This is a case I had only briefly heard about before, I can’t be certain, but I am pretty sure I learned about this case from an old television series. I was reminded of it again recently on a true-crime blog via Reddit.
Marie Empress was a silent film actress from Birmingham, England. She was born in 1884 under the name Mary Ann Taylor. She had begun her acting career on the British vaudeville stage in the early 1900s before becoming a silent film star. She often played “vamps”. Marie would book a room on the cruise RMS Orduna, which departed from Liverpool on October 16th, 1919.
The ship made a few stops during the journey. One being Halifax, Nova Scotia, then the cruise continued on to New York. When arriving in New York though, Marie Empress was seemingly nowhere to be found. All her belongings were still in her room and apparently not one of the 1,000+ passengers saw her or knew of her whereabouts.
According to a stewardess, on the last night at sea, she brought Marie’s dinner to her and later came back to collect the dishes at around 6:30 p.m. At that time, Marie asked for some sandwiches to be brought at 9:30 p.m. now, I don’t find it strange to order a small snack or meal before bed, but I do find it odd that she would order multiple sandwiches if she was alone.
Later that evening the stewardess returned with Marie’s requested sandwiches. But, she was not there so she left the food one the table and went on her way. When she came back the next morning to check on Marie though, she was not there and her food was untouched. The bed had also not been slept in and it is believed Marie went missing between 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. on the evening of the 26th of October.
Theories as to what happened to Marie Empress have varied. One of the most popular theories is that Marie jumped off the boat at some point. The problem with this though is that the porthole in her room would be much too small to squeeze through and also, no one saw Marie anywhere on this ship. With as many people as there were on this ship, it would be near impossible not to notice someone jumping off the boat. She would have had to travel through many corridors and rooms full of people and as mentioned before, not a single person saw her, or at least no one is speaking up.
Another theory that was spun up by the press is that Marie was simply doing this for publicity. Which would have been all well and good if she hadn’t left all of her valuables and essentials behind? And of course, she never returned. So we can obviously rule a publicity stunt out of this. The media didn’t spin these stories out of anything though, there are reports of her doing publicity stunts before during her career. However, no one ever claimed her belongings. Sadly, none of Maries Empress’s films are available to view online. Not much of anything has survived from her career outside of some news clippings, most of them to do with her disappearance. Marie Empress’s story is still unsolved, from her background to her disappearance.