Home » The Case of the Vanishing Doctor: Nantucket’s Most Bizarre Missing Person’s Case

The Case of the Vanishing Doctor: Nantucket’s Most Bizarre Missing Person’s Case

The strange case of Dr. Margaret Kilcoyne has all the makings of an Agatha Christie whodunit: A brilliant doctor seemingly on the brink of madness, a secluded home on Nantucket, and a disappearance that has perplexed investigators for over 44 years.

Temperatures were well below zero degrees on January 26th, 1980 when Margaret disappeared. Reports indicate that the 50-year-old cardiologist went to bed sometime between 10:00PM and 10:30PM with the intention of going to church early the next day. When her brother Leo Kilcoyne arrived the following day to her secluded Nantucket vacation home, he knew immediately that something was wrong. Margaret was nowhere to be found. Her only coat and pair of boots were left behind at the house. Margaret’s car and bicycle were still in the garage. There was no note left behind. The house appeared to be in perfect order apart from her unmade bed. At some point overnight, she had seemingly just vanished into thin air.

Days later, a member of the search group found Margaret’s passport, checkbook, sandals, and a wallet with $100 inside stacked neatly in a clearing near her home. Curiously this location had previously been searched and nothing was found at the time. There was also a long-sleeved blouse that was recovered approximately 150 yards away from the house under some brush. Authorities believe that the blouse is Margaret’s and that it “…had been deliberately placed there and whoever did it would have to crawl through the brush on their hands and knees.”

Despite the diligent work of investigators, search parties and even a search plane, Margaret has never been heard from again.

Depending on what publication you read Margaret Kilcoyne was either a loner or a loud, positive thinking person who tended to become the center of attention at social gatherings. Either way it was undeniable that she was brilliant. Born in August 1930, she was born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts with her three brothers. She graduated from Boston Children’s Hospital School of Nursing in 1951 and would go on to obtain a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a medical degree in 1964 from the University of Vermont. She then served her residency at Presbyterian Hospital and remained to join the staff of Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons as a specialist in clinical work with hypertensive teenagers. By 1980, Margaret was teaching at Columbia and was part of a research team looking for treatments for hypertension.

According to Leo, Margaret had been very stressed lately due to her research and he would later tell police that he was concerned for her mental well-being. He recalled a phone conversation where Margaret seemed very upset and in a somewhat confused state as she spoke of a dramatic breakthrough she made in her research that may win her a Nobel Prize. She was speaking very fast and disclosed she thought she was being spied on at work. Her colleagues confirmed that they had made a breakthrough, but it wasn’t as important as Margaret thought it was.

Margaret was a devout Catholic who believed that she was “facing a spiritual test” because she was receiving messages from Leo’s late wife, Julie. Leo decided to make the trip from his home in Canada to visit his sister in an effort to get her some psychiatric help.

While it was meant to be a vacation home, she visited the Nantucket property often. She had made a seemingly impromptu trip to the island only a few days before her disappearance. While retracing her steps police learned while she was on her way to Nantucket, Margaret made a stop in Connecticut where she approached a stranger, 26-year-old Andrea Principe, to ask about any hotels in the area. Andrea referred Margaret to a nearby Marriot and she was so grateful for the help that she invited Andrea to have dinner with her. Over dinner, Margaret purchased a very expensive bottle of wine, discussed her “major” medical discovery at length and even offered their waitress a job in her laboratory at Columbia.

Margaret grew agitated when there was no vacancy at the hotel. So, Andrea invited her to spend the night at her house. She awoke the next morning at 5:30AM to find that Margaret was already gone.

On January 25th, the day before her disappearance, Margaret took a taxi from her house to the A&P Downtown grocery store and purchased $645 worth of groceries and $200 in liquor- about $3200 today- for a party she was allegedly having to announce her medical discovery. Per the Charley Project, “…Kilcoyne told people at the grocery store that she was going to hold a party and press conference to announce her research findings. However, she didn’t tell her family about any party, and she hadn’t contacted the media or made any other arrangements to prepare for such an event.”

Her family believes that Margaret most likely killed herself, either intentionally or accidentally, while in a delusional state due to an undiagnosed psychiatric disorder.

Margaret’s Nantucket home

Earlier this year, skeletal remains were recovered on Nantucket, in a wooded area in Tom Nevers, and local police are hoping they will help solve one of the island’s two cold cases. Obviously, the case of Margaret Kilcoyne or the 2015 disappearance of 60-year-old Mary Macy. Island medical examiner Tim Lepore, MD, reported that ‘many’ bones were collected from the scene, but it is currently unclear if there are enough bones to make a full skeleton. There is potential for identification through dental records though it is most likely investigators will have to rely on DNA, which could take months.

Dr. Margaret Kilcoyne was 50 years old when she went missing in January 1980. She appeared to have been under great stress, which was causing her to act erratic and paranoid; as though she were experiencing a manic episode. This stress may have been related to her work at Columbia University. She is described as a white female standing at 5’0″ and weighting approximately 140 pounds. She is reported to have shoulder length ‘shaggy’ red hair and blue eyes. Margaret’s nickname is Peg, and she is known to wear horn-rimmed eyeglasses. She was declared legally dead in 1989, leaving behind a $200,000 estate.

Margaret’s bother Leo died in a car crash in 1992. Most of the people who knew or aided in the search for her are also gone. There is currently no one spearheading the search for Margaret and there haven’t been any major developments in her case in years. Regardless, Margaret and the investigators left to ponder the bizarre clues left behind deserve an explanation.

Anyone with information in the disappearance of Margaret Kilcoyne is encouraged to contact the Nantucket Police Department at 508-228-1212. Foul play is not suspected in her case.

Research Sources:

The Charley Project – Margaret Mary Kilcoyne

Nantucket’s Greatest Unsolved Mystery: The Disappearance Of Dr. Margaret Kilcoyne

Linda Wolfe: April 14, 1980, Lady Vanishes – Dr. Margaret Kilcoyne

Exclusive Report by Gary Holmes

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Written by Fallon Gannon
True Crime stuff. Way too much coffee. Great with other dogs.
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