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On July 25, 1841, a young woman disappeared. Her name was Mary Rogers, and she had a certain mystery about her. She was known as a lovely and vivacious clerk at a popular tobacco store frequented by 19th century New York's esteemed community of writers and journalists. Among them was an up-and-coming young author called Edgar Allen Poe, who had just been named the editor of Graham's Magazine. His short story, "The Murders of the Rue Morgue" had recently been published by Graham's, to popular acclaim.

Her disappearance became a sensation in the press. Stories began to circulate about her, some of them scandalous, almost none of them true. One story was true however: Mary had disappeared before, about three years earlier, under mysterious circumstances. Search parties went out looking for her. Then three days later she simply reappeared. Just off visiting a friend, she said. Terribly sorry for all the fuss. People wondered if it was a publicity stunt by the tobacco store.

It was no stunt this time. Three days after disappearing Mary's body was found in the Hudson River near Hoboken, New Jersey. Her murder has never been solved.

I learned about Mary from my mother, who related to me a family legend (which we have yet to be able to verify) that Edgar Allen Poe once wrote a story about one of our ancestors, a lady up in New York who was murdered. The story was called "The Mystery of Marie Rogêt." Poe had relocated Mary's story to Paris, and made it a sequel to the Rue Morgue.

In researching this story, I was struck by the scatalogical interest in her story by the press, the same interest which is shown by today's media in stories involving scandalous young women meeting tragic fates. Think Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, not to mention girls with more reputable pasts and even more tragic fates, like Natalee Holloway and Brittany Murphy, even JonBenet Ramsey. Mary lived during a time of rapid expansion by the press, and fierce competition for readers. Her story, in a way, was one of the first examples of the formula the media uses even today to sensationalize tragedy.

Mary also lived during the time of suffrage movement, during which the rights of women also expanded. At the time her tragic story was also seen by some as an example of the dangers women faced in a more independent world.

My short story, "Mary Rogers" keeps all of that implicit. It is basically the story of a man searching for his lost love, and how he comes to truly know her by the story's end.

"Mary Rogers" is part of the collection, Strange Times.

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