It's the third oldest case in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's files, and it dates to a Mother's Day that took a tragic turn for one Bradford, Pennsylvania, family. At Narratively, Caren Lissner has the story of Marjorie West, a 4-year-old who vanished in an instant while picnicking with her family on that fateful Sunday in 1938. Marjorie had been picking flowers in the Allegheny Forest with her 11-year-old sister, Dorothea, while her father fished. Dorothea went to hand her bouquet to her mother, who was resting in the car; she returned to find her sister gone. The search that ensued "was one of the largest for a child since the Lindbergh Baby kidnapping six years earlier," writes Lissner, involving more than 3,000 locals and many months.
The prevailing belief is that Marjorie was taken by a passing motorist—some media accounts from the time said bloodhounds did track her scent to a nearby road—with many family members remaining convinced she was alive somewhere with another family. While it remains a mystery, Lissner recounts one local's theory, which has made its way into Finding Marjorie West, a book he self-published in 2010. Harold Thomas "Bud" Beck says information he posted online about the case in 1998 spurred a tip that led him to a Florida nurse who told him she wasn't Marjorie—but that in 2005 she reached out to him with a new story that involved her father hitting a little girl on Mother's Day 1938 and intending to take her to the hospital. But then she woke up. Read the full story for more on Beck's story, and the response to it. (Read more Longform stories.)