A National Broadcast
It was the anticipation of the airing of the Susan Walsh Story on
Unsolved Mysteries that pushed Joel Lewis into action, with the belief
that his writing a story about her college days would propel his newly
established career as freelance writer. Like many of those who came out
of that generation of WPC, Joel struggled to find a career path, turning
from literary ambitions to work as a paralegal, then finally, a social
worker. It was the anticipation of the airing of the Susan Walsh Story
on Unsolved Mysteries that pushed Joel Lewis into action, with the
belief that his writing a story about her college days would propel his
newly established career as freelance writer. Like many of those who
came out of that generation of WPC, Joel struggled to find a career
path, turning from literary ambitions to work as a paralegal, then
finally, a social worker.
In January, 1997, Joel finally freed himself from the shackles of social
work and began scraping together prospects for writing. Sue's story
topped this list, especially when an editor for the New Jersey Monthly
gave him to go-ahead.
I was enraged by Joel's entrance into the circus, seeing him as one more
vulture feeding off of Sue, the way Floyd saw me and O'Keefe. In
retrospective, I was mistaken, or -- at least -- wrong in thinking ill
of Joel for his wishing to "cash in" on Sue's demise. Sue had a way of
inspiring such behavior in other humans, teasing people on with promises
of things she would never deliver, whether in sex or in emotional
gratification. And her story was little different, dragging on, teasing
us along as if she had reached out of the shadows of her disappearance
and crooked her forefinger for us to follow -- thereby making us
unwitting victims to a greater crime: stupidity.
Joel simply hopped on a bandwagon to which the rest of us were already
emotionally chained, dragged along by the sheer momentum of events.
Melissa Hines, James Ridgeway, Al Goldstien, Glen Kenny, Martha Young,
and the host of other participants all advanced towards the Jan. 31,
1997 broadcast date with our collective breath held, wondering what
would happen, wondering if the world would come to an end -- this all
part of the illusion-making powers of Sue. We all treated the moment
with much more reverence than it deserved, than Sue deserved. Except for
Ridgeway -- and possibly Joel -- no one, but Sue herself benefited from
any of this, if indeed, Sue Walsh was alive.
When the program finally did air, I was slightly disappointed. Not only
had it failed to present the events accurately, its tabloid sense of
drama missed the true tragedy that had unfolded with Sue's life,
restating badly what had already been said over and over again, handing
out the same load of crap that the print tabloids had pushed over the
"She never exactly said where she was going," Robert Stack announced
with the same fraudulent tone of voice he had used over his long acting
career, this stage a sore disappointment for a man who -- with so much
promise as a performer -- had settled for doing sideshows. "What
happened to Susan Walsh? The police believe she simply chose to
disappear. But some say Susan Walsh was murdered by mobsters. Others say
she overdosed on drugs. Still others believe she vanished into a
sub-culture of sex and danger that lured her in and wouldn't let her
Stack's droning voice went on:
"From early childhood, Susan Walsh's dream was to be a poet and a
writer. But a broken home and an unhappy childhood made reaching that
goal a constant struggle."
At this point, the program began to get it wrong, or taking for fact
things that might not have been true, saying for instance that sue "was
an admitted alcoholic, drug addict and stripper," instead of detailing
the fact that Sue was also a well-known sue "was an admitted alcoholic,
drug addict and stripper," instead of detailing the fact that Sue was a
"Still, she kept her dream alive," Stack said. "Stripping paid her way
This was actually the first report to admit this, although many people
knew it all along. Sue gave different numbers to different people. To
some she claimed she only started dancing in the late 1980s, neglecting
the whole Show World trip and what led up to it.
"When Susan graduated in 1994, she cleaned up her act," Stack reported.
"By 1988, Susan had been sober for four years. She had married and
become a devoted mother. According to friends, the two things that
mattered most to Susan were her son and her career as a journalist.
Eventually, Susan and her husband separated."
If Sue was ever an alcoholic, then she had been clean three years, not
four, and her husband, Mark, had taken part in some of her sex shows, as
had Glen Kenny. They were married before the birth of her baby and
separated very soon after the baby's birth, in 1985, not in 1988 as
Unsolved Mysteries implied.
"Though Susan dreamed of being a writer, she had a tough time getting
breaks," Stack said. "To support her son, she went back to stripping,
unable to resist the easy money and seductive lifestyle."
Joel's unpublished manuscript made a similar mistake in detailing Sue's
"It was while attending rehab, that she met her husband Mark, with whom
she worked with in her live sex show," Joel wrote apparently getting
part of the story right, but then added: "Walsh stopped doing these
performances at the time she got pregnant with her son. From all
sources, Walsh never again performed in these sex shows."
In truth, Sue never stopped, or, at best, merely toned down her
performance schedule. In fact, she regularly attended private S&M Club
and over time, performed with Mistress Rena Mason and the Erotic
Travesty Show," as a member of a team of special effects makeup and
performance artists who strove to alter the perceptual reality of their
"Although erotic fantasies are at times portrayed, no sex is involved,
lending a surreal touch and sparking the imagination of the audience,
while revealing the seductive side of female supremacy," wrote Mistress
Rena in her advertising brochure.
The show often performed in conjunction with alternative rock bands and
featured a variety of pieces "ranging from S&M to fetish, bondage,
mummification, dance, branding, erotic poetry readings, as well as Goth
and vampire. Some of the pieces are serious, while others are presented
Sue, in fact, later featured Mistress Rena in a section of the book "Red
"Ironically," Stack went on, "stripping helped provide the critical
boost to Susan's journalistic career. Eventually she landed an
internship at New York's free-wheeling Village voice, researching the
Stack failed to say that Sue had worked her way through a dozen writers
to get in a position "to be noticed" by Ridgeway, stealing ideas from
Hardin for her better works in Screw Magazine, and then, possibly
stealing from a Long Island Newsday writer for the biggest scoop of her
"She soon turned up a hot story," Stack said. "Russian mobsters in New
Jersey were allegedly forcing young Russian women to work in strip clubs
like slaves. Susan earned praise for the Russian mob article, but she
also go threats."
Praise? Threats? This is where Unsolved Mysteries really went awry. If
Sue got praise, it wasn't from the New York Times, which admired the
photography, but frowned over the reporting.
As for the threats, these echoed stories she had told in school, and
despite the fact that this information was available at the time of
show's taping, both in my newspaper and newspapers across the country --
thanks to Associated Press -- no mention was made her Sue's previous
disappearing history or her stories of more conventional mobsters she
told at school.
"Sue felt she had many enemies," the show went on. "Susan's next project
may have also put her in jeopardy. In the early 1990s, bizarre vampire
clubs began springing up in New York's Greenwich Village. The clubs
boated of a dicey clientele, many of whom claimed to be real blood
drinkers. Susan was so taken with the vampire world, she started dating
a man who claimed to be one of the undead."
In an article on Sue printed in the London Times the previous August,
Tony Allen-Mills wrote: "apparently undaunted by the threat of AIDS, the
participants dress in black clothing, wear deathly pale make-up and
refer to each other as vampires... The case is also raising questions
about the spreading modern vogue for a new breed of kiss-and-tell female
reporters who chronicle their sexual adventures in print. While few ever
went as far as Walsh seems to have gone in pursuit of a store, the
dangers of dabbling in free-fall sexual frankness have been laid
According to this account, Sue managed to publish several stories about
her exploits in the sex trade, including one about how in 1995, she went
to a bachelor party at a New Jersey fire department clubhouse and was
pushed around by men angered that she wouldn't have sex with them.
"After I'd been fingered, hit, robbed, soaked with beer and had a drunk
vomit on my costume, I learned that there are no real rules a bachelor
parties," Sue wrote.
"When the book (Red Light" was published earlier this year," Allen-Mills
wrote, "It carried a brief but shocking description of the so-called
In quoting Red Light, Allen-Mills wrote: "Apparently descended from the
Goth (for Gothic) clique that evolved from punks in the 1990s, the
vampires were said to number no more than a few thousand... and be
predominantly white, middle class and in their early 20s. They will
appear in twos and threes in the early hours at certain clubs,
congregating in the back rooms. Their rituals are hidden and secret.
Using razors, open syringes or they say their eye teeth, they drink each
other's blood, usually piercing a vein in the arm or neck."
The vampires claim that they need the blood for nourishment and refer to
it as liquid protein.
"According to Ridgeway, participants check themselves regularly for the
HIV virus that causes AIDS," Allen-Mills wrote. "Apparently, Walsh began
to mix with the vampire scene in an attempt to uncover more about
blood-sucking nightclubbers," Allen-Mills wrote. "One of her friends
said that she had become fascinated by vampire culture."
Ridgeway in the broadcast of Unsolved Mysteries poo-pooed all this,
saying Sue had come back to him with horror stories and tales of danger.
"She kept saying she feared to go into the trailer, and I told her,
don't," Ridgeway said.
"Susan," Stack went on, "wrote a detailed, article, but in this case,
her judgment seemed skewed. She apparently believed a lot of what was
being told to her. To Susan's disappointment, the Village Voice never
ran her article on Vampires."
The night of the publisher's party for Red Light, Ridgeway said he
noticed that Sue's wrists were bandaged. He also claimed concern over
Sue's taking of tranquilizers and that she had apparently started
drinking again. She was now dancing full time and in a documentary made
by an old friend of hers, she talked about "the heavy toll stripping had
"Did Susan collapse somewhere because of her depression and poor
health?" Stack asked. "If so, police say her body would have been found
or she would have surfaced in a hospital. Her continued absence has
forced her family and friend to believe the worse possible scenario:
that Susan is dead. The police, however, have a completely different
theory. They believe that for some unknown reason, Susan has chosen to
disappear. Detectives have spoken to a number of people who believe
they've actually seen Susan, including one of Susan's old friends.
Although police checked out all the leads, there has been no positive
identification. Was Susan the target of a mob hit? Did she crhave been
found or she would have surfaced in a hospital. Her continued absence
has forced her family and friend to b
The first broadcast of Unsolved Mysteries on Jan. 31, 1997, brought in
more than 50 possible sightings, sending police scrambling, checking out
reports from Canada to Florida. But the most intriguing of these came
from New Bedford, where police had recovered a body.
We've found a body