Connie Converse wrote a letter to a friend saying she wanted a 'fresh start'. Then she vanished.

In the summer of 1974, Connie Converse was getting ready to turn 50.

She packed up her Volkswagen Beetle, sent off letters to family and friends, and drove away from the Michigan town of Ann Arbor — the place where she had lived and spent more than a decade remaking herself into an editor, scholar and activist.

Disillusioned by a life that she did not want, Connie left — and would never be seen again.

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Born in 1924 in Laconia, New Hampshire, Connie (born Elizabeth Eaton Converse) was the daughter of a preacher father and was raised alongside her two brothers, Paul and Philip, in a strict Baptist household.

As a child, she excelled academically and went on to study at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts with a scholarship. It was a tradition for the women in Connie's family to graduate from Mount Holyoke, but always defiant, Connie dropped out two years into her studies and made a mad dash for New York City.

There, she pursued her passion for music. She'd write songs and then play them for her friends. She worked at a printing house, but in her spare time, Connie had every desire to make a life as a musician.


While she was not particularly gifted with the guitar, the songwriter had a talent for writing haunting lyrics and poetic prose that resonated with those who would listen. Her unique folky tone and melodic voice did indeed set her apart from any other musician on the scene at the time, yet she didn't find success. Aside from a TV appearance on CBS' Morning Show in 1954 (which no one aside from those watching the broadcast live would likely have seen), she had no other brushes with fame.

Connie Converse disappeared around her 50th birthday. Image: Missing Persons. 


Simply put, she was ahead of her time — but only by mere "minutes", said the New York Times in 2022. 

"A very specific ache in the Connie Converse story is that she was ahead of her time, but by only minutes. Or, she was ahead of her time but unrecognised as an innovator, perhaps because of immutable factors: her gender, her personality."

The reality was crushing for Connie.

So in January 1961 — the same month that Bob Dylan (the legendary singer to whom Connie was compared following her disappearance) arrived in New York from the Midwest — she left for Ann Arbor, Michigan. 

In the years leading up to her disappearance, Connie pursued other endeavours, and stopped penning music altogether — despite the folk scene now blowing up in New York, and many musicians finding audiences for work similar to Connie's.

She was a secretary for two years before becoming an academic and author, and became the editor of The Journal of Conflict Resolution in 1963.

By 1973, she was burnt out and depressed. The offices for The Journal, which she had been managing for close to a decade, were "auctioned" off without her knowledge. She had also cut ties with her friends from New York, her brother Phil said in the 2010 article The Story of Connie Converse.


"She started to grow more and more tired of the routine," he said. "You could see it in her face."

Her colleagues and friends worried for Connie's mental health and together, they pooled money to send her on a sabbatical to London, where she lived for eight months before returning to the United States. It didn't change anything, though, and by mid-1974, she had vanished — but not before writing a batch of goodbye letters to her friends and family, saying she wanted a "fresh start", reported the BBC.

In the 2014 documentary We Lived Alone, Connie's brother read the note she had left behind for him.

"I've watched the elegant, energetic people of Ann Arbor, those I know and those I don't, going about their daily business on the streets and in the buildings, and I felt a detached admiration for their energy and elegance," she wrote. 

"If I ever was a member of this species, perhaps it was a social accident that has now been cancelled."

In another letter, she wrote: "Let me go, let me be if I can, let me not be if I can't."

Connie Converse left New York City in 1961. Image: Missing Persons.


There have been some attempts to find Connie — who would be 100 in August — including the hiring of a private investigator about a decade after her disappearance. 

Her family wanted to know if she had died by suicide, but Philip said the private investigator declined to take on the case because he believed it had been Connie's right to disappear. 


Someone had also told Connie's brother that they had found an 'Elizabeth Converse' in a phone book in either Kansas City or Oklahoma, but he never called the number. "Leaving was her choice," he said. "And I would be embarrassed to show up on her doorstep and say, 'Hey, what's going on?' I know it might sound ghastly, but that's how I felt."

Connie might not have ever found fame for her music while in New York, but success would eventually find her, decades later when, in 2004, some of her music was featured on a radio show.

In March 2009, a compilation album of her work, How Sad, How Lovely, was released. She instantly had an audience, and her fan base has only grown. In 2024, Connie has 78,000 monthly listeners and some of her hits include 'Talkin' Like You', 'I Have Considered The Lilies' and 'Trouble'.

Philip remembers his sister as a "genius and a polymath", adding: "I do not use the terms lightly."

While the mystery of what became of Connie remains unsolved, Philip said in 2010 that he believes his sister drove her car off a bridge "somewhere west of Michigan — maybe North Dakota", where it was submerged in water, and that is why police will never find it.

Regardless, Connie's legacy lives on, and almost 60 years after she packed her bags and left New York City, her voice is finally being heard.

Feature Image: Missing Persons.