HLS homeNews & EventsAbout the BulletinBack IssuesSend Us Your NewsSearch

 HomeBriefsSchool NewsLettersGalleryClass NotesIn MemoriamClosing

[Missing, continued]

After all, as the Crimson reported, Burgess was in good health, performed well during his first semester, and didn't have any trouble with women friends. Only a week before, his mother said she received a "sincere, happy message" from her son.

And on the morning of his disappearance, he joked with a janitor, tended to his newly laundered clothes, and talked with friends in an adjacent dorm room about the Pittsburgh-Nebraska football game.

"Burgess was always a cheerful fellow and he was in good spirits Saturday," one Perkins Hall friend told the Boston Herald soon after he vanished.

With little progress being made by Cambridge police, Burgess' parents pressed for outside assistance in December. They enlisted a diver who searched the river floor within 800 feet of the bridge for two days. He reported finding a perfectly smooth river bottom and suggested there was no possibility Burgess' body rested in the Charles.

Burgess' mother then met with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in Washington, D.C. He agreed to investigate the case on the theory Burgess' disappearance involved an interstate crime.

Soon after New Year's Day in 1938, the FBI's New England regional director, William J. West, ordered law enforcement agencies nationwide to check local morgues for unidentified bodies and search hospitals for amnesia victims.

At the same time, the Law School announced the $500 reward for information about Burgess' disappearance and began distributing 70,000 flyers to police departments throughout the country.

"The river police state that it has been definitely established that his body is not in the river," the flyer declared.

* * *

Sightings began trickling in within a week of the reward announcement.

Harold Ball, a Bluefield, W.Va., newspaper reporter, wired Boston police and claimed he saw Burgess eating lunch in a local restaurant. Ball said he found a "Mr. Burgess" registered at a nearby hotel as a representative of a Cincinnati firm but could not locate the guest.

Then two Bluefield women reported that a man who looked like Burgess sought lodging and meals at their boarding houses.

But a week later, Bluefield Police Chief C. N. Wilson told the Crimson that Burgess was not in his town. "I don't think he has ever been here," Wilson said.

On January 12, a Cambridge contractor, Robert Capella, came forward to say he saw a man struggling in the water on the morning of Burgess' disappearance. Capella told the Crimson that as the man went down for the last time he heard him shout, "I don't want to die."

  back | 2 of 3 | next  

back to top

contents print full article send feedback about this article

 Contact: bulletin@law.harvard.edu - 617.495.3118
 © 2005 The President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.