The Mystery of the Sodder Children

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On Christmas Eve, 1945, George and Jennie Sodder and their nine children went to sleep in Fayetteville, West Virginia (their tenth son was serving in the military). Around 1 AM, a fire engulfed the house and left little time for escape. The parents and four children escaped, but the other five disappeared.

George broke a window to re-enter the flaming house, hoping to save his remaining kids. Despite cutting his arm, the father frantically searched through the smoke for any signs of life. The staircase was burning, which left him incapable to go further inside. George decided to reach his remaining children through the upstairs window, but the ladder propped against the house was missing. He attempted to use two coal trucks to stand on top of but the engines wouldn't start, even though they'd worked perfectly the day before. George tried to use water from a rain bucket but found it was frozen. Unable to do anything else, he screamed his children's names.

His daughter ran to a neighbor's house to call the fire department, but no operator responded. They called again and were left with the same answer: nothing. The neighbor drove into town to search for the fire chief instead. Even after finding him, the fire trucks didn't arrive until 8 AM despite only being two or so miles away. By this time, the house had burned to ashes, leaving nothing intact.

George and Jennie assumed their five remaining children were dead, but no bones were recovered from a sweep despite various household items being distinguished from the fire. This nulled the idea of the flames being hot enough to turn bones to dust.

The fire was found to have been caused by "faulty wiring." The basement was made into a memorial, and the case seemed to have been closed, but George and Jennie were still unsure. What if their children were still alive? With this thought in mind, the parents released pictures of their missing children in hopes that someone would have seen them. They would not give up hope on Maurice (aged 14), Martha (12), Louis (9), Jennie (8), and Betty (5) so easily.

Odd moments before the fire began to click together after this tragic incident. George remembered a man showing up in the fall, requesting to help haul items. After retreating to the back of the house, the stranger pointed to the two fuse boxes and said that they would cause a fire one day. George found this odd, considering the local power company declared that the fuses were in a good condition with no danger to attribute.

Around this time, another man attempting to sell the family life insurance grew angry when George declined his offer. He viciously warned that the house would go up in flames and that his children were going to be destroyed. Apparently, this was all because of George's "dirty remarks" on Mussolini, an Italian dictator that the father was very outspoken about his dislike for. The older Sodder sons also noticed a man parked along the highway before Christmas, watching the younger children as they returned from school.

Thirty minutes before the fire broke out, Jennie, the mother, answered a phone call that rang through the house. An unfamiliar woman's voice asked for an unknown person while glass clinks and laughter echoed in the background. Jennie huffed that the lady had the wrong number and hung up. She noticed that the downstairs lights were on, the curtains open, and the front door unlocked. Jennie thought this was odd, but saw her son asleep on the couch, so figured it had been him and that her other children were sleeping soundly. After closing everything, Jennie went to bed, but a bang on the roof then rolling woke her. Soon after, she saw smoke drifting into the room.

After the tragedy, a telephone repair man told the family that their wires had been cut, not burned. They also realized that if the fire had been caused by "faulty wiring", then wouldn't the electricity have gone out? If so, why was the downstairs light on? George and Jennie began to doubt the validity of the story they had been told by police.

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