Most Bizarre Missing Person Case in the United States
A Tragic Christmas Day
It was Christmas Day in 1945 when at 1am a fire erupted in the home of George and Jennie Sodder in Fayetteville, West Virginia.
With one of their sons away in the army the Sodders knew 9 of their 10 children were in danger and began rounding them up and leading them outside to safety. However, five of the children were left behind in the blaze.
In a desperate attempt to save his five children, George tried to enter the burning house with his ladder, which was oddly missing when he needed it most.
He then tried to use his trucks to reach the windows, but the vehicles wouldn’t start. When firemen finally arrived at 8 a.m., things only got more confounding — as there was not a single corpse in the rubble.
The Bodies Couldn’t have been Cremated
While a fire chief thought that the flames had cremated the bodies, a crematorium worker revealed that bones remain even after bodies are burned at 2,000 degrees for two hours.
As it turned out, the Sodder home had burned to the ground in just 45 minutes. So where were the bones?
The beginning of the most bizarre missing persons case in the United States!
The missing children — Maurice (14), Martha (12), Louis (9), Jennie (8), and Betty (5) — had vanished into thin air.
And shortly thereafter, eerie sightings of the Sodder children began to emerge. Some claimed that the kids had watched the blaze from a passing car, while others said that they were with another couple at a truck stop 50 miles away.
Unfortunately, all of the sightings led to dead ends. And in the meantime, the parents recalled a few strange visitors who had come to their door months earlier — and one ominous phone call on the night of the tragedy.
Strange Events Leading Up To The Fire
At one point, a stranger had visited the home looking for work and pointed at two seemingly normal fuse boxes, saying, “This is going to cause a fire someday.”
And then at another point, another man tried to sell life insurance to George and became enraged when he declined, saying, “Your goddamn house is going up in smoke, and your children are going to be destroyed.”
Unusual Phone Call
But perhaps most disturbing was the phone call on the night before that fateful Christmas Day. Jennie Sodder had picked up only to hear laughter from an unfamiliar woman and the clinking of glasses. She hung up and went to sleep to find her house in flames about a half-hour later.
When the Sodders hired private investigator C.C. Tinsley to help them, he discovered that the insurance salesman who had threatened George was a member of the coroner’s jury who helped declare the fire an accident.
The connection was perplexing, as were the bones that would be found on the property years later — which were likely not linked to the kids.
Though there were eventually two hearings at the Capitol in Charleston, authorities told the Sodders that their search was “hopeless” and declared the case closed.
Refused to Give Up & an Odd Photograph
The parents would not give up on finding their children, putting up a billboard nearby with a cash reward for anyone who could help them.
More than 20 years later, they received a letter postmarked from Kentucky. It had no return address but contained a photo — depicting a man in his 20s who looked a lot like Louis Sodder. It also held a note, which read: “Louis Sodder. I love brother Frankie. Ilil [sic] Boys. A90132 or 35.”
Until their dying days George and Jennie Sodder searched for Louis and the rest of their missing children. Never receiving an answer as to what really happened in the wee hours of Christmas Day 1945.
This case has never been closed and remains one of West Virginia’s most disturbing unsolved mysteries.
What do you think happened to the Sodder children? Do you believe the events leading up to the fire were connected?
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