The mid-50s were a time when the city of Chicago lost whatever innocence it might still have had by that time. Although the city was notorious for its violence going back to its very early days as a fort. It was the home of notorious gangster such as Al Capone. However, in the 1950s, it was still a time when parents did not think twice about letting their young children head downtown via public transportation to see a movie. That began to change in the mid-50s.
First, in 1955, the city was rocked by the brutal deaths of three young boys. Known as the Schuessler-Peterson murders, it was a crime that stunned and shocked the city. Three young boys had spent the day downtown seeing a Disney movie and never returned. Days later their nude and brutally beaten bodies were found dumped near a forest preserve. It would take decades for that crime to be solved.
Less than a year later, in 1956, another murder would stun the city yet again. Whatever remnants of innocence the city might still have had disappeared when two girl, two sisters, were found naked and dead beside the road. The similarities between the two cases would cause many to wonder if they were connected. Was someone out to kill the youth of Chicago? It would take time to tell and when it was told, the answer would bring relief to some and leave nothing but frustration for others.
It was December 28 in 1956 when Barbara and Patricia Grimes decided they would head off to a local theater to see a movie. The two girls were huge fans of Elvis Presley and his latest movie Love Me Tender was out and showing at the Brighton Theater. Barbara was thirteen years old and Patricia was fifteen. Both were of the age that their parents felt no compunction about letting them travel into the city to see the movie.
The the Brighton Theater was not very far from their home. Of course, their parents must have reasoned, what could happen. It wasn’t the same thing as the Schuessler-Peterson boys who had traveled so far from home just the year before. That kind of distance could only lead to trouble. The Grimes sisters would almost be in their own backyard. So, with a whole $2.15 between them the two sisters set off to see the movie.
It was a late evening showing that they planned on attending. Exactly how they got to the theater is unknown to this day. Neither of their parents gave them a ride. Employees at the theater concession stand reported, later, that they saw the two in line to buy popcorn at 9:30 p.m. That was right as the movie was starting and the movie was over with by 11. Since the theater was so close to their home, it was expected that they would be home by 11:45 p.m. or midnight at the latest and if the girls took their time.
In addition to employees at the movie theater, several of the girl’s friends were also there. They too would report seeing the two girls in line to buy popcorn. They reported that the girls waved and were laughing and appeared to be having a good time. Noting unusual was spotted and no one unusual was seen around the sisters or talking to them.
Once the movie was over, more witnesses would claim to have seen the two girls. Numerous witnesses would later tell police that they saw the two girls getting on the Archer bus heading toward the city. The witnesses on the bus would also claim that the two girls got off the bus at Western Avenue which was actually about halfway to their own home and the usual bus stop. Exactly why the sisters would get off at this location is unclear.
Their parents stayed awake, awaiting their return. 11:45 came and went. Then the clock in their house struck midnight. The sister’s mother sent their two other siblings, Theresa and Joey, to go to the bus stop and wait for the two girls. After three buses came and went and Patricia and Barbara were not on it, the two came home and reported that their sisters were still nowhere to be found. Their worry began to grow, but maybe they had run into friends and had decided to hang out at the theater a bit longer. When one o’clock came and went, the panic began to set in. Their mother waited until 2:15 in the morning to finally call police and report her daughters as missing.
Despite their parents not finding or seeing the two girls, there were others who claimed to have seen them. One of their classmates would later tell police that he had seen the girls at a restaurant called Angelo’s Restaurant on December 29. This, he would claim, was more that 24 hours after they had been reported as missing to the police. At the same time a railroad conductor would tell police that he had seen them on his train while it was near the Great Lakes Naval Training Center which was in a northern suburb called Glenview. This was a very long way from where the two lived and no one could be sure why they were up there.
What was launched now was the largest manhunt in the history of Chicago at that time. It was theorized that the girls had runaway. Despite objections by their mother, who refused to believe that they would do so, the police were convinced that this was what it was. So, they were not panicked or too worried.
They sent out descriptions as far as they could and hoped that they would turn up. In fact, their disappearance spread across the country. Even Elvis Presley, upon hearing what huge fans of his the sisters were, released a statement urging the two girls to head back home or contact their parents.