The Disappearance of Barbara Follet

Hey, Readers. Welcome to this week’s Mystery Monday. Today’s story is about another mysterious vanishing that occurred eighty-three years ago.

Barbara Newhall Follet was an American child-prodigy novelist. She was born on March 4, 1914, in Hanover, New Hampshire. Her first novel, The House Without Windows was published in January 1927. Barbara was twelve years old at the time. Her second novel, The Voyage of the Norman D, was published in 1928 and received critical acclaim.

Barbara Follet (Fair Use)

Barbara grew up in a literary family. Her father was an editor, critic, and university lecturer. Her mother, Helen Thomas Follet, was a children’s writer. Barbara began writing The Adventures of Eepersip when she was eight years old using a portable typewriter. This was later retitled The House Without Windows.

The original manuscript later burned in a housefire, and she completely rewrote it. (I can’t imagine doing that.)

In 1928, the same year her second novel was published, Follet’s father left her mother for another woman. This was devasting to her, as she was deeply attached to him. At age fourteen, she had reached the apex of her life and career.

She was quoted as saying, “My dreams are going through their death flurries. They are dying before the steel javelins and arrows of a world of Time and Money.”

The family fell on hard times as the Great Depression loomed. When she was sixteen, Barbara worked as a secretary in New York City. She wrote several more manuscripts during this time. In 1931, she met Nickerson Rogers. The couple spent the summer of 1932 walking the Appalachian Trail, then sailed to Spain to continue their walking excursions in Mallorca and through the Swiss Alps.

They settled in Brookline, Massachusetts, and married in July 1934. Barbara still wrote but had fallen out of favor with publishers.

Initially happy, by 1937 Barbara expressed dissatisfaction with married life in letters to close friends. By 1938, the marriage was strained. Follet believed Rogers was unfaithful to her and became depressed.

According to her husband, Barbara left their apartment after a quarrel on December 7, 1939. She had only $30 (the equivalent of $642 in 2022) in her pocket. This was the last time anyone saw her. Strangely, Rogers didn’t report the disappearance for two weeks. He claimed he was waiting for her to return.

Four months later, he requested the issuance of a missing person bulletin. It was issued under her married name Rogers, so her disappearance went unnoticed by the media which did not learn of it until 1966.

Thirteen years later after Barbara disappeared, her mother insisted the Brookline Police investigate the matter more thoroughly. Helen Follet became suspicious of her son-in-law after she learned he made little effort to find his wife.

She wrote in a letter to him, “All of this silence on your part looks as if you had something to hide concerning Barbara’s disappearance … You cannot believe that I shall sit idle during my last few years and not make whatever effort I can to find out whether Bar is alive or dead, whether, perhaps, she is in some institution suffering from amnesia or nervous breakdown.

Follet’s body was never found, and there was never any evidence indicating or excluding foul play. The date and circumstance of her death have never been determined. Her story is one of many unexplained disappearances.

31 thoughts on “The Disappearance of Barbara Follet

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  1. This is an incredibly sad story. The girl was obviously a talented genius, and for her life to have become so unhappy, and her writing career brought to a halt like that just breaks my heart.

    I’d prefer to think of her as having escaped it all, starting over somewhere under a new ID, rather than believe her husband killed her. However, I can’t believe she would have broken her mother’s heart like that. In 1939, forensics weren’t what they are today, and it’s more likely her husband did get away with murder. What a tragic tale, Joan, and I really hate that it will never be solved.

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  2. I’d say the husband looks quite guilty of something for sure. My how times have changed. Within hours, we see flashing signs on the freeways announcing missing persons (especially children with the Amber alerts). Back when this happened, resources were so limited. Yet, I still say the husband had more knowledge of her disappearance than he shared. Good story, Joan!

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    1. I vaguely remember hearing the name, but I haven’t read any of her books. I’m not even sure if they’re still in print. What happened to her is a perplexing mystery.

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  3. Can’t help but wonder about the husband who didn’t look for her or report it for two weeks. If she really just left him there would be no reason to ever report her missing.

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        1. Interesting story, Liz. There was a young woman who disappeared from the town my husband grew up in. They’ve never found her or a body. There’s been much speculation, but no one has ever been arrested in connection to her disapperance. Sad for the family.

          Liked by 1 person

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