Archive | 12:09 am

A New York Legend (4)

16 Nov

November 16, 2011

Have any of you seen the movie Arthur? I don’t mean the one with Russell Brand, I mean the funny one with Dudley Moore.

It’s a good film with a good cast and though it came out 30 years ago it stands up well with it’s depiction of Arthur, a rich drunken New Yorker. But that’s really all I have to say about it.

What interests me this week is not the movie but its theme song by Christopher Cross. It hit number one on the billboard Hot 100 and is still a staple of lite FM stations. Alvin and the Chipmunks covered it in 1982 so it had to be good. Dave Seville had a real ear for music.

Anyway, the most famous lyric- don’t worry, I’m not going to sing it, and you couldn’t hear me if I did- the most famous lyric is “when you get caught between the moon and New York City, the best that you can do is fall in love.”

Romantic, isn’t it? Yes, New York really is a city of romance, of love, and imagination. If you have never been to New York you have a mental image of the city. Part of it is formed by the crime drama of television, part of it is formed by glitz of Broadway, thanks to me a small part of it is formed by invisible bridges and blind mutant albino sewer gators, and a large part of it is formed by the allure of mystery, the unknown.

“Caught between the moon and New York City.” The moon is on average around 300,000 thousand miles away from the Earth so I’m pretty sure that isn’t meant literally or it would only apply to whoever is left on the International Space Station. But it is a great line.

One New Yorker who got caught between the moon and New York City and simply disappeared was Judge Crater. Legend has it that in 1930 he simply turned a corner and vanished on his way home. It really was almost that simple.

Judge Joseph Crater is one of the most famous missing persons in American history, and the term “pulling a Crater” has come into the lexicon as slang for disappearing.

The story includes links to organized crime, Judge Crater’s mistress, thousands of dollars in cash, and a pair of suitcases.

Judge Crater was on vacation with his wife when he received a phone call. After hanging up he told his wife he had to get back to New York to “straighten those fellows out.” It isn’t clear who those fellows were or even if they existed because Crater’s next stop wasn’t New York, it was Atlantic City where he stayed few days with his girlfriend, a showgirl named Sally Lou Ritz, and I dare you to find a better pulp name.

He eventually got to New York City where he met up with his wife, went through his files in the courthouse, and cashed checks for over $5,000 dollars, which may not sound like much but was equal to over $60,000 back then. He later returned to his apartment with a pair of locked suitcases.

That night Judge Crater had dinner with Sally Lou Ritz and left to see a show for which he had bought only one ticket. The last anyone saw of him he was walking down the street on his way to the theater. And he was never seen again.

Investigators have pieced together some of his activities. His safe deposit box was empty and the two suitcases? Gone. And what about the money? And his files from the courthouse? Unknown. All I can tell you is that he didn’t run off with Sally Lou Ritz. She left town “to be with her sick father” and believe it or not, that cliché alibi happened to be true.

As you can imagine there is a ton of speculation about what happened to the Judge, but my favorite story comes from 1995.

A 91 year old woman contacted police and told her that she knew where Judge Crater was buried. According to her, Judge Crater was buried under the boardwalk in Coney Island at what is now the site of the New York Aquarium. While many crackpot theories have been put forth over the decades this one was taken a little more seriously because she claimed that one of the Judge’s killers was her deceased husband, NYPD officer Robert Good. Good, along with his partner Charles Burns, were very plausible suspects.

Now I know you all remember the very first New York Minute, about Henry Hudson, the Half Moon Hotel, and Kid Twist? Well, it was officers Good and Burns who were Kid Twist’s bodyguards the night he took a Brodie out a window and went splat on the boardwalk.

So you’ve got a fantastic and famous New York City disappearance linked to a fantastic and famous New York City mob rubout and both took place on the fantastic and famous Coney Island boardwalk and sadly, it is probably not true. When that part of the boardwalk was dug up in the 1950’s to build the aquarium no remains were found.

Although Judge Crater was declared legally dead in 1939, I like to think that he is still out there, somewhere, caught between the moon and New York City.


An audio version of this legend first appeared just last week in the amazing FlashPulp website. Check them out for awesomeness and goodies!

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