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The Disappearance of the Sodder Children

2015-12-16 | 🔗

The Sodder family's West Virginia home caught fire on Christmas Eve, 1945. Five of the children were never seen again, though their bodies weren't recovered from the rubble.

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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above the united way of greater atlanta and a centrist foundation featuring trivia empire and easy to understand tool to take your financial education to the next level download the money stuff like series and the money came to act at itunes stuff you missed in history from house up works dotcom hello and well known to the past i am raising wilson and i'm howling cried we have a tad christmas mystery today and its one but if they listener from war and rachel how're lizzie and probably other people something we have heard people ask for a lot we are going to talk about five children from the solder family of west virginia whose home caught fire on christmas eve in forty five their bodies were not recovered they also we're never seen again so that sounds dreadfully fatted
actually not as that is what i had originally been researching for today's episode and i decided i had to put that went off until after the new year because it was just too sad to talk about right now so you can look forward to something even sadder in weary and other news i'm taking him taking suggestions were happier christmassy episodes her next christmas because i feel like mine for the last couple years have been extraordinarily sad well am i m kind of relieved that i'm not the one that pick this kind of been on my list was i usually in the one that goes for the horrible stories since it did not always be me might well on last year one of my pigs was the christmas the christmas tree ship now and was also just dreadfully dreadfully sad for the holiday you do know how to pick a tiered tyrker there so to shift gears and go to the more somber story
georgia saudi was born in toulouse sardinia in eighteen ninety five he emigrated to the united states in nineteen o eight he was only thirteen years old at the time and he was in the company of his elder brother at some point he changed his name to george solder and the brother who had accompanied him return to sardinia george worked as a laborer in pennsylvania before moving to west virginia and there he eventually started his own tracking company he met jenny chip reality who would become his wife at a local music store jenny had been born in italy had come to the united states at the age of three they moved from smithers to just outside fair though west virginia where george focused his business on hauling coal they lived in a two story frame house about two miles north of town georgians any solder had ten
children together on christmas eve nineteen forty five nine of these children where a home with them the tenth was away in the army georgian two of his older sons the twenty three year old john and sixteen year old george junior had all gone to bed early on and george junior had gone to bed and their attic bedroom and george senior and the parents bed room next to the office which was on the homes ground floor the daughters marian age seventeen martha lee aged twelve jenny age eight betty age six and sons maurice age fourteen and louis aged ten all asked to stay up late the younger ones wanted to play with the toys marian had bought them from her job at a dime store and their mother had agreed telling worries and louis that they had to close a chicken coop feed the cows and lock up before they went to bed then she went to bed herself taking the baby sylvia who was two or three depending on what source you look at to sleep in the caribbean her parent
through a little bit after midnight on christmas day jenny woke up to the phone ringing in the office and said she ran to answer it and she presumed that the wrong number or a prank voice you didn't recognize asked for me she didn't recognize and then laughed why he was awakes you notice that the downstairs lights were still on and the curtains or also open the front door was unlocked so she went to turn all the lights off in close up the house for the night then she went back to bed not long after jenny woke up again this time after hearing what sounded like something hitting the roof and then rolling down she got up and investigated but found nothing and went back to bed maybe another hour later she woke up again and this time she smelled smoke she woke up george senior and they realize the office was on fire
started calling for their children and trying to get everyone out of the house they ground sylvia from her crib marian had fallen asleep on the sofa downstairs and made it out as well john and george junior came down from their attic room according to an article in the charles gazette mail in the initial police report john and george junior were described as stopping in the younger children's rights on the way down and shaking them all awake but later statements they said that they called their children on the way down once both parents and marion john and george junior got outside they realize the younger children hadn't made it out with them george senior turned back and found at the bottom of the stairs four rooms was already in flames so he went back outside to try to get into the windows first he broke one of the windows that he could reach slicing his arm in the press asked that the lower level of the house was at this point basically engulfed george norm
he kept a ladder against the side of the house but when he went to get it it was not their later it was found about seventy five feet away from its normal spot down an embankments then he had the idea to park one of his coal trucks beside the house and basically use it to climb up to the other windows but neither of his tracks would start from the yard the rest of the family didn't see any sign of the younger children at the windows marion ran to a neighbour's house to raise the alarm they try to call the fire department but couldn't get an operator to respond so then they tried calling a local tavern and got no answer there you there finally you the neighbour drove into town herman i lived a couple of miles outside of town to try to find the fire chief in person which they finally did so in case you have some question marks in your head that would be pretty natural this was actually before the existence of nine one one or any other such emergency hotline
the way it will fire department had no fire siren to summon the firefighters instead an operator would contact one of the firemen who would call someone else who would call someone else in a phone tree situation when there was a fire so not quite the efficient system we have today now and based on fair bill size and the fact that the fire department is currently a volunteer fire department was probably a fire department or was probably a volunteer fire department i'm too although i was unable to confirm that specifically and almost certainly that a permanent self was short staff in the wake of world war two so there were lots of mitigating factors in the fire department response but also when they were still unbelievably late the neighbour tracked down f j morris of the fate of the fire department around one in the morning christmas day the fire truck around did the solder home almost seven hours later by then of course the building was destroyed
all of its remaining structural elements collapsing into the basement that had taken only about thirty or forty minutes on christmas morning fire department conducted a brief serves expecting to find the bodies of several children in the rubble and instead they reported finding only a few bones and pieces of internal organs but they told the parents that they had not found anything the fire chief told them that the bones of their children had probably burnt to ash and the fire since it was christmas day they postponed a more in their search for later the ap wire carried a very brief report of the fire which the new york times ran on the twenty sixth under the headline eleven
children die in for home fires five perish in west virginia three in pennsylvania too in kansas one in new york its heart breaking in its simplicity to quote from it the victims ranging and aid from six to fifteen years we're trapped on the top floor of their home despite the frantic efforts of their parents and other brothers and sisters to rescue them and state police instead ultimately declared that faulty wiring had caused the blaze the coroner convened a jury of six citizens which found the cause of the children's debts to be quote fire or suffocation on december twenty ninth george utter bulldozed a few feet of soil over the remains of the house burying he believed to be the bodies of his children in a mass grave the surviving family planted flowers there basically turning it into a shrine for maurice martha lee louis jenny had betty their mother jenny wood where only black for the rest of her life
most immediately though the family developed doubts and suspicions about what had happened in the fire and we will talk about them after a brief break or a word from a sponsor we ve talked you before its exhausting sometimes at the end of the work day to even contemplate having to go to the store and pick up ingredients to make a meal we'll go to great lengths at my house to avoid doing exactly that i have a thing i'm on my way home from work i'm so tired that any extraneous stop just makes me read rage angry i really know i want to go home and put on company close and sit i do not want to go to the grocery store but i do want something super delicious to eat and that is where blue apron comes if they can deliver farm fresh ingredients by step recipes your home that's going to enable you to create healthy handcrafted meals are right there in your own kitchen without going to the grocery store and without making we often terrible mistake of ordering take out which is a very slippery slope for me but so far less than ten dollars permeable blue apron will send you fresh ingredients there perfectly prepared
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also even foods that are normally like not so much if it comes in a blue apron me oh i'll billig i'll try and every time i was like all this is good i just didn't i just didn't know how you were right i just didn't know where i just had not had it this way that is super delicious so you too can cook incredible meals try the things that you may have thought you didn't like but you're probably gonna like i'm in a blue april this you're gonna be blown up the quality and freshness it's just a better way to cook check out this week's menu and get your first to meals for free by going to blue aproned our com slash history that is correct it is our treats the first you meals or on us when you got a blueprint outcome slash history in the days after the fire the surviving members of the family gradually started to put together a pattern of strange events that they remembered from the days before it passer by had looked at their fuse box and set it would burn the house down at an insurance aids
when george refused to buy a policy from him had gotten angry and said something threatening along the lines of your house will burned to the ground the chill and also later recalled that they'd seen someone in a track watching them come home from school one day mrs solder also didn't believe where she had been told about her children skeletons being burned up to ash and the fires if she started doing experiments where she would burn things like chicken bones and beef joints that were left over from cooking in there would stove and she always as you would expect how bones left over afterward the family also wondered if the fire was caused because a faulty wiring why had the lights in the house worked as they fled they had turned off before bed but as they were leaving and training run over the house they had turned them back on one of the things they were really insistent about when when interviewed later on in their lives was that they would not have been able to find their way out of the lights hadn't worked day the wiring was on fire why did the light still work
also when a repairman came out to restore the telephone line that had been destroyed in the fire he told the tsars that it look like it had been cut not burned and that the cut was only about two feet from the pole tied to the cut phone where was a report that someone had witnessed a man stealing a block and tackle from the saudis garage that name that may and later confess to cutting the telephone wire saying that he thought they were power lines story doesn't quite make sense while playing one day near the site of the fire sylvia found a hard rubber object that was hollow and had a cap that screwed off a bit and george concluded this was a neighbour while playing one day near the site of the fire sylvia found a hard rubber object that was hollow and had a cap that screwed off a bit and george concluded this was a napalm bomb and that it was what jenny had heard hit the roof and roll down in the middle of the night before
fire so he concluded that that was how the fire had started and became a corroborate that there was bus driver that also reported seeing someone lobbying quote balls of fire at the saunders roof on the night of the fire then there were reports that people had actually seen this solder children a woman at a tourist stop between faye villain charleston west virginia told police there had served them breakfast after the fire a women working at a hotel in charleston gave a statement to police that she had seen four of the five children there a week after christmas she said they'd been accompanied by for adults to women in two and his demeanor was frosty and hostile george and his wife jimmy
to the fbi and nineteen forty seven asking for help finding their missing children j edgar hoover wrote the couple a reply effectively saying that this was not within the fbi's jurisdiction however he did offer to assist local fire and police if desired but the local officials decline that offer the saunders continue to write to the fbi for help every couple of years also in nineteen forty seven george solder saw a picture of schoolchildren in new york in a newspaper and he became completely convinced that one of the children that picture was his daughter betty he drove to manhattan demanding to see her but was refused however georgian jenny solder became completely convinced that their children were in fact alive even if when that looked like betty in the picture was not really their child
they hired a long series of private investigator starting with cecy tiddly who announced a couple of odd connections one was that that threatening insurance agent had also been part of the coroner's jury another ted bit that tenderly discovered was that fire chief morris who had told the saunders previously that he had found no remains of their children in the ruins of the house had confided to a minister that he had in reality found a heart put it in a dynamite box and buried it they dug up this box and took it to a funeral home and the funeral director said that it look to him like a fresh beef liver not something that had been in a fire this of course started rumours that the fire chief had gotten a beef liver and buried it in a box very recently with the hopes of getting this orders to stop their investigation
the conclusion being that he wanted to end because he had something to hide it was really at this point with the weird box in the series of detectives and this ongoing search the newspapers around the country started to pick up a story that meant that then tips started to come in from all over but none of them pan out george saturday created a lot of the rest of his life to travelling all around the united states to search for his missing children following up on all these scattered leads the families at another investigation of the site itself in august of nineteen forty nine this time with the help of oscar be hunter a pathologist from washington d c he found among other things a few pieces of vertebrae which he sent to the smithsonian institution for analysis according to their report the vertebrae were all from the same person and based on their development they probably belong to a sixteen or seventeen year old boy
the oldest sought her son unaccounted for after the fire was younger than that in the words of the smithsonian report it is however possible although not probable for a boy fourteen and a half years old to show sixteen seventeen maturation their report also said that one would have expected to find complete skeletons of all the children given the conditions of the fire this minnesota involvement wound leading to hearings in the west virginia capital of charleston the governor and the superintendent of the state police told this orders that this case was hopeless and they declared it closed in nineteen fifty two the saunders put up a billboard displayed pictures of there i've missing children and it was low to the ground so that if you walked over to read it the pictures were it i level it read quote what was their fate kidney murdered or are they still alive and it offered a fire
thousand dollar reward and gave additional information about the fire in the children eventually the word was increased to ten thousand dollars and they passed out flyers with all of the same information as well george continued to travel to personally investigate tips that my god you looked into the idea that martha was in a convent and saint louis that someone had overheard station about the fire before it happened that a distant relative of his wife jenny's had the children that a woman had overheard a drunk man in a mexican border town telling someone else the story of his true identity it went on and on and on in response to that last one
george did tracked down the women who wrote the letter although she was not willing to talk to him he found the men she had described though and they told him they wish they could help but that he had the wrong people he apparently doubted for the rest of his life that that that they were being honest and when wished he had stayed and press further with his question jenny received an envelope with a central city kentucky postmark in nineteen sixty eight and in it was a picture with cryptic note that include the name louis solder and some strange number and let numbers on letters also written on it was i love brother frankie but none of the site or children were named frankie or frank to all the surviving family the man shown in this picture did look like grown version of louis who had been nine years old at the time of the fire the private investigator that they sent to kentucky to investigate never got back in touch with them after receiving the script
letter they revised their billboard adding in the picture that purported to be of the grown up louis with new text that said after thirty years it is not too late to investigate on christmas eve nineteen forty five are home was set on fire and five of our children ages five through fourteen kidnapped the officials blamed defective wiring although lights were still burning after the fire started the official report stated that the children died in the buyer however no bones were found in the residue and there was no smell of burning flash during her after the fire what was the mode of law officers involved what the big have to gain by making a suffer all users of injustice why did they lie and forces to accept those lies in nineteen sixty nine george solder died afterward jenny solder put up a sturdy fence her home and then started adding to it in an ex smithsonian magazine describes as quote building layer after layer between her and the outside the bill
word remain until jenny died about twenty years after her husband and now we're gonna talk about some theories for what happened but before we do that we will have another brief word from sponsor so many times whirls terrified the holidays are almost here we still have so much to do so that means we do not have time to get to the post office there is the traffic the parking or for my case when i am at home the walking along way loaded down with back it is so instead you can use stamp stockholm wits namesake com you can avoid all the hassle of going to the post office during the busy holiday season because everything that you would do at the post office you can instead d write from your desk you can buy in print officially u s postage using your own computer in printer you can print postage were any letter package the instant you need it and then just handed off to the person who delivers or male it's very easy inconvenient right now
and sign up for stamps com and use our promo code stuff for this special offer that includes a for weak trial plus a one hundred and ten dollar bonus offer that includes a digital scale postage so don't wait gotta stamps dot com and before you do anything else click of a mile from the top of the homepage and type in stuff that stamps dot com enter stuff so to get back to the story there are so many unanswered questions about this fire the big one i were there no bodies bound especially considering that there were plenty of other structural pieces and damaged household items after the fire was over why did it take seven hours for the fire department to get there even without hope phone trees situation was actually one article that suggested that the fire chief was not capable of driving the fire track for some reason enhance await for somebody who could
why was that take seven hours and where did the vertebrae come from a one theory is that they were in the filter the george used to bury the remains of the home but if so whose were they the bone fragments analyzed by the smithsonian have since disappear so they can't be further analyzed for dna i was the latter that was normally propped by the house not there especially since george insisted that was where it always was that's where he kept it why would the coal trucks not start georgia's answer to that one became that somebody had tampered with them on although descendants of the surviving children have theorized that he might have flooded their engines in his case in his haste to try to get them moving it if the children had been trapped in their rooms at the top of the house why couldn't survivors outside see them at the window is an obvious answer is that they had already succumbed to smoke inhalation and another theory according to fire
shall sterling louis interviewed by npr when children reach the age of twelve or thirteen they generally try to escape a fire but younger children usually try to hide he told very sad stories about finding the bodies of children curled up in strange places because the rather than trying to get out bright eyed to hide from the fire so the question becomes if they were not in the house when it burned down if they were still alive why did they never contact their parents even once they were grown one theory is that for some reason doing so would have put their parents live that risk while we don't know if one of did there was that weird cryptic letter yeah but super cryptic there so many theories for what happened to the solder children the first and most obvious is that they really did die in the fire although that does not account for why no one found there remains
and all the other theories are basically entirely speculative some of them kind of you like their pulled out of thin air one such notion is that the mafia had tried to recruit disorders and the daughters had refused which led to the kidnapping of their children palliation local law enforcement on the other hand have said that there was no known mafia activity in that part of west virginia at the time and other things he is that this was all some sort of conspiracy and that someone known to the family played a part kidnapping the children by claiming they were going to take them somewhere safe sylvia who was a toddler at the time fire and whose youngest memories are of that night told pr in two thousand and five that she wanted people to uphold her parents dream of keeping the story alive she was still living as of twenty thirteen and as at that point she husband and their daughter all steadfastly believe that her siblings did not die in that fire and remains a mystery does i dont know
i think about yeah me there i mean there's always the outcomes razor thing and oil the most likely but you're so much goodness around it the right when i started researching it and then moving about the fact about it besides the house burned down there was a billboard there's a third of the to fact that i knew i thought most likely that they had died in the fire and it was a terrible tragedy and a light it just seems totally logical to me that a grieving family with latch onto the idea that they were still living and spend the rest of their lives looking for it but then whence we got into like seriously where were the bar i couldn't find any reasonable scientific explanation for how bodies would not have been recovered if they had really been there and horace it it became so weird that now i sort of think maybe they weren't in the house when it burned down but then i had no idea yeah the part where it always turns for me where i'm like some than fishy happen is the
the beef liver that's allegedly a human heart yeah it sake that's really dicey behaviour with no explanation unless he knew more than maroney was saying we don't know its speculative do you have a pepe or listener may all together all of these sad loss of people is it peppered not happy not super jerry it's from brian and it is about our recent episode on the gallipoli campaign and dreams ass dear tracy and holly i'm a recent albeit avid listener of your podcasting firstly thank you for all your great work i wanted to write and after recent episodes on the gallipoli campaign i must admit that as an australian i almost couldn't bear to listen do anything more on gallipoli after what felt like years of studying gallipoli throughout high school and the constant invocations of it around and that day this is not a criticism that i didn't miss this in history class it was
after high school but i realized that not everyone in the world knew every detail or cared as much about the campaign as we australians do nevertheless i was keen to hear a foreign perspective and i wanted to say i thought you guys did a great job covering the campaign in the limited time you have i especially and you for mentioning some of the criticisms surrounding gallipoli and an second general in that regard interesting that use the word amtrak myth rather than the more common usage of em back legend while maybe only minor semantic differences i think that myth implies more falsity than legend there are high school i was never taught that the values attributed to answer troops were the result of selective and embellished accounts of journalists like see w being of ellis ashen bartlett or simply concocted i e a myth in fact i dont think that you emphasised just how significant the enzyme legend born and gallipoli is an australian culture the word
an act as even protected by legislation and people must get permission to use it while in university we state we history students do question elements of an that outside of university criticising answer can be considered tantamount to blasphemy people live even lost their jobs over public criticism around the centenary here there was also a huge backlash over brands capitalizing on an act or a quote brands act to sell products indicating the sacred nature of our national narrative or as historian king english calls it our civil religion the reasons behind the importance of advocates are a complex mix of political historical and social elements that i could go on about four days auroral stop myself include by saying thank you for covering this part of australian history and then she said some suggestions for some other australian history thank you
so much adrian i wanted to read this email today for a couple of reasons one is that i'm not totally sure where in my research process i picked up the term investment i'm not sure what am i sources used it or if it just stick if i had that way rather than legend but when i did look into this after adrian's email i did find that legend was a lot more common in various sites then myth was and the other is that we have several people to write and talk about how ends i am back is basically protected as a term and there like when you make an zack biscuits there's only one recipe that you can sell as an zack biscuits there's a lot of sort of protecting this this term and how it is used within australia say thank you so much adrian for writing to us about this it also cracked we have that gene she clarified that it was not a criticism that she didn't miss this the classic as we hear that joke like five hundred times a day delighted me that the area
like specifically like i'm not say that that big review your three hundred times a day it's only way thank you everyone for writing to us if you would like to write to us about this or any other party asked where history by gas that house have worked stockholm browser on facebook based but that consultation has been history and on twitter at mister history our tumblr is missed in history dot tumblr com in all our interests that pinterest that calm flash missed in history if you would like to learn a little more about something similar to what we talked about today candour parent companies website it is our stuff works dot com but the word but dissolved in the search bar find a whole queries about various unsolved mr eat throughout history if you would like to come to our website we're at mister history dot com and we have showed for all the past holly and i have worked on we have an archive of all episodes we done ever so can do all that and a whole more accustomed what's that
a war on this and thousands of other topics because it has not worked i love sports and i love my wife i will destroy you we haven't even started yet if you're the tape a fan who loves to debate jordan versus leubronn lambeau versus soldier field or even the sand lot verses major league you will love listening to our podcast the greatest we are some of our favorite comedian friend and celebrities to come and constructively argue everything within the world of sport with my commuting and sports frenetic wife megan gaily and my hilarious writer and comedian husband siege i tell it all now so listen and follow the greatest i heard radio apple pie curse or wherever you listen to punch
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-02.