Zach, I may have told you this before, but I have a very simple life philosophy. It’s something that I’ve told a great many people and it’s something I’m sure I will tell a great many more. I also guarantee that when I finish this next sentence my girlfriend Rachel may permanently damage her vision after an intense and involuntary eye roll. When I was a kid my dad would read me a book called, “Simple Pictures are Best”. The book is about a shoemaker and his wife who are going to have their picture taken for their anniversary. Right before the picture is taken the shoemaker’s wife gets an idea on how to make the picture better. Then her husband has an idea and they go back and forth adding more and more things until the picture is a giant mess all while the photographer reminds them that, “simple pictures are best”.
I’d like you to keep that philosophy in mind during this week’s mystery while I try to prove to you that, “simple mysteries are best”.
Have you ever been to Seattle, Zach?
I have a particular affinity for the Pacific northwest. I honestly haven’t been, but the combination of cool rainy weather, hipsters and people making jokes about either Grey’s Anatomy or Twilight has always made it seem very appealing to me.
If you ever find yourself in Seattle I’d recommend you check out the Hotel Vintage Park downtown. While you’re there perhaps you could hop in the elevator, take it to the second floor and find your way to room 216. Then go next door to room 214. This is the room in which a woman named Mary Anderson died.
On October 9th 1996 Mary Anderson checked into the Hotel Vintage Park. She was 5’8” approximately 240 lbs and was between the ages of 33 and 45. With her she had velour outfits, slippers, black leather gloves, leather purse, Estee Lauder cosmetics, toothpaste, perfume, Metamucil, Crystal light, Panty hose, a kitchen bowl, and an iron. She paid in cash for 2 nights in the room and wrote down her address as 132 East Third Street, New York, NY which is either a small apartment building in the East Village or a modest neighborhood between greenwood cemetery and prospect park in Brooklyn. As you probably guessed this address was fake which should have been fairly obvious because pretty much nobody who lives in New York would write “New York, New York” in their address.
By all accounts Mary Anderson wasn’t seen again until October 11th 1996. She had only paid for 2 days in the room but after those two days she failed to check out. When hotel staff tried to enter the room they found it bolted shut from the inside. When they used the electronic access to unlock the door they found Mary Anderson deceased on the bed. Her outfits were neatly hung in the closet and her makeup was freshly applied.
She had ingested a combination of cyanide and metamucil. A large black Bible lay open on her chest and was open to Psalm 23. On the hotel’s stationary pad a note had been written,
To Whom It May Concern.
I have decided to end my life and no one is responsible for my death.
P.S. I have no relatives. You can use my body as you choose.
A few more things that we know about Mary Anderson. She had an IUD and she had scars on both her breasts and around the nipple area. This would suggest that Mary was at least somewhat wealthy. You would need fairly good insurance to pay for an IUD or breast surgery (although it’s not certain if the surgery was a breast reduction, breast lift, or another medical procedure). She also had fairly expensive clothes and makeup. An autopsy also showed that she had never had children.
It’s also very strange that she was killed by cyanide. Cyanide pretty hard to get your hands on. You can’t just buy it and the loaf n jugg. Perhaps she was a researcher or in a chemistry lab or mining facility that would use it regularly. Police searched extensively through such institutions but found not matching missing persons. Cyanide is also occasionally used by jewelers or photographers to process film.
The IUD could be a potential clue. She said in her note that she had now family but having an IUD would suggest that she was at least sexually active if not in a relationship. There was also the possibility that a serial number could be found on the device but it had unfortunately been worn away.
There are a lot of Jane Does that people have tried to match to Mary Anderson but none that I saw completely fit. Either they had some distinguishing feature that wasn’t on Mary Anderson or they had previously had a child or the timeline of their disappearance just didn’t match up.
It’s even been suggested that Mary Anderson was an undercover spy. She had reddish brown hair that people have tried to suggest implies an eastern European heritage, and this wasn’t that long after the collapse of the soviet union and she did very effectively conceal her identity. Ultimately there’s just not any evidence for it.
You can spend hours trying to match missing persons to Mary Anderson and you’ll probably come up with nothing. Ultimately I think she was someone dealing with a great deal, perhaps the death of a spouse or loved one who thought she had nothing left to live for and just wanted to disappear in relative anonymity. I don’t believe that she didn’t have any family and I can’t believe that nobody missed her.
This is why this mystery is so confounding to me. At first it seems like there are just enough clues to find out who she is maybe we’re just not looking at the bowl she had with her or maybe the clues are in the places she bought her clothes or maybe even the fact that her metamucil was originally shipped to Arizona, but as all of them are crossed out you’re left right back where you started. Looking at the small list of facts asking yourself, “who is Mary Anderson”. And that, Zach, are why simple mysteries are best.