True crime mysteries are something that tends to fascinate people in general. However, when a famous starlet is the subject of the true-crime story, it becomes ten times more fascinating, which is why Jean Spangler’s case was so widely spoken about.
It has been years since her disappearance, but people are still talking about this bizarre case and trying to figure out just what happened to Jean Spangler on the day she disappeared.
Theories have been swirling since she disappeared, but none of them has ever been confirmed, and we are still left with many questions as to what truly happened to her.
Kirk Douglas (Left) and Jean Spangler (Right) mid-1940s| Photo: Getty Images
At the time of Jean’s disappearance, she was a young mother to a daughter. She was no longer married to the father of her daughter but was well on her way to making it in Hollywood after having been an extra for a while.
Spangler and the father of her daughter had married in 1942 but divorced six months later, with Spangler citing cruelty as the reason. However, the couple continued to have a relationship until their daughter was born in 1944.
Originally, Spangler’s ex-husband was awarded custody of the daughter, but Spangler fought over this and ultimately won full custody. The relationship with her ex-husband was strained.
A typical 1940s nightclub scene, Baywater, UK. 1943 | Photo: Getty Images
Because she had full custody of her daughter and was constantly battling her ex-husband for child support payments, she danced in nightclubs and acted as an extra in movies to make ends meet.
She was enjoying a particularly successful time in her career and was well on her way to becoming famous in her own right when she disappeared without a trace.
The details on the night of Spangler’s disappearance have been mulled over and inspected from every angle possible because it is so difficult to understand where she went and how it is that she was never seen again.
Jean Spangler and her daughter, Christine, on October 1st 1949, six days before Spangler's disappearance | Photo: Getty Images
Spangler was living with her mother at the time of her disappearance. However, with her mother visiting family in Kentucky, Spangler had to ask her sister-in-law to look after her daughter. Meanwhile, she went to work and met with her ex-husband regarding the overdue child support that evening.
At 17:30, Spangler asked her sister-in-law how she looked and then told her daughter that she would go to work. She said goodbye to them both and left without saying when she would be coming back.
Jean's mother, Florence, listening to the radio while looking at a photograph of her missing daughter, 1949 | Photo: Getty Images
Two hours after leaving her residence, she phoned to tell her sister-in-law not to wait because she would be working a full eight-hour shift and would not be home until the next morning. She then spoke to her daughter and hung up the phone.
Spangler’s sister-in-law did not think anything of it when she woke up and did not see Spangler there, but when she hadn’t arrived home by that evening, she knew something was wrong and immediately alerted the police.
Officer Howard Rose holding Jean Spangler's damaged purse, which was taken in as evidence, 1949 | Photo: Getty Images
The investigation about Spangler’s disappearance began after the night she was last seen and has remained unsolved to this day.
The investigation began with the police finding out that Spangler had not been at work that evening. None of her employers had her on their books that evening, and nobody had seen her around any of the studios where she usually worked.
Search party in Griffith Park looking for clues about Spangler's disappearance after finding her purse in the park, Los Angeles, 1949 | Photo: Getty Images
Spangler’s ex-husband was then contacted so that police could find out whether or not she had seen him about child support. Spangler’s ex-husband said that he had not been in contact with her for months, which his current wife backed up.
The police then knew that this was going to be a missing person case like no other. There were no leads, and at the time of the disappearance, no suspects. However, when police discovered her purse in a nearby park, traces began to manifest themselves.
A letter found in Jean Spangler's purse which is thought to have been addressed to Kirk Douglas, 1949 | Photo: Getty Images
Investigators found Spangler’s purse in a park not too far away from her apartment. The purse’s strap was damaged, and inside they found some of Spangler’s personal belongings, her ID, and a cryptic note. The note seemed to confirm that she would see a doctor about a matter that could wait no longer.
The note was not signed, but police believed that Spangler wrote it. The note was addressed to a man by the name of Kirk. There was no way of knowing who Kirk was, but it was believed that it may have been Kirk Douglas, whom Spangler had met after being an extra on one of his movies.
Kirk Douglas in Rome airport in 1962 | Photo: Getty Images
The suspicion towards Kirk Douglas grew when he phoned the police and told them that he had never met Spangler but later changed his story to say that he did remember her but had had no contact with her.
It was also believed that because she danced in nightclubs that were frequented by men involved in the Mafia, she could have been mixed up in something terrible with them, which led to her disappearance. However, this theory has never been proven.
A postcard of Griffith Park where Jean Spangler's purse was found | Photo: Getty Images
Spangler and her ex-husband had a strained relationship because of the custody battle and late child support payments, and her ex-husband was therefore also a suspect. Still, police were unable to prove that he had any involvement in the case.
The note that Spangler left in her purse is said to have led police to believe that she may have seen a doctor in order to terminate a pregnancy. At the time, this was illegal and so it had to be done in secret, and it may have caused Spangler’s death, which wouldn’t have been reported because of the nature in which she passed away.
While the theories of scorned ex-husbands, terminated pregnancies, mafia bosses, and jilted lovers have never been proven, there is one other theory that seems to come up time and time again to suggest what happened to Ms. Spangler.
Black Dahlia evidence on the LA District Attorney's desk in California, 1947 | Photo: Getty Images
Some people believe that the Black Dahlia serial killer who was active around the time of Spangler’s disappearance might have something to do with her disappearance. The Black Dahlia serial killer was said to target young women and had struck only a year earlier.
There is no way to know what happened to Jean Spangler, but the theories of her disappearance are still being discussed today, even though the case has gone cold. You can read more about this case in Jon Lewis' book, "Hard-Boiled Hollywood."
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