Episode 374:

Emotional Money Booth

The Mystifying Disappearance of Paula Jean Welden


Frances Glessner Lee, The "Mother of Modern Forensic Science"


Episode 374: Emotional Money Booth

On today's episode, Georgia covers the mystifying disappearance of Paula Jean Welden and Karen tells the story of Frances Glessner Lee, the "mother of modern forensic science."

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The Mystifying Disappearance of Paula Jean Welden

The Mystifying Disappearance of Paula Jean Welden Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

Other Images:

1. Paula Jean Welden (Alamy)


""I'm going to hike on the Long Trail." Hardly words from which legends are born. Except that these words were the last that anyone heard from Paula Welden, the now-legendary Bennington College student who disappeared mysteriously 60 years ago today. Her story is without a doubt Bennington's most infamous unsolved mystery, and one that continues to appear in New England authors' histories of the occult and unexplained.

Dec. 1, 1946, began like any other day in Bennington for Paula Welden, an 18-year-old sophomore at the college. She worked two shifts at the school's dining hall, came back to her room and conversed for a while with her roommate, Elizabeth Johnson. Then, she told Johnson, "I'm all through with studies, I'm taking a long walk," and headed out around 2:45 p.m., according to Johnson's recollections. She was wearing a distinctive red coat with a fur collar, jeans and lightweight sneakers.

Given that it was a cold, though snowless day, and the temperatures were predicted to be subfreezing by nightfall, she seemed either underdressed for a walk in the woods or was only planning to be out for a short while. That is only one of the unsolved mysteries surrounding Welden's appearance and behavior that fateful November day.

Shortly thereafter, a blond, slight, red coat-clad young woman was seen by Danny Fager, the owner of a gas station that at the time was across the street from the college gates. Fager said the girl ran up the side of a gravel pit near the college entrance, then ran down it again. Then she went out of view. Later, search parties would call in a bulldozer to sift through the gravel pit on the off-chance that she had been buried alive. No evidence was found.

Just before 3 p.m., Louis Knapp of Woodford picked up a girl hitchhiking on Route 67A just outside the college entrance. His description of her matched Welden. When climbing into his truck, the girl nearly slipped, and Knapp warned her, "Be careful." No further words were spoken between them until Knapp let her off near his driveway, which was on Route 9 near the Long Trail, where the girl had told him she wanted to go. After thanking Knapp for the ride, Welden headed for the trail.

The next sighting of the girl was roughly 45 minutes later in Bickford Hollow, where several residents reported seeing her headed to the trail. One was Ernie Whitman, a watchman for the Banner, who warned her about heading up into the mountains dressed so lightly and at such a late hour. She continued on anyway, into the woods, and out of sight forever..."

Source: “After 60 years, student's fate remains a legendary mystery” by Rebecca Robinson (Bennington Banner)

Frances Glessner Lee, The "Mother of Modern Forensic Science"

Frances Glessner Lee, The "Mother of Modern Forensic Science" Notes:

Other Images: 

1. Frances Glessner Lee (Glessner House)

2. Miniature orchestra created by Frances Glessner Lee in 1913 (Glessner House)

3. Part of the “Sitting Room and Woodshed” Nutshell (Spencer Grant / Alamy)


"Dollhouses have been popular for centuries — for good reason. It’s fascinating to see our lives in miniature, and they give children the opportunity to practice social skills and rehearse for real-life situations. Peer closely at the exquisitely detailed “nutshells” by mid-20th-century miniaturist Frances Glessner Lee and you’ll see the typical dollhouse domestic scenes: tiny furniture, household items, decor, and, of course, dolls.

But Lee’s dolls are dead. Horrifically so: Soaked in blood from gunshot wounds. Hanging from the rafters, a noose around their neck. Sprawled on a hardwood floor, their head bashed in and a (minuscule) hammer nearby. There’s even a baby in a crib, blood splattering the headboard and wall behind it.

These gruesome crime scenes aren’t meant for morbid entertainment. Instead, Lee, the nation’s first woman police captain and a forensic science pioneer, created these dioramas — called the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death — as a training tool for homicide investigators to “convict the guilty, clear the innocent, and find the truth in a nutshell.”

Born in 1878, Lee didn’t begin constructing the Nutshells until the 1940s, when she was a grandmother and heir to her family’s fortune. As a younger woman, she’d wanted to attend Harvard Medical School but was denied admission because of her gender. Decades later, she helped establish Harvard’s Department of Legal Medicine, the first university program to train crime scene investigators using scientific techniques. The curriculum included studying the intricate details of her crime scene dioramas, reading “case files” (the nutshells are based on real investigations), and looking for clues to deduce whether the doll-sized death was a result of murder, accident, or suicide..."

Source: “The Fascinating History Behind A Set Of Miniature Murder Scenes” by Kenneth Bachor and Drusilla Moorhouse (Buzzfeed) 2022

Georgia's Episode Sources

  1. “After 60 years, student's fate remains a legendary mystery” by Rebecca Robinson (Bennington Banner)
  2. “Bennington Triangle” (Wikipedia)
  3. “Hangsaman” (Wikipedia)
  4. “In 1946, College Student Paula Jean Welden Went For A Walk And Was Never Seen Again” by Patrick Thornton (Ranker)
  5. “Missing Person / NamUs #MP40143, Paula Jean Welden, Female, White / Caucasian” (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System)
  6. “Paula Jean Welden” by Meaghan Good (The Charley Project)
  7. “Paula Jean Welden” (Wikipedia)
  9. “Paula Jean Welden -- Real-life Little Red Riding Hood Missing Since 1946” by Shane Lambert (Missing Person Commentary)
  10. “Paula Welden: Little Lost Girl” by Mary Baillie (Bennington Banner)
  11. “Paula Welden, Where Are You?” by Helen Stock (Bennington Banner)
  12. “Shirley Jackson's Second Horror Novel Was Inspired By A Real-Life Disappearance” by Sadie Trombetta (Bustle)
  13. “The 1946 Disappearance of Paula Welden on Vermont’s Long Trail” by Editorial Staff (New York Almanack)
  15. “The Mysterious Disappearance of Paula Jean Welden” by Ted Rice (Rice’s Home Page)
  16. “The Strange Disappearance of Paula Jean Welden in the Bennington Triangle” (Strange Outdoors)
  17. “Vermont State Police commemorates 75th anniversary” by Michael Cusanelli (NBC 5)
  18. “Seventy Years after the ‘Bennington Triangle’” by James Saunders (Barre Montpelier Times Argus)

Karen's Episode Sources

  1. “18 Tiny Deaths” By Bruce Goldfarb
  2. “The Fascinating History Behind A Set Of Miniature Murder Scenes” by Kenneth Bachor and Drusilla Moorhouse (Buzzfeed) 2022
  3. “Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” by American Artifacts (C-SPAN) 2020
  4. “Heiress Plotted 19 Grisly Crimes. Investigation Underway.” By William L. Hamilton (New York Times) 2018
  5. “Frances Glessner Lee” by Laura J. Miller (Harvard Magazine) 2005
  6. “The Tiny, Murderous World Of Frances Glessner Lee” by Alexi Horowitz-Ghazi (NPR) 2017
  7. “Murder Is Her Hobby: Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death” (Smithsonian American Art Museum)
  8. “The tiny murder scenes of forensic scientist Frances Glessner Lee” by Nicole Johnson (Al Jazeera) 2022
  10. “A gift from and for the Glessners” (CSO Archives) 2013
  11. “Forensic pathologist” (Cleveland Clinic)
  12. “Forensic Science” (NIST)