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A Child Genius Went Missing In 1939, And The Case Is Still Puzzling Experts Today

Barbara Newhall Follett achieved more by the time she was 16 years old than many of us can hope to achieve in a lifetime. She'd seen her first novel, The House Without Windows, published when she was only 12. The book was a critical smash, getting rave reviews in prestigious literary columns. A second book followed shortly afterwards, and Follett appeared to be on the verge of becoming a superstar. But then, one December evening in 1939, Barbara walked out of her home... and disappeared without a trace. Investigations have been searching for answers ever since.

An unexplained mystery

The last time anybody laid eyes on Barbara — as far as we know for certain — was December 7, 1939. After the former child prodigy had returned home from work, she'd had a fight with her husband. She'd then simply left her apartment in Brookline, Massachusetts, taking little more than $30 with her: that would be the equivalent of about $650 today. Her sudden disappearance didn't become a major news story right away, but that hasn't stopped people from trying to find her. And one man claims he has done exactly that.

It took two weeks to inform the police

Barbara's husband was Nickerson "Nick" Rogers. The pair had met in 1931 and married in 1934. Yet despite the couple's long-term relationship, it took Nick two weeks to report Barbara's disappearance to the police. And when he did eventually inform the authorities that his wife had vanished, he asked them to keep the news out of the papers. The police managed to do this, but they didn't manage to track down Barbara. Then Nick changed his mind about the publicity.

Going to the papers — without any luck

In April 1940 — a full five months after he'd seen Barbara for the last time — Nick asked the Brookline police to make the case known to the public. Unfortunately for Nick, this proved to be too little too late because none of the newspapers picked up the story. All that happened was the Brookline P.D. issued a teletype giving Barbara's general appearance and asking people to look out for "Barbara Rogers." This seemingly made no difference to the case, either.

This had happened before

One possible reason Nick had asked the police to keep quiet about Barbara's disappearance could have been that she had gone missing before. That incident occurred in 1929 when Barbara had only been 15 years old. Back then, the story of a child prodigy running away from home had been catnip to the papers, much to the disgust of her parents. So perhaps Nick was just trying to avoid another scandal.