Despite an extensive collection of evidence, the mysteries of Room 1046 of the Hotel President remains unsolved to this day.
In downtown Kansas City, at 01:20 PM on Jan 2, 1935, a single man checked into the Hotel President. Apart from a toothbrush and a comb, he had no luggage. He chose an interior room on a higher floor in the hotel. He checked in using the name Roland T. Owen. He left the hotel after checking into his room, 1046, on the 10th floor and was only seen intermittently during his stay.
Despite the man’s odd behavior, the staff paid little to no attention to it. The nature of the hotels’ tenants made it easier for the staff to not get involved in their business. However, six days later the staff was forced to pay attention to his actions when the man turned up dead. His room was a total bloodbath.
Once the police got involved, questions arose regarding his odd behavior before his death. On the 3rd of January, a day after Owen checked in, Mary Soptic, the hotel maid cleaned out the room. This occurred around 12 o’clock, a time when most of the hotel’s residents were out. Owen’s room, however, was locked on the inside.
Upon knocked, Owen opened the door. Soptic eventually entered after insisting she could come back later. The room was almost in total darkness with the only source of light being a dim table lamp. All the shades were drawn tightly.
Owen told Soptic not to lock the door on her way out as he was expecting a friend. After she agreed, he left the room.
Four hours later, Soptic returned with fresh towels to Owen’s room. The door was still unlocked from when she left it and upon entering she found Owen apparently asleep, fully clothed on top of his still-made bed. On his table, a note read: “Don, I will be back in fifteen minutes. Wait.”
The next morning, on Jan 4, around 10:30 AM, Soptic went to Room 1046 to make the beds. She found the door to be locked on the outside and assumed Owen was out. When she used the master key to let herself in, she was surprised to find Owen sitting in the dark inside. While she was cleaning, the phone rang, and Owen picked up.
“No, Don, I don’t want to eat. I am not hungry. I just had breakfast,” said Owen. He hesitated a moment and then repeated, “No. I am not hungry.”
Once he had hung up, Owen started asking Soptic questions about her job in the hotel. From asking her what rooms were provided and how many she was in charge of, to inquiring about the type of people who inhabited the place, he was thoroughly interrogative.
Soptic answered quickly until she was done cleaning and left. Once she had gone, the realization that someone had locked Owen inside dawned upon her seeing how the door was locked on the outside.
Soptic returned later that day with a supply of fresh towels and upon knocking she heard two voices inside. As she announced herself, a deep voice answered and asked her to leave on account of having “enough towels.”
Soptic knew that she had removed all the towels from the room earlier, but she let the two men be. That afternoon, two more guests checked into Hotel President. Their presence would later contribute significantly to the mystery of room 1046.
Jean Owen was one of the two guests (unrelated to Roland). She had dropped by Kansas City to meet her boyfriend and decided to stay the night in a hotel rather than drive all the way to her hometown. Jean Owen was given room 1048, the one right next door to Roland.
According to police statements, that night she heard a repeated commotion.
In her statement, she said, “I heard a lot of noise which sounded like it (was) on the same floor, and consisted largely of men and women talking loudly and cursing. When the noise continued, I was about to call the desk clerk but decided not to.”
The other guest was not a guest at all but a “commercial woman” as described by the bellhop. She would often frequent the rooms of male patrons late at night. She came on the evening of Jan. 4, in search of a man in room 1026.
Despite being a “very prompt” customer, she could not locate the man she was in search of. After looking over the hotel for an hour, she left.
The following morning, the hotel’s telephone operator called the bellhop about the phone in room 1046. It had been off the hook for ten minutes without being in use. When the bellhop went to check up on Owen, he found the door locked and a “do not disturb” sign hanging on the doorknob.
Upon knocking on the door, Owen told him to come in. The bellhop exclaimed that the door was locked but received no response. He yelled at Owen to hang up and then left.
An hour and a half later, the telephone operator called once more. Room 1046’s telephone was still off the hook. This time around the bellhop used a master key and let himself in the room.
Owen was lying naked on the bed in what appeared to be a drunken stupor. The bellhop ignored him and only fixed the telephone back on the hook. Once he left, the bellhop reported Owen to the manager.
An hour later, the telephone operator called again. The phone was off the hook once more and not in use either.
When the bellhop entered the room this time, he was greeted with a bloodbath. Owen sat in one corner of the room, his head in his hands, with multiple stab wounds. The towels and bedsheets were stained, and the walls were splattered with blood.
Owen was rushed to the hospital, and the police were called. Owen had been viciously tortured. A cord restrained his legs, arms, and neck, and his chest was stabbed multiple times. His lung was also punctured and his skull fractured. Shortly after, Roland T. Owen was pronounced dead.
The doctors found out that the injuries were sustained well before the first trip by the bellhop to the room. They also ascertained that he had attempted to call for help more than once but only managed as far as to reach the phone.
Upon investigating the room, no clothes were found. The hotel amenities such as toothpaste and soap were gone too alongside anything that may have been the murder weapon. Detectives found four small fingerprints on the telephone stand, but they were never identified.
Moreover, Roland T. Owen appeared to have never existed. No records of any man by the name living in the U.S. were found. The next couple of months saw multiple people identifying the body to be that of a loved one, but none of the descriptions stuck.
By then it was a cold case, and a small funeral was arranged. This was when a bouquet of flowers and a donation to cover the funeral costs showed up at the funeral home. It was accompanied by a letter which read: “Love forever– Lucille.”
The case remains unsolved to this day. It appears as if the mystery of room 1046 will never be solved.