Friday, July 21, 2017

The Night Toddler

Troy Taylor at American Hauntings ( ) wrote saying that if I had enough essays for a second book, he'd be happy to look it over, so my efforts have been concentrated in that direction these past few months.  That and a truly debilitating attack of bronchitis, for which I finally had to drag myself to the emergency room, kept me from blogging for months.

Anyway, here's another little tid-bit I found just this evening that takes us back into Missing 411 territory.

At about 9:00 PM on the night of January 19, 1954, Dr. Tom U. Johnson left his home on West Street, Coudersport, Pennsylvania, to make a house call. (Anyone remember those?)  As he drove past the C&PA Railroad tracks, his headlights lit up a strange and pathetic sight:  A toddler -- barely more than a baby, maybe 18 months old -- was waddling down the tracks.  He was barefoot, and he wore only a nightgown.  Snow covered the ground, and freezing rain was falling.

The doctor, naturally, stopped and picked up the cold, wet little child.  He conveyed the shivering waif back to his house, and his wife Eleanor took care of him while the doctor phoned neighbors up and down West Street.

He called the home of the Setzer family.  Mr. and Mrs. Setzer assured him that their young boy, Douglas, was asleep in his bed.  They checked, however, and found him gone.  They were astonished; they had no idea he'd gotten up, nor could they figure out how he left the house, which had been shut up tight against the winter cold.

The boy was soon returned to his parents.  Robert Lyman, Sr., historian and collector of strange Pennsylvania stories, points out that if the child had trotted on another two blocks, he would have reached the trestle over the Allegheny River and would have most likely fallen between the wooden ties into the icy waters below.

This story is so Four-Eleven-y it make my teeth ache.  A child, too young to talk and barely old enough to walk, somehow vanishes from a secure home, while his parents putter about obliviously in the adjoining rooms.  He is almost without clothing, during terrible weather, and for no apparent reason he marches resolutely off into the night.  David Paulides points out that lakes, reservoirs, rivers, etc., are often near points of disappearance.  If the physician had not been out at that exact time and place, then a river would have played a major and tragic part in this event.

Yet -- the toddler was found and rescued before his parents knew he had vanished from his bed.  So, technically, he was never really "missing"!

Paulides has collected so many reports of people missing in Pennsylvania, he considers the whole state a "cluster" of disappearances.

Lyman, Robert R., Sr.  Amazing Indeed! (Coudersport, PA: Leader Publishing, 1973), pp. 94-95.