The Mysterious Disappearance Of Joan Risch Explained

At approximately 4 p.m. on October 24, 1961, 4-year-old Lillian Risch returned home from a friend's house to find her mother missing. She immediately ran back to her friend's house and told his parents her mother was gone, and the entire kitchen was covered with red paint. As reported by Morbidology, authorities later determined the "paint" the little girl found in the kitchen was actually blood, and Joan Risch seemed to have vanished without a trace.

Joan, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, lost both of her parents in a devastating fire when she was 9. According to Soapboxie, Joan was not harmed in the fire, as she was visiting relatives at the time. Joan was eventually sent to live with her aunt and uncle. However, she initially spent time with a foster family, where she was reportedly sexually abused by her foster father.

Joan attended Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where she earned a degree in English literature. Although she started out as a secretary, she eventually worked her way up to become an editorial assistant at Thomas Y. Crowell Co.

In 1954, Joan met a man named Martin Risch at a Harvard football game. The pair soon fell in love and decided to get married and move to Lincoln, Massachusetts. Morbidology reports Joan left her job to become a homemaker and a stay-at-home mother of their two children, while Martin worked as an executive at the Fitchburg paper company.

Joan Risch was last seen in her driveway appearing confused

On October 24, 1961, Joan Risch and the children, 4-year-old Lillian and 2-year-old David were home while Martin was in New York on a business trip. Earlier that day, Morbidology reports Joan took the children to the dentist and ran a few errands before returning home for lunch. After lunch, she put David down for a nap and Lillian went next door to play with her friend Douglas Baker.

Douglas' mother, Barbara, said she recalled seeing Joan at approximately 2:15 p.m. As reported by Soapboxie, Barbara saw Joan leave her house wearing a trench coat with something red in her hand. She walked to her car, and then back toward the garage. Barbara said she appeared to be "dazed" and "was walking quickly." However, She did not see Joan leave her property and did not get the impression that anything was seriously wrong.

Two hours later, Barbara sent Lillian home, as she had errands to run. However, within moments of entering her home, Lillian came running back screaming. Her mother was nowhere to be found. According to Morbidology, Barbara walked over to the Risch home to find out what was going on. When she entered the home, she immediately realized the "red paint" was actually blood and called authorities to the scene.

A blood trail that led nowhere

Sgt. Mike McHugh arrived on the scene at approximately 4:40 p.m. Soapboxie reports McHugh observed that blood, which was later confirmed to be type O, was present on the walls and floor of the kitchen. He also noticed a telephone had been removed from the kitchen wall and placed in a trash can. The kitchen table was overturned and the chairs were scattered around the room, indicating there was some kind of struggle.

Authorities noted a trail of blood led from the kitchen into David's bedroom and up to his crib. Although the toddler was crying when authorities arrived, he appeared to be unharmed. They also found another trail of blood leading from the kitchen to Joan Risch's car, which was still parked in the driveway.

According to Soapboxie, Joan was confirmed to have type O blood. However, it was never conclusively proven to be hers, as DNA testing was not available at the time. Authorities also found several fingerprints and handprints in the blood in the kitchen. Unfortunately, Joan's prints were not on file and they could not be verified as hers.

Authorities believe someone attempted to clean up some of the blood, as they found paper towels and a pair of David's overalls covered in blood. However, what appeared to be a large amount of blood remained on the floor and walls. Law enforcement officials ultimately determined the total amount of blood at the scene was approximately half a pint.

It is unknown whether Joan Risch was abducted or left on her own

Although the amount of blood in Joan Risch's kitchen appeared to be significant, authorities believe the victim suffered a superficial wound, which would not have caused her death. However, Morbidology reports they were unsure whether the missing woman had been abducted or if she made the decision to leave.

In the days and weeks following Risch's disappearance, authorities received multiple tips. Unfortunately, the information only further deepened the mystery. According to Morbidology, a neighbor reported seeing a gray Oldsmobile Sedan parked in Risch's driveway at approximately 3:20 p.m. on the afternoon she went missing.

Other tipsters reported seeing the missing woman walking near the Cambridge Reservoir on Route 128 in Waltham. Morbidology reports one of the callers said the woman had blood on her legs and appeared to be disoriented. As multiple people reported seeing the same woman, authorities searched the entire area, including an extensive search of the reservoir. However, they did not find any evidence of Risch or anyone matching her description.

Upon further inspection of the scene, and after consulting her husband, authorities determined one of Joan's coats was missing from the house. According to Soapboxie, they also found several empty beer bottles in the trash can –- which Martin said his wife would not have consumed. Authorities were also intrigued by some books Joan recently checked out from the local library, as many of the books featured women who either disappeared or were murdered.

A book may offer clues to Joan Risch's disappearance

Authorities were specifically interested in one of the books, which described circumstances similar to Joan Risch's disappearance. According to Morbidology, the woman in the book, which was titled, "Into Thin Air," planned her own disappearance and left blood spatter behind to confuse the authorities.

It is unclear whether the subject matter of the books had anything to do with Risch's disappearance or if it was simply a coincidence. Soapboxie reports Risch's husband said she had always enjoyed reading mystery novels.

As reported by The Charley Project, Risch seemed to embrace motherhood and enjoyed being a homemaker. However, some of her friends said she regretted leaving her career to start a family and may have been feeling discontent. Despite the rumors, authorities have never found any evidence proving she planned to leave.

Others have suggested she may have suffered a head injury and wandered away in a state of confusion. At the time a woman fitting her description was seen walking along Route 128, there was an active construction site along the road. Some people think she may have fallen into a pit along the highway and was inadvertently buried. Soapboxie reports authorities never ordered an excavation of the construction site.

In the years following Risch's disappearance, authorities collected fingerprints from 5,000 people to compare to the prints found at the scene. However, as reported by Morbidology, none of the prints matched the ones found in Risch's home.

Joan Risch has never been found

One of the more unusual theories about Joan Risch's disappearance is that she was pregnant, and had arranged for an abortion to be performed at her home. At the time, abortion was illegal. Therefore, Risch and the doctor performing the abortion could have faced public humiliation and legal trouble if they were caught.

As reported by Wattpad, supporters of this theory suggest something went wrong during the procedure, and Risch was either physically hurt or had a mental breakdown. It has been suggested that this theory explains the blood and the obvious attempt to clean up the blood. Supporters of this theory also suggest the beer may have been used as an anesthetic and the phone may have been ripped off the wall by the doctor, as Risch attempted to call for help. This theory may also explain why a woman matching Risch's description was seen walking down the road with blood running down her legs.

Martin Risch dismissed the abortion theory, as he said his wife loved children and enjoyed being a mother. He also dismissed theories that she planned her own disappearance. Martin believed that his wife was still alive somewhere, and likely suffering from amnesia. Morbidology reports Martin remained in the same home and did not change his phone number. He also refused to have Joan declared dead. Martin died in 2009, and never gave up hope for finding his missing wife.