The Lafayette alum who became the ‘missingest man in America’ – The Lafayette

Corruption, political intrigue, showgirls, gangs and houses of crime in New York City were just a few pieces of the mysterious end of the 1930s for Judge Joseph Crater, New York State Supreme Court Justice and a graduate of Lafayette’s class of 1910.

On Aug. 6, 1930, Crater disappeared on a summer night and was never seen again. When his death was announced about a month later, it immediately became a global story. The case remains a hot topic to this day, with true crime podcasts and web series like Buzzfeed Unsolved picking up details to find an explanation that sticks. So, what would have happened to the judge that fateful night? There are several theories.

The very least of these theories suggests that Judge Crater voluntarily disappeared from New York, either to go off into the sunset with one of his favorite girls or to avoid being called to testify in a political corruption trial.

A lot of evidence shows that Crater bought his leadership, which was common at the time, especially among Tammany Hall politicians in New York in the 1930s.

“There’s no real question that Judge Crater bought his leadership,” Richard Tofel, author of “Vanishing Point: The Disappearance of Judge Crater and the New York He Left Behind,” said. “We know that he left and it appears that he didn’t deposit a lot of money – $22,500 – at the time he received counsel, which was the annual salary of the judges, which was the amount that the public paid. They paid,” Tofel said.

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“There were many ideas that disappeared to avoid scandal – political, legal or sexual,” Stephen Riegel, author of “Finding Judge Crater: A Life and Phenomenal Disappearance in Jazz Age New York,” added. “There was a political issue related to the purchase of an office, which involved his best friend and friend.”

However, Riegel and Tofel agree with the theory that Crater disappeared not because he fled the country, but because he died.

“I’m pretty sure he died that night and somehow he ‘disappeared,’ and he really disappeared so that when people looked for him a month later they couldn’t find him,” Tofel said.

Tofel claims that Crater’s death had something to do with his habit of hooking up with prostitutes. This belief was based on the memory of Polly Adler, the owner of a brothel in New York City.

“There is reason to think that, in his first words, [Adler] he said he knew what happened to her and that he might have been her client that night and died, as they say, ‘in a very bad place,’” Tofel said, implying that Crater died during sex.

“This fits the bill, and the reason it fits the bill is that they would have had it,” Tofel said. “[Adler’s] his business partner, who was Dutch Schultz, was a notorious criminal who was a very violent person, the type of person who could make someone disappear, without being recognized.

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The national media covered Joseph Crater’s disappearance extensively. (Photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Riegel, on the other hand, traces Crater’s death back to his Tammany Hall.

“I think all the evidence strongly supports the theory that he was involved in the politics of Tammany Hall. This is based on many reasons, but I think it is especially strong if you make time,” he said.

According to Riegel, newspapers from the days leading up to Crater’s demise make it clear that the walls may have been blocking his and his friends’ political involvement.

“[Crater] he had just returned from his summer home in Maine about three days before he was last seen, and if you looked at the headlines – what was happening in those days, what was about him and the people in the story were close. to – I think everything is starting to fall into place,” he said.

Riegel believes that Crater is planning to leave town to avoid being called to testify against his fellow fraudsters, but instead ensures that he will be locked up forever.

“He was distracted trying to escape and was taken down because he knew too much,” Riegel said.

Riegel and Tofel also agree that the legal consequences of Crater’s return made the police less interested in finding him.

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“Tammany Hall dominated the city government at that time. The mayor was Jimmy Walker, who was loyal to Tammany, and the whole city – the district attorney, the city attorneys, the department heads – were all Tammany people. So there’s a lot of evidence that they didn’t want to get him, especially the prosecutors who were involved in some of these breaking stories may have known. [Crater] he was very knowledgeable,” Riegel said.

Although Tofel does not believe Crater’s death was caused by his connection to Tammany Hall, he admits that he played a role in hindering his investigation.

“The New York City Police Department in 1930 was rotten from top to bottom,” he said. “There were a lot of people who, when Crater disappeared … they didn’t want it to be found, and they wanted it to be made as little as possible.”

Judge Crater was officially declared dead in 1939, nearly nine years after his disappearance. With no real evidence and many of those involved now dead, it is unlikely that the truth about his disappearance will emerge.

Even those who have researched the subject extensively are open to many possibilities.

“Is it possible that this man went into the Brazilian jungle and was never seen again? Sure. It’s possible,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s very likely.”


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