Iron Miners
It is currently Mon Dec 10, 2018 12:19 am

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]

Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 
Author Message
PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2007 11:22 pm 

Joined: Thu Jul 27, 2006 10:18 pm
Posts: 49
Location: NJ

The story is the basis for Edgar Allan Poe's The Mystery of Marie Roget.

It was a hot, steamy summer afternoon on July 28, 1841 when James Boulard and Henry Mallin sighted what appeared to be a body floating in the water of the Hudson River near the shore of Hoboken, New Jersey. The two men, who had been trying to relax at a quiet retreat called Sybil's Cave located across the river from the heat and crowding of New York City, raced to a nearby dock and borrowed a boat to retrieve the floating object. They returned to the shore with the body of a woman, later identified as Mary Cecilia Rogers, missing from her New York City home since Sunday, July 25, 1841. This discovery brought national attention to an already locally famous sight.


Most people growing up in Hoboken 30 or 40 years ago were very familiar with the legend of Sybil's Cave. Local legend held that it was a natural deep cave with a spring located somewhere along the Hudson River. However, current residents and visitors may be surprised to learn of the existence of this legend. The Hoboken shoreline of the 1800's was an area for relaxation for the stressed urbanites of New York City and the nearby cities of New Jersey. A tree lined path along the river, dubbed "River Walk", served as a respite to the pressures and crowds of the city by providing a country like atmosphere for many residents, especially those who had recently migrated to the city from rural areas. This urban growth was the trend in those days prior to the Civil War, when cities were expanding at the expense of rural populations and traditions. Ferries and private boats brought New York City residents across the Hudson River. This was the origin of the shipping trade, which later immortalized Hoboken.

Along the River Walk, many businesses grew to accommodate the visiting travelers. These included taverns, inns and open recreation areas such as Elysian Fields, which was the birthplace of modern baseball. One of the most noted of these business was the renowned "Sybil's Cave and Spring", today located between Eighth and Ninth Streets at the foot of Stevens Institute of Technology on Frank Sinatra Drive. Contrary to local legend, Sybil's Cave was not natural. The cave was dug manually out of the cliff to reach a natural spring in 1832 (see picture above), as the River Walk gained in popularity. Glasses of water were sold to thirsty hikers for one cent a glass, an outrageous amount for the time that people were only willing to pay because of the beneficial and the medicinal properties this water supposedly held. Tables were set outside, and a building erected to serve the growing clientele. "Gleason's Pictorial Drawing-Room Companion" of 1836 described Sybil's Cave as, "One of the principle attractions of the place. No one visits Hoboken without seeing it. It is hewn out and excavated to the depth of thirty feet. In the middle is a spring of pure and sparkling water, thousands of glasses of which are sold daily in the summer, for a penny per glass."

In the 1880's, with the advent of the Board of Health, the spring water of Sybil's Cave was declared unfit for human consumption. However, this was not the end of Sybil's Cave. A tavern was established on the site by Fred Eckstein, which served food and had an Old World ambience, and the area continued to be popular with visitors. The cave was accessible by a sliding metal door at the tavern and was used for storage. Eventually, the commercial shipping business encroached upon the area, urbanizing it and blocking out the views of the Hudson River and New York City, which had originally popularized it. Fred Eckstein's tavern became a gin mill for dockworkers, and was later occupied by squatters. The building, after ransacking over the years was torn down in 1937, and the cave was, for a brief period, re-discovered beneath it. The Hudson Dispatch Newspaper even published a photo showing the entrance almost unchanged except for wear. To avoid injury to adventurous youths, the cave was filled in soon after. Since very few clues of the cave's existence remain today, it is obvious that great care was taken to hide any evidence of the entrance, the better to thwart future explorers of the legend.


Although the appearance of a dead boy floating in the waters around New York City was not an especially rare occurrence in the mid 1800's, the discovery of the lifeless and bloody body of Mary Cecilia Rogers in the shallow waters near Sybil's Cave provoked outrage. Mary, a young and beautiful 20 year old, left her home on the morning of July 25, 1841 telling her current boyfriend and boarder, Donald Payne, she would be visiting her aunt uptown. She would never return. Her body was fished out of the Hudson River three days later, and the cause of death was quickly ruled strangulation by the Hoboken coroner. He also stated she had been sexually assaulted and brutally beaten. Over a month later, remnants of her clothing and some personal items were founded in a wooded area near the river in a wooded area of Weehawken, just north of Hoboken. It was assumed she was killed there by a man, or a gang of men, then thrown into the river.

Along with her aging mother, Mary ran a boarding house on Nassau Street near City Hall. She also worked as a sales girl in a nearby tobacco shop. Nassau Street at that time was the center of the growing publishing and printing business, including the new "Penny Press", the equivalent of our tabloid newspapers. Mary was well known to the editors and reporters of these publications, having lived and worked in the area for over a year. This familiarity made the investigation of her death a personal matter to them, and the case became the O. J. Simpson case of its time, with dozens of reporters and writers following up on every possible lead and investigating every possible suspect, all in the public eye. This gave Hoboken and Sybil's Cave a boom of publicity and tourists, as thousands flocked to the area to view the scene of the crime.

Watching and reading all of this was a then unknown writer living in Hoboken at the time named Edgar Allan Poe. He later transformed this story into the pioneering detective tale, "The Mystery of Marie Roget", changing the location of the saga from Hoboken to Paris, France, but otherwise leaving other important facts and clues intact. His writing on this case is said by many to be the birth of the Modern Detective Story.

Despite the endless commentary and speculation in the press, the case was never officially solved. Every one of Mary's former suitors were publicly charged, but officially cleared. This constant publicity was blamed for the apparent suicide of Donald Payne on the Hoboken shoreline. Distraught over the loss of Mary, and the public suspicions of his involvement in her death, his body was found outside Sybil's Cave in early October with a bottle of poison nearby.

About a year after these events an innkeeper named Frederika Loss, who ran the popular Nick Moore's House which was located between Sybil's Cave and Elysian Fields, made a deathbed confession, her fatal wounds apparently caused by an accidental shooting at the hands of one of her sons. She claimed that Mary Rogers had come to Nick Moore's House accompanied by a local doctor, "Who undertook to procure for her a premature delivery." The abortion was botched and Mary subsequently died. One of Frederika's sons helped the doctor dump the body in the river, and some of her clothing was later strewed about the woods in Weehawken, to confuse police. Interestingly, it was one of Frederika's sons that later "found" the clothing. This confession could also help explain the coroner's finding of sexual assault on Mary Rogers' body, and his later strange and unsolicited references to her chastity and good morals, a possible attempt to protect her reputation.

Although Frederika's confession closed the case for many, including Edgar Allan Poe, who in later editions changed "The Mystery Of Marie Roget" to coincide with the abortion theory, some investigators remained skeptical. Her two eldest sons were questioned and even held under arrest, but were released following a judicial hearing. The innkeeper's confession was challenged on the grounds she was barely conscious at the time and may have been seeking revenge on the son who shot her, or just publicity for herself. The skeptics also point to the unexplained external injuries to the body of Mary Rogers. The mystery remains officially unsolved to the present day.

Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 1 post ] 

All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests

You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group