They should have been home before midnight.
On December 28, 1956, 15-year-old Barbara Grimes and her 13-year-old sister Patricia went to a nearby Chicago movie theater to see the Elvis Presley movie “Love Me Tender.”
Several reliable sightings at the theater determined the fact that the two did arrive safely at the movie. A friend sat behind them during the film and this same friend saw them later in the line to purchase snacks.
The two sisters apparently stayed for the second show of a double-feature.
Then they vanished.
When the Grimes sisters did not arrive home by midnight, their worried mother sent out two of her other children to the bus stop closest to their house to wait for the two girls. Several buses passed by, but the sisters were not on any of them. At a little after 2am on the morning of the 29th, their mother called the police. It was quickly determined that it was unlikely that the two girls had run away on their own.
In the subsequent days, police fanned out across the Chicago areas and found people who eagerly reported having seen the two girls. It became a headache for the police to keep up with all of the alleged sightings:
- Several people claimed that they witnessed two young girls matching a description of the Grimes sisters get on a bus heading east into the heart of Chicago. Nobody saw these two girls get off the bus at any stop on the route, however. Similarly, a train conductor would claim to have seen them on a train near the Chicago suburb of Glenview.
- A night security guard claimed that he was asked for directions by two young girls the night of their disappearance.
- On the following evening, the evening of the 29th, a fellow student of Patricia’s reportedly saw her walking past a restaurant in the company of two other girls — neither of which was Barbara.
- A restaurant worker reported a sighting early in the morning of the 30th. He said they were in the company of a man at this point, and that one of the girls acted sickly or drunk and had to be assisted when walking.
- A hotel clerk stated the girls briefly stayed at his hotel. A clerk at another hotel claimed that he had refused them a room due to their young age.
- Several days later, employees of a department store reported seeing the Grimes sisters in their store, listening to Elvis Presley records.
- Most mysteriously, roughly two weeks after the girls’ disappearance, a classmate of Patricia’s got two puzzling phone calls near midnight. During the first call, there was nothing but silence on the line. During the next call, a voice the mother was sure was Patricia’s said: “Is that you, Sandra? Is Sandra there?” The caller then hung up.
The fate of the Grimes sisters would become known before the month was up. On January 22, 1957, a day laborer found their bodies near a road. They appeared to have been dumped or thrown there by someone in a passing car.
The search for the killers became complicated when the autopsy pathologists and the chief investigator of the county coroner’s office could not agree on a time of death. Similarly, the wounds on the bodies were puzzling enough that no clear cause of death could be agreed upon.
The police conducted a massive search for possible culprits and finally focused on three likely suspects:
- A homeless man from Tennessee. He originally admitted to killing the Grimes sisters, but later recanted, saying that the police had forced him to issue a false confession.
- A young man in his teens who offered to take a lie detector test, which he failed. The police began to focus on him as a prime suspect until they were told that it was illegal to polygraph someone underage. The police released him, many of the authorities thinking he was their man. He was later imprisoned for the unrelated murder of a young woman.
- A man in his early 50s called the police before the bodies were found to say that he dreamed a location of the bodies which proved, in the end, to be remarkably accurate. Police grilled the man but were unable to come up with enough evidence to proceed.
Despite a long investigation, the crime has never been solved.