On the evening of Christmas Eve in 1945, Jennie and George Sodder, along with 9 of their 10 children (one son had joined the military), had gone to bed as usual. They were awakened around 1 am with their home on fire. The couple grabbed their youngest child, 2 year old Silvia who’d still slept in her parent’s bedroom, and took her to safety; 23 year old John, 17 year old Marion, and 16 year old George Jr all survived.
George tried everything he could think of to save the rest of his kids who he believed to be stuck on the 2nd floor, the man even broke a window with his hand and had sustained a large gash to prove it. The ladder which was always kept leaning against the house was somehow missing on this night. George attempted to drive one of his 2 trucks up to the house, and climb on top to reach the window; though both had been working just fine earlier that day, neither truck would start on this night – even the water in the barrel he wanted to use was frozen solid!
Though the family’s neighbors had been busy calling the police, no one bothered to answer; one of those neighbors actually had to drive into town to find the fire chief! The firemen did not arrive until 8 am, which meant that the home had been burning for more than 7 hours; surely you can imagine what was left of the place.
When the fire was finally put out, to everyone’s amazement, there were no children in the wreckage; 14 year old Maurice, 9 year old Louise, 12 year old Martha, 8 year old Jennie, and 5 year old Betty had all disappeared without a trace! Though not a single fragment of bone was ever discovered, death certificates issued for the 5 missing children.
This case has gone down as one of the most confounding mysteries in American history – what in the world happened to the Sodder children? Had they perished in an accidental fire, or was there something more sinister at play?
There had been some interesting happenings leading up to that night. A strange man had recently stopped by the Sodder home looking for work; he’d walked to the back of the house and pointed at 2 fuse boxes saying, “this is going to start a fire some day”. The stranger then proceeded to try and sell the family life insurance, and it’s said he became very angry when his offer was refused. The man is quoted as having exclaimed, “Your goddamn house is going up in smoke, and your children are going to be destroyed. You are going to be paid for the dirty remarks you have been making about Mussolini!”. Apparently George was very outspoken in his contempt for Mussolini. Then, just days before the fire, the children told their father of a man who had intently sat and watched them as they’d played.
At approximately 12:30 on Christmas morning, the telephone rang. Jennie answered it, and a strange woman had been on the line; it sounded like she was at a party, and she’d asked for someone Jennie did not know. She told the woman that she had the wrong number, but on her way back upstairs the mother noticed that all of the lights were on downstairs and the doors were somehow unlocked. Jeannie figured it was just a kid playing around, so she simply locked the door and went back to bed. As the mother was beginning to fall back asleep, she heard a very loud BANG; an hour later the house was on fire. A local bus driver would claim he witnessed a person throwing fire balls at the Sodder house, which seemed ridiculous, but one of the surviving children later found something believed to be a pineapple bomb in the yard; it’s believed that this was the BANG Jennie heard that night.
There was also a man who people saw stealing from the Sodder home on that particular evening; it’s believed this man took the ladder, and that he did something to the Sodder vehicles to ensure that they would not run that night. It was determined that the fire was not electrical, yet the phone lines were cut. It’s very likely that this man had gotten his wires crossed; instead of cutting the electric, he’d accidentally cut the phone lines.
For whatever reason, the police did not believe this fire to have been intentionally set, so they never looked at the man as a suspect; he was identified and merely ordered to pay some fines.
As for what happened to the children, there were all sorts of sightings. One woman claimed she actually served the kids breakfast Christmas morning, and she witnessed them entering a vehicle with Florida plates.
In 1968, the Sodders received a picture in the mail, it was postmarked from Kentucky; written on the photo was “Louis Sodder. I love brother Frankie. Ilil Boys. A90132 or (A90135)”. The Sodders had no doubt that this was a photograph of their missing son, and that all of their children were still alive. A private investigator was hired, but somehow he disappeared, too. It’s thought that the numbers on the picture were Sicilian, and since Mr Sodder’s business was involved with the mafia, that meant that maybe the mafia had stolen the children. Still, others believed that the family did this to themselves; maybe they just didn’t want all those children, and found a way to get rid of most of them. This, in my humble opinion, is very unlikely.
The theories just go on and on. We will likely never know what happened to the Sodder children, it’s likely destined to remain a mystery.
*Merry Christmas Eve to you all! I truly hope everyone’s doing alright. Christmas can be so hard and this year especially. If you’re struggling, just hang on. It’s almost over! 💚 Oh, also for my patrons, there’s a new article on Patreon. It was posted sorta late last night, so I’m sure many missed the notification.
2 Replies to “The Mystery Of The Sodder Children”
Howdy, I actually am from/kind of near the area the Sodder children’s disappearance is from! I just wanted to spout one local theory that has kind of been accepted, even though I don’t know much about any official investigation, or it may just be a West Virginia myth. But there is an area (i will try to re-find it and comment where it is later on) where it is accepted that it is the mass burial site of the kids. I visited it a few years back, it is not too far off some overgrown path in the woods, and it is like a mini graveyard with a huge pit in the middle that was covered up. This may be just silly WV folktales, but I will call my mom who showed me the area and the lore years back about it. I just thought it would be a neat tidbit to know 😀
Oh my gosh, I’m gonna search the heck out of this now! Thank you for telling me! The locals usually know more than anybody. I really appreciate your taking the time to let me know!