RAHWAY — On Sunday, it will be 125 years since the frozen body of a brutally murdered young woman was found by four brothers on Central Avenue near Jefferson Avenue.
The woman was found March 25, 1887, with her throat slashed and her body covered with bruises. Her identity and her killer remain unknown.
To mark the 125th anniversary of the unsolved crime, on Sunday, the Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum Association will host a tour of Rahway Cemetery, where the woman is buried under a headstone that reads “Unknown Woman Found Dead March 25, 1887.” The tours will take place on the anniversary beginning at noon. The last tour will leave at 4 p.m.
Visitors will be guided through the cemetery to meet the “ghosts” and hear the real-life stories of residents and witnesses, as well as theories of investigators and accounts of other spectators of the event, many of them buried in the circa 1724 cemetery.
Tours will run every 15 minutes and will take participants through the cemetery to meet 16 interpreters, in period dress, stationed by the graves of the people they represent.
“The Case of the Unknown Woman” was an internationally famous crime in its day, catching the attention of people from across the country as well as Europe. The fact that no one was ever convicted, nor a motive established, made it even more intriguing. And the fact that no one was ever able to positively identify the woman made it especially bizarre.
The unusual crime brought 10,000 people to Rahway to file past her coffin in hopes of recognizing her. Rewards were offered, photos of the young woman were published in newspapers around the country, hearings were conducted, witnesses interviewed, suspects questioned, and professional and amateur detectives offered their theories.
Exactly 125 years later, the case remains cold, but the mystery and intrigue have not diminished.
Alex Shipley, museum director and city historian, is author of the book “The Case of the Unknown Woman,” which provides readers with the details of the 19th-century cold case that some have speculated might be linked to Jack the Ripper.
“This 125-year-old murder mystery of an unknown woman by an unknown assailant still captures the attention and imagination of people today,” Shipley said. “While researching this event, I was surprised to find a great number of people who were not only aware of it but had theories and possible solutions, as well.”
Last year, an Australian woman contacted Shipley believing one of her ancestors might have been connected to the case, but there was no definitive proof.
All tours will begin at the Merchants and Drovers Museum at the corner of St. Georges and Westfield avenues in Rahway, next to the cemetery.
Tickets can be purchased at the museum for $10 for adults and $8 for tavern museum association members, $5 for students and children 12 and under.
The tour is one of the most popular offered by the tavern association. Reservations are recommended and can be made by calling 732-381-0441.
All proceeds will benefit the continued restoration of the Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum which dates to the 1700s. The Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum Association is dedicated to preserving the Merchants and Drovers Tavern, circa 1795, and Terrill Tavern, circa 1735, developing the site as a tavern museum and to interpreting the important role of taverns in early American history, to provide regional education, cultural and historic resource and preserve local history. The tavern, is recorded in the Historic American Buildings Survey and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/201...ase-turning-125