The Trail Went Cold – Episode 6 – Laureen Rahn

April 26, 1980. Manchester, New Hampshire. Judith Rahn goes out of town, leaving her 14-year old daughter, Laureen, alone at their apartment. When Judith returns home late that night, she discovers that one of Laureen’s friends is sleeping in her bed, but Laureen herself is missing without explanation. Over the next few years, there would be several strange leads to suggest that Laureen somehow wound up in California, including some unexplained calls on Judith’s phone bill and an unlikely connection to a notable porn star. Each clue in this case seems to be a piece of a large jigsaw puzzle which doesn’t quite fit together. Join me for a new episode of “The Trail Went Cold”, as I attempt to analyze the truly bizarre unsolved disappearance of Laureen Rahn

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

24 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 6 – Laureen Rahn

  • What if the unscrewing light bulbs was a way not to get caught drinking? You don’t know when your Mom or possibly someone else may drop in? So when some one gets there they would be fumbling in the dark trying to get upstairs so would buy you some more time to clean up.

    Thanks, keep up good work!

    • Thanks. That’s an interesting theory, but if the kids were the ones who unscrewed the light bulbs, I don’t why Laureen’s friends wouldn’t have admitted it (unless they were withholding information, of course).

      • My thought about the unscrewed light bulbs, the abductors unscrewed them, that way if anyone had heard a commotion and looked out either their peep hole or opened the door to take a peek they wouldn’t be able to see anyone.

        Second thought they thought they heard people talking outside, what if that was two perpetrators unscrewing the bulbs?

        Third person sitting outside sees the boy leave from the back door. The people inside the building come back out he points out the kid just left, if we knock on the door she may think it’s just him returning and she opens the door?

        Or the unscrewed lights were so she couldn’t see them if they knock on the door, they fled through the back because it was just quicker with less chance of being seen.

        Did anyone know her mom would be gone? That might be a good place to start. Someone the mom, best friend, tennis player or the guy friend? Any shady characters, any linked to that “Dr”?

        • That is a good theory about the light bulbs and the most logical explanation for why someone would do that before an abduction. The only part which doesn’t make much sense is why they’d bother unscrewing the light bulbs on all three floors if their intention was to abduct Laureen. That’s the one reason I wonder if the light bulbs are just a big red herring and possibly a stupid prank done by someone with no connection to the disappearance.

  • 1. Loved the intro segment. I had never heard of this case before and after the intro I was hooked and wanted to listen to the rest of the podcast.

    2. This has been my favorite episode so far. The whole thing is so damn mysterious, and the only details we have are creepy as hell. It felt like an audio version of an old UM episode.

    3. Can’t wait for the next episode. Good work!

  • Okay. Here’s my theory.

    I think you might have tossed the runaway theory too quickly. Two things make me think that this was a runaway, that was very clumsily but somehow successfully made to look like a kidnapping by a group of teenagers who shut up when they realized they were way in over their heads.

    First, the light bulbs. It seems like a bunch of 1980’s teenagers would totally go with this as something that would happen in a kidnapping. It’s way, way too obviously horror movie for a professional to do, and it’s too weird to be unrelated.

    Second, the friend sleeping over. Why would Laureen be sleelping on the couch and her friend be on her bed? What if they thought that Laureen’s mother would just think that it was Laureen sleeping in the bed, and not investigate? That would buy Laureen more time before authorities were called, time to get wherever she felt she should be going. Maybe the friend thought she could wake up and sneak out before the mother would wake up herself, maybe she fell asleep inadvertently while pretending to be asleep, who knows.

    Why no stuff taken? The plan of someone who had seen this in movies. Of course she wouldn’t take anything, then it would be obvious that she ran away. Maybe someone got her a few things, maybe she squirreled some things away for the trip.

    Why fake a kidnapping? Laureen was going somewhere she was not supposed to go. I could see a fourteen year old thinking that it would be easy to fake being missing, say you never saw the kidnappers, etc. It’s a naive way to avoid trouble.

    So where was Laureen going? That I don’t know. Bad news boyfriend, to find missing father, who knows. But something went wrong at that point. And everyone who helped her decided to shut up or else they would be in trouble.


    • Interesting theory. It seems like a pretty sophisticated plan for a group of teenagers, but it doesn’t many any less sense than most of the other theories out there. I wish I knew the truth about what time Laureen’s mother actually called the police to report her missing since one source made it sound like it was the morning, but the other said it was 3:45 AM. I’m not sure what would suddenly make Judith check her daughter’s bed at that time of night (since she apparently arrived home a few hours earlier around midnight). But this would explain why Laureen’s female friend would be so brazen as to stay behind and sleep in her bed if she knew something about the disappearance.

      • It’s not sophisiticated, it’s cinematic. Dramatic. It seems like something you’d see in a movie, which a bunch a teenagers can think like. I might be wrong, but the light bulb seems like such a teenager thing to do, and I went from there.

  • There are so many obvious leads that weren’t followed up on. Did the police ask the motel who was staying in the room when the call was made from there to Judith Rahn? What about the same for the motel that the person called? And then the silent phone calls that her mother received — wouldn’t it be a simple matter to look at phone records and see who made them? Why don’t we know what they found out from that?

    In general there seems to be very slim evidence of foul play, on the surface. No struggle from within the house, and no ransom note or any other contact. The calls made to Judith Rahn sound a lot more like someone on the lam who misses home wanting to hear her family’s voice than someone taunting them.

    To get into some speculation … I’ve heard of pornographers luring girls into their industry by a bait-and-switch scam by which they tell her they’ll get her a job as an actress in the movies, and then when the girl gets to Hollywood they tell her, “Oh, sorry, we don’t have any positions for that right now, but if you want to work as a porn star for a while we’ll let you know as soon as something opens up.” That could very easily have happened, which would account for her possibly calling the doctor’s hotline. And even though most pornography is legal, it’s one of those things that’s so close to the edge of the civilized world that it’s very easy to end up very quickly in some really bad stuff if you aren’t careful.

    If she had worked in the pornography industry, and maybe came from a conservative family, it seems entirely plausible she would be ashamed to come home, but wanted to hear their voices during the holiday season, so she called and said nothing. In any case, if she were being held captive somewhere and made those calls, she would certainly have said, “HELP I’M KIDNAPPED!” which she obviously didn’t.

    I guess the main thing I find odd is the lightbulbs being unscrewed. That has to be connected, but I can’t fit it in, except as the other commenter posted, that maybe it was because they were drinking alcohol. I definitely don’t take those kids’ word at face value, and I wonder if maybe the boyfriend committed suicide because he lied to the police about what happened that night. They might have been covering up for her to get away, and didn’t realize at the time how much danger she really was in.

    I think on the whole she’s probably still alive, out there somewhere, afraid to come home after working in pornography. Or maybe she has already come home, and her family didn’t tell anyone because they wanted to preserve her reputation. That would also explain a lot of the holes in this story.

    Anyway, great story!

  • Hang on a second. Laureen’s mother moved out of state and changed her phone number even though she was still getting phone calls around the holidays that might be from her missing daughter? That seems extremely unlikely. I’ve heard of families with missing children staying in the same house and keeping the same number for the rest of their lives hoping their child would come home, and being afraid that if they changed anything their child wouldn’t know where to find them. I’ve even heard of parents keeping a kid’s phone bill paid up for years after he disappeared, just in case he might boot up his phone and want to call them.

    I’ve never heard of someone just leaving their home like that, especially when their child might be trying to contact them.

    But what that does look like to me is that maybe Laureen came home, and her family moved out of state so she wouldn’t have to be asked where she’d been for so many years. If she’d been making porn movies, and wanted to leave that behind her, the best way to do that would be for her family to move across the country and start over, which they seem to have done.

    That would also explain all the promising leads in this story that were never explored, because her family has long since stopped looking for her and just left the case the way it was when she came back.

    What do you guys think of that idea?

    • Thanks for your analysis, TWC Fan. But I’m not sure Laureen’s family has stopped looking for her. In this article from 2008, Judith is interviewed and was actually desperate enough to consult a psychic in order to find her daughter:

      And in this article from 2013, Laureen’s sister is interviewed. It looks like she never moved and still lives in Manchester:

      Unless these interviewers are just for show, it sounds like they’re still actively looking for Laureen. I have no idea why Judith moved to Florida, but back in the 1980s, I don’t think you were able to maintain the same phone # if you moved to another state. I’d love to you know if someone else got Judith’s old # and started receiving these mysterious calls after she left.

  • My thought on the phone calls were that they were just an unfortunate coincidence. In this day and age of modern technology I’ve experienced charges on credit cards and other bills that were nothing more than operator error somewhere along the line. In 1980 I can see something somewhere being a digit off and resulting in the bill being applied incorrectly. This could have led investigators down a rabbit hole. The question the other poster posed about inquiring with the motels is a very good one.

  • For some reason my mind keeps going back to the boy/male friend that was with Laureen and her female friend on the evening she disappeared. Did the police just take his word for it? Was he investigated properly ? He was the last person to see Laureen and they just believed what he told them about Laureen locking the door behind him? I also find it very suspicious that he commited suicide 5 years later. The female friend last saw Laureen sleeping on the couch, what if the boy came back and knocked on the backdoor? she would have gotten up to open the door for him and maybe she stepped outside to have a talk with him…or he could have tried to kiss her and maybe she didn’t want him to and during a struggle he could have fataly hurt her. I wonder why they did not see him as a person of interest.

    B.t.w. I love your podcasts so keep up the good work !

    • Thanks for liking the podcast. I do agree that I still find this male friend sketchy and am surprised he was eliminated as a suspect so easily. This is just one of the many elements of this case where I’m just itching to learn more specific details about his story.

  • I’ve always wanted to know exactly how much drinking went on that day in the apartment. Underage drinking is illegal and inappropriate either way, but there’s a difference between three teenagers sneaking a few beers out of the fridge and them consuming mass quantities of straight-up liquor and getting severely drunk. If it was the closer to the latter, then it would come as no big surprise that the friend had no idea where Laureen was as she would have been too impaired to remember anything.

    I get what I call an “Amy Billig vibe” about Laureen. I think that although her Charley Project file describes her as a good student who wanted to pursue acting, I think she may have been more street-wise and rebellious than we’re being told. It would be interesting to know if Judith ever knew her daughter to experiment with drugs or alcohol or if she knew the male friend who committed suicide. For all we know, Laureen could have done similar things before and was so good at covering her tracks that her mother never suspected a thing. Just because she was a good student doesn’t mean she wasn’t hanging around with a bad crowd. I think I read somewhere (can’t for the life of me remember where) that the boy who committed suicide was 19 at the time of Laureen’s disappearance. If so, it’s possible that Judith knew nothing about him as she may have had an understandable problem with a 19-year-old hanging around her 14-year-old daughter.

    • Interestingly, I uncovered this old Reddit post from someone claiming to be the daughter of Laureen’s friend. She said that a lot of the details about the case published online are inaccurate and that there were actually two male friends who visited the apartment that night, one 18 and the other 21. Apparently, one of them worked at a liquor store and provided the beer they drank that night:

      I have no idea if any of this is true, as this person never posted again, but it does answer some of the questions you have.

      • Thank you. That was where I read about one of the boys being 18.

        Another aspect of the case listed on the Charley Project that leaves me itching for more info is this statement:

        “One of Laureen’s family members reported seeing a girl matching her description in a Boston, Massachusetts bus terminal in 1981.”

        Like the part about the phone call to the childhood friend, I want to say “And?!?”. The wording implies that this family member never actually talked to this girl to find out if she was indeed Laureen. Why? Was the terminal too crowded? Was the girl already boarding the bus when this relative saw her? I’ve seen a few missing persons cases in which the victim (or someone who looked like them) was allegedly seen in public somewhere but someone who knew them, but the witness apparently never approached the person for some reason to find out for sure if it was their missing loved one. I never understood this, especially in cases like this where (I’m assuming) this relative ALREADY KNEW Laureen was missing.

  • Quick theory about the late-night/early-morning phone calls: east coast 3:45 AM is west coast 12:45 AM. What if Laureen was kidnapped, and she risked making phone calls to hear her mothers voice on special occasions while her kidnapper was asleep? 12:45 AM isn’t such a crazy time of night to do so, and she never said anything in fear of her kidnapper hearing her.

  • Fair enough, but think about kidnapping cases such as the Amanda Berry case (my cousin knows her so I know a few more in-depth details than most) or the case with Elizabeth Smart. The kidnapper gets used to and almost trust his(/her) kidnappees, and after strict rule for awhile lets the guard down more and more as time goes by. Initially phone access is impossible, but after awhile it’s less strict than it once was – if that makes sense. Obviously if the kidnapper caught her on the phone it would be awful, but the ability to access the phone just to call home and stay silent wouldn’t, after a time, be out of the question.

  • unscrewing the light bulbs might be a teenager thing to do , but how high up were they? would they be easily reached by the girls? cant see them dragging a chair out along all three floors unscrewing light bulbs. these were young girls were they tall enough to reach them? as a teenager i often let my guest s sleep in my bed while I took the couch or the floor…

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