Rahway murder of 1887

The Rahway murder of 1887 is the murder of an unidentified young woman whose body was found in Rahway, New Jersey on March 25, 1887. She is also known as the Unknown Woman or the Rahway Jane Doe.

Rahway murder of 1887
Born1865 (approximate)
StatusUnidentified for 135 years, 6 months and 1 day
DiedMarch 24 or 25, 1887 (aged 18-22)
Cause of deathHomicide by sharp and blunt force
Body discoveredMarch 25, 1887
Resting placeRahway Cemetery
Other namesThe Unknown Woman
The Rahway Girl
Rahway Jane Doe
HeightApproximately 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
A sketch of the Rahway murdered woman that appeared in an April 1887 edition of the National Police Gazette

Four brothers traveling to work at the felt mills by Bloodgood's Pond in Clark, New Jersey early one morning found the young woman lying off Central Avenue near Jefferson Avenue several hundred feet from the Central Avenue Bridge over the Rahway River.[1] Her body lay at the side of the road in a pool of blood that had frozen in the cold. Her throat had been cut twice from ear to ear, her hands were wounded, and the entire right side of her face was extensively bruised from a severe beating.[2]

The footprints surrounding her body were said to be "huge."[3]


The woman appeared to be in her early 20s, and was described as attractive, with brown hair and blue eyes. She was found clad in a dark green cashmere dress that had been trimmed with green feathers and a fur cape to protect from the cold. She also wore yellow kid gloves, what were described by the papers as "foreign good shoes," a black hat made of straw with red-colored velvet trimmings adorning it, a black dotted veil, and a bonnet. She had carried a basket of eggs. Other belongings were found in the Rahway River.


May 1, 1887 New York Dispatch advertisement for a life-sized display of the unknown woman at the Globe Dime Museum.

Her murder was the subject of national headlines and hundreds came to view the body.[4] Investigators had her embalmed body photographed dressed in the clothes she was found in and these images were circulated widely, but neither she nor her killer were ever identified. Rahway police still have the original photographs taken of her body, which were among the first to be taken as evidence by a police department.[5]

One researcher stated that a post mortem picture of her appears in the March 30, 1887 New York World.[6]

She was buried in May 1887 next to the Merchants' and Drovers' Tavern in Rahway Cemetery.[7]

Her ghost is said to haunt Rahway Cemetery.[8]

At the time of the woman's murder, Francis Tumblety, one of the many controversial purported suspects in the Jack the Ripper slayings (according to Ripperologists) was living in New York City. New York City is twenty miles from the site and one could travel from there to Rahway in roughly 35 minutes; therefore at least one historian has speculated as to the theoretical possibility that Tumblety is connected to the murder.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ admin (2015-03-14). "History". Rahway Police Department. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  2. ^ "1211UFNJ". www.doenetwork.org. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  3. ^ Peter Genovese, New Jersey Curiosities, page 62-63 (2011).
  4. ^ "The Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum". The Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum. 22 May 2014. Retrieved 2019-06-17.
  5. ^ Peter Genovese, New Jersey Curiosities, page 62-63 (2011).
  6. ^ Missing Person Commentary: The Rahway Jane Doe from March 25, 1887 (New Jersey) https://missingpersonscommentary.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-rahway-jane-doe-from-march-25-1987.html
  7. ^ March 29, 1887. The New York Times. THE MURDER IN RAHWAY. "Three days have passed since the body of an unknown young woman who had been murdered was found by the side of the highway in the suburbs of Rahway, but scarcely any progress has been made toward clearing away the mystery which surrounds the crime..."
  8. ^ "Ghost Hunt at the Old Girl Scout House in Rahway". 6 June 2017.
  9. ^ Shipley, F. Alexander (2010). The case of the unknown woman : the story of one of the most intriguing murder mysteries of the nineteenth century. Pittsburgh, Pa.: Dorrance Pub. Co. ISBN 978-1434906984.

Further readingEdit

  • Indianapolis Journal 4 April 1887 ("Suspicion that the Rahway Corpse Is the Remains of Lillian Snavely. Watson Claims that He Was in Baltimore at the Time the Murder")
  • The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York), Sunday, April 10, 1887, Page 4.
  • Peter Genovese. New Jersey Curiosities: Quirky Characters, Roadside Oddities & Other Offbeat Stuff (2003).
  • Mark Sceurman, Mark Moran. Weird N.J.: Your Travel Guide to New Jersey's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets (2003).
  • Sleuth, Old. Young dyer: Or," Piping" the Stratford murder mystery. A companion to the Rahway mystery. Munro, 1887. (A dime novel or penny dreadful)
  • The Rahway murder mystery: Little Lynx "piping" the roadside tragedy. New York. Munro, 1887. (a dime novel or penny dreadful)
  • June 16, 1887 - THE RAHWAY MURDER MYSTERY. Chicago Tribune.
  • "Nothing But Idle Rumors - The Rahway Murder Still A Mystery" New York Times (April 6, 1887)

External linksEdit