In November 1954, readers of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts—by that point just four years into what would become a 50-year run—were greeted with a new agitator in the life of Charlie Brown. Her name was Charlotte Braun, and her defining character trait was being incredibly loud. So loud that Snoopy is forced to tie his ears together to be spared from her high-decibel presence.

Charlotte made just 10 appearances in Peanuts before vanishing entirely, never to be mentioned again. It would be decades before fans had a better idea of where she had gone and why. Her fate involved an irate reader, a slightly peeved Schulz, and the poor little girl winding up with a literal ax in her head.

The core Peanuts cast is well-known to most: Charlie Brown, anguished by childhood; his sister, Sally, who often hectored him; Linus, who treasured his emotional support blanket; his sister, the amateur psychologist Lucy; Peppermint Patty; Marci; Schroeder; Franklin; Snoopy; and Woodstock.

Charlie Brown is pictured

Charlotte’s harassment of Charlie Brown did not go unnoticed by readers. / George Rose/GettyImages

It took time for Schulz to develop the character dynamics. Linus didn’t show up until 1952 and wasn’t given any lines until 1954. Lucy’s early appearances were as a toddler before Schulz decided to make her a contemporary of Charlie Brown. Snoopy was a dog who walked on all fours before evolving into an anthropomorphic novelist.

Even the set dressings for the strips were prone to change: Schulz initially had characters sitting on street curbs to talk. When he realized kids might emulate them and risk getting hit by a car, he switched to having them chat behind a brick half-wall.

It was during this period of refinement that Schulz introduced Charlotte Braun. Her name, seemingly a play on Charlie Brown, hinted that she was Charlie’s opposite, as loud as he was reserved. Her role consisted primarily of entering a scene and discombobulating other characters with her voice, which Schulz stylized in big, bold letters.

“The girls won’t play with me,” Charlotte complained in a strip dated December 8, 1954. “They say I talk too loud … do I talk too loud, Charlie Brown?” Charlie walks down the block before answering her.

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Charlotte pestered Charlie Brown and the gang only through February 1955, at which point Schulz realized there wasn’t anywhere for the character to go. That, and Charlotte was drawing the ire of readers.

“Nobody liked her,” the Library of Congress’s popular art curator Harry Katz said in 2000. “She was a little too serious. She didn’t have the warmth or the humor of the other characters.”

For most newspaper readers, Charlotte’s absence went unexplained. Only one fan was privileged to know what happened to Charlotte—or at least, what Schulz depicted happening to Charlotte.

In 2000, the year Schulz died, a 66-year-old woman named Elizabeth Swaim submitted a letter she had kept for the better part of a half-century to the Library of Congress. In it, Schulz addresses a letter of complaint he had received from Swaim in 1955 about Charlotte, in which she presumably suggested getting rid of her.

Charlie Brown and Linus are pictured

Charlie Brown and Linus hang out. / George Rose/GettyImages

“I am taking your suggestion regarding Charlotte Braun and will eventually discard her,” wrote Schulz. “If she appears anymore it will be in strips that were already completed before I got your letter or because someone writes in saying that they like her. Remember, however, that you and your friends will have the death of an innocent child on your conscience. Are you prepared to accept such responsibility?”

Schulz’s grim facetiousness was accompanied by a sketch of Charlotte with an ax plunged into her tiny head.

Swaim, who was clearing out her personal effects due to a bout with cancer, had kept the letter framed in her bathroom and decided to donate it, writing that she wanted “to place what might loosely be called my treasures.” According to her sister, Swaim was “very pleased that [Schulz] had answered” her complaint.

The character’s presence wasn’t a total wash. Charlotte’s repeated appearances constituted one of the earliest storylines in Peanuts, a departure from the joke-a-day template of most comic strips. And it may have led Schulz to figure out more palatable rivals for Charlie Brown, like his sister, Sally, who debuted as a baby in 1959 but moved swiftly into walking and then kindergarten. By this point, Lucy had also been aged up, and was therefore able to verbally spar with Chuck.

That Charlotte appeared in just 10 of the 17,897 strips Schulz produced may make her somewhat of a footnote in Peanuts history. That Schulz gave her a violent end—even for an audience of one—is something else. No one else in Peanuts met such a fate, though Snoopy’s imagined stint as a World War I flying ace was certainly dangerous enough to risk a gruesome death.

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Correction: This story originally stated that Snoopy imagined being a World War II, rather than a World War I, flying ace.

Jake Rossen

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