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61 Years Ago, She Checked Out Several Books From The Library About Missing People, And Then She Disappeared

Lincoln, Massachusetts. She was 30. She was a mother of two. She had pale eyes and brown hair.

She mysteriously vanished from her house 60 years ago. All she left behind was a spattering of blood and a trail of conjecture.

The Vanishing

Joan Carolyn Risch was last seen on October 24, 1961. For over half a century, no one could find any trace of her disappearance.

Police went to her house in Lincoln, Massachusetts, after neighbors reported seeing a trail of blood from the house to the driveway.

Joan’s then 4-year-old daughter Lillian was out playing with the neighbor’s boy named Douglas, and her 2-year-old son David was napping in the crib.

When the neighbor Barbara Barker sent Lillian back home at around 4 PM, Lillian returned in 15 minutes and told her, “Mommy is gone, and the kitchen is covered in red paint.”

Joan’s husband Martin was on a business trip in New York, so Joan was alone taking care of the children in the house.

When Barbara rushed into the house, she did not see Joan but only found David crying in his crib. And the red paint Lillian described turned out to be blood.

Police arrived 15 minutes after the report. They confirmed the blood belonged to Joan. The telephone was ripped out from the wall and thrown into a trash can, which was usually kept under the sink and was now in the middle of the floor.

The table and chairs had been overturned. They found an address book opened to the emergency numbers section.

Police lifted a fingerprint covered with blood but couldn’t ever match it. No weapon was ever found. And that trail of blood the neighbor saw stopped in front of Joan’s car.

At first, police believed Joan was abducted. Another neighbor said she had seen Joan outside the house that day running. She described that Joan looked “dazed” but assumed she was chasing one of the children. A few other people had also said they saw a woman near Route 128, covered in blood. They also said she looked dazed.

Police determined the amount of blood found probably came from a superficial wound, meaning Joan was perhaps not shot or stabbed. However, with all the blood on the floor, there were no footprints in the blood.

The Doe Network; pictured above is Joan

A Different Assumption

The investigation took another turn after police discovered that Joan had checked out several books from the local library. All of them were about disappearing or going missing. Joan had checked out a total of 25 books over the summer of 1961.

Those books included Death of the Heart, about an orphan teen who ran away; The Hunt for Richard Thorpe is about a 12-year-old boy who went missing on purpose. And Into Thin Air describes a young wife who disappeared from her home, and no one could ever find any trace of her.

“The whole thing did add up to our feeling that she had planned the disappearance and was looking for a way,” said Sareen Gerson, a then 40-year-old reporter in 1961.

However, Sabra Morton, a close friend who went to college with Joan, disagreed with the run-away theory. Said Joan would never have left her family on her own.

“I have never seen Joan happier than she was while living in Lincoln,” Sabra said in a 1996 report. “I think she is almost certainly dead.”

A Little Background of Joan Risch.

Joan had a tragic childhood herself. She was born in 1931, and her parents died in a suspicious fire in 1940. She was placed with foster parents before being adopted by her aunt and uncle. Joan had later said that her foster father was abusing her when she stayed with them.

Joan graduated from college with an English literature degree. She worked as a secretary at a publishing house and worked her way up to an editorial assistant. She then met Martin Risch at work.

They got married in 1956 and had two children. The family moved to Lincoln, Massachusetts, in the Spring of 1961, where the incident happened.

No Body. No Skulls. Nothing Whatsoever.

Up until today, there is still no trace of Joan. In a 1996 article, her husband and children were unwilling to discuss the case publicly despite believing she was still alive.

So was Leo Algeo, the then-Police Chief who was last worked on this case.

“This is one of the things that I would most like to see before I pass on or have some resolution to that,” Algeo said.

“I thought they’d find a body or bones or something,” he continued. “Things do turn up. People don’t disappear without a trace.”

What is your theory? Do you think Joan disappeared willingly? Or did something happen to her?