Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Helen Brach: Gone But Not Forgotten

The Lady Vanishes

Rochester, Minnesota is a very cold place in February, but the city is well-prepared. For most outpatients who travel from afar for their appointments at the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, it isn't necessary to brave the frigid winter temperatures in order to move from hotel to hospital. In February 1977, the tunnel between a nearby hotel and the clinic was the last place anyone will admit to seeing Helen Brach.

Helen Voorhees Brach
Helen Voorhees Brach

She had just finished a brief, uneventful checkup at the hospital where doctors pronounced her fit and hale, if not a little overweight. She paid her bill at the clinic and was walking back to the hotel to catch a flight from Rochester to Chicago when she stopped at a gift shop and bought some sundries. Her last words to the clerk are still the subject of much confusion.

"I'm in a hurry," she said. "My houseman is waiting."

The clerk swears Helen used the word "houseman" and the present tense, although no one was seen with Helen and it was believed that she traveled to Rochester alone.

The "houseman" she may have been referring to — the only person who fits the bill — was Jack Matlick, a long-time major domo for Frank and Helen Brach who stayed on to run the household for Helen after Frank's death.

Matlick was married and did not live at Brach's estate when she was staying there, so there is little evidence that their relationship was anything more than employer-employee. Matlick was vital to running the house and Helen relied extensively on him, but they were most likely not intimate.

Regardless, Matlick would later tell authorities investigating his mistress's disappearance that he did not accompany her to Rochester, but did meet her plane in Chicago. The flight crew that flew the plane from Rochester to Chicago, however, had no recollection of anyone fitting Helen's appearance on the flight that February day. They were, however, interviewed a significant time later, so memories might have been less than accurate.

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