On Christmas Eve in 1945, a terrible fire engulfed the Sodder family’s home in Fayetteville, West Virginia. It was one of the most haunting mysteries to ever occur in America.
While the majority of the family members were able to flee the burning home, five of the 10 children disappeared into a cloud of smoke and ashes. The strangest part? Not everyone truly believes they died in the fire that night.
A local writer and author of West Virginia Unsolved Murders, George Bragg, tells the tale of that night’s events:
Jennie woke up. She heard a noise. Somebody had thrown something on the roof. She got up and checked that out, and went back to bed. She woke up about a half-hour later, and she smelled smoke. She got up and realized one of the rooms where their office was located was on fire. She screamed for her husband and woke him up, and they both hollered upstairs where two of the boys were.
When detectives searched the ruins, the remains of the children–Maurice, 14; Martha 12; Louis, 9; Jennie, 8; Betty, 5–were nowhere to be found.
There were also some other incredibly strange coincidences surrounding the fire:
- Earlier in the evening before the fire broke out, the family received a prank call.
- The home’s phone wires were cut.
- In the days preceding the tragic event, the kids reported that a man had been following and watching them.
- Witnesses claimed they saw fireballs being tossed at the house.
- A ladder owned by the family was later discovered down an embankment.
In 1968, twenty years after their disappearance, the family received a photograph of a young man in the mail who resembled one of their missing sons. On the back of the photo, there was a handwritten message that read: “Louis Sodder. I love brother Frankie. ilil Boys. A90132 or 35.” While convinced that it was Louis, they were unable to decode the obscure message or trace who actually sent the picture. A private detective was hired to look into the case, but after being sent to Kentucky to investigate, he was never seen or heard from again.
In 1952, the parents, George and Jennie, put up a billboard and offered a $5,000 reward for anyone who could provide information about their location. The billboard displayed images of the missing children but never generated any worthwhile leads. It was eventually taken down in 1988, when Jennie passed away.
The Sodders took their heartbreaking tragedy to their graves.
Since that fateful night back in 1945, there have been endless rumors about what actually happened to those five kids, including stories about how an orphanage kidnapped them to be sold off to couples who could not have children of their own, or that their parents killed them. There have also been accounts of people sighting the missing family members all over the country.
The youngest surviving family member, Sylvia Sodder Paxton, and her daughter still continue to search for clues relating to the disappearance of her five siblings. Sylvia was only two-years-old when they went missing.
Until this day, it’s a case that remains open and unsolved. It’s definitely one of the most baffling riddles we’ve ever attempted to find answers to. After reading numerous accounts of this story, we still are left without a legitimate guess as to what really happened to these children.
What do you think could have happened?