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OK JOAN CROFT: Missing from Woodward, OK - 10 April 1947 - Age 4, kidnapped during a tornado

Discussion in 'Missing 1900 to 1979' started by Akoya, Mar 19, 2018.

  1. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Saturday, September 19, 2009
    The mystery of Joan Gay Croft- the last victim of the Woodward tornado of 1947[/paste:font]

    In the nightmarish aftermath of the terrible tornado that swept through Woodward, another mystery evolved. This one, like the mystery of the identities of the three little dead children that couldn't be identified, remains unsolved to this day.

    Mystery has never been solved

    By J.B. Blosser Bittner
    The Daily Oklahoman
    Posted April 14, 1998

    WOODWARD, Okla. (AP) -- Each spring, Marvella Parks places flowers on the graves of three unidentified young victims of a tornado that killed more than 100 people in 1947.

    But there's another tornado victim forever on her mind. More than a half-century after the roaring twister ripped through Woodward on April 9, destroying half the town, folks still ponder the fate of a 4-year-old blond girl whisked away from the local hospital amid the night's bloody chaos.

    The child was Joan Gay Croft, Ms. Parks' cousin, and Ms. Parks has never given up the search. Since Joan Gay's story was broadcast in 1993 and is routinely rebroadcast in a television episode of ''Unsolved Mysteries,'' Ms. Parks has fielded calls and letters from hundreds of women across the country who believe they could be the missing girl.

    One possibility in Arizona seemed so promising television producers paid for a DNA test for her and for Joan Gay's younger half-brother. Joan Gay's sister the last relative known to have seen Joan Gay had declined to be part of the test, Ms. Parks said. A half-brother in Texas was the closest blood relative since Joan Gay's father, Olin Croft, died in 1983. The test was negative and the search continued.

    A woman in South Carolina was sure she was the one. An Oklahoma City woman hired an attorney to help her find out if she was Joan Gay. A woman in Missouri thought maybe it was her. An Oklahoma City nurse is said to be gathering photographs to send to Ms. Parks as evidence proving she might be the one.

    Calls have come from California and elsewhere as women with troubled childhood memories and scarred legs came forward.

    The most promising lead yet, Ms. Parks believes, is a call from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police that led her to a blond, blue-eyed woman in Canada. The woman, whose last name Ms. Parks has asked not be made public, was raised with the first and middle names JoAnn Gay.

    Was this woman the preschooler spirited away that night 51 years ago? Is Joan Gay even still alive? Ms. Parks doesn't know.

    What she knows is that Joan Gay was alive, with a splinter through her leg, at the Woodward hospital hours after the tornado struck.

    Muddy and bloodied bodies of the dead and critically injured filled the small-town hospital to overflowing and spilled out onto the lawn. The luckier ones rushed to help the less fortunate. Power was knocked out, gas-fed fires ignited throughout town.

    In neighborhoods where rescuers were shut out by debris in streets, injured men, women and children were loaded into boxcars to make the trek to shelter by railroad. It was a night that, in his log book, the local fire chief compared to hell.

    It was the night that Joan Gay Croft lost her mother, a victim of the storm. It became the night that Woodward lost Joan Gay Croft.

    Found to have less life-threatening injuries than others seeking care, Joan Gay and her sister were ushered to the hospital basement to wait as more critical injuries were treated.

    Her sister, four years older, reported that two men dressed in khaki work clothes came into the basement and carried Joan Gay away.

    For a time it was thought perhaps the child was taken elsewhere for medical treatment. Area hospitals were filling up and tornado victims were being routed to Wichita, Kan., and Oklahoma City for emergency care.

    But as days passed following the disaster and damage was assessed and residents accounted for, Joan Gay did not surface on hospital lists or with any family members. Joan Gay Croft was gone. Her absence joined the identities of three little girls as the town's perpetual mystery.

    Ms. Parks regularly visits the graves of those three girls, none determined to be Joan Gay.

    This year she dotted the plots with colorful plastic Easter eggs as well as bright silk flowers. Ms. Parks has never forgotten her cousin, and she is determined that these three nameless youngsters will not be forgotten, either.

    ''It's such a mystery who are these little girls? Where did they come from? Where are their families?'' Ms. Parks said. ''They can't be forgotten.''

    Neither, said Ms. Parks, will Joan Gay Croft. Her gut feeling is that Joan Gay could be the woman in Canada. In her heart, Ms. Parks knows she has to keep a healthy skepticism until proof can be found.

    There are many intriguing parts of the Canadian woman's story, she said, including descriptions of photographs and personal belongings said to bear the names of Joan Gay's parents, Olin and Cleta Croft. But the woman said she no longer has access to the memorabilia, said to be the property of an aunt. She is seeking legal help to claim what she considers evidence of her past.

    Among the items, she contends, is a charcoal drawing signed ''O. Croft.''

    ''He liked to work with his hands,'' Olin Croft's widow wrote Ms. Parks in 1993. ''He also liked to draw.''

    Ms. Parks said she had never shared that information with any callers professing to be Joan Gay. There are other side issues and coincidences, enough to spark the curiosity of a junior sleuth. The Canadian woman's northern family had relatives named Goble that was Joan Gay's mother's maiden name. They had neighbors named Croft, the woman contends.

    Family history tells of a tornado that swept away the family home. But several holes in that story make it suspect, at least in connection with the deadly twister in Oklahoma.

    The Canadian woman's theory is that the family who raised her lost their home in the tornado, looted Joan Gay's home and kidnapped her with the help of a hospital worker. However, she has no proof the family was ever in Oklahoma.

    Still, Ms. Parks takes the calls, listens to the stories and believes somewhere her little cousin with blond curls and blue eyes is a 55-year-old woman looking for her past.

    ''I still think she's out there,'' Ms. Parks said. A tear filled her eye as black spring storm clouds rolled in the distance and she bent to place pink flowers on an unknown child's grave.

    ''If this was meant to be, it's going to happen.''
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  2. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Unidentified Girls of the 1947 Woodward Tornado

    On April 9, 1947, Woodward, Oklahoma had no idea what was heading her direction. It was a nice spring evening and the town of 5000 people were enjoying the evening not knowing what was brewing to the southwest. There were no warnings or warning systems in place. To make things worst, the telephone operators were on strike. At 8:43pm, the world, for the town of Woodward, became chaotic and upside down. The biggest and deadliest tornado ever recorded in Oklahoma history, just stuck the town of Woodward.

    The tornado started at White Deer, Texas at 5:42pm. It then tore through 14 towns in 3 states, traveling up to 50mph for 225 miles. It caused $9,700,000 in damage, claimed 181 lives, which 107 were in Woodward, injured over 1000 people destroying 600 homes and damaging another 900 more. After leaving White Deer, the tornado traveled toward Pampa, then on the Canadian, and, then, striking and demolishing Glazer and Higgins,Texas. It then rolled into Ellis county, just missing the towns of Shattuch, Arnett, Gage, and Fargo. This tornado stayed on the ground for more than 5 hours, reaching a with of 1.8 miles when it hit Woodward. This is the widest on record, still to this day. The Woodward tornado continued northeast , hitting two more towns before leaving Oklahoma around 10pm that evening. It dissipated after doing some damage in St. Leo, Kansas.

    In the Woodward chaos, one jnjured little girl, Joan Gay Croft, disappeared from the hospital and has never been heard of again. Even though this story was featured on "Unsolved Mysteries", she has never been found.Also, there were three little girls, who died in this storm, that were never indentified. they could be children of Woodward or could have been blown from some other town. Know one knows, even to this day. They are buried here in this cemetery.

    The first step of thiss cache are these little girls. the corordinates will take you to two of them. Find their graves, then head streight west, and on the ninth row, you will find the third little girl. On this little girl's headstore, is the number of the organization that placed the stone.

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  3. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Joan Gay Croft

    Real Name: Joan Gay Croft
    Case: Lost Daughter/Sister
    Location: Woodward, Oklahoma
    Date: April 9, 1947

    Details: On April 9, 1947, the small town of Woodward, Oklahoma, was cut off from the outside world as a result of a telephone operator strike. On that same day, a tornado formed nearby. The strike prevented many of the residents from being warned of it coming. As darkness fell, it slammed into the town, reducing it to rubble. More than 1000 people were injured and more than 100 were killed in a matter of minutes. One survivor, four-year-old Joan Gay Croft, remains missing to this day.
    Joan Gay grew up in one of Woodward's most prominent families. Her father, Olin, was a successful sheep rancher and provided a comfortable life for his family. He and his wife, Cleta, raised Joan Gay and twelve-year-old Geri, Olin's daughter from a previous marriage. On the day of the tornado, Joan Gay's Aunt Ruth recalled that the sky turned ominously dark. The tornado caused extensive damage throughout Woodward.
    That night, Ruth and her daughter, Marvella, went to the town's only hospital to look for their family members. Hundreds lay dead and wounded around the grounds. Ruth talked to a nurse and learned that Cleta had been killed. She also learned that Olin was seriously injured and that Joan Gay and Geri were in the basement. Joan Gay's knee had been pierced clean through with a thin piece of wood the size of a pencil. Geri had cuts and bruises on her body. Fortunately, they were not seriously injured. Back outside, she found her mother and brother. They went to another hospital, where Ruth began helping those wounded.
    In the morning, she returned to the basement. Geri told her that some men had come in the night and had taken Joan Gay away. A nurse confirmed this; they claimed that they were taking her to a hospital in Oklahoma City, over 120 miles away. However, calls to hospitals in that area turned up no trace of her. She was never seen again.
    Three other girls, ages approximately 12, 4, and 8 months, were killed in the tornado and never identified. The local mortician asked Ruth to come and examine their bodies to see if any of them were Joan Gay. One of them, who was around four, looked similar to Joan Gay. However, after viewing her body, Ruth was certain that she was not Joan Gay.
    The unknown victims are buried in the Woodward cemetery. It is possible that they were from another town hundreds of miles away that was hit by the tornado, picked up, carried in the funnel, and dropped in Woodward.
    Joan Gay's family reported her missing and an extensive search began. The FBI was later brought in, but no trace of her was ever found. Decades later, the identities of the two men who came to the hospital and took her away are still unknown. Interestingly, a nurse confirmed that they had asked specifically for the Croft children. However, it is unknown where she was taken that day.
    Over the years, several women have contacted authorities believing themselves or someone to be Joan Gay. All of them, however, turned out not to be her. At the time of her disappearance, she was four, had blue eyes and blond hair. She had a mild lisp. She may still have scars on her left calf as a result of injuries during the tornado.
    Extra Notes: This case first aired on the September 22, 1993 episode.
    Results: Unsolved. Although Joan Gay has been missing for years, it is thought that she might be dead due to the tornado incident, or she might have died after she disappeared. Several women have come forward since the broadcast, claiming to be her. However, DNA testing has shown that they are not. Recently, her cousin, Marvella, resubmitted her DNA in hopes of finding a match in the CODIS system.

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  4. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Posted in Oklahoma February 05, 2016 by Ashley
    This Unsolved Oklahoma Mystery From 1947 Still Baffles People Today
    Oklahoma’s deadliest tornado wasn’t the only tragedy that struck Woodward, Oklahoma on April 9, 1947. The Crofts were wealthy residents of Woodward and Mrs. Croft lost her life to the twister’s rage that day. Mr. Croft was severely injured and was sent away to an Oklahoma City hospital due to his injuries being life threatening. Their two daughters, Joan (4 years old) and Jerri (8 years old) were kept at the hospital in Woodard, and were sent to the basement to remove a large splinter Joan sustained in the tornado. All minor injuries were sent to this area of the hospital, and the girls remained there overnight in the sleeping quarters.

    What happened next, Jerri Croft will never forget. Two men entered the hospital the following day wearing khaki military clothes and asked for Joan Croft by name. They picked her up and carried her away. Joan protested leaving her sister but the men told her they would come back for Jerri. Two hospital staff members stopped the men, but they were allowed to proceed when they told the staff they were friends taking Joan to see her family at a different hospital. She was never seen again.

    The kidnapping of Joan Croft was featured on Unsolved Mysteries in 1993, and over the years several women have come forth saying they suspect they might be Joan. None of their claims have been verified. In 1999, a newspaper editor for The Oklahoman received an e-mail from a woman claiming to be Joan Gay Croft, who said she had been living under a different name with her family’s knowledge. The woman agreed to a meeting but ceased communications and never came forward. Joan Gay Croft’s disappearance remains unsolved and is one of the most unusual child abductions on record.

    The girls were checked on during the night at the hospital by their aunt, but when she returned she was told Joan was taken away by two men.

    These uniforms resemble what the kidnappers were wearing when they took Joan from the hospital.

    The F5 tornado that struck Woodard is still the deadliest in Oklahoma history, killing 185.
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  5. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Oklahoma’s Deadliest Tornado

    It came without warning, raining hell down upon everyone in its path. In a land accustomed to death descending from the sky, the Woodward tornado of April 9, 1947, still ranks as the deadliest ever to hit Oklahoma. In its wake were the bodies of 185 dead, more than 1,000 injured and a mystery that remains unsolved 60 years later: What happened to 4-year-old Joan Gay Croft, who was taken from the local hospital by two unidentified men in the aftermath of the horrendous storm?

    A few days earlier, a warm Pacific low had come ashore and collided with a strong cold front near Amarillo, Texas. Winds just north of Amarillo were clocked at more than 100 mph. Six major tornadoes dropped out of a storm many described as resembling an atomic mushroom cloud. The twister that ravaged Woodward first touched ground near Canadian, Texas. Its base measured 2 miles across, and it retained that killer dimension for six hours as it traveled for 100 miles at speeds reaching 50 mph.

    At 7 p.m. it hit Glazier, Texas, some 14 miles from Canadian, killing 16 people and destroying 25 structures. In nearby Higgins, the tornado destroyed all but three buildings. A woman who had crawled under herbed for safety was sucked up into the wire bedsprings when the tornado passed directly over her house. She was one of 45 people killed in the town.

    Though Glazier and Higgins were devastated, no word of the approaching disaster reached the Oklahoma towns just across the border from the Texas Panhandle. It was the third day of a national telephone strike, and only emergency operators were running the switchboards across the country. Grace Nix and Bertha Wiggins were the operators on duty in Woodward when they received their first warning. The operator in Shattuck, Okla., fewer than 20 miles from Higgins, called to ask if they were all right. From Shattuck the operator was watching a massive black cloud make its way toward Woodward. A few minutes later, a second call came in from the small town of Cestos to the south. “There’s a dark cloud over Woodward,” the Cestos operator told the two women. “It looks terrible!”

    The time of the call was 8 p.m. At 8:15 the tornado leveled the small farming town of Gage, 21 miles southwest of Woodward. The 2-mile-wide funnel rapidly churned through the sagebrush of western Oklahoma, chewing up 60 farmhouses and killing eight people as it raced northeast toward Woodward.

    As the distinct funnel form came upon Fargo, the next farming town, 8-year-old Leroy Fennimore ran up Main Street shouting: “We’re going to have a tornado! Yippee!” He had heard about tornadoes but had never seen one. Seconds later Fargo was leveled. Woodward was only 12 minutes away.

    Many in the community of 5,000 had remarked on just how muggy the air was that night. Otherwise, it was an ordinary Wednesday evening. Churches held services and other activities. The two downtown movie theaters were filled with high school students. Ingrid Bergman was starring in Rage in Heaven at the Woodward Theater while the Terry Theater was showing The Devil on Wheels. Down the street a few blocks, the local pool hall had its usual patrons. The high school band had just finished practicing for its trip to Alva, Okla., the next day. Two students stayed behind to practice a little more as Paul Nelson got on his bicycle and headed home.

    Dr. Joe Duer, head physician at the 28-bed Woodward Hospital, was walking into Gill’s Cafe for his ritual cup of coffee as Erwin Walker drove past on his way to work at the power plant on the north side of town.

    The wind was blowing hard now. Large raindrops spattered the sidewalks, followed by hail. Paul Nelson was getting soaked as he peddled harder against the wind, the hailstones striking his back. As the tornado passed over Experimental Lake on the west side of town, it sucked up water colored red by the clay soil typical of Oklahoma. The level of the lake dropped by a foot. The time was 8:42 p.m.

    At the power plant, Walker saw the funnel coming directly at him. Live electric lines were snapping all across Woodward. Walker threw the master switch, cutting off the town’s power, just as the tornado struck the building dead center. Walker was killed, but his act was credited later for saving countless lives.

    George MacLaren usually stayed at the pool hall until 11 p.m. But as he was about to walk inside, he noticed the fully grown trees in the nearby park bending all the way to the ground. He flagged a taxi and headed for home.

    At his cafe, Gill Gillard had just refilled a customer’s cup. The rat-tat-tat of falling hail got everyone’s attention. Gillard turned to look at the barometer hanging on the wall — it had bottomed out. Then the lights went out, and Woodward fell into pitch black save for the violent electrical storm directly overhead flashing brief images all around like massive strobe lights.

    MacLaren’s taxi was buffeted by the strong winds as it zigzagged down residential streets to avoid downed trees and power lines. But when MacLaren stepped out of the taxi, everything was calm. No wind, no hail, no rain. Then he noticed the leaves of the trees rushing straight up into the night sky. He ran across his back porch and into the house just as the porch enclosure was torn away.

    MacLaren screamed for his children to get down as he ran into the living room. There was a thunderous roar, repeatedly described by survivors as sounding like a freight train coming down on them. MacLaren’s son, Gayner, watched the top of the room’s walls separate from the ceiling, fall back into place and then separate again before the windows imploded. He soon found himself lying in the front yard, rain hitting his face. His father was standing on the rubble that had been their home trying to find Gayner’s younger brother, Merrit, in the debris.

    A chill filled the air as sleet and snow began falling. The T-shirt Gayner had put on for bed was now covered with his own blood. He walked over to his father to see if he could help. George MacLaren was pulling loose boards from the pile in a panic to find Merrit when he looked down at his bloodied son. “Are you all right?” George asked. Gayner nodded and his father replied: “Go find help! Hurry!” Gayner ran in the direction of the large fires illuminating downtown. It was now just before 9 p.m.

    By this time, Paul Nelson, who had been pelted with red mud from Experimental Lake as he rode his bike home, had gotten into the bathtub to scrub the strange mud off when there was a sudden deafening roar. He looked up to find his house had been lifted away. All that was left was the floor and young Paul sitting naked in the bathtub in the reddish rain. The attached plumbing had prevented the bathtub from going with the house.

    His friends who had stayed late to practice at the high school were not so lucky. Their bodies were found in the rubble a few days later.

    What sounded like a roaring train could be heard inside both the Woodward and Terry theaters, as well as explosions and screams for help. People tried running out the front door but were stopped by theater staff. One man who made it out of the Terry Theater was picked up by the wind and hurled down the block to his death. Suddenly the building’s roof gave way, and people ducked under the theater seats, whose stiff metal backs kept the fallen ceiling from crushing them. A large, bulky air-conditioning unit broke through a rear door, enabling some to escape into the night.

    Elsewhere, one mother heard the tornado coming and tried to go to her children’s bedroom. Without warning, a wall collapsed and pinned her over a lit heating stove. She could feel her back beginning to burn. Desperate, she grabbed at the curtains of a nearby window, yanking them down and stuffing them behind her to snuff out the fire.

    Downtown was ablaze as factories, warehouses and the grocery store were in flames. Trees were torn out of the ground. Deadly debris filled the air, falling along with the hail, snow and reddish rain. Streets were blanketed by rubble, bodies, power lines and downed trees. Telephone poles and timber beams were driven into the walls of the Woodward County Courthouse. Above, the sky rippled with an unearthly lightning display.

    The 2-mile-wide tornado leveled 100 city blocks with wind speeds ranging from 225 to 440 mph. It exited to the northeast, traveling close to 45 mph toward the Kansas border. There were no fatalities along its new route, but 36 more farmhouses were destroyed in the darkness and 30 more people were injured. Somewhere to the west of Alva, the Woodward tornado lifted back into the storm cloud that had generated it.

    In Woodward, Dr. Duer took charge of the hospital that was filling with people — the majority of them children — many of whom had compound fractures. “It just broke your heart,” Duer said later, looking at the children and prioritizing who should be treated first. The Baker Hotel was quickly converted into a hospital for those with minor injuries. The hotel’s windows had been blown out by the storm, but the building was structurally sound, and eventually there were two patients for every bed. All the patients were covered with mud from Experimental Lake. There was no running water, however, to clean wounds, wash patients or flush toilets. One girl’s eyes were so heavily caked with mud that it pinched an optic nerve, and she was left blind for several weeks.
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  6. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    Duer held an infant covered with slivers of wood. “The child looked like a cocklebur,” he said of the baby who died soon afterward. Also he could do nothing for a badly injured young woman in a house across the street from the hospital. A 2×4 had impaled her near the pelvis. The front lawn of the hospital was transformed into a temporary morgue as trucks started going up and down residential streets to collect the dead.

    Thelma Irwin was a young mother of two. When the tornado hit, her husband Raymond, who was taking a nap on the living room couch, grabbed their young son, Joe T., and held him to the floor. Thelma had just run into the bedroom where their baby girl, Jennifer, slept when the twister threw a delivery truck through the wall. The next thing Thelma knew, someone was washing her face off with milk as she lay on her front lawn. She closed her eyes for what she thought was a brief moment only to sense she was being lifted. When she opened them, she discovered that she was surrounded by unresponsive bodies lying beside and underneath her. She tried to scream but could not move her mouth. Then she lost consciousness.

    When she woke again, she found she was lying among the dead on the front lawn of the hospital still unable to make a sound. Somehow she caught the attention of a passing nurse who took her hand. “Come here, doctor,” Thelma remembered hearing the nurse say. “I don’t think this woman’s dead.”

    Searchers found a confused Gayner MacLaren roaming the streets just before midnight and took him to the hospital as he cried: “My brother’s trapped! My brother’s trapped!” A nurse sedated him. He woke up around 3 a.m. on a cot with a reddish bandage around his head and a pool of drying blood beneath him. A person he knew in the cot next to his told him Merrit had been killed.

    Scenes of gruesome death were everywhere. The pool hall where George MacLaren was going to spend the evening had been flattened. The five men inside were so badly mangled they could only be identified by their wristwatches. A Mrs. Chance, an elderly woman, had been sucked out of her home and was found in a field rolled in barbed wire. Her granddaughter, who had come to Woodward to visit her, was found in the house covered with planking held to her body by nails.

    A Mrs. Boatmann was on her way to the hospital to volunteer when she saw a baby’s arm sticking up from out of the mud. When the little hand moved, she quickly dug the infant up and ran home. She sat the child in the sink to clean the mud away from its eyes, ears and mouth.

    A naked little girl covered in red mud was brought to Wilma Nelson’s apartment. She wrapped the child in a blanket and tried to rock her to sleep. But now and then the girl would start screaming, and each time a boom of thunder came, she mumbled, “There goes a tattered wagon rolling down the hill.” When dawn came, Wilma decided to wash the mud off the little girl with dishwater that was still in the kitchen sink. That’s when she discovered the girl was covered with wooden splinters. She rushed her to the hospital only to be told by a nurse that there were more critical injuries to deal with.

    Telephone wire chief L.L. Orel and Carl Brown traced down the lines south from Woodward for three miles before being able to flash word to Oklahoma City of the devastation. Eight striking telephone operators reported to work to help with the crisis; a week later, their union dismissed all eight.

    As with all tornadoes, the Woodward storm left oddities in its wake. Besides Paul Nelson sitting naked in his bathtub with no house, hundreds of chickens were roaming around without feathers. A milk bottle sat upright and undisturbed at the top of the back steps to a house that was no longer there. The grown children of Sam and Jessie Smith picked their way through the debris field that had been downtown Woodward, bracing for the worst. The Smith home was at the center of the destruction, but they found it unscathed. Their elderly parents were just waking up, unaware the tornado had ever taken place.

    Aid rushed in as 3 inches of snow blanketed Woodward. With telephone lines down, local Boy Scouts delivered messages around town on their bikes. Giant bulldozers moved the remains of what had been homes and businesses only 48 hours earlier. The closed Woodward Army Air Base was reopened for housing and was quickly dubbed “Tornado Town.” Barracks were divided into apartments. Families stood guard over rubble in order to prevent looting. One guilty party was caught, jailed for 18 hours and then driven 15 miles from town and told to start walking. The badly injured were flown to Oklahoma City, while the less serious cases were loaded onto freight cars and taken by train to the hospital in Alva.

    The bodies of a 12-year-old blonde girl who chewed her fingernails and a 6-week-old baby girl were never identified. Some speculated that the powerful storm blew them in from Texas, even though the farthest a human body was known to have been carried by a tornado was a mile.

    The biggest mystery in Woodward, however, was Joan Gay Croft, a little girl who simply vanished in the midst of so much chaos. The four-year old had a pencil-size splinter embedded deep in her left calf. Her mother, Cleta, a telephone operator, had been killed when the tornado struck their home. Her stepfather, Olen, was so badly injured that he was transported to Oklahoma City. Joan and her half-sister, Jerri, ended up in the Woodward hospital, where, after a frantic search, they were located by an aunt. Leaving them in the care of the staff, the girls’ aunt went to volunteer at the hospital in Moreland, 10 miles to the east, where more of the Woodward injured had been taken.

    The night after the storm, two men dressed in khaki Army uniforms came into the hospital and asked for Joan. As they started to carry her out, Joan cried, “I don’t want to leave my sister!” One of the men was overheard telling her not to worry. They promised to come right back for the older girl.

    Joan’s protests drew the attention of the hospital staff, who challenged the men. One of them said they were friends of the family and were simply taking Joan to another hospital where her family was waiting. The men were allowed to leave with the child. Joan Gay Croft was never seen again.

    When he learned that Joan had been taken, Olen Croft, still not entirely recovered from his injuries, hurried back to Woodward. He and Joan’s grandfather, Raymond Goble, went from town to town posting fliers and placing missing persons ads on local radio stations. Goble died soon afterward, however, of a massive heart attack. For the next 40 years, Olen Croft scoured one small, dusty High Plains town after another, following up on a tip, a hunch, a rumor of where Joan might be. He died in 1986.
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  7. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member


    In 1994 the NBC TV series Unsolved Mysteries aired a story about Joan Croft. Within 48 hours, Joan’s aunt received more than 200 telephone calls with potential leads to her long-lost niece’s whereabouts. One was particularly intriguing: a woman living in Phoenix, Ariz., who had the same blood type as Joan and whose left leg was scarred in the same place where Joan had been injured on the night of the tornado. A Croft family member even stayed with the woman for two weeks and was convinced that almost 50 years of searching had finally come to an end. But DNA tests showed that the woman was not related to the Crofts.

    The Croft family never speculated publicly as to the identities of the two men or why they took Joan. But local researchers K.P. Simpson, who interested Unsolved Mysteries in the story, and his son, Rick, developed a few theories of their own.

    First, Olen Croft had some money. “He wasn’t what you would call wealthy,” said Rick Simpson. “But he was better off than most were in Woodward at the time.” Joan could have been kidnapped for ransom, but no ransom demand has ever surfaced.

    The second theory is that Joan’s mother’s family might have taken her after learning that Cleta had been killed. “You have two men walking into the hospital and asking for her by name,” said Simpson. “How would they know her name? And why did the men ask for her by name and not her half-sister?” According to Simpson, Woodward authorities and Olen Croft himself questioned Cleta’s family. They found nothing to suggest that the family knew anything about Joan’s disappearance. To this day, Joan Gay Croft’s whereabouts are unknown.
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  8. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

    Woodward County, Oklahoma


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  9. Akoya

    Akoya Bronze Member

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  10. Mel70

    Mel70 Bronze Member

    This is One of the MOST BAFFLING OLDEST "COLD CASES" EVER! I had read about this before. But NOT in this much detail. I am having a hard time even coming up with a "Possible Scenario". I also NEVER knew before about the 3 Unidentified Children. HOW STRANGE that in that Town NO ONE KNEW THEM! ESPECIALLY THE 12 Yr Old. She would have been in School FOR YEARS!
    SheWhoMustNotBeNamed likes this.
  11. Heathebee

    Heathebee Eeep

    This seems more likely, and given the times, it would likely be quite easy to simply take her and never hear from her again. She would be quite elderly now and there's a chance she passed away prior to the 94 airing, or her name was changed and she just never knew... She may not have had children or again... didn't know who she was.

    It sounds like an elaborate kidnapping. I would probably subscribe to the idea that the family took her, or that something happened when she was kidnapped for ransom and they just dumped her.

    Who knows...
    Mel70 and SheWhoMustNotBeNamed like this.

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