THANKSGIVING DAY, 1948. Harold Huckins is deer-hunting at twilight.
He is on Pulsifer Hill in Holderness, New Hampshire, following the Durgin Brook where it skirts the Mount Prospect trail, when he comes to a shallow depression beside the water. Birches grow along its edge, and there is a pine tree down in the hollow.
The bones are lying in the open. Unburied, awash in pine needles and thatched with tree-roots. An animal, Huckins thinks. Then he sees the shoes.
Elsie Whittemore was 25 in the summer of 1936, mother to a 16-month-old daughter and pregnant with another child. Her husband Edward was employed as an ironworker and construction foreman. His work frequently took him away from home, and the young family had moved in with Edward’s parents in Plymouth to save money.
Little is known of Elsie or of her life in Plymouth. Newspaper reports describe her as “highly esteemed” in her community but also “of high character and proud […] quiet, never divulging her feelings or giving expression if in trouble.”
And she was in trouble, of a kind. In late 1935 or early 1936 she became pregnant again. In the summer of 1936, Edward was in Fairlee, Vermont, working on a bridge project, leaving Elsie at home to take care of their daughter. During this time she was said to be “slightly depressed” on account of her pregnancy and had taken to walking alone in the evening.
On June 29, 1936, just after supper, Elsie complained of indigestion and informed her in-laws Carl and Pearl Whittemore that she was going for a walk to settle her stomach. This was not unusual. It was a windy night and Elsie wore a brown overcoat and brown beret over a light summer dress. She took nothing with her — and she never came back.
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