The story reads like something out of a nightmare. A family of 12 asleep in their beds on Christmas Eve in 1945 wake up to find their home ablaze and phone lines cut.
In the span of around 45-minutes the Sodder family farmhouse had burned to the ground and only half of the family were standing outside in the cold West Virginia countryside.
The five children who were assumed to have been asleep in their attic bedroom, were presumed dead. However, as Matt Stewart, Jess Perkins, and Dave Warneke of the Do Go On podcast quickly realize, things were not that simple.
“Not long afterwards, as they were starting to rebuild their lives, the Sodder’s started to question all of the official findings about the fire,” Perkins told her co-hosts. “Jenny Sodder also had trouble accepting (Fire Chief) Morris’ belief that all traces of the children's bodies had been burned completely in the fire. Many of the household appliances had been found, still recognizable in the ash, along with fragments of the tin roof.”
The Sodder family quickly realized that the fire was too brief to have burned all traces of the children, and despite searches conducted by themselves and the authorities, no credible remains were ever recovered. So where did the children go?
One theory is that the children were kidnapped by a rival of George Sodder, who owned a successful trucking business. Some believe that the rival may have hired someone to set the fire and kidnap the children in order to hurt George financially. There is also the fact that the family was threatened by a life insurance salesman before the fire due to the family’s political beliefs.
“After being rebuffed, (the salesman) warned George his house would ‘Go up in smoke and your children will be destroyed.’ Which seems a little conspicuous,” said Perkins. “He attributed this all to the dirty remarks (George Sodder) had been making about Mussolini (the former fascist dictator of Italy).”
Despite the many theories and supposed leads, the official position of local, state, and federal agencies is that the five Sodder children perished in the fire. However, the mysterious circumstances surrounding the incident remain.
Why did a thief cut the family’s telephone line that night? Why did the fire chief bury animal remains at the site in order to convince the family that the children were truly deceased? Why was the salesman who threatened George Sodder allowed to sit on the jury panel that ruled the fire an accident?
Check out “The Sodder Children Disappearance” to hear the full discussion surrounding this truly bizarre case. Every week, Do Go On releases new episodes of their fact-based comedy podcast. For each episode, one of the hosts presents a report about a listener suggested topic to the others. Find Matt, Jess, and Dave on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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