***Warning: Today's mystery involves children.***
The date was December 24th, 1945. Like many families, the Sodder family opened their gifts on Christmas Eve. The three youngest children--Martha (12), Jennie (8), and Betty (5)--were so excited about their gifts, they asked to stay up late to play with them. They were told they could stay awake until the two oldest children--Maurice (14) and Louis (9)--went to bed. There were four other children, but one was staying with a friend that night.
Parents George and Jennie went to bed. At 12:30 a.m., Jennie was awoken by a ringing phone. She went downstairs to answer it. On the other end of the line was a woman, asking for the name of someone she didn't recognize. Jennie could hear clinking glasses in the background. She noticed the curtains had not been drawn and the lights were still on--two chores the children would normally have taken care of before retiring to the attic where they slept.
|Jennie with her son John|
Around 1 a.m., Jennie woke once again after hearing the sound of something hitting the roof. It was followed by a rolling sound. Approximately 30 minutes later, she smelled smoke. When she investigated and found one of the empty rooms was on fire, she woke her husband and they evacuated with three of the children. However, five of the children were still upstairs and they couldn’t get to them because the stairway was on fire.
George and Jennie Sodder did everything they could to get to the children. They tried to get help by phone. George tried to smash a window, managing to cut himself in the process. All efforts to save them failed.
The home burned for more than six hours before the fire department finally arrived. In the rubble that remained, no sign of the missing five children were found. While many people think of cremation, a house fire doesn’t burn hot enough to completely cremate a body — bones and skeletons should have remained. They were simply missing.
The site was investigated and examined many times over the years, with no sign of the children. The parents are convinced they were kidnapped that night, with the fire set to disguise the crime. Up until their deaths in 1969 and 1989, George and Jennie believed their children were still alive. They maintained this billboard in the hopes it would lead to answers:
What do you think happened to the Sodder children?