The 1948 abduction that inspired Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita”

Florence “Sally” Horner was 11 years old when she stole a 5 cent notebook in her town of Camden, New Jersey after some friends dared her to. A fifty year old man with the name of Frank La Salle caught her stealing and posed as a FBI agent, but he let her go. However, as Sally was leaving school the next day, La Salle instructed the child to convince her mother that he was the father of some school friends and he would take them to a seashore vacation. But in reality he was going to abduct her and said he was going to take her to Atlantic City. 

During the 2 year long journey across the United States, La Salle molested and raped her and said if she did not comply, he would turn her in for stealing. He sent her to school, where he claimed to be Sally’s father. After she confided in a friend who he was, she managed to escape and was finally able to call her sister from San Jose, California in March 1950, telling her, “Send the FBI!”

Frank La Salle was convicted to 30 to 35 years in prison under the Mann Act. Florence Horner died in a tragic car accident in New Jersey on August 18th, 1952. She was 15 years old.

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.” — Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita