The following text has been used with permission from Ghost Research Society Press and the author, Tamara Shaffer. Any pictures or text on this webpage is protected under copyright law. Do not use any text in part, form or complete chapter without permission. Thank you. © 2006


From the book:


The Mystery of the Grimes Sisters


ISBN: 0-9766072-7-1




The Disappearance


“If you are good Presley fans, you’ll go home and ease your mother’s worries.”

Public appeal issued by Elvis Presley

to Barbara and Patricia Grimes after

their disappearance.




ecember 28, 1956, was a customary winter day in Chicago —coal dust in the air, dirty snow underfoot—but with the lingering celebratory spirit of Christmas. The temperature had reached a high of 36 degrees, not as bitter as Chicago could be, but weather reports promised deteriorating conditions.

For Barbara and Patricia Grimes, the time was special for another reason—Elvis Presley’s premier movie, Love Me Tender, had completed its downtown run and arrived at their neighborhood theater, the Brighton, at 4223 South Archer Avenue. The theater was a short ride for the two girls on the #62 bus, once they walked the two blocks to Archer Avenue from their home at 3634 South Damen Avenue.

Like many teenage girls of the era, Barbara and Patricia were enthralled with Presley, so much so that they had joined his fan club and were awaiting their membership confirmations. By the time Love Me Tender began its Brighton Theater run on December 28th, the two smitten fans had reportedly seen the film and witnessed the cinematic demise of the Presley character Clint Reno ten times. In real life they would precede their handsome singing idol in death by twenty years.

Barbara Jeanne Grimes and Patricia Kathlene Grimes were born on May 5, 1941, and December 31, 1943, respectively. Their parents, Joseph Cornelius Grimes and Lorretta Marcella Hayes Grimes had been married on July 21, 1924, when. Joseph was barely seventeen and ten months younger than his bride. Their first child, Shirley, was born in 1926, followed by Leona in 1928. The couple, whose children would eventually number seven, separated when the youngest was an infant, leaving the weight of the day-to-day parenting responsibilities on Lorretta’s shoulders.

In the terms of their uncomplicated divorce, filed in 1951 and finalized on December 17th of that year, Joseph Grimes was ordered to pay $150.00 attorney fees and $35.00 a week in child support for the two girls and their three siblings who still lived at home. This was a substantial chunk of his weekly $70.00 or $80.00 earnings as a truck driver for Bozzy Cartage at 3724 South Washtenaw Avenue. At the time of his daughters’ viewing of the Presley film on December 28, 1956, Joseph was living in a large yellow brick apartment building at 2738 West 61st Street with his second wife, Grace Wrage Grimes. The couple had married on August 18, 1956.

Lorretta Grimes worked long hours as a file clerk at Parke-Davis Pharmaceutical, 130 North Franklin Street, but the family was reportedly on welfare for part of the children’s early lives—often without heat and lights. When not working, Lorretta could sometimes be seen sitting outside watching her kids play. She once stated that what the family lacked in money, they made up for in love.

Patricia Grimes, spunky, with an impish smile, planned to celebrate turning thirteen with several girlfriends, who’d been invited to attend a small party at the Grimes home on Saturday night, two days earlier than her actual birthday. She was in seventh grade at the parish school, St. Maurice, at 36th Street and Hoyne Avenue, right around the corner from their house.

Barbara, smaller by three inches and slightly more subdued, had attended all eight years of grade school at St. Maurice and was a sophomore at Kelly Public High School (1). To help out at home she worked part-time at Wolf Furniture House on Archer Avenue(2). The two sisters, seemingly inseparable, often walked about hand in hand.

            At around 6:20 on December 28th, the two girls began dinner consisting of tuna fish—fare common for Catholics on Fridays in those days—and white and sweet potatoes, mashed together—“…everything I like,” Barbara commented to her mother as she sat down to eat, “and I’m hungry.” It was during dinner that she brought up the movie. “Mama,” she began, “can we go to the show tonight?” She was intent upon going to the neighborhood opening of the movie, patting her mother on the shoulder as she begged for permission. Concerned about the worsening weather descending upon the city, Mrs. Grimes tried to convince her insistent child, who had been taking medicine for a cough, that going out was a bad idea. Eventually she conceded, with the stipulation, based on safety concerns, that “Petey,” as the younger girl was known, accompany her. She gave Barbara $2.50, instructing her to put the fifty cents in the zipper of her wallet, to save for carfare home.(3) The two sisters ate Dolly Madison chocolate chip cookies for dessert and at 7:15 kissed their mother good-bye and left for the theater.

    Lorretta Grimes expected her daughters home at 11:45, which would have allowed them two viewings of the movie, but she was already feeling uneasy by 11:30, as though she sensed something was wrong. At midnight, she sent another daughter, Theresa, l7, and l4-year-old son Joey to the bus stop at 35th Street and Hoyne Avenue to watch for them. After three buses failed to yield their sisters, they returned home, and their mother called police.

    At 12:30 a.m., Officer Herman Steinberg of the 20th District, Brighton Park Station, met Joey and Theresa at Archer and Damen Avenues. Joey reiterated to Officer Steinberg that his sisters were missing. Steinberg took a description of the girls and alerted all officers in the district on the midnight patrol. About 2:05 a.m. Mrs. Grimes called the squad room and again reported the disappearance. Her daughters had attended a movie, she told the officer answering the phone. She described them, and message 5428 was sent out.

The next day, juvenile officers, policewomen, and District 20 detectives began an investigation. By Monday, which was New Year’s Eve and Patricia’s thirteenth birthday, Chicago newspapers were carrying stories of the girls’ disappearance, and police were setting up a special task force to locate them. They canvassed door-to-door and searched alleys, garages, outbuildings, and basements in the area bounded by 51st Street, the drainage canal, the Chicago River, and Laramie Avenue. Railroad detectives joined in a search of the Sante Fe railroad yards, based on the idea that the girls might have locked themselves inside one of the freight cars. Police sent circulars to all precincts throughout the city, as well as law enforcement agencies all over the United States.

As the search intensified, Barbara and Patricia were, it seemed, simultaneously everywhere and nowhere.

 (1) Kelly High School still stands at 4136 South California Avenue.

 (2)  This address, 4211 South Archer Avenue, is now Watra Church Goods Store. Watra Church Goods Store.

 (3)  CTA charged a mere 25 cents for a bus, trolley, or el ride in 1956.

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