On August 24, 1951, while walking home from Halloran Park on Cleveland’s west side, shy, blue-eyed, 90-pound Beverly Potts was never seen again. "What happened to Beverly Potts?" is the question that still haunts local Clevelanders who are familiar with the strange and unusual disappearance of this little girl.
Many believe Beverly Potts was lured into the clutches of a neighbor’s home on her very short distance home. Perhaps it was someone with whom she was familiar from the neighborhood, or perhaps it was someone who snatched her up from the throng of people attending the Show Wagon performance in the park.
Beverly's walk was a simple one for any ten-year-old child. The journey home started at Halloran Park on W. 117th Street. From there, Beverly had only to cross one side of W. 117th Street to the other side, and head down about twelve houses on the left side of Linnet Avenue. It was roughly an eight-minute walk home. Those eight minutes would fatefully change the west side of Cleveland forever.
James Jessen Badal, an assistant professor of English and journalism at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, has written The Disappearance of Beverly Potts: Twilight of Innocence. The author covers every account that took place the night Beverly Potts disappeared.
I personally walked the path from Halloran Park, crossing W. 117th Street, down Linnet Avenue to the home where Beverly Potts lived. When in full summer bloom, as they were on August 24, 1951, the alignment of trees are so overgrown that one would barely notice a little girl walking home by herself in the glow of street lights. As I retraced Beverly’s steps, one home in particular stood out to me, giving me an eerie feeling as I passed by.
The side door faced Beverly's path home. Could that neighbor have had their door ajar to let in the summer air and possibly have heard something? What transpired that someone could kidnap Beverly? A young girl, who was very shy in nature, did not speak to strangers, and, as her parents stated in Badal's book, "Beverly would not have gone without kicking, screaming or putting up a fight".
I decided to do some research for myself and play the part of a would-be abductor, using my friends’ children as targets. Of course, this was done with the knowledge and full cooperation of their parents, who agreed to hide in my home to see the results.
I sat on my porch stoop around sunset. As my friends’ children walked by on their way home, I called out, "Hey; come here! Your mom stopped by and left a note on my counter for you. They had to take your brother to the hospital." Out of the four children I attempted to lure, two of them passed the test. The other two did not. I was able to entice one of the children with the hospital ruse, and the other with my puppy.
If I truly was a closet weirdo, two of the neighborhood children would have never made it home safely. After explaining to the two children the true scenario of the situation, (one age 14 and the other age 9), I asked them why they freely came into my home without resistance or hesitation. The 14-year-old answered, "I know of you from walking your dogs around the park". The younger child replied, "I saw my mom talking to you a long time ago, so I thought you were telling the truth!" To that, I responded, “But you don't really know who I am."
Did this happen to Beverly Potts? Did a familiar face from her neighborhood disguise his or her intentions and lure her, which resulted into a 62-year-old unsolved case?
James Jessen Badal's book is a story of true accounts, pulling you in, making you feel as if you are right there with the Potts family as they go through the ordeal of losing a child. As you turn the pages, you read the eyewitness accounts, and feel as if the Cleveland Police detectives were right on the verge of breaking the case, only to be led into another direction.
There were rumors circulating around the West Park neighborhoods that Beverly Potts may have been buried in one of the homes, or that her remains were shoved in an old coal return storage in a wall. Someday, when someone buys a West Park home and renovates it, or tears down an old garage, perhaps she might be found beneath the dirt.
Some of the older Linnet Avenue neighbors are gone, but the ones who remain agree that someone out there knows something, and that secret will float to the surface one day, solving this nationally-known mystery.
For parents out there reading this, teach your children that not everyone is the boogeyman, but there are some neighbors who are not good people. Children should never trust anyone unless parents give permission, but should trust their instincts if something feels wrong. Be aware of your neighbors and know who you have living in your community. The power of the Internet is limitless, and a little background digging doesn't hurt anyone as long as your eyes know the truth. Our babies live in this world; it is our job as parents to protect them and keep them safe.
If one man decided to ignore the screams of Amanda Berry, the community would still be wondering, "Where in the world are Amanda, Gina and Michelle?" When it comes to the safety of your own, being nosy pays off.