10 October 2016

Sylvia Plath Collections: Wellesley Police Department Records

In the past two months I have been doing a lot of research into Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt on 24 August 1953. Maybe this is a morbid topic over which to obsess? However, I feel that it is an very fascinating topic and fortunately, somehow, I am able to not get too emotional over it.

As a part of this research, I put online scans of all the articles I have found that covered Plath's suicide attempt. There are more than 200! I hope that you all use this resource; that you enjoy it and benefit from it. In processing all those files, and re-reading them, I grew more and more intrigued with the finer-point details presented in the 1953 articles themselves, in the biographies, in articles, and, of course, in Plath's wonderful novel The Bell Jar. A lot of my querying was further encouraged by my recent tour of Plath's 26 Elmwood Road, Wellesley, house.

This got me wondering if the Wellesley Police Department might have any archival record of their role in searching for Plath. So I wrote to Kelly Dias, the records manager, and in a very short time she sent me the following images from one of their log books. As they are public records she gave me her blessing to post them here.

At 5:30 pm on 24 August 1953, Mrs. Plath called the Wellesley Police to report her daughter missing.


The log reads:
5:30 pm Mrs Plath 26 Elmwood Rd. reports her
daughter Sylvia Plath age 20 - 5'9" - 140 lbs.
dark brown eyes, dark blonde hair missing. Propably
wearing blue denim skirt, blouse and Jersey.
This girl depressed. Route officer and
all station a our radio network notified.
Teletype item 85. West P.D. notified.
At 6:46 am on 25 August 1953, Mrs. Plath called back to let the police know that she found the pill bottle missing.


The log reads:
6:46 AM Tel. Mrs Plath 26 Elmwood Rd. reports
she finds a bottle containing sleeping pills missing
and feels sure her daughter must of taken
them with her. Car #3 Officers Murphy, Turdar [?]
and Monaghan detailed to search area.
At 12:40 pm on 26 August 1953, the Plath's called to report that Sylvia Plath had been located in the cellar.


The log reads:
12:40 p.m. Tel: Send Police to #26 Elmwood Rd. —
Officer Webb detailed with Ambulance -
Car 1 - Chief and McGlone detailed and
report: Sylvia Plath reported as missing
8-24-53 located in this house. Taken to
Newton Hospital in Ambulance.
Rev. William Rice - notified.
Missing report cancelled by Item 36 - 8/26/53.
I was hopeful to see interview notes, notes summarizing police activities, and possibly photographs. But these things seemingly do not exist; or exist no longer.

As far as I am aware no previous biographer worked with these document but they do present the most accurate timeline for those days. When things happened. The minutes, in fact, that logged phone calls were made from Mrs. Plath to the police. You will remember that on the afternoon of 24 August 1953, Mrs. Plath saw the film A Queen is Crowned at the Exeter Street Theatre on Exeter and Newbury Streets in Boston's Back bay. She would have gotten home sometime around 4 pm and waited at most 90 minutes before starting the search for Sylvia Plath.

My sincere thanks to Kelly Dias for her help on this post.

All links accessed 18 September 2016.

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Publications & Acknowledgements

  • BBC Four.A Poet's Guide to Britain: Sylvia Plath. London: BBC Four, 2009. (Acknowledged in)
  • Biography: Sylvia Plath. New York: A & E Television Networks, 2005. (Photographs used)
  • Connell, Elaine. Sylvia Plath: Killing the angel in the house. 2d ed. Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens, 1998. (Acknowledged in)
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives." Plath Profiles 2. Summer 2009: 183-208.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives, Redux." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 232-246.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 3." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 119-138.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 4: Looking for New England." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012: 11-56.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. "These Ghostly Archives 5: Reanimating the Past." Plath Profiles 6. Summer 2013: 27-62.
  • Crowther, Gail and Peter K. Steinberg. These Ghostly Archives: The Unearthing of Sylvia Plath. Oxford: Fonthill, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Death Be Not Proud: The Graves of Poets. New York: Poets.org. (Photographs used)
  • Doel, Irralie, Lena Friesen and Peter K. Steinberg. "An Unacknowledged Publication by Sylvia Plath." Notes & Queries 56:3. September 2009: 428-430.
  • Gill, Jo. "Sylvia Plath in the South West." University of Exeter Centre for South West Writing, 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Elements of Literature, Third Course. Austin, Tex. : Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009. (Photograph used)
  • Helle, Anita Plath. The Unraveling Archive: Essays on Sylvia Plath. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007. (Photographs used, acknowledged in)
  • Helle, Anita. "Lessons from the Archive: Sylvia Plath and the Politics of Memory". Feminist Studies 31:3. Fall 2005: 631-652.. (Acknowledged in)
  • Holden, Constance. "Sad Poets' Society." Science Magazine. 27 July 2008. (Photograph used)
  • Making Trouble: Three Generations of Funny Jewish Women, Motion Picture. Directed by Rachel Talbot. Brookline (Mass.): Jewish Women's Archive, 2007. (Photograph used)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Karen V. Kukil. The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962. New York: Anchor Books, 2000. (Acknowledged in)
  • Plath, Sylvia, and Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil (eds.). The Letters of Sylvia Plath. London: Faber, 2017. Forthcoming.
  • Plath, Sylvia. Glassklokken. Oslo: De norske Bokklubbene, 2004. (Photograph used on cover)
  • Reiff, Raychel Haugrud. Sylvia Plath: The Bell Jar and Poems (Writers and Their Works). Marshall Cavendish Children's Books, 2008.. (Images provided)
  • Steinberg, Peter K. Sylvia Plath (Great Writers). Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 2004.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'I Should Be Loving This': Sylvia Plath's 'The Perfect Place' and The Bell Jar." Plath Profiles 1. Summer 2008: 253-262.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Sylvia Plath." The Spoken Word: Sylvia Plath. London: British Library, 2010.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "'They Had to Call and Call': The Search for Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3. Summer 2010: 106-132.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "This is a Celebration: A Festschrift for The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath." Plath Profiles 3 Supplement. Fall 2010: 3-14.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "A Perfectly Beautiful Time: Sylvia Plath at Camp Helen Storrow." Plath Profiles 4. Summer 2011: 149-166.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Proof of Plath." Fine Books & Collections 9:2. Spring 2011: 11-12.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Textual Variations in The Bell Jar Publications." Plath Profiles 5. Summer 2012.
  • Steinberg, Peter K. "Writing Life" [Introduction]. Sylvia Plath in Devon: A Year's Turning. Stroud, Eng.: Fonthill Media, 2014.

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