However, in August 2005, new details of his murder surfaced.
The slang term "pull a Crater" had been used for people who disappear without a trace.
Friday, August 19, 2005
By Larry Celona, Lorena Mongelli and Marsha Kranes
NEW YORK — The New York City Police Department's longest-running unsolved missing-persons case — the bizarre and legendary disappearance of Judge Joseph Force Crater — may finally be solved.
Judge Crater — who vanished mysteriously 75 years ago — was killed by a city cop and his cab-driver brother and buried under the boardwalk in Coney Island, according to a handwritten letter left behind by a Queens woman who died earlier this year.
"Good Time Joe" Crater was a dapper, 41-year-old judge known for his dalliances with showgirls and his ties to corruption-ridden Tammany Hall (search) — until he got into a cab in Midtown Manhattan one evening in 1930 and disappeared, earning the title of "the missingest man in New York."
The case triggered one of the most sensational manhunts of the 20th century — one that had city detectives fielding more than 16,000 tips from around the country and the world, all of them unsubstantiated.
Although he was declared legally dead in 1939, and his case — Missing Persons File No. 13595 — was officially closed in 1979, Crater's vanishing act has continued to intrigue professional and armchair detectives, clairvoyants and mystery buffs around the globe.
"Pulling a Crater" became slang for vanishing without a trace. But perhaps now, a trace will be found.
Sources told The Post that the NYPD Cold Case Squad is investigating information provided by Stella Ferrucci-Good of Bellerose, Queens, who died on April 2, leaving behind what may be a key to the mystery.
It's a handwritten letter in an envelope marked "Do not open until my death" that her granddaughter Barbara O'Brien found in a metal box in her grandmother's home, the sources said.
7 August 1960, New York Times, pg. SM28:
To look under a bed or chair and say, "I'm looking for Judge Crater," became a popular national joke, and the phrase "to pull a Crater," meaning to disappear, became a part of Broadway argot.
5 August 1979, Washington Post, pg. B6:
Within mere months of his disappearance he had become part of the national folklore, the subject of scavenger hunts and night club routines - "Judge Crater, call your office." The phrase, "to pull a Crater" entered the idiom.
5 August 1980, Chicago Tribune, pg. 1:
HE HAS BEEN called the most famous missing person in recent history and the "missingest man in New York." Even 50 years after he stepped into a taxi and vanished into a steamy summer evening, the name of Judge Joseph Force Crater still is synonymous with unsolved mysteries and legendary disappearing acts.