- Hope chest
From the Detroit News, March 7, 1931. Tragedy compounding tragedy compounding mystery.
Oh wait–it turns out Time magazine of April 13, 1931, has some inside dope: “At Pine Lake, Mich., Florence Tabor Critchlow, onetime mystery story writer, took poison, died. Neighbors remembered that twelve years ago, while rummaging in the cellar of her mother’s home, she had opened the ‘hope chest’ of her missing sister Maud, found Maud dead inside. Maud Tabor’s mother was tried for murder; but the jury disagreed when State pathologists discovered that the girl had died after an illegal operation. The mother, who is now 92, was never retried. She said she had hidden the body because ‘Maud did not want to be separated from me, even in death.'”
Translation: Maud died of a home abortion administered by Sarah, her mother. God, how inconceivably awful. The fact that the jury mercifully nullified the charge against Sarah mitigates the horror a little bit, though she plainly fell on hard times thereafter. The abortion angle makes the “dismemberment” part hard to fathom, but that could just be your standard bullshit tabloid sensationalism of the time.
Now I’m curious about the mystery writer angle. . .
What do you know: the writer angle checks out. Courtesy of Google Books we know that Flo published at least one story in Black Cat Magazine (subhed: “Clever Stories”). I didn’t get very far with reading it, I confess, but I might go back later and have a more serious whack at it. Black Cat, by the way, is the publication in whose pages Jack London, Clark Ashton Smith and Henry Miller all cut their authorial teeth, at least according to this guy’s Henry Miller blog.
From Wikipedia comes the news that Florence also wrote for The Nautilus, a magazine associated with “the New Thought,” which was basically a precursor to the “New Age” or a copyright-free knock-off of Christian Science, depending on where you set the parameters. That feels right, because the short story linked above has a kind of vaporous metaphysical tone.