The Sodder Children Vanished Christmas Eve 1945, and the Police Still Have No Idea what Happened
The Sodder Children Vanished Christmas Eve 1945, and the Police Still Have No Idea what Happened

The Sodder Children Vanished Christmas Eve 1945, and the Police Still Have No Idea what Happened

Trista - December 16, 2018

The Sodder Children Vanished Christmas Eve 1945, and the Police Still Have No Idea what Happened
A picture believed to be of Louis Sodder. Jennie Henthorn/ Smithsonian Magazine.

The Search for the Children

George and Jennie became convinced that their children were alive and began scouring publications, looking for any information that they could find. In 1949, George saw a picture in a magazine of a female ballerina. Believing that the girl looked like his daughter Betty, he drove all the way from West Virginia to New York. However, he wasn’t allowed to see her. He wrote to the FBI, which declined to help, but a pathologist in Washington, DC agreed to do a thorough review of the house. He uncovered some pieces of vertebrae, but analysis revealed that they could not have belonged to the missing children.

The local authorities continued to hold to the official story that the fire marshal had constructed, that the fire had been caused by faulty wiring and the children’s bodies had been cremated due to the intensity of the flames. George and Jennie were unfazed and continued the search for their children. They hired a private investigator, C. C. Tinsley, to look into the cause of the fire and try to learn what had become of their missing children. He investigated threats that an insurance man had made against George and rumors that had circulated throughout the community in the time since the fire.

The Sodder Children Vanished Christmas Eve 1945, and the Police Still Have No Idea what Happened
Billboard about the Sodder children, who went missing on Christmas Eve, 1945.
appalachianhistory.net/ Smithsonian Magazine.

The first reward that the Sodders offered for information that would lead to the safe return of even just one of their missing children was $5,000, a fortune in the 1945 post-war economy. They soon doubled that amount to $10,000. Reports continued to come in of sightings of the children. A local hotel worker reported seeing them with a couple of Italian adults, who seemed to be very hostile. However, the police did not consider many of the stories by supposed witnesses to be credible, including the story about them appearing at a hotel.

In 1967 came the closest thing to a breakthrough: a letter with no return address from Central City, Kentucky. Inside was a picture of a man in his 30s and a note from someone who claimed to be Louis Sodder, who would be in his thirties by that time. George and Jennie hired a new private detective to go to Central City to try to find Louis, or at least find who had sent the letter. However, the detective soon disappeared. The Sodders added the updated picture of Louis to their signs and flyers advertising for information about their missing children.

The rest of George’s and Jennie’s lives were dedicated to finding their five missing children who disappeared on Christmas Eve night in 1945. George died in 1969, two years after the letter with the picture arrived. Jennie wore black and tended the children’s memorial garden for the rest of her life. When she died in 1989, her family took the worn and weathered sign down from in front of their house. Today, the surviving children and their descendants continue to look for information that might help them find out what happened to the five missing Sodder children.

 

Where did we get this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Children Who Went Up In Smoke,” by Karen Abbott. Smithsonian.com. December 25, 2012.

“Sodder children disappearance.” Wikipedia.

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