Meanwhile, Charles Biehle, in charge of the Lafayette Park Police Station observed that at least 1000 people had called there since the disappearance to inquire or provide leads.  

Joe Jr returned after spending a day in futile search at Creve Coeur Lake over a radius of three miles. The family oscillated between despondency and hope, as lead after lead appeared. The next day, the report of a boy who fit the description was received. It claimed he was in Grand Haven Michigan, about to be adopted by a couple there. Rumors that George was sighted in Fenton led to Joseph Sr  canvassing every house there. He was then off to Chain of Rocks to follow up a lead there. He visited the “gypsy camps” around Forest Park, and “the small circuses along Easton Avenue”. He visited Collinsville, Caseyville, Galesburg and East St Louis tracking ideas and wisps of intel. Little George had now been gone nearly a month. His mother had broken down under the strain, and was “today but a shadow of what she was two months ago.”

The whole episode was hard to figure, as George was a well-behaved and well-treated boy, not prone to wandering off. Kidnapping made little sense as there was no great prospect of receiving a ransom for his return, and “he would not be worth his salt to anyone who wanted a boy for work.”

Where common sense fails, mysticism eagerly fills in. The Globe-Democrat reported “there have been a lot of fakirs, tramps, swindlers and bunko men bothering Mr Susanka, including several fortune-tellers.” Joseph Sr was persuaded, despite his better judgement, to meet with a woman who “made no claims to clarvoyancy” but possessed special spiritual sensitivities. Her method was to “take a pencil in her fingers and place a white sheet of paper before her. When questions were asked, her hand, impelled by some power, wrote the answers.” She concluded that the boy was alive, being held for revenge by relatives of the Susankas named William and John in Galesburg, Illinois. Joseph Sr told the reporter that he did have a brother-in-law named William in Galesburg, and a son-in-law named John, who he did not care for, as he had eloped with his daughter. He added that John had been working as a carpenter near the Susankas on Dillon Street the day of the disappearance, but didn’t return to finish his work the following day. Joseph Sr was sold on the writings of the medium. 

He caught the train that same evening for Galesburg, and visited the homes of William and John. He came up empty-handed, but retained some suspicion about the pair. 

On July 19 1895, The St Louis Globe-Democrat began a reward fund for the boy. It offered an initial $275.00 for the boy’s safe return, or $100.00 for recovery of his body, if dead. Chief of Police Harrigan printed 1000 circulars with a drawing of George and his description. Within 10 days, the fund had grown to $500.00

The pace of false leads predictably picked up again, and it became difficult to chase down the reports of George on a freight train bound for Kansas City, or begging in Palmyra, Illinois, or headed north from Jerseyville. 

Two weeks later, “mind-reader Paul Johnstone perspired profusely with a bandage over his eyes in Lafayette Park, looking for some trace of little George Susanka.” He took Charlie Susanka’s hand in his and attempted to retrace George’s steps, once separated from his brother. Johnstone played with some swans near the lake, and proceeded to the Northeast entrance to the park, where he met little Lulu Heavey, who lived in the same house as the Susankas. Then he went north on 18th Street and when finished, he announced that he had “intuitional certainty” as to the boy’s whereabouts, “which he would not divulge for 24 hours.” 

Members of the family walked with the mind reader to the music bandstand in the park, retracing his path on paper. Here in the story enters yet another Susanka – 11 year old sister Isabella. She spun a tale of how she eluded an abduction attempt just the day before. Her story was that on leaving the office of Dr. Bedell, a dentist on Lafayette Avenue, a man at Lafayette and Mississippi Avenues drew a pistol and threatened to shoot her unless she accompanied him. They climbed on a westbound trolley to the Compton Hill reservoir, where she was ordered to stand still. He then walked north. She ran several blocks to a school friend’s house. Her mother took her to the Lafayette Park Police Station and from there, Isabella went home. Her story was cross-examined by a pair of detectives, who quickly exposed holes and inconsistencies. Moreover, she was known to be “gifted with a vivid imagination.” The true story came out that, instead of coming home after the visit to the dentist, Isabella had gone to her Compton Heights friend’s house, and made up the tale to avoid a scolding. Lafayette Park police added that two months earlier, Isabella had reported a stolen ring, only to later admit that she had lost it.

“George Susanka disappeared as though the earth of Lafayette Park had opened and swallowed him.” – St Louis Post-Dispatch; August 13 1895 

Twenty-four hours came and went. Then Paul Johnstone re-emerged. He told the family and his followers that the boy was alive and had been taken by two men, and that he now had one end of the trail, and could reach the other ‘as safely and easily as he could drive a carriage through the crowded streets of the city blindfolded.” All Johnstone said he needed was mental contact with the boy, so he could “think his way to him, wherever he might be.” He said he was providing his services free, which added to the Susanka family’s confidence in him. On the last day of July, before a notary public, he created an affidavit, swearing that George was neither stolen nor kidnapped for ransom. He went on in this document:

“That in order to substantiate this fact, I instigated the reward of $5000.00 for the return of the said Geo. Susanka, if living, or a clue to his whereabouts.”

Johnstone then predicted in the affidavit that information “in no shape, manner or form,” without the $5000.00 reward would ever be received. Getting into the spirit of spiritualism, he claimed that his statement would appear in newspapers across America by the Associated Press, and would constitute “an epoch-making document in the history of American mind-reading.”

Unsigned letters to the Globe-Democrat, forwarded through a St. Louis bank followed almost immediately, in which $5000.00 was demanded for the release of the boy. On August 6, an ultimatum came, giving 48 hours for a reply. Joseph Sr was alarmed by the tone of the letters, and hurried off to consult with the mind-reader. Before Joseph could say much, Johnstone told him all about the letters and their contents. Indeed, he pulled out some paper and rewrote the messages nearly verbatim. Joseph Sr was now firm in his belief that Johnstone was the authentic deal and would recover his son. 

Joseph’s travels, now guided entirely by the “occult” power of others, took him through the farmlands of Illinois and Indiana. According to telegrams sent to him, he was always about ten days late, but hot upon the right trail of the two men and George. The police had matched the handwriting on the letters to that of Johnstone, but couldn’t decide on any specific violation of existing law. They chalked the letters up to advertising rather than extortion, and left it alone.

The Globe-Democrat had, by this time, latched onto the story as sensational, and began a near daily serialization of the case. On August 15, it reported that Johnstone had joined Joseph Sr in Indianapolis, to focus his “occult powers” locally. From there, he bragged about the proof of his progress in resolving George’s movements after last being reported, and the failure of the St Louis Police to “work the case very extensively.” He defended his proposed $5000.00 reward as an incentive to the public to “re-agitate the matter and get more people interested.” Johnstone also admitted that, to some, it might look like he himself might be a culprit, but that he was working with his own money out of concern for the family. He had “printed and sent throughout Missouri and Illinois reward notices”. When no-one stepped forward, he knew George was not being held for a reward. He said the boy “is, or has been in Indianapolis, or I have met with one of the most inexplicable experiences a man ever has.” He promised “more sensational developments than anything that has sprung” and teased that he had corroborating proof of his intuition that the boy was safe, content, and would not return if he could.” Johnstone conceded “solving the problem and getting the boy are two different things.” As if solving the problem without finding a trace of George Susanka was an  achievement in itself.

The next day, the paper followed Johnstone around southern Indiana, guided “entirely by the light that never shone on land or sea.” Other mind-readers began to fret that Johnstone was making the profession look bad and weakening “people’s belief in genuine phenomena.” One opined that a mental connection couldn’t be made with one party unaware of the effort by the other, and not even in the area. Another spoke of the difficulty in separating out thoughts springing spontaneously from those somehow parroting the suggestion of the hypnotist or mind reader. They agreed that the odds “he will be able to find George Susanka until after he has found the men who hid him” were low.

A month later, in September of 1895, the paper observed that little more had been heard from Johnstone following the wave of free publicity that attended his initial efforts. Having lost faith in the police, the Susankas were increasingly working with occultists and fortune tellers in their search. They were grasping at straws in their increasing despair of ever seeing their son again. A huckster named Springmeyer slithered through with claims of seeing him at an undisclosed location within a 100 mile radius of St Louis. Regarding the possibility of reward, this “traveling salesman for Bauer’s hilarious bug juice” said, “he was not on the earth solely for his health or the good of mankind, and though he would bring back the boy if there was only a $5.00 reward, as long as it was $500.00, it behooved him to watch his speech.” Joseph Sr dutifully ventured along with Springmeyer to Mitchell, Illinois, about 11 miles from St Louis. One can’t say that traveling salesmen don’t beat the bushes in their work – the farm Springmeyer suggested was 2 1/2 miles from the rail station. Being Sunday, the two men walked the whole way through potato patches and cornfields. At his first glance of the child in question, Joseph stated, “No, that is not my boy.” He had been recently adopted, and enough time had passed that there may have been a confusing resemblance. The farmer there complicated matters by saying that a boy minutely answering the description of George had passed through Mitchell on the evening of July 26 or 27, stating to various farmers that he was from St Louis and left home to travel and seek his fortune. 

Things settled somewhat over the winter, and the next spring brought with it a renewed vigor on the part of the Susankas. Joseph offered, in April of 1896, a reward of $1000.00 for the return of George, who had now been missing for nearly a year. Another person blessed with the gift of “divine revelations,” Mary Johnson, came to the Susankas claiming that God had given her the power to locate the boy. She refused pay, as she was only performing God’s will and would receive her reward in the great hereafter. Following her advice, Joseph Sr wrote letters to the only two enemies he could identify, William and John from Illinois, as discussed earlier. He stated that it had been revealed that they had George, but all would be forgiven and forgotten if they would return the boy. No replies were received. 

Mrs Johnson then wrote them, affirming that she knew for sure that they had George and swore confidentiality with his return. This elicited no reply as well. Ramping it up, Mrs Johnson wrote a letter directly accusing both men of making off with the boy, and letting it be known that they were up against the Holy Spirit, who leads the children of earth. They were both “on the path of evil,” and must “obey this holy command or, mark you now, heaven will punish you.” She even suggested a defense to them; “under the influence of strong drink you did this wrong to an innocent child, and through this wrong have brought trouble and suffering. As heaven will now show you mercy, so must you show others mercy; Amen, amen.” Again, no response came.  

Now Joseph Sr took stronger measures. Without consultation he wrote a letter to the men,  telling them in “very plain words” that he would cause their arrest unless George was returned. 

That did the trick. “Red-hot replies came in a hurry.” The two men immediately contacted a legal firm in Edwardsville that threatened to make a charge of misusing the mails to the federal prosecuting attorney. Joseph Sr and Mrs Johnson stood down immediately and that was the end of that. 

George’s ninth birthday was May 14, and that day in 1896 was observed sadly by his parents. An unresolved missing child in St Louis was unheard of in that time. The only parallel was a case 23 years earlier, when a boy in Philadelphia named Charlie Shaw went missing. He was kidnapped and killed in a sensational case that, though tragic, was at least resolved. 

The $500.00 reward offered by the Globe-Democrat continued to stand throughout 1896, and 1897. No more was definitively known to that point than had been established on the day of the disappearance. The search had moved from police detectives to “fortune tellers, spiritualists, clairvoyants, and mind-readers,”  but the efforts of all proved in vain. 

Joseph’s hair and beard had turned white over the preceding two years. Both he and his wife professed to believe George was kidnapped, and clung to the hope that he was still alive. Ms. Susanka believed hat he had been taken by “circus procurers”, or someone who wanted a good looking boy of George’s age. Outside of the parents, the attention of community and press had long since moved on. 

In early July of 1898, Joseph received letters from the San Diego area signed by George Finck, containing minute descriptions of George. The boy was allegedly going by the name Claude Walbrecht, living with a family there, and calling one of the Walbrecht daughters, Pauline, “Mother.” Pauline kept his hair bleached blond, long and curled, and withheld him from school for fear of detection. Joseph had been mailing out reward circulars every spring and was “not very sanguine that this new clue will lead to the finding of his son in California.” This lead, like every other, never panned out. Susanka put the matter into the hands of police, who investigated and learned that the child did answer the description of young George, but his guardians showed conclusive proof that the child had been legally adopted in St Louis months before George’s disappearance. 

A year later, the Post-Dispatch published a philosophical editorial: 

“Suppose you leave your office this afternoon to go home, or you, my fair charmer, leave your boudoir and start on your wheel to Forest Park, and never return! Suppose that days, months, and years pass with no trace of your mortal body ever seen by your friends. Suppose every human agency was employed to bring you back and that everyone gave up the task in despair. Would it not be strange?”

Comparing the fate of George Susanka to that of Charlie Ross, the paper asked, “Does it not seem impossible?” It quoted Byron: “Truth is strange – stranger than fiction.”

Demonstrating that no news is good news, this curious lead-in became a pitch to join the Post-Dispatch as it investigated “Recent Mysterious Disappearances” in the next Sunday’s issue. As the paper closed, “See these and a hundred other good features in the next Sunday Post-Dispatch.” George had faded to a historical footnote.  

The disappearance of a child in New York caused local attention to briefly return to little George Susanka. The Susanka case had been reported from coast to coast and consumed the city of St Louis for months, to no avail.  He would have been twelve by now (May 1899), and Joseph couldn’t help but speculate on the changes that would have meant to George’s appearance. 

Just when you would think that things might fade away for the best, in October of 1900 came word that the Compton Heights reservoir north basin was about to be drained and cleaned for a much needed maintenance. The relatives of George Susanka turned out to watch workmen “turn streams of water upon the mountains of blue mud that clog the bottom of the reservoir.”

The four feet of mud was slowly “converted into a thick black fluid and guided into a siphon at one corner where it was pumped again back out to the river”. 

Joseph Susanka, now 72 years old; “eyes dimmed with age, fastened upon one of those tiny mounds that dot the bottom of the reservoir, wondering if, when the mound was opened, there would be found the remains of his little son who had disappeared more than five years ago.”

Members of the Reservoir Police station were posted to observe and report any progress of the dredging toward revealing any bones. Lieutenant English told the Post-Dispatch that he thought it more than possible that the disappearance of George Susanka might be solved here, and that Sergeants Donegan and Schaeffer had come to the same conclusion. 

In an interview that day, Joseph said he did hear stories of a girl who had seen George about 4 o’clock that fateful day, and that he may have gone to Reservoir park by himself. If so, and if he was found in the mud, Joseph wanted to retrieve the body “if it did find lodgment in that sea of mud,” and give it a proper burial.  

Morbid fascination has always proven a great way to draw a crowd, and the resurrection of interest in the fate of little George Susanka was immediate. The Post-Dispatch reported that the full task of eliminating the mud would take a month or more. In the meantime, the police were examining the little mounds of mud that dotted the bottom of the reservoir. As each represented some object settling into the mud near the surface, there was no telling what would “be revealed when they are opened”. That thought transfixed the spectators. 

Though no-one was revealed, a year later, it was announced that the Compton Heights south basin would also be cleaned out. Sediment had been accumulating there for 20 years, and was six feet deep in 1901. A force of 20 men set to work at removing the muck. When the water was initially drained off, thousands of pounds of fish were captured by a heavy screen placed at the opening. They had been pumped into the reservoir when minnows, and had grown to a huge size over the years in the undisturbed water. Alas, I suppose, the fish were the only items of real interest revealed in the muddy excavation. 

In 1906, an article in the Globe-Democrat marked 11 years since George Susanka went missing.  By then he would have been 19 years of age. The newspaper ended its article recapping the story by noting that, “the grief-stricken parents are anxious to secure information as to their son’s whereabouts.” The strain of keeping this faint hope flickering for so many years must have exacted a fearsome toll on both parents. 

As if in confirmation, The Post-Dispatch in November 1907 reported that Joseph and Kate Susanka were filing for divorce.


They had largely discontinued talking with each other several years earlier. He was 77 and she was 54. He filed first, alleging a long list of “general indignities.” She filed a long retort that she had suffered much cruelty at his hands. Their one son, George, it was noted, was eight years old when he disappeared “in a mysterious manner from Lafayette Park, with no clue to his whereabouts ever obtained.”

It was written that after 26 years, the final estrangement came when their daughter Isabella, the teller of tales, learned to play the mandolin. By that time Joseph and Kate had separated the house into two zones, with almost no interaction, taking their meals separately. Joseph had enough when Isabella’s mandolin playing began attracting “young folks here to listen to the music, and there were parties all the time. They made so much noise I couldn’t sleep. My wife could have talked to Isabella about it, but she wouldn’t. She said Isabella is young and should be allowed to entertain. I told her I was old and should be allowed to sleep.”

What followed was a squabble, recounted for the paper, about moves to avoid each other around the house, who was responsible for deliveries of groceries and coal, and allowance payments. The last paragraph in a 14 paragraph story entitled “Discord Follows Mandolin Into Susanka Home,” made passing reference to the disappearance of their son in 1896, and the father having spent a fortune searching for him without ever discovering a trace.

There was an interesting rumination on the subject of missing children, and particularly little George Susanka, that appeared in the Post-Dispatch of May 18 1919. The piece told of a system in vogue many years earlier around the old French southern section of St Louis, long before the telephone “was even in the dreams of its creator.”

Children had the same knack for getting lost then as they have now, but there were not so many of them. The custom then was to contact the police first, then continue the search through the services of a “bellman,” whose business it was to find lost youngsters. “He went about the streets ringing a bell, pretty much the same as the scissors grinder.” After gathering a  crowd that responded to his rings, he would make a loud announcement that a child belonging to a specific family was lost, and invite the listeners to join in the search. As lost children generally turned up, the bellman was credited with “contributing to the joy that followed reunions between parents and wandering children. With the coming of the telephone and the growth of the the city, this archaic custom was cast aside with other obsolete things.”

Sometimes when we were children, we would tread water in a lake and tantalize each other with the terrible things that might be lurking in the deep dark, or just beneath our feet. Maybe something down in the mud at the bottom awaited like the Creature from the Blue Lagoon. Kids enjoy a good scare. The worst of it is on the other side of age, when one is a parent; the unresolved tension and horror of losing one’s child without a trace. The discovery of Cousin Bloody Bones would have been, over time at least, something of a relief, if only in knowing that the story had an ending. 

(1) Eleemosynary: relating to or dependent on charity; charitable

Thanks to research sources including:

Farm combine photo courtesy of MarkusHagenlocher, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Dragged Lafayette’s Ponds from St Louis Post-Dispatch; June 19 1895; Page 1

“He Is Still Missing”; St Louis Post-Dispatch June 21 1895; Page 9

Additional detail regarding Susanka family from St Louis Globe-Democrat; June 30 1896; Page 12

“Another Charlie Ross Case”; St Louis Globe-Democrat; June 23 1895; Page 31

“Missing People”; St Louis Globe-Democrat; June 24 1895; Page 7; and “Have Dragged The Lake” St Louis Post Dispatch; Page 3

“No Clew To George Susanka”; St Louis Globe-Democrat; July 9 1895; Page 9 and “Missing Four Weeks”; St Louis Post-Dispatch; Page 3

Joseph Susanka visit to medium from St Louis Globe-Democrat; July 26 1895; Page 12

Offer of reward and drawing of George Susanka from St Louis Globe-Democrat; July 19 1895; Page 12

Story of Isabella Susanka from St Louis Post-Dispatch; July 30 1895; Page 2

A good recap of Johnstone’s affidavits and handwriting analysis appeared in the St Louis Globe-Democrat of August 13 1895; Page 12

Johnstone in Indianapolis from the St Louis Globe-Democrat August 15 1895; Page 1

“Mind-Readers’ Methods” from St Louis Globe-Democrat August 18 1895 Page 24

Springmeyer Story from St Louis Post-Dispatch September 29 1895; Page 9 and St Louis Globe-Democrat; September 28, 1895; Page 7

Trip to Mitchell Illinois; St Louis Globe-Democrat; September 30 1895; Page 10

Interactions with Mrs Johnson in St Louis Post-Dispatch; April 5 1896; Page 39

“A Plausible Clew Of The Missing Lad From California”; St Louis Globe-Democrat; July 1 1898; Page 12 and Globe-Democrat; May 31 1899; Page 7

Editorial From St Louis Post Dispatch On Disappearing People; July 20 1899; Page 1

The dredging of Compton Heights Reservoir Park from the St Louis Post-Dispatch of October 19 1900; Page 1; October 20 1900; Page 1; and October 21 1900; Page 28

“Parents Think Son Was Kidnapped 11 Years Ago”; St Louis Globe-Democrat; June 10 1906; Page 8

News of Susanka divorce filing from St Louis Post-Dispatch; November 21, 1907; Page 1

“Discord Follows Mandolin Into Susanka Home; St Louis Post-Dispatch; December 3 1908; Page 13

Thoughts on the disappearance of George Susanka, 24 years later, from the St Louis Post-Dispatch; May 18 1919; Page 83

Photo of milk carton missing children from Des Moines Register