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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

From our archives, 100 years ago

Searchers were still looking for the body of Spokane millionaire F. Lewis Clark on Santa Barbara’s beaches when the following letter arrived at the Los Angeles police headquarters:

“We are holding Millionaire Clark for ransom of $75,000. State in Examiner (a local newspaper) if his folks will pay it or not. He is well taken care of. Yours, THE BLACKMAILERS.”

Across the top of the letter were the words: “Notice: Make prompt reply in the papers, as he is very anxious to get out.”

Regular readers of this column already know that this was a hoax. To this day, no trace of Clark has ever surfaced. Even at the time, the Santa Barbara police were convinced that this crude attempt at blackmail was a hoax.

“I think it is foolish for anyone to take the letter seriously,” the Santa Barbara police chief said. “I never was more convinced of anything than that the body of Mr. Clark is in the ocean.”

Clark had been seriously ill for months and police believed he had committed suicide by leaping off a dock. His body never washed up on shore, yet police noted that the bodies of several fishermen who had drowned in the same spot had also never been recovered.

Also on this date

(From the Associated Press)

1948: Indian political and spiritual leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, 78, was shot and killed in New Delhi.