Two teens hitched a ride to get to a concert. They still haven’t come home after 50 years.
Mitchel Weiser and Bonnie Bickwit were last seen leaving for the famous Summer Jam at Watkins Glen in 1973. No one ever heard from them again. Even after 50 years, their family and friends still want to know what happened. On July 27, 1973, two teenagers from Brooklyn left for central New York early in the morning to go to one of the biggest rock concerts ever.
No one ever saw them again.
Or didn’t they?
Mitchel Weiser, who was 16 at the time, and Bonnie Bickwit, who was 15, went missing 50 years ago last week. They are the oldest missing-teen cases in the country.
At first, the couple was thought to be a couple of romantic runaways who would be back soon. Their fate is still unknown. After decades of mistakes and false leads by the police, investigators have come up with several ideas about what might have happened to them. Mitchel and Bonnie’s friends and families are now asking federal and state officials for the help they need to solve the coldest of cold cases. This is because new information about a possible suspect in their disappearance has come to light. Susan Weiser Liebegott, Mitchel’s sister who has been looking for him for the past 50 years, tells Rolling Stone, “We need a task force to figure out what happened to him and his girlfriend Bonnie.” “It’s the only way to solve their case, to be honest.”
“This could be our last chance to give the family and friends some justice and peace,” says Mitchel’s best friend from childhood, Stuart Karten.
The last time the couple was seen, they were leaving Camp Wel-Met, which is a popular summer camp in the Catskills. Bonnie had been going to camp for a long time, so she got a job as a parent helper at the camp. Mitchel stayed in Brooklyn because he got a great job at a photo studio there. On Thursday night, July 26, he got on a bus at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Manhattan and went to Bonnie’s camp in Narrowsburg, which is about two hours away in Sullivan County. They planned to hitchhike 150 miles northwest to get to the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Raceway for a “Summer Jam” outdoor concert. The Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers, and the Band played at the show, which is still thought to be one of the most-attended U.S. concerts ever. On Friday morning, the teens ate breakfast at the camp and then got a ride into Narrowsburg. Then, with not much money in their pockets, they stood on the side of the road with sleeping bags and a sign that said “Watkins Glen.”
Only Mitchel and Bonnie didn’t come back after going to Summer Jam. About 600,000 people went there. Rolling Stone got a letter from Martin Hollander, the national news editor for The Wall Street Journal and a friend of the Weiser family, to then-NYPD Commissioner Donald Cawley on September 4, 1973. The letter shows that the police did not do their job well. Even though the NYPD told Mitchel’s father that they would tell other police departments in the state about his son’s disappearance, they never did. Because of this, Sullivan County did not even begin an investigation.
“Valuable time was lost,” the letter said. “Also, when Mr. Weiser complained that a bulletin about his son hadn’t been sent, officers from your department were rude to him.” Cawley answered the letter and said, “An investigation has been started, and a superior officer of this department will do the work.”
There was no action after that. Weiser Liebegott says today, “That’s exactly how it was for us the whole time.”
America was different in the early 1970s. Photos of missing children on milk cartons came out after this case, but more than 10 years before it. They stopped being around decades before cell phones became popular and the Amber Alert system was set up. They had been let down by the police.
They were all by themselves.