Monday, October 24, 2011

Clueless In New England The Unsolved Disappearances of Paula Welden, Connie Smith and Katherine Hull by Michael G. Dooling

At last, a book about one of the mysterious disappearances that has captivated me most of all—Paula Welden, a pretty sophomore at Vermont’s Bennington College who vanished without a trace in December 1946. With an idea in mind about hiking the Long Trail, after working her shift in the dining hall, Paula put on her red parka, blue jeans, and tennis shoes, and set out, alternately walking and hitchhiking. She never came back. Though featured in numerous collections of unsolved mysteries and articles about missing persons, and that area in Vermont that has been eerily dubbed “The Bennington Triangle” because of the numerous disappearances that have occurred there over the years, all of which are rationally chronicled in this book, with an eye towards truth not New Age mysticism or spinning a good campfire yarn, this is the first time the case has been treated to a full, book-length analysis and viewed through modern eyes and the lenses of forensic, psychological, and geological knowledge about serial killers and their behavior patterns.

As well as the Paula Welden case, Mr. Dooling also examines the 1952 disappearance of Connie Smith (Constance Christine Smith) is also examined. So tall for her age that she might have been mistaken for older, the ten-year-old left her Connecticut summer camp after a brawl with another girl, dismissed as “horseplay” resulted in broken glasses and a bloody nose for Connie. She was last seen hitchhiking, witnesses later came forward to report that she had stopped to ask them for directions to town, but somewhere along the way she vanished.

The last case, although chronologically the first, as it occurred in 1936, tells the story of Katherine Hull, a pretty blonde stenographer who vanished while visiting her grandmother in Lebanon Valley, along the New York/Massachusetts border. Katherine went for a walk and vanished. She may have been hitchhiking or someone stopped to offer her a ride, as some witnesses report seeing a woman matching her description get into a car. Her family liked to believe the religious young woman had run away to join a convent, at least that way she would still be alive. Unlike Paula Welden and Connie Smith, Katherine’s remains were later found, seven years later a hunter happened upon her skeleton. Because of their condition, cause of death could not be determined, and what was left of Katherine Hull was cremated. At that time, authorities assumed she had died of exposure.

The author fully explores the theory that a serial killer was at large, preying on vulnerable young women hitchhiking along the New York border and hiding their remains in the woods. Whether these three women who vanished were truly murder victims or not, Mr. Dooling delivers a meticulously detailed account of their disappearances, the details culled from police files, newspapers, and interviews, and ponders whether if they happened today if they would have remained unsolved. Even if I didn’t stay up all night anyway, this book would have kept me awake.

1 comment:

MjjMjj said...

It is known that 9 eyewitnesses either saw or gave directions to Connie Smith along her journey. I think it's pretty obvious that the 10th person directed her straight to her death. So sad that there is such evil in the world.