More than 60 years later, the story of the missing children from West Virginia is no less tragic.
It was Christmas Eve of 1945 when a family from Fayettesville experienced one of the most mysterious tragedies in history. George and Jennie Sodder lost five of their ten children when their house was consumed in flames. Perhaps the children were consumed by the fire – but evidence suggests there may have been other factors at play. Here is the story behind this chilling tale:
Fayetteville, West Virginia is a small town with an extensive history. With a population of nearly 3,000, word spreads quickly. And in 1945, there was one question that had just about everyone talking: what exactly happened to the Sodder Children?
The family was fast asleep on the night before Christmas. Around 1:00 a.m., George and Jennie awoke to find their house on fire. In a panic, they yelled for everyone to exit the house before noticing that five had not made it out.
In a panic, the father went to retrieve his ladder in hopes of re-entering the house to save his children. Yet mysteriously, the ladder was missing. He then ran to his truck, hoping to back it up to the house for the same reason. But the truck wouldn't start. George and Jennie wouldn't realize this until later, but it was almost as if someone had tried to prevent him from going inside to get the missing children.
Not an hour had passed before the entire house was up in flames. The fire department and police arrived around 8:00 on Christmas morning to do investigative work. They concluded that the children had either suffocated or were killed in the fire. And yet there was something very peculiar about what they found in the rubble: not a trace of any of the children whatsoever.
The parents of Maurice, 14; Martha 12; Louis, 9; Jennie, 8; and Betty were convinced that these children could somehow still be alive. And that's when they began piecing together the unusual events that had happened prior to the fire. A few months back, a stranger had approached their house asking about hauling work. Then he wandered to the back of the house where he pointed at the fuse boxes and noted that they'd cause a fire someday. It was a particularly odd comment seeing as the house had recently been serviced by an electrician.
Even on the night of the incident there had been a peculiar phone call. Around midnight, Jennie answered to a woman who asked for an unfamiliar name. When Jennie replied that she had gotten the wrong number, the woman on the other line laughed. An hour later, Jennie would be desperately rushing out of the smoking house.
For nearly 40 years after the incident, drivers along Route 16 outside of Fayettesville would see this tragic billboard. Unfortunately, the family never heard what the fate of the other five members had been. Rumors circulated and it was believed that the children had been kidnapped and the fire was a deliberate attempt to hide any of the evidence.
Jennie planted a garden of flowers over the plot of land where their house had previously stood. And then 20 years later, out of the blue, she received a strange letter in the mail from Kentucky. Inside was a photograph (above) of a young man who looked exactly like what her son Louis would have at that age. The note had a cryptic handwritten message on the back: "Louis Sodder. I love brother Frankie." The Sodders hired a private investigator after this event, but he was never heard from again. Today, Sylvia is the last remaining Sodder family member and at 69 years old, still believes that her siblings were taken and survived the fire.