Welcome to the Research Rabbit Hole - a blog series exploring all the fun, random paths we end up on at work. Today's entry is from Amy Tibbs, Development Research Associate at the National Audubon Society.
My favorite kind of rabbit holes, which are born of the same cursed curiosity that leads to casual genealogy projects, a curiosity most people share in our line of work. My very favorite rabbit holes are the ones that uncover tawdry, pearl-clutching, gossip column fodder.
One that sticks with me involves the widow of a prominent developer known for his work turning a swampy southern city into a retreat for the ultra-wealthy. The widow was left a substantial estate in the 1910s and shortly after she was widowed, she reconnected with a former beau – a poor country lawyer, also recently widowed. They married after a brief courtship, and when she mysteriously died less than a year after their wedding, the whispers commenced. Despite swearing he would make no claims to her wealth, the poor country lawyer had been added to her will for a few million dollars, very upsetting to her relatives (note: she had no children, relatives were siblings, cousins, in-laws) who stood to inherit the lion’s share of the estate. What had he done? How can they prove there was foul play? Obviously an exhumation… and here’s where it gets wild. The family secretly assembled a team of high-profile doctors from all over the United States and transported them to the cemetery on private rail cars. Post-exhumation and examination, the family dropped their fight against his inheritance. BUT WHY??? While many rumors swirled, the results of the examination were never released. In the words of the wise Tootsie Roll owl, the world may never know.
Of course, often these stories are well-known to those at the family’s favored institutions. But they are new to me, and I would rather breathlessly pore over 25 Chrome tabs of century-old articles than click on a sanitized Wikipedia page any day. I think this Twitter thread from the great Rebecca Makkai, reveals bits and pieces of a mysterious relationship and death, excitedly I share these details as I learn them, in short bursts, with my poor husband: OKAY, mystery time…