5 Curious Details About The Missing Sodder Children

While they were first declared dead in a Christmas Eve house fire, some believe that five children were kidnapped just before their family home burned to the ground.

April 04, 2023
The five missing Sodder children are pictured here. They vanished after a house fire in December 1945.

While they were first declared dead in a Christmas Eve house fire, some believe that five Sodder children were kidnapped just before their family home burned to the ground.

Photo by: Public Domain

Public Domain

Almost 80 years after the mysterious disappearance of five West Virginia children, there are still a myriad of questions about what happened on Christmas Eve in 1945 when the Sodder Family home caught on fire.

Everyone can agree on the facts: One of the adult-aged children was living away from the home. When the home burned to the ground, George and Jennie Sodder escaped with four of their 10 children. The other five children never made it out of the home, and investigators declared them deceased in the blaze.

Here are the stranger details about that mysterious night:

The family routine was different that night

George and Jennie were in bed at a reasonable hour, as were two older sons and the youngest daughter, a two-year-old. The oldest sister, 19-year-old Marion stayed up late with the five middle children but fell asleep on the couch. Jennie awoke to a ringing phone around 12:30 a.m., and she wandered downstairs to answer it. A voice she didn’t recognize asked for a name she didn’t know, and Jennie later told police that she’d heard laughing and glasses clinking in the background. She assumed it was a wrong number and hung up, noting that Marion was asleep on the couch. The other five children were nowhere to be seen, and Jennie assumed they were asleep in their attic bedroom.

All the phone lines seemed to be down

Jennie awoke to the smell of smoke and the sound of a roaring fire about an hour after the phone call. She and George escaped with their two-year-old. Marion and the two older sons escaped too, but the five middle children were nowhere to be seen as the family ran from the burning house. Marion tried to reach the fire department by phone from a neighbor’s house, but there was no operator to respond. Somebody else who saw the blaze tried to call for help from a nearby tavern, but couldn’t get through. It took somebody driving into town to personally find the fire chief before help could be summoned. By then, it was too late.

George tried to save the missing children but was thwarted at every turn

As George realized five of the children were still inside the burning home, he ran for the ladder he left laying beside the house so he could reach an upstairs window, but the ladder was missing. Thinking fast, he worked to move a truck close enough to the home that he could use it to reach the windows instead, but neither of the trucks would start despite being in good working order earlier.

The fire chief said he found remains in the rubble

According to the fire chief, the children had died in the blaze, and their remains had been incinerated by the heat, but that didn’t jive with what the Sodders learned two years after the blaze. The chief had apparently told somebody else he found a human heart in the rubble but decided to quietly bury it and “forgot” to tell George and Jennie of his discovery. When the Sodders heard this, they demanded the chief show them where the heart had been buried. A funeral director identified the object as a beef liver.

Rumors of sightings led the Sodders to believe the children didn’t die in the fire

One woman said she saw the children peering from a car that sped away from the burning home. Another person said she saw them at a hotel and served them breakfast in a restaurant the morning after the fire. The Sodders hired private investigators to chase leads and tips, but the children were never found. In the 1960s, Jennie received an envelope that contained a photo of a man who looked like the adult version of her son Louis, one of the missing five children, but nothing ever came of that lead either. The last living Sodder child died in 2021 without ever finding out what happened to her missing siblings.

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