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Monday, December 30, 2013

Loraine Allison: Titanic Survivor or Victim?

If you have studied the Titanic for a good length of time, you have probably heard the story of the tragedy of the Allison family.  The Allisons were 1st class passengers from Canada that consisted of a father, Hudson, a mother, Bess, and two children named Loraine (2 years and 10 years old) and Trevor (11 months old).  They also traveled with their household staff including the new nanny, Alice Cleaver.  On the night the Titanic sank, the Allisons were heading for the lifeboats when Alice Cleaver who was holding Trevor got separated from the rest of the family in the crowds and got into a lifeboat.  Hudson, Bess, and Loraine died in the disaster and only Hudson’s body was recovered.  Loraine Allison has since been known as the only child in 1st class that died in the sinking and many have read their story with their hearts breaking for little Loraine whose life was cut short so early. 

Fast forward to September of 1940.  Trevor Allison had been dead for ten years after being lovingly raised by his uncle and aunt, Alice Cleaver had disappeared into obscurity, and Hudson’s money and estate were now owned by his brother and sister-in-law.  This is when a woman named Helen Loraine Kramer came into the story and overturned what seemed to be a final and sad resolution to the story by saying that she was in fact Helen Loraine Allison, the child that supposedly died on the Titanic.  When she was asked about how she survived, she told everyone that a man named Mr. James Hyde who was really the ship’s chief designer, Thomas Andrews, had survived and was paid off by J. Bruce Ismay, the president of the White Star Line, to abandon his family and live in a cabin in the middle of nowhere so that he wouldn’t talk about design flaws in the Titanic.  According to Loraine, Ismay would visit them from time to time and when she got older, Mr. Hyde told her the story of her true identity by a letter.  In 1922, she had her first son.  In 1929, Loraine married Beecher Ferguson and they had two children.  In November 10, 1934, she married Lawrence Kramer and had two more children.  After Kramer came out with these claims, she dropped back into obscurity but not without doing damage.  She not only began a lie which some still believe, she also reopened the wound caused by the tragic and unexpected deaths of Hudson, Bess, and Loraine on the Titanic.  Kramer may have genuinely believed that she really was Loraine Allison and told her daughter and granddaughter the “truth,” but it is more likely that she was just trying to cash in on the fame and get Hudson Allison’s fortune.   She died in 1992.  In the 1990s with the advent of the internet and forums, some of her descendants came and went with the same claims Kramer made. 

In April 2012, things got heated and turned the heads of many Titaniacs.  Debrina Woods, the granddaughter of Kramer, came forward on many online forums with her claims that her grandmother was telling the truth and that she had (conveniently) found a suitcase on the weekend of the 100th anniversary of the sinking with mountains of evidence to support her.  According to her sister Deanne, the suitcase has been in the family for 50 years.  Debrina also included that these papers provide this “evidence” she speaks of which would indicate foul play involving Trevor Allison’s death of food poisoning.  When people would question her about DNA evidence (something all the paperwork in the world wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans against), she would give a date when the DNA tests would be completed.  The date given came and went and we waited patiently for the results.  Finally, we began to post and ask about the tests.  She would then talk about how little money she had and how it was pushed to another date.  We patiently would wait again and still no results.  Any attempts to question the validity of her claims were shot down by her, often in a rude manner.  She also began promising a book and screenplay (supposedly with the promise of Julian Fellowes to make the movie).  By January of 2013, most people were fed up with her claims and promises unfulfilled.  She supposedly had a museum look at the documents in May with the promise of updating people on what they said.  Such a thing has never happened. 

Let’s look at the evidence, putting aside the DNA question for now.  First, we must question her story.  When you consider the possibility of her story, how was Thomas Andrews, the ship’s designer and one of the more popular figures on the ship, able to escape the Titanic, stay on the Carpathia for about a week, and get off into huge crowds undetected with Loraine whose family was waiting in that crowd?  Also, how was he able to live without at least one person recognizing him from his photo which was plastered all over the newspapers following the disaster?  That seems highly unlikely.  Furthermore, it is an insult to his name and character to suggest that he should leave his wife and young daughter along with the company his uncle owned and in which he worked since his boyhood out of greed and the wish to please one man.  It is also an insult to the name and character of Ismay (who doesn’t have a good reputation to begin with but in reality was a genuinely nice fellow and more of a hero of the Titanic disaster) that he would suggest such a thing to Andrews. 
Next, we need to look at the story of Loraine Kramer.  There is a birth certificate that says she had a child in 1922, a time when she was 13 years old if she was the real Loraine!  Of course, it is possible to have a child that young, but it very rarely happens.  Especially in 1922!  That same year, she called herself Irene Evangeline Schultz in the census records and said she was 20 years old and born in Russia. Why did she wait until 10 years after Trevor’s death to release her claims and why did she disappear back into obscurity again when things got heated and not talk about it publically for the rest of her life?  She was approached by the Titanic historian Don Lynch while she was still living and she refused to talk about it.  Only to her descendants did she make mention of it. 

It must also be pointed out that there is no evidence of foul play in regards to Trevor Allison’s death.  According to Kramer, the Allisons had Trevor killed to get his money which he was going to inherit 3 years later.  There is absolutely no evidence to support this.  Hudson’s brother (who inherited the fortune after Trevor’s death) was actually wealthier than Hudson and never used his fortune.  Also, the coroner’s suspicions were never raised.  By all accounts, he refused medical help when he got sick and stubbornly continued to refuse medical help when he got worse.  Another thing to point out is why would the Allisons spend money to raise Trevor and not kill him as quickly as possible in a non-suspicious manner if that was their plan?  I’m afraid this accusation doesn’t have a leg to stand on.
Now let’s get to the DNA.  Tracy Oost who volunteered to put to rest whether or not the DNA revealed any link between Kramer and the Allisons started the Allison Identification Project.  On December 9, 2013, Tracy released the results after comparing DNA between the Daniels (Bess Daniels Allison’s) family and samples from Debrina’s sister, Deanne.  They came back negative, proving once and for all that Helen Loraine Kramer was not in fact Helen Loraine Allison.  Debrina’s response was that she had “closer relatives.”  But the fact is that DNA doesn’t lie and it doesn’t matter.  While Debrina might have “closer relatives” to test, the relations they did use was close enough and the matter has been officially settled.  We are 100% positive that Helen Loraine Allison died in the early hours of April 15, 1912 in the cold, icy waters of the North Atlantic in the Titanic disaster.  

1 comment:

breck allison said...

Is the Allison identification project still ongoing?