On August 17, two women cleaning a storage area in a once-grand 1920s-era Los Angeles apartment building made a surprising discovery: two leather satchels that each contained the mumified remains of a human baby.
The remains were wrapped in 1933 and 1935 newspapers and then placed in the the leather satchels (of the type that physicians once carried). The leather satchels were found in an unclaimed wooden trunk bearing the monogram “JMB” that had been stored in the building for decades.
To the discoverers, one appeared to be premature, and the other appeared to be a normal newborn. The assistant coroner referred to the remains as fetuses.
Also in the trunk were personal effects relating to a woman named Jean M. Barrie, including a ticket stub from the 1932 Olympics (held in LA), a copy of “Peter Pan,” and a membership certificate for the Peter Pan Woodland Club, an upscale woodland resort destination.
The “Peter Pan” references are intriguing because a close female relative of Scottish novelist and playwright James M. Barrie, author of “Peter Pan,” bore the name Jean M. Barrie. This female Barrie is known to have lived on the East Coast and in the Midwest, but her presence on the West Coast is currently unknown.
Alternately, local LA records indicate that two nurses, Jean M. Barrie and Janet M. Barrie, lived local to the apartment building (where the trunk was discovered) in the 1930s. Whether or not these two Barries were the same woman is unclear.
Forensic work will determine the age, gender, cause of death, and genetic profile of each baby/fetus, and the LA Police intend to investigate fully.
Facts pulled and more available from: Newser, NY Daily News, LA Times, and MSNBC
Maybe it’s just the part of me that insists upon trying to think the best of people, but I have this picture in my mind of a woman who miscarried but couldn’t bring herself to part with the remains. In such a case, with “Peter Pan” being so popular, of course such a woman would be interested in keeping the place where children live forever close to her mind and close to her babies. Whether or not she’s related to the author isn’t actually important to my mental picture.
Unless, of course, a definitive connection to James M. Barrie is made, because that would place a literary classic into a whole new light.