In March of 1950, Clifford and Annie Holden welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Chaneta, at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx.
Chaneta was born premature — she weighed just 2 pounds, 9 ounces — so she would have to be kept in a hospital incubator in order to survive.
But that didn’t quite happen. Why not? Because the poor thing was kidnapped.
She was abducted from the hospital on March 30th, when she was just nine days old. Doctors at the time warned that, outside of the incubator, she would have little chance of survival.
Hundreds of New York City police officers searched for Chaneta, but the search was called off after several days. At that point she was presumed dead.
But weeks later, on April 24th, Chaneta was discovered — still alive, miraculously.
She was found in a small storeroom at the Coburg Hotel, inside a homemade incubator constructed by her kidnapper, 18-year-old hotel maid Evelyn Jordan. (Evelyn had lost her own premature twins a few months earlier, sadly.) Here’s how the scene was described:
Besides a piggy bank, a toy cat and a rosary on the carriage she stocked the room with correctly prepared baby formulas, rubber gloves, child care books, diapers, blankets, thermometers, an electric heater to help provide the prescribed incubator temperature of 96° and a pan of bubbling hot water to keep up the required humidity.
Chaneta had gained 6 ounces and was in “perfect health.”
Annie, who sympathized with Evelyn, had this to say: “I feel sorry for her. She took such good care of the baby.”
The discovery made national headlines on April 25th, and the story stayed in the news for months to come.
Baby Chaneta was immediately returned to Lincoln Hospital. In mid-May she was declared healthy enough to go home with her parents.
Evelyn Jordan was sent to a mental institution. She was released six years later.
And in 1950, nearly two dozen baby girls suddenly got the rather unusual name Chaneta, according to SSA data:
- 1951: unlisted
- 1950: 23 baby girls named Chaneta [debut]
- 1949: unlisted
In a follow-up story from 1956, Annie Holden mentioned that Chaneta had been named after her favorite childhood schoolteacher.
Do you like the name Chaneta?
- “Baby Chaneta Coming Home.” New York Age 13 May 1950: 3.
- “Crude Incubator Keeps Baby Alive.” Life 8 May 1950: 50.
- “Ex-Mental Patient Beats 1950 Kidnap Rap.” New York Age 8 Dec. 1956: 4.
- “Kidnapped Incubator Infant Found Safe.” Los Angeles Times 26 Apr. 1950: 20.
- “Kidnapped Negro Incubator Baby Is Found Alive.” Ogdensburg Journal 25 Apr. 1950: 1.