Twenty-four year old Samuel Arthur Todd, known to friends as Sam, had been
spending the weekend with his brother Adam and visiting two friends who lived in a loft in New York City's Chinatown. Sam stepped outside of a New Year's party on January 1, 1984 and never came back.
One of the friends was Heather Dune MacAdam, who wrote about Todd's disappearance for the New York Times in 2002:
"We had not planned to have a New Year's Eve party to celebrate the advent of 1984. Instead, our plan was to go to other people's parties and leave our tracks all over downtown Manhattan. Then people started stopping by, expecting something, and so spontaneously we combusted. We were an eclectic group of geeks and artists, Vassar grads commingled with dropouts, summa cum laudes with experimental artists, all bound by the thrill of the night. It was our chance to usher in a year we had waited for ever since George Orwell's futuristic novel had become required reading in high school. We had ranted -- no, raved -- about the arrival of this year, touting it for its promise, as if 1984 was guaranteed to be a wonder marked on memory's calendar."The group headed to a New Year's Eve party at 271 Mulberry Street. At about 1:30 a.m., Samuel Todd, who was intoxicated, complained that his head was spinning. Adam told the New York Times that his brother appeared "unstable," so he suggested they go out for some air. The brothers went down the two flights of stairs together to the street. According to the paper, "Samuel Todd refused his brother's offer to go farther with him and began jogging the half block to Houston Street. 'He gave me a funny look as if to say he was O.K. and didn't need to be taken care of,' Adam Todd said. 'Then he started jogging slowly. He was making a strong effort to get back in shape.'" Samuel Todd was an avid runner, so it would not have been usual for him to jog.
Adam Todd went back to the party, but quickly became concerned when his brother did not return. His friends joined him searching the streets for Todd throughout the morning and calling his name.
According to MacAdam, they thought Todd had just headed over to another party. Soon their "search became tinged with strangeness as disbelief gave way to the possibility that something might actually have happened to our friend. It was cold, and he had left the party without even a coat and with no money in his pockets. Desperation crept upon us with the dawn."
The next day, the police were called in, but no trace of Samuel Todd has ever been found.
The Search for Samuel Todd
Alarm bells immediately went off for Sam's friends and family because he was not the type to disappear. Sam had received his undergraduate degree from Vassar in 1981 and at the time of his disappearance was about to enter his final term as a graduate student at Yale Divinity School. According to the school, he had passed the first round of Presbyterian ordination qualifying exams just two months before he disappeared; he planned to be ordained into the Presbyterian church.
Sam appeared to be following in his father's footsteps. George Todd was also a graduate of Yale Divinity School. He was a Presbyterian minister and former director for Urban Mission at the World Council of Churches.
Sam was a strong advocate for social justice in his own right. He volunteered in a soup kitchen, worked at a food bank, organized peace demonstrations and also a faith-based conference. While at Vassar, he had spent a summer in Kenya where he "met church leaders participating in national development and pressuring the government to work for more equal distribution of wealth." That same summer, he also worked as a teacher in Zimbabwe, helping teenagers who were former liberation fighters catch up in school.
Soon after Sam went missing, his friends flocked to Manhattan in cars and chartered buses. Street-by-street searches were conducted by Yale Divinity School students, faculty and friends, and Todd's face and story became a prominent addtion to the New York City Police Department's Missing Persons list and articles in the New York Times. Adam searched shelters, believing his brother would turn up there.
According to MacAdam, "The police dragged the rivers, then waited for spring. We continued checking out soup kitchens, homeless shelters, the Bowery. The newspapers said that 14,000 missing-person fliers had been disseminated around the city. Our hearts gave out long before our feet."
Several possible sightings of Sam Todd were reported after his disappearance. Someone, in fact, believed he had seen Sam in a soup kitchen. Several others reported seeing him wandering the streets in a disoriented state. Another person reported seeing Todd washing car windows on the streets of Greenwich Village. Speculation quickly emerged that Todd had amnesia.
Yet, nothing has turned up.
About every three months, the long-term case team of the New York Police Department runs computer searches through the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, searching for anything could be close to the case.
Yale Divinity School established a scholarship in Sam Todd's honor, "aimed at providing financial aid to students from Africa or Asia who show an interest in ministries committed to social justice, empowerment of people and peace.
If you have any information concerning Samuel Todd, please contact the New York City Police Department, 1-212-694-7781.
Name/age: Samuel Todd, 24
Date of Birth: June 12, 1959
Physical Description: 5'11; 135 pounds, light brown hair, blue eyes, eyeglasses
Last seen: 1/1/84 near Mulberry Street and Houston Street, Manhattan, NY
Marks, Scars: Two small scars on cheek near left eye.
Clothing: Last seen wearing a dark blue sweatshirt with a circular emblem of Ecolint Geneve stitched across the front; blue jeans; blue running shoes; and dark-framed horn-rimmed eyeglasses.
Posted 9/27/09. Updated: 11/02/12.