The Strange Disappearance of Miss Ann Isham

May 12, 2005
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All,

The fate of this mysterious lady has intrigued everybody. What happened to her? A member of a prominent family, 50-year-old Ann Isham, nicknamed "Lizzie," probably knew others in first class aboard Titanic but no one - at least no one who survived - remembered meeting or seeing her. Even old Col. Gracie (bless his snoopy heart) whose cabin was next to hers, never noticed her coming and going from her room.

According to Col. Gracie, Ann "Lizzie" Isham:

"...is the only one of whom no survivor, so far as I can learn, is able to give any information whatsoever as to where she was or what she did on that fateful Sunday night..."

Don Lynch, in contact with her family some years ago, reported that no correspondence connected with Lizzie's death had been preserved by her loved ones. Very odd, in my opinion.

With such a dearth of information, one's imagination is permitted to run riot. Did she really board the Titanic at Cherbourg? Her ticket was used but do we know if it was really Lizzie who used it?

Did she come to some harm early in the voyage - perhaps dying in her cabin - but was never discovered by her steward/stewardess?

Did she really survive but chose to remain anonymous a la Rose "Dawson"? (Cameron detractors will hate me for that one!)

Or was Lizzie Isham just a shy person who didn't socialize much and so was never noticed by anyone, even on the night of April 14-15? Still, where WAS she while the lifeboats were going away? Was she just lost in the crowd on deck, one face among many, or did she remain in her room asleep till it was too late?

What do you all think?

Randy

isham_ae.jpg


PS) Her photographs (reproduced in the THS journal, Spring '91), reveal a who seems quiet, even bashful. I might also say, from examining the picture of her with her family (circa 1905), that she looks to be significantly overweight. This surely would have posed health problems if in the next 6 or 7 years she gained still more weight.
 
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Dave Hudson

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Apr 15, 2011
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If Col. Gracie never saw her, how did he know that her cabin was next door? For that matter, how did he even know she was aboard? This is spooky.
David
 
May 12, 2005
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David,

According to Gracie in his book, Lizzy Isham's relatives contacted him after discovering - I assume through the White Star Line - that his cabin was near her's. Her family was hoping for closure by learning something about Lizzy's last days and thought Gracie may have met her.

He said it hurt him to have to reply to them that he had never met his neighbor but felt sure that she had not been locked in her cabin, as they had feared. They sent a picture of Lizzie to Gracie but he said he never saw her at any time.

It is a sad and odd tale. What happened to that poor lady, I guess will never be known. For myself, I can't help but wonder that something weird happened to her.

Randy
 
Jan 22, 2001
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Randy,

This is a newspaper story I found in the book "Titanic Extra". No names are given, but it concerns a steward who went to one of the first cabin passengers - a woman - and told her to dress and put on her life preserver. She laughed "if that little bump is all that has happened, I'll stay right here" "Madam, replied the steward, "My orders are to tell you to dress and put on a life preserver". "My orders to myself are to get back into bed and go to sleep again" said the woman and she did. She paid for it with her life.

As with a lot of the newspaper stories of that time, it's hard to know whether or not to believe this, but it may be a clue. If you are interested, I can look up the exact source for you.

Carole
 
May 12, 2005
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Thanks Carole,

Does the article give the name of the steward or mention any other details? I have the feeling that many people must have had the reaction that this woman did but soon thought better of it!

Randy
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Carole,

That's interesting information. Ann Isham's bedroom steward would have been Cullen, same as Col. Gracie's, next door. As Cullen was one of the relativley few 1st class bedroom stewards who survived, it seems possible that the steward in question was Cullen, and that the lady to whom he was referring was indeed Miss Isham.

However, if this was merely a passing steward, rather than her actual bedroom steward, the story seems less plausible.

If Cullen ever wrote an account, I would be surprised if he didn't mention Miss Isham.

Regards,
Ben
 
Jan 22, 2001
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Randy and Ben,

This story appeared in the New York Herald of April 19, 1912 on page 2. It was part of an article by May Birkhead, a Carpathia passenger who interviewed survivors. She said that the story was told to her by a steward, but did not mention any names. The quote I gave you before was all that was said.

The words that caught my eye were that she was a first class passenger and that she paid with her life. The steward seemed to be talking about a woman who was alone. Mrs. Allison and Mrs. Straus were with their husbands, and Edith Evans was with her friends and Archibald Gracie, so she is the only one left.

Another thing - she knew Emily Ryerson, and even though Mrs. Ryerson rarely left her room, I wonder if she ever saw or spoke with Miss Isham.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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True enough, Tracy, but as you well know, the human capacity for self-deception is boundless. The expression of disbelief this woman made to the steward was all too common that night.

Cordially,
Michael H. Standart
 
May 5, 2001
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You'd think that the ever increasing list of the ship would have opened this woman's eyes...

Hello Tracy...perhaps it did...after it was too late to do any good...sadly

Regrets and regards,
Bill
 

Dave Hudson

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Apr 15, 2011
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Let's remember that the New York Herald story is quite possibly not true. Most stories during those first weeks were unsubstantiated rumors that were usually made up by the press. Early 20th century journalism reeked with the stench of sensationalism. Even if it was true, how did they know that the woman died if they didn't know her name? She could have been any single 1st Class lady who was a bit slower to the boats. There's no reason to believe she died.
David
 
May 12, 2005
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David,

Caution is wise of course when reading any early Titanic tales but as to the article Carole mentions, it is not stated that the woman's name was unknown, it is simply that it was not mentioned. If indeed the unidentified first class steward made such a remark he PROBABLY did know the lady passenger's name or else he would not have stated that she had died. He was only being discreet in not mentioning her name. There of course would need to be, in a story of this type, some further verification which someday may - or may not - come.

One thing to speculate on - indeed that is all we can do at this point - is that if Gracie was right that his cabin and other cabins were locked when he returned at one point and if we then ASSUME Cullen (or whomever the steward was) was referring to Isham in the story related regarding her early refusal to leave her room, then the case could be made that she MIGHT HAVE eventually been locked in her room.

I'm not sure if that means, if this was the case, that she was then unable to let herself out but it could be that if locked from the outside, the door could not be opened from the inside. This COULD happen. I've seen old hotel doors with outside locks (though they no longer worked).

Randy
 
May 12, 2005
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PS) I vaguely recall a story of a lady passenger who returned to her room to get some valuables during the sinking and heard a key turning in the door-lock. She had rightly guessed that it was a steward securing the cabin. She screamed, the steward let her out, and she rushed on deck empty-handed. Does anyone else recall this story? Was the lady or the steward identified?
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Randy and Kyrila,

I believe you are both referring to Victorine Chaudanson, the Ryerson Maid. The steward has never been identified, although my guess is Walter Bishop, Arthur and Emily's bedroom steward.

Another passenger (never identified) WAS actaully locked in his cabin. Norris Williams had to break the door down to free him. A passing steward, opposed to Williams' use of force, reprimanded him for doing so.

Hope this helps,

Ben
 
May 12, 2005
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Ben & Kyrila,

Thanks. I really do see it is at least no longer a far-fetched possibility that Lizzie Isham was inadvertently locked in her room. The only way to make sure is to find if steward Cullen ever gave a more detailed account. Surely, as has been pointed out, if he ever gave his full story, he must have mentioned Isham.

Randy
 
Dec 7, 2000
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Although locking of doors is a possibility, I'm sure this did not happen. No such story was reported at all, and Anne would have been the only one locked. Her cabin was close to a lot of people, Maréchal in C47 was one of them - right next door.

I have no doubt (or proof either) that her family would have contacted such people as Cullen and Maréchal to learn more. Perhaps even other people close by in C53 and C45 - who knows. However as stated by Randy, the family has not got any of the correspondence, so we'll never know whom they contacted and what those people said.

I agree that Cullen would have been her steward and no doubt would have known whether she was on board, in C49 (what if she switched rooms?).

Strange that Gracie never thought of contacting Cullen regarding her. If Cullen was not her steward, then Faulkner would have been, and he survived as well. He does have an account and other Titanic researchers would have seen it, and if he mentioned being in charge of Anne, then we'd know that he mentioned her. However I have my bet on Cullen being the steward in charge of her cabin.
 

Ben Holme

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Feb 11, 2001
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Hi Daniel,

>>Although locking of doors is a possibilty, I'm sure this did not happen. No such story was reported at all, and Anne would have been the only one locked.<<

I'm a little confused. Do you mean that no such cases were reported in regards to the locality of Ann Isham's cabin i.e. forward on C-deck? I have cited two examples of "near misses" concerning locked doors elsewhere in first class which undoubtedly took place.

I agee about the likelihood of Isham's family having contacted other survivors who occpied nearby cabins.

I haven't seen Faulkner's account, but I suppose it could be him. It would be interesting to know the "barrier" locations between the bedroom steward's assigned areas were.

Does anyone know which C-deck cabin Howard B. Case moved after he transfered from E-deck? His bedroom steward was Faulkner. I'd be interested to know how far away Case was from Isham.

All the best,

Ben
 

Kyrila Scully

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Apr 15, 2001
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Ben,
I have read those "near misses" accounts you wrote about as well. I have over 50 books about Titanic, so I can't readily recall where I read it, but I know you're correct about them.

Kyrila