Mar 1, 2012

Oh, Baby

Several weeks ago, I came across a bit of a discovery regarding the Lindbergh baby, whose kidnapping occurred 80 years ago today. While the famous crime took place in Hopewell, NJ, it turns out the child was actually born in north NJ's Bergen County – just a few miles from where I live and mere blocks from where I work.

It seems the Morrow/Lindbergh clan had a special hospital built on the Morrow family's Englewood estate in order to provide the most kind conditions under which to welcome Charles Jr. into this cruel world. Ironically, this estate – unlike the Hopewell house – was under heavy security due to the prominence and celebrity of the Morrows and Lindberghs.

The estate now functions as part of a K-8 private school which was founded in 1930 by Elisabeth Cutter Morrow, the Lindbergh baby’s grandmother.

Here is the Morrow estate as it existed in 1934:

And here it is today:

Simply fascinating, I know.

While my imagination was captured by this bit of history, it was damn right held hostage by the realization of the sheer amount of activity that goes on TODAY regarding this kiddie caper. And it’s not all just rehash of old news; there are actually people on the interwebs who claim the emergence of new evidence in recent years. Yes, “breaking news” on the Lindbergh baby. There is officially a message board for everything.

Don't get me wrong, I am not one to throw stones at folks who file Freedom of Information Act requests as my window of weirdness has been broken for years. File fast and frequently, I say. Make those Federal workers earn their pensions.

You see, what really left me reeling were the pages upon pages of stories I found of people who convinced themselves that they actually WERE the Lindbergh baby. Among the more outlandish accounts was one by a Black woman from NJ’s own capital city. The following appeared in an article on originally published in 1998:
In 1989 Geneva E. Cato Fields of Trenton filed her "claim," backing it up with a self-published memoir entitled "I Located Myself, The Lindbergh Baby Alive."
Ms. Fields, who was raised in Oklahoma, wrote that in 1978 she learned from a friend about "the Skin Dye Procedure my Banana-Split Sex operation and seeing my birth records stating Born MALE-WHITE, My mind blocked the fact and I wrote this book, as you can see, as if I had never been told, Until my skin dye started to fade in March this year I still kept blocking the fact I did not want It to be true. But it is."
Yup. As theories go, it’s as crazy as the day is long. But it does speak to a more overarching reason why this story is still alive and kicking. Well, at least more so than Charles Jr.

There is something universally appealing about this 80-year old saga. Sure, life loves a tragedy. Especially when it involves the trifecta of rich folks, government conspiracy, and children.

But people are also intoxicated by the idea of “what if?”

In this case, the “what if?” is not just contained to the facts surrounding the closed case – the who-dun-it, the potential police cover-up, the classified FBI files – it extends to the possibility that the baby did not die in 1932. The appeal is the fantastic idea that any person who fit the description on the poster (and, apparently, Ms. Fields) could be someone other than who they thought they were for their entire life. A proposition that, for some, is worth all the ransom money in the world.

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