I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Refined Reader (33) The Mystery of Mary Rogers

Posted by Charlene // Tags: ,

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

Recently I was listening to a Suspense radio episode that was based on an Edgar Allan Poe story titled The Mystery of Marie Roget.  While listening, it was mentioned that Poe's short story was based on the true mystery that revolved around the death of a beautiful young girl named Mary Rogers in 1841.  Apparently Poe's short story is the first instance of 'true crime fiction' which is why I thought it would be interesting to talk about it for The Refined Reader.

Mary Rogers lived in New York City in her mother's boarding house and worked as a cigar girl.  Her customers included famous authors like Washington Irving and James Fenimore Cooper.  She was an extremely pretty girl according to the newspapers at the time (and the press went crazy for this story).  One day she told her fiance that she was going away to visit some relatives, but was found three days later floating dead in the Hudson River.  The police suspected gang violence, although a few months later a woman would 'confess' to having Mary Rogers' body dumped in the river after a botched abortion.  Apparently this confession was confused and not entirely accurate though.  The fiance, who was suspected in the press, would later commit suicide near where Mary's body was found.  There is no conclusive answer to who killed Mary Rogers.

A year later, Edgar Allan Poe would examine the mystery as the second case for his detective C. Auguste Dupin.  In the story, the killer is not named, but a conclusion on who the murderer was is drawn through logical deductions of all the facts (and possibly conjectures) that had been reported in the press.  The story does read as a very plausible solution, but unfortunately has not really been proved true.  It is interesting though that this story is probably the first example of detective fiction where the reasoning and deduction is explained step by step in the end as a sum-up.  Dupin is also commonly thought of as the first detective in fiction.

I found this story an intriguing instance of real life inspiring an innovative and unique genre which I hope was interesting to my blog readers as well!  The case of Mary Rogers was very well known at the time, but has become a more obscure story now.  It would be great if the podcast Serial would tell this story - I would love it if they tried to do a more historical piece!

Are there any true crime mysteries that really fascinate you?  Please share in the comments!


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