A “Grisly Rendezvous of Death”

Marian Parker (1915-1927)

December 18, 1927
Los Angeles

This morning’s headline was set in the giant typeface reserved for only very good or very bad news. This time it was the latter: "Kidnaped [sic] Child Slain By Fiend." For three days now, Angelenos have followed the story of 12-year-old Marian Parker, lured away from Mount Vernon High School by a man who said her father was ill. The kidnapper demanded $1500 (close to $18,000 in 2007) for her safe return, and Marian’s father agreed to pay it.

The suitcase

Shortly after 8 o’clock last night, the kidnapper drove up to the agreed-upon meeting place. Marian’s small form was visible in the passenger seat. "Here’s your child," he told Parker. "Give me the money and follow instructions. She’s asleep now." The ransom changed hands; the criminal drove a short way and deposited Marian’s blanket-wrapped figure on the lawn at 432 South Manhattan Place. Perry Parker rushed to his daughter, scooped her up and—in a waking nightmare that must have haunted him for the rest of his days—discovered she was dead, her eyes wired or sewn open in a hideous simulacrum of life. A wire was bound so tightly around her neck that it cut deeply into her flesh; she had been disemboweled and her legs hacked off close to her body. The Times was filled with stories comparing the Parker case to Leopold and Loeb and a host of other grisly child murderers. Crowds of bloodthirsty thrill seekers (the Times estimated over 25,000) thronged past the Parker household at 1631 South Wilton Place (address helpfully supplied by the paper).

The horror continued today. While most of Los Angeles was still reading its morning papers, citizens aiding the police found five gruesome bundles on a lonely road in Elysian Park. The first contained Marian’s arms and legs; the last, found by "two small boys, carrying on the search," held her viscera. A blood-soaked suitcase previously discovered in the gutter at 620 South Manhattan place is believed to have held the child’s body. Then, late this evening, the police found an abandoned Ford roadster, license number 667-67. It is believed to be the automobile driven by the kidnapper to the meeting with Marian’s father.

A massive manhunt is underway for the fiendish killer.A "Grisly Rendezvous of Death"

Cheap Thrills

ten dollar car headline

June 25, 1927
Los Angeles

Johnston car

Mr. H. Johnston has just completed a nine day journey along the National Old Trails Highway from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Amazingly, he made the cross-country trip in his $10 dollar 1919 Ford! His total expenses, including gasoline, meals, lodging, and one minor $3 repair to the Ford was a miserly $55 ($657.31 USD 2007).

Impressive? Absolutely! But, future dwellers, while we shake our heads in wonderment at how inexpensive it was to live in 1927 America, let’s put on our time travel goggles and look at this feat from a different perspective.

If Mr. H. Johnston went out today and purchased an entry level 2007 Toyota Prius ($22,175.00) it would cost him $265,015.46 in 1927 dollars. Gasoline for the hybrid would take a bite out of his budget to the tune of about $35.83 per gallon!

Nine nights at a Motel 6 (at $69.99 per night) would set Mr. Johnston back a whopping $7,528.14. And that’s if he didn’t rent any movies. At these prices he may lose his appetite, but a man has to eat. Let’s give Mr. Johnston a total food budget of $45 to visit a drive-thru of his choice once each day – that translates into $537.80 in current dollars for burgers, fries and sodas.

Get out your calculators and we’ll do a back-of-the-envelope estimate for Mr. Johnston’s trek in the strange 2007 time machine. The nine day vacation would now cost him approximately $275,052.25.

Your mileage may vary.