Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 27, 1872 --- The Euston Station Mystery

A disappearance, a last forlorn letter, and rumors of a strange cult of eunuchs add up to the "Euston Station Mystery." 

L.R. Bauer, a Russian-born salesman for a Birmingham firm is on his way from Moscow to his employer's home office. Arriving in London, he wires from Euston (at 12:50pm) that he should be expected on the night train.  He never arrived in Birmingham. Instead, his employers received a letter.  Bauer writes that he has been abducted and his captors have allowed him to send this one final letter.  He explains that, when a boy in Russia, he had joined a secret society.  Now, due to his failure to carry out "some consequences of my vow," he had been hunted down by "one of these devils in the shape of man."  He closes, "At least I shall not die a villain. Farewell forever. L.R.B."  With Bauer's letter, there is a note, ostensibly from his captors: "The foolish author of the enclosed has informed you right: he is dead."  The note is signed: "A Sufficient Number." 

Bauer's employer, Blews & Co. Gas Contractors, appeals for public assistance in apprehending such "unscrupulous persons." Bauer was described as a man of 26, about 5-foot-6, with light whiskers and a moustache.  The Times called it "An Extraordinary Story."  Could such a daylight abduction really take place "on the greatest railway in the Kingdom and in its London terminus?"  The Daily Telegraph is more sceptical, implying that Bauer concocted the story to cover a defalcation or other problem with his employer.  Blews & Co quickly replied that Bauer's accounts were all in order and he was a much-respected employee. 

Of course, there are theories.  Some thought Bauer just ran off with a woman.  The most frightening possibility involves a hitherto unknown group, "the Sect of the Skoptsy," the last being the Russian word for eunuch.  Suppressed by the Tsars as "especially harmful," the sect requires its adherents have their sex organs removed to preclude the possibility of sin.  Interestingly, in Bauer's last note, he did mention "my pretty girl in Riga" to whom he was betrothed.  Had Bauer's sect-mates discovered this romance and condemned him as a traitor?  Or, had he manufactured the vanishing act rather than to explain the truth to his beloved?  The unhappy girl, who said that her lover seemed apprehensive at their last meeting, sent a picture of "my dear lost one" to the London pictorial papers. 

Rewards were offered; the Russian government became involved.  No trace of Mr. L.R. Bauer was ever found.

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