Patch Blog: 'Murder' at the Rialto Theater

A prank or a real story? You decide.

Long-time San Marino resident Andrew Campbell reflects on an odd, memorable moment in local history.

It was 1940 and a hot summer’s day in South Pasadena. School was out for the summer. Kids were on the loose with nothing to do. There were no computer games, no smart phones, and no Facebook.

The best thing to do was to see the double feature playing at the Rialto Theater in South Pasadena.

It was a Saturday afternoon and the matinee was on. There was an intermission after the first movie when members of the audience came out of the theater to get some fresh air on the sidewalk before the second feature started.

Suddenly, a long black Packard limo screeched to a stop at the curb. Two muscular men in black suits got out of the car. They opened the back door, pulled out a body and dragged it up onto the sidewalk. The face was covered with blood.

Then, the two men got back in the limo and drove off with a roar of the engine and screech of the tires.

The crowd was stunned. They stepped back. Someone screamed.

Within a few seconds, the craziest thing happened. Another car arrived on the scene and skidded to a stop at the curb. Two men got out, lifted up the very same body from the sidewalk, and loaded it into the back of that car. The car roared off.

This was a mystery for some time in our local community 70 years ago. No one could remember anything about either car: Not the license plates or even a description of the men. They had all looked alike somehow.  No one remembered anything, except seeing the body being dumped and being picked up again. It was kind of like a passenger had just changed buses.

I was in high school at the time and so I had my own ideas. The only Packard limo I knew about belonged to a wealthy classmate of mine, Bob, a real “cut up” in school. He had also been involved with other more aggressive students in various pranks. If I were the prosecution, I would have gone straight to him.

The South Pasadena Police, however, did not see this as a prank and were not at all amused. To them, this was a serious crime. We students knew the truth of the whole thing and who carried this one off. What we never knew for sure, however, was how the whole police investigation ended.

Were you living in the area when this mysterious incident occurred or have you ever heard about it? What do you make of this odd moment in history?

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lance Davis March 30, 2012 at 03:24 PM
An Off Off Broadway theater in NY did the same stunt for their audiences as they came out. Back in the 70s. Part of their show.
Ron Rosen April 01, 2012 at 12:37 PM
I had friends who did this in neighborhoods when they were in high school. They also would wait till dark, then someone would throw an orange real hard at a car's grill so they thought they had hit something. Then one of them would be lying by the side of the road and they would all be gathered around, "You hit him. You hit our friend." Then at some point, they would all, including the supposed victim, run away.


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