Vampires, Russian mobsters and nude dancers were some of the people Susan Walsh said she was hanging out with before she vanished.
Three weeks later, police, friends and co-workers are trying to figure out if the crowds she mingled with, or the illnesses that plagued her, had anything to do with her disappearance.
Walsh, 36, was an aspiring writer who had researched stories on New York’s underground, such as the Russian mob-run striptease rings and one of Manhattan’s latest fads, the “vampire” scene.
Friends said Walsh was starting to lose a lifelong battle with manic depression, having failed to take her medication for a year.
Then, on July 16, she left her Nutley, N.J., apartment, telling her son she was going to make a phone call. She has not been heard from since.
“She’d never, ever walk out on that child,” said Village Voice Editor Karen Durbin, referring to Walsh’s 12-year-old son. “They had a really nice relationship and she was extremely fond of him.”
Walsh was a stripper herself, and had been working clubs for years when she decided to turn her life around.
A talented writer, she took an internship at the Village Voice and was helping research a book about the sex industry. She was halfway through a master’s degree in English at New York University.
In addition to her vampire scene research, Walsh developed contacts among the Russian community in Brighton Beach for an article about immigrant women lured into the exotic dance trade.
She told friends she was being stalked and was afraid of some Russian mobsters.
Al Sullivan, who attended William Paterson College with Walsh and was her editor at the school’s literary magazine, said it was not unusual for Walsh to disappear. He said there were times she said she was being stalked and would be gone for days, claiming she needed to get away from trouble or from someone who was angry at her.
But Walsh’s father said the stalkers and Russian mobsters were likely imaginary, figments induced by alcohol and prescription drug use.
Still, “There are probably people - who knows what terrible people - involved with her life right now because she was in the wrong places.”
Police decline to discuss the case, although a friend of Walsh’s said investigators are not ignoring her subculture involvement, even the vampire scene.
“The vampire thing is absurd,” Durbin said. “These are a bunch of kids who go to clubs. I think the connection is just tabloid nonsense.”