Behind the Hotel Door
What really happened to Roland T. Owen?
The Bizarre Mystery of Room 1046
All hotel walls keep secrets...right?
For the President Hotel, only the aging wallpaper can tell us the true story of what happened to Roland T. Owen in room 1046.
To begin analyzing this case, we need to rewind back to the President Hotel in 1935. At this time, Kansas City, Missouri experienced one of the nation's most unsettling true crime mysteries, leaving investigators with vague interpretations of this gruesome scenario to this day.
Roland T. Owen, who was described as a young man in his twenties, checked into this hotel on Wednesday, January 2nd. From the get go, his entrace was quite odd. He carried no suitcases or bags for staying at the hotel, and was reported to have only a few items in his pockets. Once Roland was checked into 1046, he ended up leaving to eventually return later on that day.
When maid services entered room 1046, they noted that Roland kept the environment extremely dark and very dimly lit. He seemed anxious and they picked up an eerie vibe from him, even though they decided not to question it. During this first visit, the only thing Roland requested was for the maids to leave the door unlocked for when company came to visit. However, Roland's strange mannerisms didn't cease.
Neighbors to the room mentioned that they overheard arguments in 1046 at one point, with some people saying that they saw a fancy woman wandering around. Apparently, this woman was asking around for a similar room number, but no further details were able to be recovered. Service staff noted that other men were in the room with Roland at some point, answering "no" to the maid when they inquired about fresh towels. All of these mysterious visitors were never able to be fully described, and its unclear of their full connection to Roland.
During his stay, maids that came to clean the room noticed he would lay on the bed fully clothed in the same dark conditions. When they walked in on Roland sitting in a chair, he answered a phone call to someone named "Dawn." This phone call consisted of Roland insisting to someone that he had eaten breakfast and that he was fine, but no one knew who exactly he was talking to. Other weird encounters that Roland displayed with hotel staff included him being fully naked in bed with a strange liquid around him (presumbly blood) and even asking for the bell boy to turn on the light when he entered. The hotel staff noticed that this room's phone was unhooked multiple times, yet when they went to check on him, they still let this behavior go unnoticed.
After having complaints of the phone being unhooked multiple times from Roland's room, one last bell boy was sent to check in on him. Unfortunately, this check-in proved to be a horrible sight. Roland was found in a ghastly condition, with stab wounds and intense bruises around his neck. When taken to the hospital, he was able to answer their questions but avoided sharing who did this to him. Instead, Roland claimed he fell in the tub. Sadly, Roland passed away at the hospital and was almost buried in a potter's plot until an anonymous donor paid for his funeral in full.
Eventually, when Roland's mother found out later down the line, it was revealed that his true name was Artemus Ogletree. In fact, he wasn't even in his twenties at all. Artemus was only 17 years old.
Abnormal is an understatement when it comes to describing the case of Roland Owen. Firstly, Roland isn't even his real identity! This alias may have been used to hide from someone specific, or even multiple people. But the answers are still unclear.
Fingerprints in the hotel room could only identify a potential female suspect, but nothing else substantial could be added to the evidence. Unknown letters postmarked from all over the country were even sent to Artemus' mom after his death, all posing as him. None of these findings even began to make sense, and there are still many gaps in the story.
Who were the men in the room with him?
What was the woman doing there?
Why was Artemus targeted?
Was this a secret love affair gone wrong?
𝟷. 𝚁𝚘𝚕𝚊𝚗𝚍 𝚘𝚛 𝙰𝚛𝚝𝚎𝚖𝚞𝚜?
The fake name that Artemus used to check into the hotel is simply mystifying to me. This is a red flag for trouble ahead, as there can be multiple reasons to explain why he had done this. The first thoughts that came to my mind were gang affiliation or other crime related activities. If Artemus was in trouble, this could explain the fake name and horrendous condition he was left in at the end.
Maybe he was in hiding? Did he just make the wrong person in his sea of connections angry?
Those are my burning questions.
Thus, this idea of Artemus being heavily involved in crime could be plausible for those reasons. What really ties in this theory are two major details of the case: 1) the generous donors for his funeral, and 2) the letters that arrived to his mother posthumously. Why would someone pay for his burial, if this was simply a murder? Also, who is trying to cover up Artemus' passing to his family by pretending to be him?
𝟸. 𝙳𝚊𝚠𝚗 𝚘𝚛 𝙳𝚘𝚗?
If Artemus was not a criminal, then he may have had a love affair with someone named "Dawn" or "Don." Ultimately, this partner may have actually been a male figure. Yet, no recorded data tells us whether or not this was true.
If this case lied outside the realm of crime involvement, Roland may have been hiding an affair with a gentleman behind closed doors. During the early 1900's, identifying as anything within the LGBTQ spectrum was extremely dangerous. The public was unaccepting of this love, which put this community at constant risk of backlash or targeted violence. This theory could align with the man visiting the room, and the wandering woman (possibly being a suitor's wife) who found out about this incident occuring.
Artemus may have felt the need to conceal such a heavy secret about his love interests, which is why he kept the room hidden away in the dark. It would explain his constant anxiety, and the muffled interactions he had with hotel staff. Being seen as gay could be met with serious consequences back in this time period, and sadly may have been why he was ultimately killed.
While I don't know if this really happened to Artemus, I can only guess based on the foggy details left behind. Regardless, his case is still a complete true crime mystery.