The Disappearance of the Sodder Children

John Travolta
6 min readSep 27, 2023

On Christmas Eve, 1945, the Sodder family of Fayetteville, West Virginia, experienced a tragedy that would haunt them for the rest of their lives. A fire broke out in their home, and while George and Jennie Sodder and four of their nine children were able to escape, the other five children disappeared without a trace.

The fire started around 1:30 a.m., and George and Jennie were awakened by the sound of breaking glass. They smelled smoke and fire, and George quickly rushed downstairs to investigate. He found that the fire had started in the basement, and it was spreading rapidly.

George and Jennie began to wake up their children and get them out of the house. They managed to rescue four of their children, but the five others were nowhere to be found. George tried to re-enter the house to save them, but the fire was too intense.

The fire department arrived shortly after the fire started, but by the time they were able to extinguish the blaze, the house had been completely destroyed. The bodies of the five missing children were never found.

After the fire, the police and the fire department searched the ruins of the house and the surrounding area, but they found no trace of the children. The FBI was also called in to assist in the search, but they were also unsuccessful.

The local newspaper, the Fayette Tribune, reported on the fire and the disappearance of the children extensively. In an article published on December 29, 1945, the newspaper quoted Sheriff George W. Patterson as saying, “I believe the children perished in the fire. However, the search will continue until all hope is lost.”

The Sodder family also conducted their own search for the children. They offered a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the return of their children. They also placed posters with the children’s pictures all over the town and state.

Despite all of their efforts, the Sodder children were never found. Quotes from the police and the newspaper at the time reflect the conflicting opinions and emotions surrounding this tragic event. Sheriff George W. Patterson’s statement hinted at the grim possibility, while Jennie Sodder’s words, “I know my children are alive somewhere. I will never give up hope of finding them,” show her unwavering determination to reunite with her missing children.

There have been a few potential leads in the case over the years, but none of them have definitively solved the mystery. Here is more information on some of the most notable leads:

In 1967, Jennie Sodder received a letter that contained a photo of a young man who looked like Louis Sodder, one of the missing children. The letter was postmarked from Kentucky, but it did not have a return address. On the back of the photo was written the message “Louis Sodder, I love brother Frankie. I still hope to hear from Mother Dad and sisters and brothers. I have a family in Centralia, Illinois.”

Jennie Sodder immediately contacted the Centralia police department, but they were unable to find any record of a Louis Sodder living in the area. Jennie also tried to contact the man in the photo, but she was unable to reach him.

The identity of the man in the photo remains unknown, and it is unclear whether he is actually Louis Sodder. However, the photo remains one of the most compelling leads in the case.

On the night of the fire, one witness reported seeing a car speeding away from the Sodder house. The witness described the car as a black sedan, and they said that there were several people inside.

The police investigated this lead, but they were unable to identify the car or the people inside it. It is possible that the car was simply someone who was driving by at the time of the fire, but it is also possible that it was involved in the disappearance of the Sodder children.

The Sodder family had a dog named Buster, and he was the only member of the family who was not home on the night of the fire. Buster was found the next day wandering around the town, and he was very upset.

Some people believe that Buster may have been able to provide clues about what happened to the Sodder children, but unfortunately, dogs cannot talk.

There are many theories about what happened to the Sodder children. Some of the most common theories include:

• The children died in the fire. This is the most likely theory, but it is also the most difficult to prove. The fire was very intense, and it is possible that the children’s bodies were completely incinerated. However, there are some inconsistencies with this theory. For example, the children’s bedroom was on the second floor, and there is no evidence that the fire ever reached that part of the house. Additionally, the children’s beds were not disturbed, and their belongings were still in their rooms.

• The children were kidnapped. This is another popular theory, and there is some evidence to support it. For example, one witness reported seeing a car speeding away from the Sodder house on the night of the fire. Additionally, the Sodders received a letter in 1967 that contained a photo of a young man who looked like Louis Sodder, one of the missing children. However, there is no concrete evidence to prove that the children were kidnapped, and the identity of the young man in the photo remains unknown.

• The children ran away from home. This is a less likely theory, but it is still possible. The Sodder children were all teenagers, and they may have decided to run away from home for whatever reason. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the children were planning to run away, and they left behind their belongings.

The disappearance of the Sodder children is a tragedy that continues to haunt the community of Fayetteville, West Virginia. It is a reminder that even in the most ordinary of circumstances, tragedy can strike at any time. The Sodder family’s unwavering hope and determination to find their missing children remain an indelible part of their legacy.

Despite the many theories and leads surrounding the disappearance of the Sodder children, the case remains unsolved to this day. The tragedy left the Sodder family with many unanswered questions and a lasting legacy of heartbreak and uncertainty.

Over the years, George and Jennie Sodder tirelessly pursued any leads that came their way. They never accepted the idea that their children had perished in the fire without concrete evidence. They believed that their missing children were out there somewhere and continued searching for them for the rest of their lives.

The Sodders also became advocates for missing children and fire safety. They erected a billboard near their home with pictures of the five missing children and a reward for information. This billboard stood as a constant reminder of their determination to find their children.

In addition to their quest for answers, the Sodder family’s story has fueled numerous discussions and debates. It has become a symbol of the mysteries and uncertainties surrounding missing persons cases. The enduring image of the children’s faces on the billboard serves as a reminder of the enduring power of hope and the devastating impact of an unsolved tragedy on a family.

As the years passed, the Sodder children grew up without their missing siblings, and the Sodder parents carried the weight of their unresolved disappearance until their deaths. The case continues to captivate the public’s imagination, and amateur sleuths and researchers still delve into the details, hoping to uncover the truth behind this baffling mystery.

While the fate of the Sodder children may never be definitively known, their story endures as a testament to the enduring love of a family, the relentless pursuit of answers, and the enduring legacy of a tragedy that remains shrouded in uncertainty.



John Travolta

John Travolta: Your online source for unsolved mysteries. Join me as we dive deep into enigmatic tales of disappearances and the paranormal.