The Biggest Sodder Children Theories: What Really Happened To Them?

On December 24, 1945, tragedy struck at the Sodder home in Fayetteville, West Virginia. George and Jennie Sodder had 10 children, and on that night, nine of them were at home while one son was away on Army duty. The eve before Christmas went on as usual, and the family went to bed before midnight. At about 1 a.m., however, a fire broke out and alerted the family.

They immediately evacuated the home, but George soon realized that five of his children were not outside. He went back into the blazing fire, but could not reach the second floor since the staircase was on fire (via Smithsonian). George went back outside and had the idea to reach the bedroom upstairs through the window, but the ladder that was typically outside the house was nowhere to be found. He thought of using his truck to reach the window, but it wouldn't start. Family members and neighbors attempted to call the fire department, but they were met with no response. It wasn't until 8 a.m. when the fire crew finally arrived, and by then, the Sodder home was already in ashes. Everyone assumed that the five missing Sodder children — Betty, 6; Jennie, 8; Louis,10; Martha, 12; and Maurice, 14 — died in the fire.

There were no traces of the missing Sodder children

According to the initial investigation of the incident, the fire was caused by faulty wiring, and a coroner concluded that the missing Sodder children didn't make it out of the blaze. George and Jennie Sodder, however, did not believe that faulty wiring was the cause, as they saw some of the lights in the home still working while the fire grew. They demanded a more thorough investigation into the matter. It seemed that the couple was right, as more information was revealed upon further inspection, per The True Crime Files.

It was later revealed that no human remains were found in the rubble. Furthermore, no one seemed to smell burning flesh during the fire, which would have been a noticeable odor if the five children died in the home. Additionally, the Sodders found out that the house fire was not hot enough, nor did it burn long enough, to turn a skeleton into ashes. A local crematorium concluded that the five skeletons would have been found if the children perished in the fire.

According to the Times West Virginian, the Sodders desperately tried to solve the mystery of what happened to their five children. Private investigators were hired, but it didn't lead to anything conclusive. The family resorted to erecting a billboard that contained the photos and names of the missing children in hopes of finding them or at least getting information about what happened to them.

Some of the theories regarding the disappearance

One of the popular theories is that the Sodder children were kidnapped. A few months before the fire, George Sodder bickered with an insurance salesman regarding Italian leader Benito Mussolini. The salesman reportedly supported the dictator, while the Sodder patriarch was opposed to him. Per a report by Medium, the argument ended with the salesman threatening George by saying that his home "is going up in smokes" and his children "are going to be destroyed." An investigation into the matter was conducted, but it was eventually dropped, as there was no concrete evidence against the salesman.

Another popular theory is that the five children were kidnapped and were sold to an orphanage in Italy. The family received a letter from a woman who claimed that one of their children was alive in a convent in Italy (via History by Day). Plenty of people reported sightings of the children, but investigations didn't lead to anything. More than two decades after the fire, Jennie Sodder received a photo of a young man in the mail. It looked like one of her missing sons, and the back of the photo had writing that read, "Louis Sodder, I love brother Frankie, llil boys, A90132 or 35." The photo was sent from Kentucky, and the family sent a private investigator there, but eerily, the family never heard from him again. For the Sodders, the most likely scenario was that the children were kidnapped before the house was set on fire.

The case of the missing Sodder children remains a mystery

For the rest of their lives, George and Jennie Sodder dedicated their time and money to looking for their five missing children. In an interview, George said, "Time is running out for us. But we only want to know. If they did die in the fire, we want to be convinced. Otherwise, we want to know what happened to them," he said (via Smithsonian). George died in 1968 not knowing what really happened to his missing children. Jennie, on the other hand, died in 1989.

The remaining Sodder children — and even their own children — continued to look for answers to the mystery. However, decades have already passed and nothing conclusive has come out of all the investigations that were done. To this day, no one knows what really happened on that Christmas eve in 1945. Web sleuths and those interested in the unsolved disappearance continue to offer their theories regarding the incident.