In the early morning hours on Christmas Eve 1945 in Fayetteville, West Virginia, George and Jennie Sodder were fast asleep after putting their nine children to bed. At 1 a.m. a fire broke out in the house. The family awoke to the smell of smoke and quickly made their way outside.
Once outside George saw that only four of the children had emerged from the smoke so he attempted to re-enter the house through a broken window, badly cutting himself in the process. He made an effort to reach the top story of the house by retrieving the ladder he had always kept on the side of the house, but it was mysteriously missing.
Unfortunately, with it being late December, the rain barrel was frozen solid so he had no way of quenching the ever intensifying flames. A nearby neighbor ran into town to notify the Fire Chief after several attempts to reach the fire department by phone failed.
The home was only two miles away from the department but it was 8 a.m. before fire crews reached the home which was then reduced to ashes. Maurice (14), Martha (12), Louis (9), Jennie (8), and Betty (5) perished in the flames. Or so the report read…
Fire crews and family searched the site for the remains of the young children; but after none were found, Chief Morris of the Fayetteville Fire Department suggested that the intensity of the fire must have completely cremated the bodies. Investigation as to the cause of the blaze detailed that faulty wiring was to blame.
At first both George and Jennie, in their grief, accepted that their children perished that dreadful night and the intense heat had robbed them of the ability to lay their children’s bodies to rest. But it wasn’t long before they began to question their children’s fate.
After talking to a crematorium, Jennie discovered that a human body must be burned at 2,000 degrees for more than two hours to completely disintegrate the bones. The house was only on fire for 45 minutes and house fires typically only reach half that temperature.
They began to think about a strange call they had received that night just before they went to bed. Why George’s ladder had mysteriously vanished and if the wiring was faulty why were the lights still working when the family fled the house?
Perhaps most unsettling were the eyewitness accounts of a stranger fleeing the scene and one account where a woman saw a car driving by the house in flames with five children crammed in the back.
Were the Sodder children still alive?…