The Sad Origins Of Why We Tell Kids Not To Take Candy From A Stranger

Published July 4, 2016
Updated December 17, 2016
Published July 4, 2016
Updated December 17, 2016

Ross Finds One Son — And Frustration With The Police

On his way, he encountered Walter. Relieved, he asked the boy where he had been — and where his brother was. Walter was so frightened that he couldn’t respond.

When pressed, Walter told his father that the men promised the boys that they would get firecrackers if they entered the wagon. When they arrived, Charley began to cry and asked to go home. The men sent Walter into the store, and when he left the wagon had gone.

Afraid and unsure how to get home, Walter began to cry, at which time a neighbor picked him up and brought him back to the neighborhood.

Several people corroborated Walter’s story.

Ross gave a description of his son to the police, who sent it out via wire to all the precincts around the city. The police were not altogether worried, thinking that perhaps Charley had been picked up by some “drunkards” who would soon tire of him, and leave him on a sidewalk for retrieval.

Ross grew increasingly impatient with the police and interviewed people on his own. The more the community heard of the missing boy, the more invested they became in his safe return — so much so that the news of the missing boy hit the front pages of newspapers across the country. That unprecedented event was also how Mrs. Ross found out her son had likely been kidnapped.

Charley Ross Photograph

While his wife scrambled to get home, Ross received the first of several ransom notes, indicating that this was an intentional kidnapping, not a drunken mistake. The poorly penned note demanded $20,000 (about $420,000 today), which Ross could simply not pay, both physically and morally.

Abby Norman
Abby Norman is a writer based in New England, currently writing a memoir for Nation Books. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Independent, Cosmopolitan, Medium, Seventeen, Romper, Bustle, and Quartz.
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