5 West Virginian Children Disappeared On Christmas Eve…And Were Never Heard From Again

Late on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1945, in Fayetteville, West Virginia, United States, a fire destroyed the home of George Sodder, his wife Jennie and nine of their ten children. Four of those nine were rescued, and the bodies of the other five were never found. The Sodders believed for the rest of their lives that the five missing children survived.

The Sodders never rebuilt the house, instead converting the site into a memorial garden to their lost children. In the 1950s, as they came to doubt that the children had perished, they put up a billboard at the site along State Route 16 with pictures of the five, offering a reward for information that would bring closure to the case. It remained up until shortly after Jennie Sodder's death in the late 1980s.

In support of their belief that the children survived, the Sodders have pointed to a number of unusual circumstances before and during the fire. George disputed the fire department's finding that the blaze was electrical in origin, noting that he had recently had the house rewired and inspected. He and his wife suspected arson, leading to theories that the children had been taken by the Sicilian Mafia, perhaps in retaliation for George's outspoken criticism of Benito Mussolini and the Fascist government of his native Italy.

State and federal efforts to investigate the case further in the early 1950s yielded no new information. The family did, however, later receive what may have been a picture of one of the boys as an adult during the 1960s. Their one surviving daughter, along with their grandchildren, has continued to publicize the case in the 21st century in the media and online.

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