The Judge Who Disappeared Without a Trace

The disappearance of Judge Joseph Force Crater became the lengthiest unsolved missing persons case in the history of New York City. The story begins in July 1930 when Judge Crater and his spouse were vacationing at their summer cabin in Belgrade Lakes, Maine. Stella stated that the judge received a mysterious phone call that he never explained to her. His only words were that he had to return back to the city “to straighten those fellows out.” After arriving in New York City, he met with his assistant, Joseph Mara, and worked on his personal files in the courthouse chambers for a few hours. During this time, he had Mara cash two checks totaling $5,150 ($83,479 today) and also took some campaign funds totaling $20,000 ($324,188 today). The judge and Mara then carried two locked briefcases to Judge Crater’s apartment, at which time he gave Mara the rest of the afternoon off. That evening, the judge met some friends for dinner, after which they went their separate ways. The judge had a ticket to a Broadway show and was last seen walking towards the theater. He was never seen again. Judge Crater’s disappearance made headline news, but despite following thousands of leads, police were never able to determine what had happened to him. Amnesia, suicide, and murder were among the theories surrounding Crater's disappearance, but none were proved to be true. Judge Crater was officially declared dead in absentia on June 6, 1939.