In 1931, a young girl’s body washed up on shore in Long Beach, New York. The authorities identified her as Starr Faithfull, a well-known socialite. She was young, stunning, and had her whole life ahead of her. Close to a century later, the jury’s still out on whether Faithful’s unfortunate passing came by her own hand or someone else’s.
Let’s take a look back into the ill-fated socialite’s scandalous, sensational, and sorrowful time on earth and what might have led to her brutal demise.
1. She Had A Troubled Childhood
Born in 1906, Starr Faithfull moved to New Jersey with her family at a very young age. By all appearances, the Wymans seemed to be a happy family, but trouble brewed just below the surface. Faithfull's mother, Helen, often took her daughters to stay with her at her cousin Martha’s house in Boston. And unbeknownst to her, that was where things took an extremely ugly turn.
2. Her Uncle Enjoyed Her Company
Starr's Aunt Martha had married a rich lawyer and politician by the name of Andrew James Peters. The couple had a little son but were happy to support the Wyman kids’ education. They footed the bill for Starr’s private school, and Peters in particular seemed especially fond of little Starr. But here's where it gets a little strange.
Peters often took Starr with him on short overnight trips; they even shared a hotel room, just the two of them. And what went on behind closed doors? Well—as we'll soon learn—that was the terrifying part.
3. She Changed
Even if Starr’s mother was naive enough to believe the absolute best about her cousin’s husband, it’s surprising she didn’t hear alarm bells when her daughter’s behavior changed. Although she'd been bright and outgoing as a child, Starr's teen years were downright miserable. She became depressed and withdrawn—and shocked her family by dressing in masculine clothing. But that wasn't all.
4. Her Family Didn’t Understand Her
Moving through the world with a mysterious cloud over her head, Starr ended up dropping out of boarding school. Most likely, her altered behavior was a desperate cry for help, but her parents were too preoccupied with their own marital struggles to notice. Starr's obvious problems went neglected. And just when it seemed like life couldn't get any harder, her parents divorced.
Unfortunately, this wasn't the only upheaval in her life.
5. She Didn’t Want Help
Starr watched from the sidelines as her mother introduced a new man into her life—a stepfather named Stanley Faithfull. But no amount of familial happiness could improve Starr's altered state. Finally, Helen and Stanley became worried enough to seek out a solution, but unfortunately, it was the wrong one: They sent her to Channing Sanitarium, thinking the experts would help her deal with her issues.
Not interested in psychiatric help, Starr made up a story about nursing a broken heart. The psychiatrists released her after nine days and told her parents that a change of scenery might be a good idea. Not knowing what she was in for, Faithfull went along with their plan...
6. She Fell In Love
To change things up for Starr, her mother and stepfather booked a Mediterranean cruise for her and her sister. The girls were on board a ship at sea for nine months, and Starr felt on top of the world. For the first time in a long while, the clouds began to clear. She loved cruise life, and she loved being able to do whatever she wanted.
Although the open air undoubtedly helped Starr, it still couldn't erase her darkest secret.
7. She Drank Too much
The truth behind Starr’s extreme highs and lows eventually came out in an unexpected manner. The sisters had returned from their cruise, and Starr was planning to meet a friend one night. Stepdad Stanley poured out drinks for them, including one for her friend, but before the latter even made an appearance, Starr had gulped them all down. This was a recipe for disaster.
8. Her Truth Came Out
Starr became so inebriated that she had no control over what she was saying, and that's when the horrible truth came spilling out. Her confession was staggering: Her uncle had molested her since she was a young child. The initial inappropriate touching and harassment had eventually graduated to a full-fledged assault, and there was a horrific way in which it had come about.
9. Her Uncle Was Nasty
After jolting her family out of their stupor by finally sharing her secret, Starr divulged every explicit detail—every horror she experienced with her “Uncle” Peters. To begin with, he'd give her ether so she’d pass out, and whenever she awoke, she’d find him violating her. He even made her read Havelock Ellis’s literature so that she'd know how to go all the way with him.
But that was only the beginning of the nightmare.
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10. She Suffered Him For Years
The absolutely worst part about this whole sordid saga was that Starr couldn’t seem to escape it. Peters continued to exploit her, unchecked, for nine years. It all began when she turned 11 and went on until she left her teens. Of course, her story stunned Helen and Stanley, but their subsequent reaction to their daughter’s misery would chill anyone to the bone.
11. She Had Terrible Role Models
Unfortunately, no matter where she turned, Starr came face to face with the worst men imaginable. Her biological father disappeared from his daughters’ lives when he left his wife and her new stepdad was always strapped for money because he spent it all on useless inventions. He also had a history of suing rich people over the most trivial matters.
So, when Starr made her earth-shattering confession, her stepfather's greed came galloping to the forefront.
12. She Was His Bargaining Chip
Starr’s confession gave Stanley the perfect opportunity to make money easily, while still trying to help his stepdaughter. He knew if Starr went public with her accusation, it would destroy Peters in spite of his position. And so, he hatched a devious plan. He threatened Peters with exposure unless he agreed to compensate his stepdaughter for her sufferings. And there was worse to come.
13. Her Mental Health Wasn’t A Priority
You’ve probably guessed by now that medical treatment for Starr’s disturbed psyche was not a huge priority for Stanley Faithfull. He probably convinced Helen to support him in his blackmail by giving her this incentive, but once Peters had coughed up $20,000, Starr's treatment took a back seat. This is not to say she didn’t get any help, but the methods employed were extremely controversial.
14. She Fell Deeper
You’d think Starr’s family would double down on therapy, but instead of getting her to talk to a psychiatrist or counselor, they decided to hire a “sex tutor.” Yes, you heard that right. The idea, apparently, was to help Starr see the intimate act as something positive so that she'd be able to foster healthy physical relationships in her life. Erm…right then. But that wasn’t the only way they tried to “help” her.
15. She Was All Alone
As a band-aid solution, Starr's parents kept sending her on cruises. I mean, basically, why stop neglecting the girl now? Starr went on seven more cruises, and surprise surprise, fell deeper into her decadent lifestyle. She’d never been on the best terms with her family and kept pushing them further away. After all, they continued to exploit her personal sufferings in the most despicable way.
16. She Drifted Further Away
Starr must have known that Peters, now Boston mayor, would hate for the truth to come out—and so, he continued to pay her stepdad for his silence. By the time Starr eventually passed, Stanley had exhorted Peters into paying almost $80,000, which was the family’s sole source of income during those years. All this couldn’t have stayed hidden from Starr.
From what we know, it certainly seems like she knew all about it—and hated her family for it.
17. Her Feelings Weren’t A Secret
Starr’s sister, Elizabeth, admitted that Starr had an extremely tumultuous relationship with the family. She’d resort to slapping and pinching them if she didn’t get her way. But overall, Starr was rarely home. Apart from the seven cruises, she went on long trips to London too. But no matter where she wandered off to, she always seemed to be a magnet for trouble.
18. Anyone Could Catch Her Fancy
While onboard these many cruises, Starr started hanging out with all manner of random people. If she was between trips, she waited on the docks for the ships. She used her beauty to seduce ship officers, who’d sometimes bring her on board to the stateroom where she’d get a chance to stow away. This attitude got her caught in the middle of a disastrous situation.
19. She Wasn’t In A Good Place
Naturally, living life at such breakneck speed is bound to have repercussions. In London, in March 1931, someone reported loud and raucous sounds coming from Hotel St Paul’s, room 48. When the officers arrived, they found a girl passed out on the bed without any clothes on. The man she was with claimed that they were husband and wife. Of course, he was lying.
20. She Forgot Who She Was
When the girl regained consciousness in the hospital, she admitted that she was Starr Faithfull. She had more serious confessions to make though. Apparently, she’d just met the man she’d been discovered with that night. She came to stay with him in the hotel, but he hurt her badly after they’d been drinking for a while. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only disturbing discovery the officers made.
21. She Crossed A Line
It seems pretty clear that Starr was looking for an escape. While parties and clubs certainly helped distract her, they provided fleeting relief. This is why she turned to drink and barbiturates to drown her sorrows. She’d become so addicted that when the officers brought her to Bellevue Hospital that March, psychiatrists diagnosed her as an acute alcoholic.
Her dependency on drinking only led her down an increasingly dangerous path.
22. Her Judgment Was Cloudy
Starr's dependence on the bottle and various substances affected her judgment. Once, she announced her engagement to one of the ship officers who’d snuck her on board. He denied this completely and ended up leaving her stranded in London without any money. Before long, Starr's recklessness was out of control—and it led to some near-fatal scares.
23. She Did Something Silly
On one occasion, while stranded in London, Starr overdosed on sleeping pills. She may not have done this on purpose, in fact, there’s a strong possibility that she was so intoxicated, she misjudged how many pills she needed to take. Unfortunately though, after her passing, people used this incident to make a stronger case for the theory that she’d taken her own life.
Her family strongly disagreed with this, though they probably had the biggest role to play in pushing her to the edge.
24. Her Family Betrayed Her
Starr often spent summers at the Peters’ household, and as mentioned earlier, frequently went with him for long trips away from home. Well, all this got some tongues wagging after her passing. People began to wonder if the family deliberately looked the other way in order to blackmail Peters in the long run. Perhaps Starr had wondered the same thing herself, especially when, instead of going to a lawyer, her family decided on a settlement.
Betrayed by them, and unable to form any lasting, happy relationships, it’s no wonder the poor girl began to spiral out of control.
25. She Fell For A Man
Starr finally met a decent, mature man whom she fell for—hook, line, and sinker. The man in question was Dr. George-Jameson Carr, and unsurprisingly, she met him on a ship. On one of Starr's cruises, Carr just happened to be the working doctor. Unfortunately, their first meeting did not happen under the most romantic of circumstances. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
26. He Had No Time For Her
Starr ended up in Dr. Carr’s office because she’d gone completely overboard with the booze. He had to pump her stomach and unfortunately for Starr, that turned him off completely. It may have been love at first sight for her, but the good doctor’s logic had him running in the opposite direction. But Starr wasn’t the type to take no for an answer—and this might have pushed her into making a final, unwise decision.
27. She Attended A Party
On June 4, 1931, the evening before she left her house for the last time, Starr told her mother that she’d been at a party at a publisher’s office. She also mentioned the names of two friends, “Brucie” and “Jack,” whom she said were with her the whole time. Later, another friend, Dr. Charles Young Roberts refuted this claim, saying she’d been with him from 5-10 pm.
After their time together, Dr. Roberts put Starr in a cab so that she could go to another party. Some other witnesses mentioned seeing an intoxicated Starr that very afternoon, and a cabbie said she’d stopped to buy more booze on her way to someone’s house. So did she just lie to her parents out of habit, or was she too inebriated to realize what she was saying?
28. She Left Her Home
Starr left her house at 9:30 am on June 5, 1931. She wore a pretty silk dress, stockings, and gloves, and took three dollars with her to get her hair “waved.” This would be the last time her family would ever see her alive. The next time they saw her would be three days later—and she would look nothing like herself.
29. Someone Found Her
A beachcomber found Starr’s body on the shore of Long Beach on June 8, three days after she’d disappeared. Her dress and manicure were intact, but she wore no underwear except for the girdle that held up her stockings. Her accessories had disappeared, and her body looked battered and mottled. Stanley was the one to identify her lifeless form.
Her loss was an undeniable tragedy, but one question remained: What in the world had happened to Starr Faithfull?
30. She’d Gone Missing
Stanley reported Starr’s disappearance the day after she left home. Given her history, the officers didn’t take it too seriously, assuming she'd soon return. Her parents asked them to up the pressure when Starr didn’t return that day either. Officials later discovered that they'd sent Peters a letter too, trying to use her disappearance to milk him for more money.
Peters definitely had a motive to hurt Starr—and eventually, Starr's family had no choice but to reveal the family secret to the authorities.
31. Her Discovery Raised Questions
Stanley insisted that Starr’s passing be treated as a murder. Although he didn’t name Peters immediately, he did tell the officers in charge that a wealthy, older man in their family had “corrupted” her when she was a child and had paid a settlement so they’d stay quiet. His statement certainly jolted the officials into investigating the case as a homicide.
Little did they know, their investigation would lead them to some strange and unsettling conclusions.
32. Her Body Told A Story
The coroner made certain discoveries during the autopsy that made the case for murder stronger. Someone had severely injured and raped Starr before throwing her in the water. Although she hadn’t had booze for the past 36 hours, she’d had a strong barbiturate called Veronal, which probably made her tipsy. Officers felt compelled to treat the investigation seriously—and confronted every possibility.
Meanwhile, Peters had a nervous breakdown.
33. She Never Went Home
A taxi driver told the investigating officers that he drove Starr to her home from the Chelsea Piers at 2:00 pm on the day she disappeared. A man, whom she called “Brucie,” was with her and told her not to come back when she said she’d see him again at four. Although the cab dropped her outside her house, her family insisted that she never went in.
When the same driver returned to the piers a few hours later, he made a disturbing discovery.
34. She Wanted To Stay
The driver saw the exact same couple he’d seen on his last trip to the piers. The same man, Brucie, deposited an inebriated Starr in the cab for the second time and instructed the driver to “Take her home, and don’t bring her back.” Since Starr didn’t have cab fare, the driver dropped her a few blocks away from her home. But the entire ride was a waste of time.
The girl just turned around and began walking back toward the piers...but why?
35. She Wasn’t Alone On Her Last Evening
Here's what happened that very evening. As the cab driver predicted, Starr ended up at the piers all over again. She met up with the same Dr. Roberts whom she’d been with the evening before. Then, she made her way on board a liner, the RMS Mauretania, but left it before its departure to the Bahamas. Starr stayed with Roberts until 10:00 pm on board another ship, where he was working.
After dinner, Roberts saw her safely into another cab. This time, she had enough fare to get to the next party on her itinerary...but she never arrived.
36. She May Have Gone To A Hotel
While there’s no account of where Starr was that night, some informants told the authorities that they saw a woman who looked like her at Tappe’s Hotel near Long Beach. This hotel was a favorite hotspot for bootleggers and gangsters—characters who definitely could have played a role in Starr’s disappearance. But unfortunately, the officials weren’t able to establish any connection.
And while they didn’t know much else for sure, Starr’s family continued to insist that her passing was not an accident.
37. Her Skills Could’ve Saved Her
Starr Faithfull had always been a great swimmer, which is why Stanley insisted that her drowning had to involve foul play. He insisted on having it thoroughly investigated and the family accused Peters as their prime suspect. They even went public with their allegations, informing the media about it. And soon, they'd convinced a very powerful person to support their beliefs.
38. Her Family Found Support
The District Attorney agreed with Stanley. He too felt that something was amiss, and ordered another autopsy, urging a deeper investigation into Starr’s drowning. Hoping that the new autopsy report would find something different, the DA concentrated on making sure nothing had been overlooked. However, Starr’s family’s attitude began to raise questions about the case.
39. Her Sister’s Reaction Was Odd
Starr’s parents weren’t winning any parenting awards, but they’d shown significant distress at her passing. Her sister, however, was a different story. She clearly declared, “I’m not sorry she’s dead. She’s happier. Everybody’s happier.” As a 19-year-old, she obviously resented how her sister’s emotional outbursts and erratic lifestyle consumed her parents’ attention.
But while Elizabeth's reaction seemed unusual to the investigators, it was Stanley’s dishonesty that truly weakened the entire case.
40. Her Family Withheld Information
Starr’s family’s poor judgment impacted her while she was alive, and it was no different after her passing. The investigating officers realized that there was something off about her stepfather when he went to the newspapers with the story about Peters immediately after insisting that they didn’t want publicity. His accusations against an “unnamed politician” made sure the case caught the public’s attention.
But that wasn’t even the worst of what he did.
41. Her Stepdad Lied About Her
When asked how Starr had been before her passing, the family lied through their teeth. They insisted that she’d been a homebody, with no love life whatsoever. Stanley also told the officers that Starr had kept no journals or diaries, which the officers proved was a lie as soon as they searched her room. Even more shocking? Her journal contained some explosive information.
42. She Kept No Secrets
Starr’s diary, which she called her “Mem” (Memory) Book, gave the investigators a lot of sordid information. She wrote about all the men she slept with, willingly and unwillingly, but used initials instead of their full names. The “AJP” mentioned was probably Peters, since she used phrases like “Horror, Horror, Horror!!!” while talking about time spent with him.
Her affairs were described in such explicit detail that they couldn’t be printed in newspapers. However, they certainly proved one unhappy truth.
43. Many Could’ve Wanted Her Gone
Once the officers found her diary, the DA dramatically stopped her cremation because he felt someone who wanted their affair silenced may have pushed her off the Mauretania. He wanted a grand jury to look into the case, and he pushed Stanley and Elizabeth under the bus, saying their lies had complicated the case. Edwards was still certain that Starr’s drowning had a nefarious backstory, especially after he got another report.
44. She Might Have Fallen Asleep
The city toxicologist confirmed that Starr’s liver was full of barbiturate Veronal, which she’d taken habitually. He later suggested that it could also have been a similar, but stronger, drug. The DA felt certain that someone had drugged her, pushing her overboard to keep her quiet. But the report itself couldn’t confirm whether her passing was an accident or not.
Running in circles, investigators had no idea what to think, that is, until a new witness arrived and turned the case on its head.
45. She Was Heartbroken
On May 29, a few days before she drowned, Starr Faithfull had gone to visit Dr. George Jameson-Carr on RMS Franconia, where he was working. The doctor clearly said that he had no feelings for her, and asked her to leave his sitting room when the ship was about to sail. She stayed on the deck though, perhaps hoping no one would discover her. Alas, this led her to utter humiliation.
46. She Wanted To Stay
Starr’s eventual departure from the Franconia was quite dramatic. Once she failed to show a ticket, the ship arranged for a tugboat to take her to the pier, but since she didn’t want to leave, they had to take her kicking and screaming. She kept yelling, “Kill me! Throw me overboard!” Some thought she just wanted another chance to win Carr over, but she later wrote to him to admit that she’d been too intoxicated to leave.
The letter also included a confession that could change the verdict completely.
47. She Was Miserable
After Carr returned to his London home, he received three letters from Starr, dated May 30, June 2, and June 4. This meant that she wrote to him the day after the Franconia incident, as well as the day before she disappeared. She wrote about her “worthless, disorderly bore of an existence” and said, “...I hate everything so–life is horrible…”
However, it was what she said she meant to do with her sad life that made everyone sit up and take notice.
48. She Didn't Want To Live
All of Starr's letters pointed toward the same horrifying conclusion—that she wanted to end her life because she couldn’t live without Carr. In her letters, she wrote, “It's all up with me now. This is something I am going to put through…If one wants to get away with murder one has to jolly well keep one's wits about one. It's the same way with suicide…”
But that wasn't all. In those devastating letters, Starr revealed a harrowing truth about her final hours.
49. Her Last Wishes Were Simple
Starr wrote in great detail that she wanted to spend her last 24 hours enjoying a good meal, a good smoke, and flirting with every man who showed an interest in her. Later reports claimed that she mentioned drowning, but it wasn’t published in The New York Times, which ran excerpts of her letters at the time. But not everyone thought these letters were true.
50. There Were Too Many Questions
Stanley created a ruckus, claiming the letters were forgeries her murderer probably sent Carr to distract the investigation team. He asked his own handwriting expert to prove this and then blamed the DA for giving up on the investigation. The DA felt stung by this accusation and worked on the case for another six months. However, even the final inquest in December reached a no-decision.
There were so many suspects: Peters, old lovers, and even Starr herself. It seemed like anyone could have done it.
51. Her Family Became Suspects
After Starr’s passing, Peters refused to pay her family any more “hush money” even though Stanley accused him by name a month later. This action came back to bite him though, as the newspaper uncovered that Starr’s family had blackmailed Peters for all those years. Enraged, Stanley sued the newspaper for libel but nothing came out of it.
In fact, a lot of people started suspecting that the family may have done away with Starr themselves. That way, they could continue blackmailing Peters for his silence.
52. Her End Was As Tragic As Her Life
Sadly, Starr Faithfull never got any justice. Her case was closed as inconclusive, and the man originally responsible for destroying her life never got any real comeuppance. Sure, his reputation suffered, but he still continued his political career until he passed at the age of 63. Starr’s cremation finally took place after the case was closed, but her family never paid for the procedure, so her ashes remained unclaimed.
Eventually, the funeral home must have disposed of the ashes themselves. But although it seemed like her story was officially over, Starr Faithfull continued to be a subject of speculation for quite a while.
53. She Inspired Multiple Theories
Apart from the theories already discussed, two nonfiction authors had their own ideas about who ended Starr's life. Jonathan Goodman, who wrote The Passing of Starr Faithfull believed that the famous mob leader, Vannie Higgins, was the culprit. His theory stated that Higgins discovered Peters’ secret and wanted to blackmail him himself.
According to Goodman, Higgins kidnapped Starr for more details, and when her information dissatisfied him, he pummelled her and threw her into the ocean, where she drowned. It's quite the story, but that wasn't the wildest theory out there.
54. Most Believed It Wasn’t An Accident
The other famous theory by Morris Markey, who wrote The Mysterious Death Of Starr Faithfull, claimed that an unknown person tried to get physically intimate with the victim, but the experience wasn't to his satisfaction. Infuriated and disappointed, he became physically aggressive, drowning her in the shallow water close to the shore.
While none of these, or any, theories were proven, most people continue to believe that Starr Faithfull did not take her own life.