December 1950

The Lincoln Zephyr coupe belonging to W. Leonard Alexander ’22, shortly after it was hauled to the bank of Lake Carnegie.
The Lincoln Zephyr coupe belonging to W. Leonard Alexander ’22, shortly after it was hauled to the bank of Lake Carnegie.
Jan. 19, 1951 Princeton Alumni Weekly

In a mystery worthy of Hitchcock, W. Leonard Alexander ’22 disappeared from Reunions 1949, to which he had driven alone. His wife, Lana, reported him missing 11 days later, and the story spread nationwide after she placed notices in magazines pleading for help.

W. Leonard Alexander ’22
1922 Nassau Herald

Alexander was last seen in the wee hours at a Class of 1929 party on University Place, never returning to his room at Brown Hall at the Seminary, where his straw hat lay on the bed. Police put out an eight-state bulletin for the Philadelphia stockbroker. In the town of Princeton, armchair sleuths abounded, indulging in a frenzy of speculation.

In December 1950, Lana Alexander wrote to the University to cancel her husband’s subscription to PAW — it appeared he never was coming back. Days later, two Princeton schoolgirls solved the tantalizing mystery a year and a half after his disappearance.

They were skating on Lake Carnegie between Washington and Alexander roads late one afternoon when they saw, beneath the ice, the rusted top of an automobile. The next morning, the police brought tow trucks. “As horrified onlookers watched,” a reporter wrote, “a car door was opened and Alexander’s body was revealed.”

Police concluded it was all an accident. But no autopsy was possible on the decomposed body, which was sprawled in the back seat and identified by personal effects that included, ironically, a trout fishing lure. Some whispered of foul play. Alexander had no reason to be at the lake, and the car seemed to have hit the water violently — its speedometer was stuck at 35 and the roof was crushed. Even now the mystery remains.