The Disappearance Of Ernest Worsley

In 1912, roller skater Ernest Worsley took to the ice to compete in the pairs event at the World Figure Skating Championships in his hometown of Manchester, England. His future wife and partner on both ice and rollers was Lois Eugenie Norah Lovett, the daughter of the rector of St. Werburgh's church in Chorlton-cum-Hardy. 

Lois and Ernest Worsley

After acting as the first secretary-manager of the Manchester Ice Palace, Ernest travelled overseas to North America. After a stint in Quebec, he managed the rink of the New Haven Skating Club at the time of the event that is now recognized as the first U.S. Figure Skating Championships. He was back in Great Britain just in time for the outbreak of The Great War.

On March 26, 1915, thirty-two year old Ernest left his home at 18 Cavendish-road in the Manchester suburb of Chorlton-cum-Hardy to go to his job as a chemical engineer and seemingly vanished into thin air.

Lois and Ernest's families filed a missing persons report, put up posters and alerted friends in Bradford, London, Liverpool, Leeds, Preston and Lancaster to be on the look-out. An article from the "Liverpool Echo" noted that he "recently suffered from a loss of memory, the result of a serious illness, and it is of interest to note that this forgetfulness takes a form that has become fairly familiar among those who have been studying the effects of high explosives during the war. It is feared that after he left home he had a further attack of loss of memory. To strangers, however, he will appear quite rational." 

The "chemical preparation of great intensity" he was working with was a formula submitted to the War Office, to be used in explosive shells on the front lines in Europe. The "Manchester Evening News" reported, "The symptoms of the malady from which Mr. Worsley suffered before he left Manchester resemble closely those which have been noted in the soldiers who have come from the battle front in France affected by fumes from German shells, and it is believed that his experiments have been responsible for this illness, but he had apparently recovered before he left Manchester, and to all appearances his condition was normal."

There were numerous possible sightings of Ernest in the days after his disappearance. He was first spotted in Shrewsbury, nearly two hours from Manchester, on April 3. Someone else thought they recognized him in Wrexham on April 4 - Easter Sunday. When approached and asked what he was doing in the area, he said he was on his way to Wales to go on a walking tour.

Just as mysteriously as he disappeared, Ernest re-appeared. A vague newspaper article from the April 12, 1915 issue of the "Manchester Evening News" reported that he had "returned home from Worcester. He had been working hard on experiments with explosives and was suffering from overstrain, but is now better." 

The circumstances of Ernest's disappearance and how he spent over a week in Wartime Britain in the spring of 1915 are murky at best, but by that fall he was back doing what he loved - skating an exhibition with his wife and Ethel Muckelt on a frozen pond in Belle Vue. Sadly, he passed away on August 12, 1919 in Bombay, India at the age of forty-one, in the height of the Spanish flu pandemic.

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