On Christmas Eve 1945, the Sodder family was asleep in their Fayetteville, West Virginia home when a fire erupted, trapping five of the ten Sodder kids upstairs and, sadly, taking their lives before the firefighters could arrive. At least, that's what the fire chief said had happened, despite no bodies or bones being uncovered from the rubble. This prompted George and Jennie Sodder to declare that their children could still be alive and oh God we're crying now. Is there anything more heart-wrenching than the reality-clouding grief of parents who'd lost their children?
smithsonianmag.comAt least the parents could be comforted by their grim, stoic photos.
Yes, the lack of bones was weird, but that must've had a rational explanation. Likewise, there must have been a rational explanation for the fact that, when George Sodder tried to drive his truck near the house (in hopes of climbing on top of it to reach the flaming second floor), the engine wouldn't start. And as for the family being unable to call the fire department in time because their telephone lines were apparently cut, that ... that ... hmmm ...
It Gets Weirder:
In light of all the bizarre circumstances of the tragedy, the Sodder family remembered that, some time before the fire, they were visited by two strangers making not-very-veiled threats about their house burning down and their kids dying. One of the men, who posed as an insurance salesman, even said to George, an Italian immigrant, that he'd pay for the offensive comments he was making about Mussolini all around town. Definitely suspicious, but not nearly as much as that same "insurance salesman" later serving on the coroner's jury that deemed the Sodder fire an accident.
AndreyPopov/iStock/Getty Images"It's the finding of this inquest that the fire was accidental. However, Mr. Sodder is found guilty of
needing to keep his goddamn mouth shut."
Others soon came forward saying they saw a man outside the Sodder house carrying a block and tackle, which could hypothetically have been used to temporarily disable a car. Also, the Sodders later found a weird rubber object in their yard which George claimed was actually a napalm bomb, which could hypothetically have been used as a napalm bomb.