A DNA test has debunked the hoax that a Detroit woman inexplicably orchestrated in the 1940s when she claimed to be a Titanic survivor.
The fate of little Loraine Allison was long considered the last mystery of the Titanic by researchers of the tragic 1912 sinking that killed more than 1,500 passengers. As the story goes, 2-year-old Allison boarded the Titanic with her wealthy parents, Hudson and Bess, and baby brother Trevor. The family was presumed dead, but the bodies of Bess and Loraine were never recovered from the icy waters of the North Atlantic.
As Titanic historians told it, Bess Allison and daughter Loraine were almost saved.
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"Mrs. Allison could have got away in perfect safety, but she dragged Loraine out of the boat when she was told that her husband was in another boat on the opposite side of the deck," the Montreal Daily Star wrote in a piece documenting the 100-year anniversary of the sinking. "Apparently she reached the other side to find that Mr. Allison was not there."
At that point, all the other lifeboats were reportedly gone, leaving Bess and Loraine to drown.
But the story was challenged in 1940, when a Detroit woman named Helen Loraine Kramer came forward claiming to be little Loraine Allison.
She said she survived after being placed in a lifeboat with a man called "Mr. Hyde" who later raised her in Britain. Kramer claimed that, on his deathbed, Mr. Hyde revealed that he was really Thomas Andrews, the famed naval architect of the doomed ship.
Kramer later died in 1992.
"The story just gets more fantastical," Tracy Oost, a forensic scientist at Laurentian University in Sudbury, told the Ottawa Citizen
. "Consequently, I don’t think a lot of people really believed it."
"Despite that, it’s persisted since 1940. People want to believe that a sweet little girl didn’t die on the Titanic, just like people want to believe a czarina wasn’t brutally murdered with her family," she said, referencing Anna Anderson, the imposter who claimed to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia in the 1920s.
But the story was labeled a hoax in December when a DNA test revealed that Kramer is not little Loraine Allison. The test was completed with samples from Kramer's granddaughters and Bess Allison's grandniece, according to the Citizen.
"The big mystery that still exists is, who exactly was she? We have no idea why she tried to make this claim," Oost, who launched the Lorraine Allison Identification Project in 2012, told the Citizen.
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