The Sodder family’s home caught fire on Christmas night. Only the father, mother, and four of their nine children could escape from the burning house. But the remains of the other five children did not appear- no bones, no traces, nothing. That gave birth to horrifying hypotheses that did not let the family take a single breath of relief for the rest of their lives.
What Happened to the Sodder Children that Night?
It was Christmas Eve 1945 in the three-story wooden house on the farm outside of Fayetteville, Virginia, USA. The Sodder family had already celebrated the holiday and they went to sleep. A little while later, Jennie woke up and smelled burning. Scared, she yelled at her husband to wake up. They found the house burning and could wake up only the ones who slept on the same floor.
Everyone frantically yelled at each other to get down quickly. They tried to warn the rest but couldn’t since the bedrooms were completely engulfed in flames. The noise, smoke, and smell turned the house into a roaring inferno. From the ground floor, they tried to call the fire brigade, but the phone for some reason stopped working despite working moments earlier.
Five Sodder Children Disappeared During the Fire
George, the desperate father, climbed barefoot up the sidewall of the house and reached for the split-glass window in the attic. He cried out for the ladder. One of his sons ran to look for it as it was always on the other side of the house, but he couldn’t find it. He then got out and fetched one of his coal trucks from the shed to drive over to the attic windows to rescue the boys. Strangely, neither vehicle started, although they worked perfectly a day before. Nothing was going right that panic-evoking night.
The six who were alive, parents and four siblings, could only be stunned spectators of the disaster. In three-quarters of an hour, the house turned into black. ashy remains.
Firefighters appeared at the scene at 8 a.m. and found the devastation. They searched for the bodies of the five missing children but found nothing; nothing at all, not one bone.
One of the firefighters was Jennie Sodder’s brother and had to bear the burden of telling her that his nephews and nieces had no remains. His words sowed the parents with a doubt: if those children were really in the house, something of their bodies should have remained.
According to another source, the firefighters had found something: small fragments and an internal organ of a body. Why didn’t they mention it? It was suspected that it was to spare those parents more pain. Or maybe they did, but the parents did not hear or believe.
On December 30, the parents were given the five death certificates. The cause: suffocation from the fire. On January 2, 1946, the Sodder family held their funerals. The siblings went to the ceremony, but George and Jennie did not.
A House, a Cemetery, and a Thousand Theories
After a brief investigation, the fire department determined that the fire had been due to an electrical fault. George Sodder did not accept the answer. He said he had done all the new wiring and inspected the house recently.
Different theories arose about what could have happened. All of them ran as rumors among the inhabitants of the area, and the Sodders held some as well. One said the Sicilian mafia had kidnaped the 5 children to avenge George’s outspoken criticism of Benito Mussolini and the Italian fascist government.
Another rumor was that the children could have been victims of a network of illegal adoptions. Anything was possible. And the Sodders preferred to think they were alive.
Also, George wondered: why, if it had been an electrical problem, the Christmas lights had continued in the early stages of the fire? Why was the staircase that was always next to the house found on a barrier at 23 meters? Why was the phone not working? Some of these questions were answered later, but the Sodder couple continued to bet on theories and beliefs that their children were still alive. The Sodder’s oldest son also reported later that days before Christmas, they had noticed a car with strangers outside their house. Everything was peculiar about this case and evidence.
Was the family suffering from a collective psychosis? Or did something sketchy or targeted happen? Could the missing children have been kidnapped and still alive? Where are the Sodder children? These questions are still unanswered.