Chicago’s most famous missing person case began today. This was the day Helen Brach disappeared.
She was born Helen Vorhees in 1911. While working as a coat-check girl in Florida, Helen met Frank Brach, the owner of a Chicago candy company. They were married in 1950.
The couple had no children. Frank died in 1970. By then the candy company had been sold, and Helen was left a wealthy widow. She used some of her fortune to set up an animal rights foundation.
On February 17, 1977 Brach was at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. After a routine checkup, she stopped at the gift shop. “I’m in a hurry,” she told the clerk. “My houseman is waiting.”
That was the last definite sighting of Helen Brach.
Brach was traveling alone, and it’s not clear who her “houseman” was. She did employ a butler to manage her household in Glenview. After two weeks, the butler contacted Brach’s brother in Ohio, and the brother filed a missing person report.
Police questioned the butler. They found inconsistencies in his story. However, he was not charged with anything.
Helen Brach was declared legally dead in 1984. Her estate was estimated to be $25 million. The bulk of it went to her brother and various animal protection agencies.
The Brach case heated up again in 1989. Authorities were investigating a horse-trading scam. A suburban Chicago stable-owner named Frank Bailey was involved. The cops said Bailey would romance rich widows, then get them to pay premium prices for run-down horses. One of the women he’d dated was Helen Brach.
Bailey denied any connection with Brach’s disappearance. In 1994 he confessed to various crimes related to the horse-trading scheme. He was given a 30-year prison sentence.
You can take your pick of theories on what happened to the candy heiress. Most likely, Brach discovered she was being cheated in a horse-trading deal. She threatened to go to the police, so she was killed. Some scenarios claim that she was beaten and shot, and her body dumped in a Gary blast furnace.
Thirty-seven years after she disappeared, there is still no official ruling on what exactly happened to Helen Brach.