On the evening of September 10, 1947, 17-year-old Beverly Sharpman worriedly approached her mother and stated that she had something to tell her. While her mother made tea Beverly changed her mind and retired to bed without sharing the secret.
The next day she registered for senior classes at Philadelphia’s Overbrook High School but was spotted later in the evening at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station carrying a suitcase.
A telegram sent from the station’s Western Union reached the Sharpman’s home on Viola Street around 7:30 p.m.:
“Got married. Leaving town. Will not be back. Don’t worry. [signed] Babe.”
Further evidence suggests that Beverly left town on her own accord. The day before she sent the telegram she resigned from her job at the radio distributing firm of Trilling & Montague and told fellow employees that she was moving to Chicago. She also withdrew approximately $173 from her bank account.
Clues suggesting that she left voluntarily didn’t prevent her parents, Samuel and Nettie Sharpman or authorities from seeking answers. Neither her parents, brother, or closest friend Claire knew of any serious romantic relationship. Casual male acquaintances and other possibilities were all found at their homes in West Philadelphia. The possibility that she would elope shocked all her knew her.
During the investigation authorities checked marriage records in all fifty states but there was no a record of a license filed for Beverly Sharpman.
As time marched on the Sharpmans held out hope that they would be reunited with Beverly, spending what The Milwaukee Journal called “a small fortune” to publicize the disappearance in Detroit, New York, and Chicago. Beverly was still missing when her grandmother died in April 1948, a death which some felt was quickened by Beverly leaving home so abruptly.
J. Edwards of Blue Ridge Summit, Philadelphia sent word to the family in May 1948 that he met Beverly while on a job in Charleston, South Carolina the month prior. Edwards remarked that she didn’t seem like a typical southerner and alleged that she was living with a woman named Bobby Wilson on West Street.
Philadelphia and Charleston investigated this lead but if Edwards had spoken to Beverly, she once again managed to slip away.
An article in The Pittsburgh Press near the one-year anniversary of Beverly’s disappearance painted a picture of Nettie Sharpman as grief-stricken, holding “a lonely vigil” from her daughter’s bedroom where she wrote and phoned agencies across the country for information.
From a 1950 newspaper clipping: “I want some word or sign that you are alive. Please contact me in your own way. I’ll meet you anytime, anywhere. I’ll sell my home and belongings, if necessary. I’ve got to find you.”
Beverly’s family also placed classified ads hoping that they could coax her out of hiding.
“Beverly Sharpman. Call TR7-7379. Will send money for clothes. Mother.” (1949)
“Beverly Sharpman – Babe, where are you. Please come home. We love you. I’m ill. Call TR7-7379. Mother.” (1950)
“Beverly Sharpman – “Babe” – it’s Mother & Dad’s Wedding Anniversary today. Call or write . . . Love Bill.” (1952)
“Beverly Sharpman, Happy brthdy., Babe. Come home. Call TR7-7379. Mom & Dad” (1953)
As of 1981 the Sharpmans either still believed she was alive or were in denial about the possibility that she was gone forever. Beverly was still the beneficiary on her father’s life insurance policy.
Beverly’s parents and her older brother Bernard died without ever knowing what became of their daughter and sister after that sighting at the train station in September 1947.
Thoughts, Speculations, Etc.
When Beverly left she only packed one suitcase’s worth of clothing and as far as anyone knows she left with less than $200, which leaves me with a sense that her plan was fueled by impulsivity. She may have been struggling with the decision to leave, evidenced by the last conversation with her mother and the course registration in Philadelphia the day she vanished.
If she had an appointment to sign up for classes she may have showed up to prevent school officials from being alarmed. I don’t know what the procedure at Overbrook High was so that’s purely speculation.
At one time Beverly had aspirations to become a disc jockey and quitting her part-time job at a business in the radio field seems counterproductive to that goal. Clearly whatever her secret was, it was urgent enough to derail those objectives and of a nature that prevented her from confiding in her closest friend.
I’m curious as to whether or not Beverly was the person who sent the telegram and if any other witnesses saw her at the station. Was she alone? If she purchased a ticket and boarded a train, was there a record of her destination? The answers to these questions would generate leads and if the police investigation was thorough they probably pursued them. However; because she was considered a runaway it’s hard to say how much effort went into this mystery.
In the Philadelphia Daily News in 2008 Detective Valarie Miller-Robinson brought up the possibility that Beverly left because of an unplanned pregnancy. There is no evidence to back up this theory, but it seems as reasonable as any of the others: that she was dating someone married or of an ethnicity, social class, or gender of which her family wouldn’t approve.
Vital Statistics & Other Details
DOB: December 10, 1930
5’3″, 135 lbs., long wavy brown hair and brown eyes
She was last seen wearing earrings, black or brown shoes, nude stockings, and a gray or brown suit or dress.
Report any information to the Philadelphia Police Dept. at 209-937-8377.