Most of Live in Theater’s outdoor interactive theater experiences, including The Lombardi Case 1975 and They Ryan Case 1873, have been inspired by true historical events. Using information and characters from the past, and a level of creativity only found at Live in Theater, we have been able to create unique immersive pieces of theater to share with our audiences.
In this week’s addition to the Murder Mystery NYC Diaries, we’ll be looking at a case that inspired one of literature’s greatest authors, Edgar Allan Poe, to create his own take on the murder mystery genre.
In 1842, Edgar Allan Poe released a short story about the murder of a young woman named Marie Roget. She owned a perfume shop in Paris and was tragically found floating in the Seine by a detective and his partner. “The Mystery of Marie Roget” is regarded as one of the first real detective stories to circulate on a large scale. Poe gives a clear and concise ending to his story, unlike the case that served as Poe’s source material, which has never been solved.
New York Public Library Digital Collections // Public Domain
The real woman behind Marie Roget was a beautiful New Yorker, a Miss Mary Cecilia Rogers, who worked at a tobacco shop Poe frequented while he lived in the city. On July 28th of 1841, she was found floating in the Hudson with bruises around her neck. There are many theories on how Miss Rogers ended up in the Hudson, the most popular among them being the result of crossing paths with a random gang. However, it all seems too simple, doesn’t it? Especially when, in true murder mystery fashion, extra clothes were planted where Mary had been found ashore, denoting that something deeper was at play.
Some say the answer lies in an old home for unwed mothers that used to stand on the Jersey side of the Hudson. Remember, this was a time when the only real options for birth control were to remain celibate, or to have an abortion. This house was one of the few that offered the opportunity to receive the latter. Mary asked for an advance on her salary from work before leaving that weekend and never gave details as to what she needed the money for. Witnesses claim to have seen Mary thrown into the river after an unfortunate visit to the home for unwed mothers. While entirely plausible, what if this crime started closer to home, maybe with someone Mary knew? It’s a fairly common occurrence. After all, love and violence are just two sides of the same, passionate coin. Mary did have a fiancé, a man named Daniel Payne, who strangely chose to commit suicide where his former lover was found dead. Authorities also found a suicide note written by Payne, which seemed to be a prayer begging for forgiveness. Why exactly would Daniel have needed to pray for his own soul at that moment? What had detectives missed in their relationship? Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know.
Stay tuned for our next entry into our Murder Mystery NYC Diaries, where we'll be examining the murder of a prominent New York City dentist, Dr. Burdell.
For the introduction to this series, click here.