Peter Winston, age 20, went missing from New York, New York in January 1978.

Strangely, Peter is not only missing from New York City, he is also missing from the ‘MIssing World’.  By that, I mean the multitude of databases, forums, and social media pages that exist to generate publicity on missing persons cases.

The mysterious disappearance of Peter Winston was brought to my attention by a wonderful member of Websleuths, who somehow managed to have Peter’s case on his radar, despite the lack of publicity.

Peter Winston, referred to as a child genius by those who knew him, took an interest in chess at a young age.   In his early teen years, he played in tournaments and defeated some of the most seasoned adult players of the time.

During his high school years, Peter lost interest in school, and developed an LSD habit.  He also identified with radical far-left politics, and sympathized with the Soviets in the Cold War.  It is believed that during this time, signs of mental illness were beginning to surface.

Soon after starting college, Peter was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia.  The diagnosis was later modified to manic depressive.   He was put on medication, which he felt adversely affected his intellect, and his chess performance began to suffer.

A friend of Peter’s saw him the night before his disappearance, and recalled that Peter was in a deteriorated state, clearly off his medication, and insisting that his friend accompany him to the Meadowlands race track.   His friend went with him, and watched as Peter lost race after race.  Eventually, Peter’s friend wanted to leave, but Peter stayed behind at the race track.

Later that night, Peter called one of his chess rivals to request a ride home.  While Peter knew the person he called, they were not friends, and apparently held some animosity toward each other from the chess competition.   The man did not pick him up.

As a last resort, Peter called his sister, who came and picked him up.  She brought Peter back to her place for the night.  The next morning, she offered to let him stay with her, but only under the condition that he see a doctor.  Peter bolted out the door, screaming as he ran down the stairs.  He left his ID at his sister’s residence.

He went to another friends house, and stayed for lunch.   During this visit, he said something about going to Texas to visit Walter Korn, a noted author of literature related to chess.  He said that Korn was God.   He left shortly after, and was never seen or heard from again.

It has been theorized that he may have committed suicide, or possibly ended up in a mental institution.   A severe blizzard hit New York City within 24 hours of Peter’s last sighting, and he did not have a coat with him, so he may have succumbed to the elements.  There has been no record of his existence since 1978.

I would like to see him listed in databases, and hopefully a DNA sample obtained from his sister, so he can be compared to unidentified remains, and identified at some point.

Note: I just went back and reread one of my sources – and now I see why Peter is not included in any of the databases – NYPD does not have a record of him being missing!  The Observer (media outlet) was attempting to file one, but had not received a response from law enforcement as of July 2012.  I am going to write to The Observer and see if they have any updates, and I will update this post if I get any additional information.

Wikipedia Article – Peter Winston

The Observer


New Yorker



3 thoughts on “Peter Winston

  1. A mentally ill person off their meds with no jacket disappears during a severe snowstorm ? I’m sure it would be safe to assume they died from exposure regardless of what became of the body.

  2. As a keen chess player, I have always been interested in this case, and often wonder how far Winston would have progressed as a top-level player if he didn’t have any mental health issues.

  3. I was one of Peter’s closest friends during the year or two before his disappearance. I was living in Boston at the time and he had visited me for a few days a month or two earlier, although we did not have contact in the days immediately before he vanished.

    His “mental health issues” seemed to originate from a bad acid trip (“freak-out”) he suffered sometime in 1976 or 1977, probably during his first year in college (the now-defunct Franconia College in New Hampshire, whose image was somewhat like Bard). He wound up hospitalized, and blamed the lasting impact from that experience on what he felt was over-medication he received in the hospital at that time, rather than on the drug itself. (He did at one point suggest it could have been the LSD, because he had shared some of what was evidently the same batch with me not long before his freak-out, and later told me he feared it might have harmed me too. I was fine.)

    I’m guessing that The Observer article you mentioned was a freelance piece by Sarah Wineman that appeared in 2012 or thereabouts. Sarah sought out myself and a few friends while researching it, and I was quoted there.

    Footnote: a few years ago I got an email that purported to be from Peter Winston, and just asked how I was doing. I knew it was a hoax, but replied anyway, saying something non-committal in hope of exploring further. I regretted replying because the email domain was Yandex.com — a major Russian web portal that I suspect is used for nefarious activities. I got no further response, which isn’t surprising: I then did a little checking and discovered that although the Yandex company (a large publicly traded entity at the time) must surely have functioning email services, the domain @Yandex.com cannot receive emails.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s