Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mysterious Disappearance of Madalyn Murray O'Hair

'Most Hated Woman in America' Disappears ...Again?

AUSTIN, Texas (Crime Library) — There was much that many found hard to like about Madalyn Murray O'Hair. Loud, brash and insensitive, she bore the title of "Most Hated Woman in America" with pride.

Madalyn Murray O'Hair
Madalyn Murray O'Hair

Life magazine had bestowed the title on her after she had successfully sued to abolish school prayer and then flaunted her anti-theistic message — reveling in the sensation she caused. Madalyn created headlines wherever she went, so it was surprising that her disappearance in August 1995 met with little more than a blurb in most newspapers. Madalyn's granddaughter, 30, and younger son, 40, were also missing.

"They just wanted to stop, get away and breathe," her spokesman for the American Atheists told The Dallas Morning News in October 1995. "It may be a little unusual, but I don't blame them."

Madalyn's estranged older son, Bill Murray, wasn't so sure. She had previously vanished for weeks at a time as a fundraising ploy for the organization she founded, American Atheists Inc. "This family is so bizarre, you guys can't get close to describing it. I wouldn't be surprised if she was sitting frozen in the back of a van somewhere," Murray told The Washington Post.

In actuality, the truth was even more bizarre than Bill could have ever predicted. But he was right on one count — she was very dead indeed.

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