Home » Episodes » Episode 6 – Winston-Salem, NC & Fayetteville, WV (Bone Closet)

This week, your hosts are venturing to smaller towns for a little break from the big city. Covering stories that happened on or around Christmas, Rachel tells the terrible story of the Lawson family murder by patriarch Charlie Lawson, a family annihilator. Then, Emily discusses the unsolved case of the Sodder family house fire that either killed five of the family’s 10 children or was part of a massive 75-year coverup. Merry Christmas, and hopefully you’re horrified!

Content/Trigger Warnings: fires, child murder, incest


Rachel 0:14
Welcome to horrible history, a morbidly curious podcast where we pick a new travel destination each week and then dig into the history that you probably won’t read about in the travel Bursars.

Emily 0:25
Thanks for joining us. I’m Emily Barlean.

Rachel 0:28
And I’m Rachel Everett Lozon this week, we are traveling to two smaller towns, not our normal vacation destinations. But both of these little towns have stories worth telling.

Emily 0:40
Plus both stories we’re sharing this week happened on or close to Christmas, which is super exciting, because today is Christmas Eve. Happy Christmas Eve. We certainly love a good theme. It just makes sense.

Rachel 0:57
I mean, it does. This week, I will be heading to Winston Salem, North Carolina. And I’m going to stop by Fayetteville, West Virginia. Should we get started? Yeah. I was trying to think of like, Oh, just like Yeah, yeah. I can’t do it. I’m just going to jump into the horrible Santa impressions are not not sure we’ll get more of them through. So, I mean, God, I hope not. Okay. So today I’m taking us to Winston Salem, North Carolina. I’m not gonna lie. I had never heard of this before. Have you been there? No. Okay. Cool. So I’m going to take you on a little tour of their tourism website. I did a little creeping. So they have over 45 wineries, the reynolda House Museum of American Art, Hanging Rock State Park, our tivity Park. I thought it was activity and my document keeps telling me I need to spell check. But it’s like, it’s like a playground and an art structure situation all like mixed together. You know what I mean?

Emily 2:12
Are you saying our tivity like, OUR

Rachel 2:15
no Art ibbity? Like IRT? art. tivity.

Emily 2:20
Wow. bad name but sounds cool.

I mean, it looks cool, but very hard to say. And then nemuro V and culinary trail. There’s I think nibbles a gross word. I’m just gonna throw it out there. But it says nibble on more than 260 years of history along the Monrovia and culinary trail. It just sounds like sex stuff. Yeah, yeah. Like I’ll nibble on her history like I have like a visceral reaction. This is why I’m glad that we editor and podcast because I’m gonna be like, Okay. And something not listed on the travel tourism website. About 17 minutes away, you will get to Germantown North Carolina, which is why we’re we’re actually going to So, I know that this podcast is based on going places we want to visit. But it’s my podcast. And honestly, I would go to Germantown just to learn more about this gruesome yet festive murder. So hold up. We’re not going to Winston Salem. You know, that’s where our hotel is going to be. But we’re actually going to German town. You know what I am like very German, genetically.

Also English and Czech. But like, German is like, ah, actually, I’m sorry for the tangent, but I am going to do a quick update because German reminded me, my family’s very German. Our last name. So my last name is Marlene, and my dad has trace our ancestry back like 34 generations. And our name used to be Berlin, hence the very German thing. But my dad listened to episode three of our podcast about strausberg France and the dancing epidemic. And he like, got so excited and came to me and he had this big bound book that he has that has like all of the history of our family in it. And he like opened it up and he was like, great, this part read this part. Some of my family back in the 1500s lived in Strasbourg, France. So love it. It’s like highly likely that my great great, great, great, great, great, great great 34 time great grandparents and stuff. We’re dancers or spectators at that event. Boom. So exciting.

Rachel 4:59
Do you think you would rather be someone who was dancing uncontrollably or someone who was watching people dance uncontrollably, watching obviously I could be judging and laughing and making jokes and probably starting a podcast. Yeah, taking bathroom breaks starting a 1500s podcast, you know we do. Yeah. Okay, century over. This German town is not like Berlin. This is real rural, like parts of Nebraska farm community rural. The most recent population I could find was in 2018. And the population was 967.

Emily 5:42
Yeah, that’s where all the time I’m in right now. 2500. So 900 is like, baby dinky tiny, tiny. Yeah.

Rachel 5:50
Like, that’s why there’s probably not hotels that we can’t even stay there. And so I know it’s a stretch to say it someplace that I’d like to travel. But Winston Salem does look gorgeous. And North Carolina has beaches and mountains. And honestly, I just really wanted to do this story. So let’s get into it.

Emily 6:09
Like you said, it’s our podcast. We can. We can stray from the norm. Everyone smile. It’s Christmas, for God’s sakes, game

Rachel 6:16
Christmas. I was just going to say the same thing. Of course. Today, we are going back to December 25 1929. To discuss the death of the loss and family at the hands of the patriarch family. Annihilator. Charlie Lawson.

Emily 6:33
Oh my gosh, I love no wrong word. I am fascinated by family and I don’t love them. Yeah. But

Rachel 6:44
yeah, this one is interesting, too. We’ll get into why. Charlie Lawson was born May 10 1886. He was a tobacco farmer from Stokes County, North Carolina, in 1911. So he’s 25 he marries Fanny manring. And they got busy. I mean, this is, you know, the 1900s, the early 1900s. In a farm community, you got to have babies so that they can work your farm and they have eight of them. Unfortunately, number three, William died in 1920 when he was six years old, which is sad, but a different kind of sad than what we’re going to talk about the rest of the family. Charlie and his family moved to Germantown after two of his brothers relocated there. And he worked really hard live the American dream and eventually was, was able to buy his own farm in 1927. Everything seemed okay for a couple of years. And then Charlie started to change. He went to the doctor for insomnia and severe headaches. And this freaked me out extra because Emily, you know that I’ve recently had insomnia and severe headaches. I’m like, I have those things. And this is why I’m like, okay, I live in 2020, where I have melatonin and headspace meditations. Have you tried them? Because they’re amazing.

Emily 8:10
I’m really bad at meditating. Like, I constantly put it on my new year’s resolutions. Listen up, like my therapist is always telling me you should try to meditate. I just don’t do it. Well, I know that. That’s why I should do it to like, get better. Yeah, but you know, me type three. I don’t like to do things unless I know I can do them. Well, so

Rachel 8:30
gently, perfect. I don’t do it. I had to pick this one guy has named Simon and for the record, headspace is not sponsoring this. But if you’d like to Hey, you should. You should. His name is Simon and he has like a soft British accent. And he sounds like an old guy wearing a sweater vest. And he does a couple of meditations that I really like. And they’re called sleep cast. So they’re like podcasts that put you to sleep, which I love. And I tried a couple other voices. My husband is like, that guy’s trying to sound calm, but he sounds like a serial killer

Emily 9:09
that’s on brand for us. My company actually pays for the calm app for us all to have subscription comm app as like a mental health thing, which is amazing. Love that. So I do listen to that, but I rarely listen to their guided meditations. And I usually just use the like, frames. I’m really making the most of it. It’s like a rain day antiques, which is really my best. Well, while I’m here on the farm

is it’s city rainstorm, because I like Miss. Oddly the sounds of the city. I’m really excited to get back to

Rachel 9:48
I put on one last night because I woke up at 330 because our thermostat was having issues that’s a whole is not an interesting story. But I just I couldn’t sleep and so I was like I’ll try a new one with Simon’s voice And it was like night train. upbringing. I was like, I gotta go back to Ray day antiques. But I know I mean headspace. There’s something for everyone. But anyway, I didn’t read anywhere that Charlie Lawson had a traumatic brain injury or any reason for his insomnia and his headaches. Spoiler alert, he eventually dies, as I’m sure you would guess because this is 1929. But he’s not still alive. He is not still alive. I did see in his initial autopsy report, after his death showed a small brain with some underdeveloped parts in the middle. Can’t be great. It’s not great. Yeah, I’ll post a picture of the not the actual brain. It’s been lost to science. It’s probably in the jar and some doctors cut that out. It’s probably in a jar somewhere. But I I saw a picture a drawing of it, which might be interesting.

Emily 11:12
Yeah, I love the brain. Like show me everything about it. Mm hmm.

Rachel 11:17
Two weeks before Christmas. 1929. Charlie, Fanny, and all seven of their kids get dressed up to have a family photo taken. Yeah, it’s sweet. And it’s also it’s a bold move cotton because they are not rich, and buying new clothes was really out of character. Second, spoiler alert. They were eventually buried in the very clothes they wore for the pictures. Oh, he was buying them funeral clothes. legitimately. Fast forward to Christmas Day. Everyone is at the farm. Except for 16 year old Arthur who by the by in his pictures looks like he’s 25 I don’t know what it is about the 1800s and early 19 hundred’s but people look so much older than they actually are.

Emily 12:06
Yes. I like pictures of girls who are like 16 and high school look like 40 year old women now.

Rachel 12:15
Yeah, crazy. It’s insane. I don’t know if it’s the style. He’s wearing a suit. Cut this part, please. But I was like, wow, he’s really good looking. And then I was like, 16 1616 like he looks for me. He looks for I mean, he looks he looks a salad like 27. Nice. Christmas. Charlie sends Arthur out to pick up some ammo or maybe Arthur asked him. There are conflicting reports, but essentially, it’s a Christmas tradition. Around Germantown to go rabbit shooting. So that’s a thing which I mean, seems legit. So are not home. The rest of the family is home. 12 year old Carrie and seven year old Mabel were on their way out going to see their aunt and uncle for Christmas. proche Yep, yep, I bet it was and then it wasn’t. Charlie was waiting for them by the tobacco barn. When they were in range, he shot both of his daughters with a shotgun and then bludgeoned them. Ah, why both? I hear that. Oh, it gets worse. He placed their bodies inside the tobacco barn. And he he crossed their arms across their chest and then put a rock behind it or a boulder and kind of a makeshift pillow for their dead bodies. comfy. I mean, yeah. I don’t think he’s thinking about comfort at this point. He’s about to go on a rampage.

Emily 13:54
How old are those two little girls again? 12 and seven. Are they the oldest at this point? No, Arthur. No. Okay. It was just they were they were

Rachel 14:06
outside. So next he goes back to the main house, which I’m assuming is far enough away from where he shot the girls because nobody seemed disturbed. And like I said rabbit had taken was a tradition. And they’re out in rural North Carolina. It’s not weird to hear gunshots there.

Emily 14:23
I heard gunshots today like in rural communities. It’s just it’s like hunting or somebody it’s cow broke its leg and the farmers like well gonna have to fix this, you know, or there’s a rabbit that’s rabid. rabid, rabid,

Rachel 14:41
rabid rabid. Like the Bugs Bunny none of us ever have seen.

The reason I don’t think she heard anything is because he goes back to the main house and Fanny who’s the wife is sitting on the front porch. He shoots Fanny And then the kids who are in the house 17 year old Murray, four year old James and two year old Raymond probably heard this. So Charlie shoots Murray, and then finds both of the little boys hiding. And he shoots both of them. And then extra horrible. heap legends four month old Mary Lou.

Emily 15:27
I forgot about the baby. Like, I want to start crying just thinking about those little boys hiding, like, yeah, that was my heart. Absolutely. into a million pieces because they were scared.

Rachel 15:43
And not even just to be scared, but to be that kind of scared of your parent. Yeah, it’s, it’s so conflicting because you think that that person is going to keep you safe. You think you can trust that person? And then when you know he’s died and you’re hiding and you’re, you don’t understand, I’m sure at two and four. What’s happening? I wouldn’t understand as an adult. If my husband flipped a switch and came at me with a shotgun, you know, so it’s just horrible. He finishes shooting everyone in the family, except Arthur, who’s still not there. And except for the two girls who are arms crossed with the boulder pillow. He places all of the victims heads on a pillow crosses their arms and goes out into the woods. Yeah, your your face is like what the fuck is wrong with this guy, and I

Emily 16:40
concur. I momentarily forgot it was a podcast, and no one can see my face.

Unknown Speaker 16:45
I did react people

Rachel 16:48
know, but there, there’s this thing that happens. And listen, we like these stories, because they’re fucked up. But we also there’s a reason that I’m like, Okay, let’s talk about the victims names. Let’s talk about their ages. Let’s make sure that we’re taking a moment to honor them. Because yet an interesting story, but people died. Yeah. So we’re trying to honor that, too. So Charlie goes out into the woods, and he shoots himself in the chest. Oops. So yeah. And like we were just talking about, people are hearing gunshots all day, pretty normal. So nobody comes running, when he kills himself. So his body’s found later on Christmas, when relatives come over to wish the family Merry Christmas, they find his body in the woods. They don’t find him first. I didn’t see any accounts of how it happened. I’m going to imagine, and we’ll get to the state of the house, but there was a lot of blood. And so I’m going to imagine they see the house and then go looking for him. Or the authorities find him but the reason they know something happened is because the family came over. So they found authorities found footsteps kind of pacing around the tree, which indicated that Charlie had been doing some thinking and pacing before he completed suicide. And they found a couple of weird ass notes in his pockets. So they were just bits and pieces written on tobacco option receipts. One of them read, quote, trouble can cause and the other red, quote, nobody to blame.

Emily 18:39
Trouble can cause nobody to blame. Do you think that they’re the beginning of two different thoughts? Or are they supposed to go together?

Rachel 18:50
I mean, God, I don’t know. And that’s my next thought is, we talk pretty much every episode now about how people’s brains like a complete story. And Charlie Lawson is a family man in a very small community. And he just flips a switch and kills his entire family and that does not sit right with people. So we got two theories. Probably neither of which is true. Okay, into that. One rumor flying about the town is that Charlie had witnessed some sort of mob incident. So he and his family were murdered in what was supposed to look like a murder suicide. That’s really unlikely. How many mobsters do you think are infected in rural North Carolina? Hundreds Rachel 100. At least half of those 900 people are actually in the sanitation business. And then the the more plausible theory is that the family had a really dark secret and trigger warning slash spoiler alert. It’s incest. Some people think that Charlie was sexually abusing 17 year old Marie. And before the murders, Murray told Charlie that she was pregnant. Did they find this? Like, is that part of the autopsy? Nope, nope. And that’s why I’m like it might just be small town gossip. A couple of sources I read said that Fanny also knew about this pregnancy. But Mary’s autopsy, the only article that mentioned her autopsy that I saw said it never showed a pregnancy. So who knows? So this case was already pretty nuts. But wait, there’s more. So remember, in the beginning, I said Charlie Lawson had moved his family to Germantown because his brothers had moved there. Yeah, one of the brothers Marian Lawson, opened the Lawson family home as a tourist attraction, like a museum of murder, and he did not clean up after the murders.

Emily 20:57
Oh, my gosh, I have heard of this before? Uh huh. Is there a reason situations are raisins.

Rachel 21:06
So a couple of the sources that I read said there was so much blood, neighbors could scoop it up with a shovel. You? Yes. And that makes the reasons even grosser? Like the shining? Yes. Marie had baked a cake on Christmas Day. That obviously nobody was going to eat. So it was displayed on the tour. And it did. It did end up having to be in a glass jar, because people were taking the raisins as souvenirs. And those are our people. Let’s be real for those of you curious for sure.

Emily 21:42
It’s like, and this reason is from a crime scene. I framed it in a shadow box. It’s covered in blood. What are you doing? Oh, yeah,

Rachel 21:55
yeah. So Marian charged 25 cents admission. And at its peak, there could be 500 visitors a day, which I did a little calculating. That’s $125 in 1929. Money, almost about 19 $100. In today’s day, a day for one day.

Emily 22:17
I mean, way to profit off of your family’s demise.

Rachel 22:22
People, that’s what people said. But Marian defended his murder Museum by saying that he needed to make money to give to Arthur, who’s now an orphan grieving the loss of his dead family. And he needed to pay the farms mortgage and that tracks in my opinion. Yeah, that’s true. And also I’m really biased because like, I definitely would have gone. Listen,

Emily 22:46
I was just gonna ask, would you have gone to see like, I don’t know if I would have I mean, yeah, I probably would have Let’s be honest. But

Rachel 22:54
yeah, it’s that thing where? I don’t want to see it. And they know I don’t want to see it. But I’d have to need to see it. I have to see what happened. I can’t explain it. It’s that reason for my Emily, just, we haven’t explained this on the podcast. But for those of you who don’t know, and also I’m full of shit here. She just goes to different murder scenes and is like, what can I take?

Emily 23:27
And like and this hairbrushes from this. I actually see sat on this toilet seat. I was literally so I have like a podcast computer, right? Like I have a laptop that only is for our podcast to hold all of our files and stuff. I was telling my dad I was like, if anyone I know ever gets murdered, and they look at this computer, because it’s like, every day it’s like family Annihilator like worst murder cases in the history of man. What’s it like to burn a body? It’s like can you detect chloroform? I mean, we’re only six episodes in and I’ve already searched for a lot of shit.

Rachel 24:18
I mean, we do our due diligence here people for you. It’s for you. It’s all for you. Damion

Emily 24:26
who’s tanium was an omen reference. In The Omen the babysitter kills herself. And she stands on top of a building at a at a child’s birthday party and she says Damien it’s all for you Damien. And then she jumps off and hangs herself. Damien is the devil. He’s like, Damien want that? Worst birthday present. I asked for a fucking car. Yeah,

Rachel 25:01
So they, because of all of the blood and stuff like the normal funeral home that they should have gone to for all of their embalming and such couldn’t handle them. So they end up going to this other place that’s now owned by Madison dry goods. And they still have medicine Dragon has a museum upstairs dedicated to the family and includes memorabilia from the mortuary surface.

Emily 25:28
See girls? Do you need to go to Germany for a vacation because there’s lots of tourist attractions for

Rachel 25:35
technically, I think this is in Madison. But that’s I think it’s I think Madison is the name of the town, not the name of the family. But still, um, This to me is really weird. The entire family, including Charlie is buried together, which I don’t know how I feel about we can tie that I’d want to be buried with the person who murdered me father or not. Yeah, not cool. Yeah. Baby, Mary Lou was buried nest within the arms of her mother Fanny. Just to add insult to injury, even though that murder museum was killing it, in its heyday, no pun intended. Arthur ended up losing the farm anyway, and turning to alcohol. When he was 32. He died in a car accident, leaving behind a wife and four children. He was buried with the rest of his family.

Emily 26:27
It doesn’t sometimes seem and maybe it’s just the nature of the type of research that we do. But I feel like so often I find families like this where it’s just tragedy and tragedy and tragedy. It’s like why is why does it seem to follow some families? Yeah, and I think

Rachel 26:47
I mean, multiple things. And we kind of talked about it with the Kennedy curse, right? And people are looking for a story. But I think in this case, if you’re 16, and you lose your family in this traumatic way. And this is a time before therapy. I mean, Freud didn’t start doing his thing till, like 2030 years after this. So thinking about what do you do? Of course, you’re like, Okay, I lost everything. I lost my family. I lost my home. Time to start drinking. Like I get it. I could, I could say that for sure. Yeah, but now we have therapy, please go to therapy. Okay, because this is horrible and horrible. In 1956, I’m sorry, I don’t mean to giggle. But when I think about it, it does sound like a country song. In 1956, the Stanley brothers recorded a folk song, literally called the murder of the Lawson family.

What and I’m going to read you some of the lyrics because I have Yes, okay.

It was a great surprise. He killed six children and his wife and then he closed their eyes. And now farewell kind friends at home. I’ll see you all no more into my breasts. I’ll fire one fatal shot, then my troubles will be or That’s right, not over. Or because it’s a country song. They did not carry him to jail. No lawyers did he pay? He’ll have his trial in another world on the final judgment day. They were all buried in a crowded grave while angels watched above come home Come home my little ones to the Land of Peace and love.

Emily 28:36
It sounds like a country song. Definitely sounds like a country song. And also what a creepy song. I’m sorry,

Rachel 28:44
it is it the creepiest song and I’m just like Coco cool. It almost reads like a death metal song. country song. Yeah, you can’t understand anything they’re saying anyway, but that’s the brutal murder murder of the last and family by patriarch Charlie Lawson on Christmas day So Merry Christmas.

Emily 29:08
Yikes. That’s that’s a bad one. I like when you started telling the story. I was like, why do I know this story? I’ve heard this story before and then I it like flashed in my head when you said like the museum part. I was like, the raisin cake. Yeah, yeah. The reason cake for sure.

How haunted is that house? Like, is the house still there? It’s not still there as a museum, is it?

Rachel 29:36
No, no, the museum shut down. And now they just have where the mortuary was has a little thing. But no, I don’t know if it’s still there, but it’s for sure. Not a museum. Good. I imagine. If I’m a farmer who buys that land I’m knocking that house down.

Emily 29:55
Oh 100% to money goes there. I’m so weird for sure that Arthur didn’t find his family. I mean, family found the family but it wasn’t Arthur right?

Rachel 30:07
I don’t know. I didn’t see anywhere that it was Arthur. But I mean Nope, sure. Cant that sounds horrible. I mean, not to use that word redundantly. But it, it’s the worst.

Emily 30:23
It is. Wow, great story. Awful, horrible story. But like, Yeah, well told Oh my god. Yes.

Rachel 30:31
Yeah, the heavy one. But hey, it’s Christmas. It’s crazy, man. Yeah. I, when we compared numbers this week to see who was going first, we had a comparable number of people dying and both of our stories and so I think maybe you are also doing a family Annihilator. And I need to know what you’re actually doing.

Emily 30:57
I’m not doing a family Annihilator. But we do have very similar numbers of people who’ve died. Interestingly enough, families that have a lot of children, families that live in small towns, but mine is a little bit of a different twist. And also, we’re going to go back a day to Christmas Eve because this happened on Christmas Eve, which is actually today. This is a Thursday, December 24. You’re listening on Christmas Eve. So this this. Yeah. This actually what I’m about to tell you took place exactly. 75 years ago, today. No 75th anniversary. Isn’t that crazy? And I did not even pick the story because of that. I was just like doing the math. And I was like, this is like significant anniversary. Oh my gosh, yeah. So super exciting. Okay. I’m traveling, as I said, in the intro to Fayetteville, West Virginia. And it’s really highly unlikely that you’ve been to Fayetteville, but I’ll ask Have you been there? Have you been to West Virginia? I don’t think I’ve even been to West Virginia.

Rachel 32:11
If I have it’s only been driving through and not a I’m actually their situation.

Emily 32:18
Yeah, so a Fayetteville is a small town about 58 miles south east of Charleston. It’s got about 4000 residents. So it’s like a booming Metropolis compared to German town. But it’s still small for sure. And so I know of course at the premise of this podcast is where we’re reviewing terrible events in history that happened in locations that we’d like to visit. But I am actually not breaking the rules because according to budget travel magazine, Fayetteville, West Virginia is one of the coolest small towns in America. Seriously, like it’s been listed on these lists. That’s like it’s a pretty sweet small town.

Rachel 33:05
No, I don’t believe you. I just think it’s hilarious that we’re both like look, not only is it our podcasts that don’t come at us, but like, Hey, we did our homework and we justified it so like,

Unknown Speaker 33:16
we’re not cheating. It’s fine. Don’t come at me I know cheater. I only help other people cheat. And if you don’t understand that reference, listen to terrible today. Last week’s episode, okay, um,

Emily 33:30
so actually, I would totally go to Fayetteville just to go to pies and pints which is a pizza place in in Fayetteville right now it current current day. For this is the research I do for the chicken Gouda pizza, which has chicken applewood smoked bacon, red onions, chipolte a crema and scallions which I was like, Oh my god, that sounds so good. I’m so mad right now. Shortly after that, I’m gonna head on over to secret sandwich society. They named their sandwiches after presidents and I would get the Washington because it’s ham and white cheddar and apple and a Rosemary mayo and greens on a toasted baguette. Like any kind of mail is it used with something? I’m in like I love and aoli I love a boozy mayo. Yeah, no, it’s so good. Oh my gosh drooling and then once my stomach had settled from apparently eating two meals, I would go and check out nap in between. Yeah, for sure. And then there’s like zip lining and whitewater rafting like it’s a super outdoorsy area. Super cute. You can hike and all kinds of good stuff. So it does sound like a cute little town. just delightful in my opinion. Yeah, sounds fun. But it’s also home to one of the most highly debated and theorized about tragedies. And it’s a serious like humdinger mystery and I’m really excited to share it with you. Okay, can’t wait. For almost 40 years, Rachel, if you drove down route 16, near Fayetteville, West Virginia, you would see a billboard on the side of the road. The billboard had five grainy pictures on it. The pictures were five children, all dark haired and straight faced. beneath their portraits were their names and ages, Maurice 14, Martha 12, Lewis nine, Jenny eight, and Betty five. Where were these children? Their parents want to know, they want any information possible, they will offer a reward for any information that leads to information about where their children are. They needed to know if their children were dead or alive. And they’ve been looking for decades, but the answer has never been found. Oh my god, I’m so excited about it. It was like a mystery. Yeah. So the small town of Fayetteville has been plagued by this question. And of course, rumors have flown around for 75 years now. No one can agree whether the children are dead or alive. But what everyone does know is that on the night before Christmas, when all was no just kidding. In 1945, during that marriage over, not even a murderer. On Christmas Eve in 1945, George and Jenny solder, and nine of their 10 children. One of their sons was away in the army went to sleep. And around 1am a fire broke out. George and Jenny and four of their children escaped the fire, but the other five or simply never seen again. Ah. So when you hear this, of course, you’re like, Okay, so they died in the fire. Right. But there is some question behind that, which obviously, I’m going to get into. But actually the first thing my brain thought when I heard this was like, hold up, like, how is it that the parents and four of the children got out but not the other five children? Like, did the parents just run out and like hope that the rest follow? Like, what the hell What’s going on? Yeah.

And the answer is yes. So George, the father did try to save his children. First, he broke a window to get back into the house. And he actually cut his arm up really bad. It was like bleeding everywhere. But he couldn’t see anything through the smoke and the fire because it had consumed the entire downstairs of their house, the living room, the dining room, kitchen office, and the parents bedroom, which was on the main floor, totally engulfed in flames. Okay. So he starts to take stock of like what he knows at this point, right. two year old Silvia, whose crib was in her parents bedroom, was safe outside with Jenny, the mom. 17 year old Marian, and two of their sons 23 year old john and 16 year old George, who had fled the upstairs bedroom they shared and even like, singed their hair on the way out, it said, Oh, my God, they were all outside. And okay, but the other five children were nowhere to be seen. And oddly enough, the five other than the baby like the five youngest children, nowhere to be seen. So that means more Reese, Martha, Louis, Jenny and Betty still had to be upstairs, right in their bedrooms, which were on either end of the hallway. And the stairway in the middle was fully engulfed in flames. Okay, so they can’t get out. Which I’m not a parent, but like, I can only imagine the sheer panic of realizing that your children are stuck inside of a burning building like, yeah, it gives me chills just thinking about it.

Rachel 39:07
Yeah, there would be nothing worse than losing a child. Like as a parent. That is my number one biggest fear. And I know we say that lightheartedly a lot, but like, No shit. That is my number one biggest fear. Yeah.

Emily 39:20
And I just like the empath in me, like, immediately puts myself in these parents shoes, like they’re out. They made it out. And like how much guilt would you feel like your parents, your other kids didn’t get out? So George, the father is like, frantically trying to save these children, right? So he runs back outside, after realizing that he couldn’t get up the stairs to get to them. And he’s like, okay, I can’t go up the stairs. I need to go through a window like I need to get upstairs and find my kids. So he runs around the house to where he knows that he keeps he keeps a ladder propped against the house at all times. But it was Scott is always there. Why does he keep a ladder on the stairs? against the house? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a fire precaution already like, but he just like that’s where he keeps his ladder propped against the house

Rachel 40:14
that feels like it’s inviting people to climb up to your children’s bedrooms. Oh, I didn’t even think about it that way. I literally This was such a fear of mine as a kid and I have no idea why that I even in second storey bedrooms, I don’t know if it was like home alone. Like some burglars are going to try and get in and like they’re hiding under my bed right now. So I cannot let my foot come out from the covers like, and my my parents would be like, Honey, you’re on the second storey. And I’m like, there’s a ladder. So I never heard of a fucking ladder mom. I know my baby is a nine year old. Listen here. I I didn’t know I just like I tried to make my house as difficult to break into as possible. So I don’t be traps. booby traps. Macaulay Culkin style. I can’t imagine leaving a ladder up to my children’s windows. Like, you gotta fucking work for it.

Emily 41:11
Yeah, well, I was just gonna say like, maybe it wasn’t totally up against a window. But if it was there, a rubber or a burglar could say like, like, slide it over. Like they can still do that. But nonetheless, he always kept his letter propped against the house. And it wasn’t there. Oddly, so then he has another idea. He’s gonna drive one of his trucks up to the house and climb on top of it to try to reach the windows. But even though both of the trucks he owned had worked perfectly the day before, neither of the trucks would start. So Time’s running out. He’s racking his mind thinking like, what can I do? He even tries to scoop water from a rain barrel to like, throw on the fire, but the rain barrel was frozen solid. And so at this point, you know, smokes pouring out of the house, flames are whipping out of the windows. And as far as anyone knew, by children between five and 14 are trapped inside. So while George is like frantically trying to figure out how to get the kids out, the daughter who’s 17 Marian runs to a neighbor’s to call the fire department. But this was during the time when you didn’t just like call your neighbor or have a phone book or have a cell phone, obviously you call an operator, and then they connect you to who you need to get connected to. Can you imagine how painful it would be to be like, No, I want to be connected to Rachael ever it was on air. And then it like someone else? And they’re like, now? Yeah, it would just be so frustrating.

Rachel 42:55
The closest I can even relate it to is Do you remember in the the early days of having cell phones, when we be like call mom it’d be like call john and you’re like yeah. I’m sorry. Early day is my like serious still does. Not gonna lie. But so mayor,

Emily 43:20
Marion goes to the neighbors to call the operator. No response from the operator. That’s weird. That’s their whole job. Didn’t get a response. So then a neighbor sees the blaze and goes to a nearby Tavern and makes a call from there. Again, no operator response. So exasperated, the neighbor got in his car and drove to town to track down the fire chief f J. Morris, which I’m like, f lee Bailey, why are people named f something terrible, but but so the fire chief f J. Morris initiated Fayetteville his version of a fire alarm, which is a phone tree system.

Unknown Speaker 44:03
No, it’s not. I was just gonna say it’s one guy going. Like basically, we’re sexually because he has to call a guy who then has to do he’s got a bullhorn. Oh my gosh.

Emily 44:21
So in the end, although the fire department was only two and a half miles away, the fire crew did not arrive until 8am which is seven hours after the fire started.

Rachel 44:35
And these parents are just watching their fucking house burn thinking their children are inside.

Emily 44:42
Literally by the time the fire department arrives the solders home is a pile of ash. A pile of ash. Yeah. So these parents are devastated obviously like they’re assuming that five of their children are dead. their houses burned down. But so as they’re searching through the rubble on Christmas Day, you know, trying to find their children’s bodies, they’re able to find burned appliances that have like, haven’t burned all the way up and things like that. No trace of remains like not even bone shards, nothing. So the fire chief is like, well, the fire is probably hot enough to, like, completely cremate the bodies. But the solders say, the fire actually burned the entire house down within 45 minutes. Like it took them seven hours to get there. But the fire didn’t burn for seven hours like it burned all the way down in less than an hour. And then was just smoking there. So I don’t know how much we know about the science of cremation. I’ll get there at some point. But that’s not actually, like long enough or hot enough to cremate a body to the point where there’s nothing left. So that’s Yeah,

Rachel 46:09
but yeah, I don’t know anything about the science of cremation.

Emily 46:15
I don’t either. I just thought this I was like, well, they probably burned up, obviously. But I mean, if you think about even like pictures and stuff from 911, or other fire, you know, I feel like there is still always like a burned body or the charred remains of something. There’s Zilch, nothing. So a few days later, a state police investigate Gator comes and like comes through the rubble and attributes the fire to faulty wiring. And so George, after a few days, covers the basement, which is now like a gaping like a hole filled with the remains of the house and stuff the ash. He fills it with dirt and he basically intends to preserve the sight as a memorial. And so the coroner’s office just issues five death certificates before the new year so pretty quickly attributing the causes of death to fire or suffocation one or the other. But after some time goes by, the solders begin to wonder, are their children alive? Why Why would they think this? Yeah, let’s talk about it. So they’re obviously going to be a lot of like, crazy twists and turns and little things that make them think this and we’re gonna get there. But first I’m gonna just for some background knowledge tell you about George and Jenny. So George solder was born Giorgio Sato and Tula Sardinia? Sardinia? Yeah, in 1895. So that’s Italy. So he emigrated to the United States in 1908 when he was 13. And his older brother did accompanying accompany him to Ellis Island, but then immediately returned to Italy, leaving 13 year old George there on his own completely alone. Oh my god, but 13 year olds were much more resilient back then I guess. And they looked like 25 right. So because he looked 25 he was able to find work on the Pennsylvania Railroad. And he like carried water and supplies to the workers. And then after a few years, he moved to a town called Smithers, which is amazing Smith is. And he was smart, and ambitious. And he worked as a driver for a while and then launched his own trucking company and hauled dirt for construction and hauled coal and stuff like that. But anyways, one day he walked into a local store, which was called the music box and met the owners daughter, Jenny. Right. Jenny Kip, super Jani, another Italian who had come over from Italy when she was three. And so they got married and had 10 children between 1923 and 1943 and settled in Fayetteville, West Virginia, an Appalachian town with a small but active Italian immigrant community. Okay. So the solders were one of the most respected middle class families around. But George had really super strong opinions about everything. Like he was known for that, from business to current events and politics, and he was especially vocal about his dislike for the Italian dictator, Mussolini. So he was constantly having heated arguments with other members of the Italian community about miscellany. And he was just like known for being very opinionated, opinionated on that. But he also never would talk about why he left Italy or why he was so anti miscellany. Not sure he should have to provide a reason. But you know, it seemed like he had some sort of background that was not super positive related to all of that.

So knowing all of that, after some time, the solders began to think about the series of odd moments that had led up to the fire. So first, there was a stranger who appeared at the home a few months before the fire, and asked about hauling work. So to like work with George and George’s coal business, and this guy meanders around to the back of the house, and points at the fuse boxes on the house and said, this is going to start a fire someday. And George remember this because he thought it was super strange, because he had literally just had the wiring checked by a local power company. And they had said, like, all looks good. So it was weird that the stranger was like, your house is gonna burn down. But, you know, hindsight is 2020. But at the time, he was like, okay, weirdo. Sure. So then around the same time, another man tried to sell the family life insurance, and George declined. And the man got irate, like, got super mad. And it said that the man said, quote, your goddamn house is going up in smoke and your children are going to be destroyed. You are going to be paid for the dirty remarks you’ve been making about Mussolini.

Rachel 51:57
So question, are these for sure two different guys? Or is it like the same guy but the second time he has a mustache?

Emily 52:06
It’s like, yeah. I’m pretty sure they’re two separate guys. But I would hope George would recognize if it was the same guy, but

Rachel 52:22
you never know yesterday threatening my house on fire. No, no, no, that wasn’t ways that I didn’t have a mustache. How would you show?

Emily 52:32
It’s like, I have a mustache and glasses. No,

Rachel 52:36
I think not. Exactly.

Emily 52:38
I think not. So again, at the time, he did not take the man’s threat seriously. But the older sonor sons also remembered something peculiar that happened just before Christmas. They noticed a man parked along US Highway 21, intently watching the younger kids as they walked home from school. So lots of weird little things kind of happening in the months leading up to Christmas. So then, let’s talk about what happened on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. And more time. Yeah, let’s do it. Around 1230 on Christmas morning, after the children had like, opened a few presents, and everyone had gone to sleep. The telephone rang at the solder house. The mom Jenny, you know rushed to answer it, hoping it wouldn’t wake up the baby. And an unfamiliar female voice asked for an unfamiliar name. And Jenny, you know later said that she remembered being really confused, because there was laughter and clinking glasses in the background. Sounded like a party. But Jenny didn’t recognize the name or the woman’s name. And so she just kind of said like, sorry, you have the wrong number and hung up. And as she was heading back to bed, she looked, you know, down the hall. And she noticed that all of the lights were on downstairs and the curtains were open and the front door was unlocked. Like she saw Maryann asleep on the sofa in the living room and kind of like these kids, you know, like, they were so pumped up and excited after Christmas. They just like, didn’t turn off the lights or anything just like went to bed. And so she turned out the lights and close the curtains and lock the door and went back to her room. And just as she had began to fall back asleep, she heard a loud bang on the roof, and then a rolling noise. But apparently she thought nothing of it and went to sleep. The next time she woke up it was because there was heavy smoke pouring into her bedroom, like 30 minutes later. And so she got up and found that George’s office was fully on fire.

Rachel 54:55
I just I have thought you you’re anxious in the way That I’m anxious that like, I mean, even this morning. So I’m, I’m going to tell my boring thermostat story here, I guess because, like proves how anxious I am but like, but so I got up at 330 to go pee as you do after you’ve had children every day, every night. And so I sit down on the toilet and I’m like, Holy fuck, that’s cold. And I’m like, What is happening? So we have a nest thermostat. So I log on with the app, and it says that it can’t connect. And I shake Robert, and I’m like, it’s freezing in here. And he’s all cozy under warm blankets. And he’s like, what? No, it’s not. And I’m like, my kids are going to die. Like because my kids refuse. We sleep under like three layers of blankets. But they don’t they sleep under like a sheet because they refuse to put their computers on. And yeah, they’re wearing weather appropriate pajamas, but I don’t want them to be that kind of cold. Yeah, you know. And so then, of course, like, he finally goes down, and then he’s like, Oh my god, it was so cool. I thought about putting on a jacket. It’s like 60 degrees in here. And I’m like, I told you that. Listen to me once in a while. If you like hearing exactly what you said 15 minutes in the past repeated back to you by another person marriages. Man, it’s really cold in here. Uh huh. Like, and so did you think I was lying about it didn’t register. Robert is not a person who operates while I’m very little sleep. It’s one thing that like, you know, of all the bad qualities that you can have. That one’s not that bad. But like he. Yeah, so I thought something bad was gonna happen to my kids because they weren’t warm enough. Like, if I hear him banging and a roll on the roof.

Unknown Speaker 56:56
Get the letter we have against the side of the house. Look at what’s going on there. Like, honestly,

Emily 57:05
so I live alone. I mean, right now I don’t. But I’m heading back to St. Louis in a couple of weeks. And like, I am starting to I’m very excited. But I’m also starting to gear myself back up for this. remembering what it’s like to be the sole adult in the house and be like, when I hear a bang on the roof and rolling. I’m the one has to get up and be like, Am I being robbed? You know? Or as we heard in the Whaley house episode, I will look on my camera downstairs to see being robbed or not that drunk bitch ghost again. Yeah. And so. Yeah. So I agree. Like, if I’m the mom, I would probably have woken Georgia up at least and you hear that, you know, but she may also have what I have. Now, when I’m here with my parents, which is if I hear something, I’m like, Yeah, my dad will figure it out. If it’s anything you know, and like, you feel more safe when there’s more people, I guess. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t, but I don’t have 10 kids, or I feel more safe. Because I’m back in like child mode where I’m like, my parents are here to take care of me. You’re right. If it was me and my husband, that doesn’t exist, I would definitely be like, hey, help me with this

Rachel 58:24
lighter sleeper. So I’ll definitely be like, pop up. Did you hear that? And then if he says no, or like, Do you smell that? Do you smell gas, like it’s our house on fire? Like, I would be the person to shake him?

Emily 58:38
extensively, Jenny got up and saw that his office was fully on fire totally in flames. So she grabs the baby Silvia. And like I said, I mean, she probably call it up the stairs or something. The two older boys run out, Marian rounds out Marian was asleep on the couch, if you’ll remember. And, you know, this gets us to the point in the story where we go back to where George’s like, Oh, fuck trying to get his kids out of the house and like trying to save the other five children. So there were definitely odd things happening on the night of the fire, you know? So that’s weird. There were also odd things going on in the aftermath of the fire. So first of all, we’re going to get into the science of cream cremation. Finally, I know you’ve been waiting for it. So edge of my seat. Please tell. So Jenny started to think and she couldn’t understand how five children could perish in a fire and leave nothing. Like no bones, no flesh, nothing like and so she acts some teeth. Right? Exactly. She actually conducted a private experiment. She like got animal bones, chicken bones, beef bones, like pork chop bones, that kind of like bigger bones from the butcher cows. Guess I don’t really know it was 19 45 they probably just had, like a cow that they butchered. They just happen. They just went to the bone. Listen, bones lay around all over the place in the 40s. That’s how it is.

Rachel 1:00:10
It’s where the expression skeletons in your closet came from.

Emily 1:00:14
They kept their skeletons in their closets. But so Jenny, like, conducts conducts these experiments, she lights fires and puts these animal bones and then to see if the fire completely consumes the bones. And every single time she’s left with like a heap of charred bones, not a pile of ash. And so she knows that, you know, even remnants of household appliances are being found in the basement and in the rubble that are still identify and identifiable. And so she’s like, what the hell so she goes to an employee at the crematorium. And he informs her that bones actually remain. crematorium, Chris. Sure. Yeah, exactly. So an employee at the crematorium actually informed her that bones remain after bodies are burned for two hours at 2000 degrees. Oh, there will still be bones left. So their house burned completely down in less than an hour. Just saying, Yeah, doesn’t make sense. not adding up.

Rachel 1:01:29
Conspiracy, all the way to the top. Because at the top, and by top I mean, Mussolini. It goes all the way to the Italian top. Italian Mafia. salini. Fellini, no one gets removed. He does not get jelly. Only thing I know about Italy. Actually, I’ve been to Italy. It’s lovely.

Emily 1:01:50
Okay, so the odd moments grow. A telephone repairman comes and finds that someone appeared to have crawled up the telephone pole and cut the line What? So that’s why like the phone had worked. But I guess maybe they had tried to. It didn’t say this and what I had read, but maybe they had tried to use the phones again, once they saw the fire and it wouldn’t work. And so it wasn’t because they were burned. It was because they were literally cut at the source on the pole. And then they were realizing Wait a minute, they said that this fire was electrical. It was you know, faulty wiring. But when the power had been dead, then like when the power have gone out if it has burnt and like, whatever, but remember, the mom went downstairs or saw that all the lights were on downstairs like a half hour turn up the light. So it’s like, Huh, that’s weird. Later, a witness came forward claiming that he saw a man at the fire scene, taking a block and tackle which is used for a moving car engines. And like he had that and so it’s like, could that be the reason that George’s truxton? Start?

Rachel 1:03:07
What? Sorry? Wouldn’t they just be able to open up the track and see that there was no engine in there?

Emily 1:03:15
Yeah. Or maybe he like use it to start the process to like, disconnect them? I don’t know. I don’t know. I didn’t dig too far into that. But yeah, so with witnesses that and then. So one day, one day when the family was visiting the site of the fire, Sylvia found a hard rubber object in the yard. And Jenny remembered hearing the hard thought on the roof and the rolling sound. And George looked at the thing and concluded it was a napalm pineapple bomb. What which I don’t know how he knew what that was. But he was like, Oh my god, this is an old like used pineapple balm which I’m like, oh my god. No one crossbreed like, I don’t know that that’s true. But he said it was I don’t know that please. Like you’re right. It is but he thought so. Later, a local bus driver provided an alternate account. The driver of a bus that passed through fat bell on Christmas Eve said he had seen some people throwing quote, balls of fire at the house. They’ll fire and then a few months later when the snow had melted. It said that Silvia found the hard dark green rubber ball like object in the brush nearby. So you know, George is like remembering his wife’s account of the loud thump on the roof. And and the rolling ball of fire. Yeah, that’s when he was saying like, Oh, this looks like a hand grenade or her you know. And so in general, the family claim that contrary to what the fire marshal said. He thought the fire had started on the roof. Not at the fuse box. But of course there was no way to prove this. Because the house has gone, yeah. Then came the reports of the sightings of the children. First, a woman claimed to have seen the missing children hearing from a passing car while the fire was in progress. Okay. A woman opened, operating a tourist, a woman operating a tourist stop between Fayetteville and Charleston, which is 50 miles west, said she saw the children the morning after the fire. She said that she served them breakfast. And they were in a car with Florida license plates at this tourist stop. And so the woman at the hotel said that she saw the children’s photos in the newspaper and said she had seen four of the five of them a week after the fire. And she said that they were accompanied by two women and two men all of Italian descent. And she said in a statement, I don’t remember the exact date. However, the entire party did register at the hotel and stayed in a large room with several beds. They were just started at about midnight. I tried to talk to the children in a friendly manner. But the men appeared hostile and refuse to allow me to talk to the children. One of the men looked at me in a hostile manner. He turned around and began talking rapidly in Italian. Immediately the whole party stopped talking to me. I sensed that I was being frozen out. And so I said nothing more. And they left early the next morning. Hmm. So weird. super weird. Rice. Yeah. Right. So that’s what like three or four different sightings apparently, quote, unquote, of that legend car at a breakfast place at a truck stop in a hotel, like getting kind of bought. So a couple years later, George and Jenny actually sent a letter to the FBI and got a reply from J. Edgar Hoover, because they’re asking for the FBI help. And he said, you know, although I’d like to be of service, the matter will late it appears to be a local character and does not come within the investigative jurisdiction of the Bureau. jurists Yeah. Yeah. I will say though, Hoover’s agents said they would assist if they could get permission from the local authorities, but the Fayetteville police and fire departments declined, and said, No, thanks. We got this to you, then do you? Do you do you? So next the solders turned to a private investigator named cc Tinsley who discovered that the insurance salesman who threatened George was a member of the coroner’s jury that deemed the fire accidental. So that’s weird that the guys in common been like your house is gonna burn down was there to be able to say like, yep, they died in a fire. So that’s like such a conflict of interest to me. Yeah, a little bit, you know. So that’s weird, that they would have no one else. I mean, to me know, if it’s like 3000 or 4000 people, but I mean, you could pick another deuce. Like,

you totally. Could. You totally. Yeah. He also heard he so George also heard a curious story from a Fayetteville minister, that f. j. Morris, the fire chief, had claimed no remains were found, but then confided in the minister that he discovered a heart quote, unquote, in the ashes, and so he hid it inside of a dynamite box and buried it at the scene. Makes no sense to me. But okay, where

Rachel 1:08:50
did he get the dynamite box? This minister is breaking all the rules. By telling people of that, and also a hardest soft tissue, it would have burned up quickly. It’s not like a tooth or a different bone. Like that doesn’t make any sense.

Emily 1:09:05
Right? Why would there be zero bones but a heart just like chillin there in the middle of all the ashes? So I guess Listen,

Rachel 1:09:12
you got that from the skeleton closet. That was a cow’s heart. Like that was a real human heart. Oh, my gosh,

Emily 1:09:19
did you read my script? Because so cc Tinsley, this investigator persuaded Morris to show them the heart. And so they dug up the box and took it straight to the funeral director who poked and prodded it and concluded it was a beef liver, untouched by the fire. Yeah, not even. So now we’re talking about this fire chief who has gotten a beef liver and put it in a dynamite box and lied to people and said like, it’s a heart that I found at the scene. I don’t know. So later, they heard rumors also that the fire chief was telling others that the box stuff had not And found in the fire. Obviously, he’d buried it in the rubble in the hope that the solders would find any kind of remains and it would like placate them to stop investigating. Make sense? Why put it in a box? Yeah, why not just leave? Yeah, that would make it to say this definitely wasn’t my child’s heart because they don’t have a box inside of their body.

Rachel 1:10:23
Maybe it’s out like the box would burn but save the heart somehow. I don’t know the liver. That makes no sense. So this guy’s not smart.

Emily 1:10:32
He Well, apparently he doesn’t know how to drive a fire truck either. Which, that was something I read somewhere like, that’s why it took them seven hours to get there because he had to find someone who could drive him there because he didn’t know how to drive the fire truck like he’s the fire chief. Talk about white man privilege.

Rachel 1:10:52
I mean, yeah. Yeah. And also was he just this town cannot be that big that it would take them seven hours. I wonder if maybe he was getting lost on purpose. And they’re like, Chief, you said turn left. Oh, no, I met my left we’re facing the same direction chief like

Emily 1:11:11
he drove into the lake. She said a turn here to turn right right here. And then he fell into a koi pond, just not great with water.

So over the next few years tips and leads continue to come in. George actually saw a newspaper photo of schoolchildren in New York City, and was straight up convinced that one of them was his daughter, Betty. And he actually drove to Manhattan and searched for the child but then her parents refused to speak to him. In August of 1949, they decided the solders decided to mount a new search at the fire scene and brought in a washington dc pathologist named at named Oscar bee Hunter. And they did a very thorough excavation, and then covered several small objects, including damaged coins, a partially burned dictionary, and several shards of vertebrae. Oh, so yeah, so hunter sends the bones to the Smithsonian Institution, which, which issued this report. The human bones consists of four lumbar vertebrae belonging to one individual. Since the transverse recesses are fused, the age of this individual a death should have been 16 or 17 years, the top limit of age should be about 22. Since the Sentra which normally fused at 23, are still unfused. On this basis, the bones show greater skeletal maturation than one would expect from a 14 year old boy, the oldest missing solder child. It is however possible, although not probable, for a boy 14 and a half years to show 16 to 17 year old maturation. They also showed no evidence of being exposed to a fire.

Rachel 1:13:14
So so were they in a box? Where were they in a closet? Come on? Like Did somebody plant these bones? And like whose bones were they? Right? or? Yeah, were

Emily 1:13:27
they planted? Were they just already buried in the ground? You know, yeah, knows how many bones are buried in the ground. And so it just seems like slightly unlikely that the these vertebrae would have belonged to Lewis, who’s the oldest boy? And also, that no one would like expect to find just a few shards of vertebrae from one of the child and nothing from no one else, you know, like, the other children? Nothing, you know, craziness. Yeah. And so the report concluded that they were most likely in the dirt that George used to fill the basement to create the memorial. Like they’re probably just like, random happenstance bones.

Rachel 1:14:15
Just Yeah, you know how you know how you do like under your house, there’s

Emily 1:14:18
just bones. Well, from all the other bodies you buried, obviously, don’t tell everyone that on the podcast there my collections from my murder tour. Oh, okay. So, the Smithsonian report actually prompted two hearings at the Capitol in Charleston, after which governor Oki l Patterson and state police Superintendent wv burchett told the solders that their search was hopeless and declared the case closed up undeterred, this is when George and Jenny put that billboard up that I talked about in the beginning. Yeah, they offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the recovery of their children. And then they actually increase that amount to $10,000. At some point, a letter arrived from a woman in St. Louis saying that the oldest girl Martha was in a convent there. Another tip came from Texas, where a patron in a bar overheard an incriminating conversation. About a long ago Christmas Eve fire in West Virginia, where someone Florida claimed that the children were staying with a distant relative of Jenny’s George travelled the country to investigate each lead as they came up, always coming home without any answers. In 1968, more than 20 years after the fire, Jenny went to get the mail and found an envelope addressed only to her. It was postmarked in Kentucky but had no return address. And inside was a man a photo, there was a man inside this envelope. This envelope was it just parts of his balance? So inside was a photo of a man in his mid 20s. And on the flip side, there was a cryptic handwritten note that read Louis solder. I love brother Frankie, lol boys, a 90132 or three, five, what? What the? No, yeah, I have no idea. And then her and George are looking at this picture. And they’re like, they can’t deny their resemblance to their Lewis leg. It looked like him. I mean, he was nine at the time of the fire. But, you know, it looks like him. He’s got dark, curly hair, he’s got dark brown eyes, he’s got a straight, strong nose, you know, the same upward tilt of the left eyebrow. So they’re like, holy shit, this is our kid. And so again, they hire a private detective, and they send him to Kentucky, and never heard from him again. He just took their money and left. So that’s Yeah. So they thought about publishing the letter, or like the name of the town on the postmark. But they were worried that, that people might see it and harm their son if he was alive. And so they updated the billboard to instead include that updated image. And, you know, kind of just we’re hoping to go off of that, as they continue to search. This is a quote from George, he said, time is running out for us. But we only want to know, if they did die in the fire, we want to be convinced. Otherwise, we want to know what happened to them. And then he actually died a year later, after he said that in 1968, when he was still hoping for a break in the case. And Jenny erected a fence around her property and began adding rooms to her home, building layer after layer between her and the outside. And so she obviously was like turning inward, and said that since the fire, she wore black exclusively for the rest of her life as a sign of mourning. And did so until her death in 1989, which is when the billboard finally came down, you know, the authorities were able to finally be like, No one’s here to keep this up, whatever. But her remaining children so Sylvia, and you know, the oldest child Marian, they actually continued the investigation and came up with theories of their own. They kind of started to think this is so funny, because your story when you were talking about this, it made me laugh. They thought maybe the local mafia had tried to recruit George and he had declined. And so they tried to extort money from him, and he refused. And so they kidnapped the children.

Some thought that the children were kidnapped by someone they knew. You know, they might not have survived the night after they were kidnapped. But you know, that they weren’t in the house necessarily. Right. And then if, if they really had lived on for decades, you know, if that really was Louis in the photograph, it is weird that they all had failed to like contact their parents stuff, you know? Yeah. Yeah. Or, you know, I keep thinking, What if someone burst in the door? What if it was a relative or something or a member of the town? mafia who was like, if you ever contact your parents will know, and we will kill them all, you know, something like that? I

don’t know.

Rachel 1:20:07
Yeah. And some so they’re young enough to be like, no, that’s not your name. Like, that’s not your name anymore. Your name is Sally. Yeah, no, your name is Marian like, I don’t know. Yeah, no, Marian was a different one. Your name is Louise. Yeah, exactly.

Emily 1:20:26
I mean, five 911. I mean, once you start getting up until like, Louis’s age, but then I’m like, Well, what if Louis himself sent that picture? Yeah. I was trying to give them a clue. I don’t know. There’s tons of stuff like that. So yes, yes, I’m the youngest and last surviving solder child who Sylvia who is now 69. She does not believe that her siblings died in the fire. And when time permits, she visits crime sleuthing websites and engages with people on those, you know, who are interested in the family’s mystery. And she says that her very first memories she was to remember are of that night, when she was two years old, and she said she’ll never forget the sight of her father bleeding in his on his arm, or the terrible symphony of everyone’s screams. And she is no closer now to understanding why. And that heartbreaking is the crazy, mind boggling story of the solder family house fire and possible disappearance of five solder children. Holy shit. I cannot wait for for each. Yeah, it’s gonna be I’m sure you have a million questions because I have so many questions. Yes, yes. So everyone who’s listening right now, I truly encourage you to head over to Patreon and subscribe at the $5 level because immediately after this right and I are hopping over to happy hour we’re going to clink up and some drinks. And we’re going to chat more about this because I have done some web sleuthing. In fact, I even found comments on web sleuth comm from one of the granddaughters. The solders she, they literally like are on those sites, like answering questions and stuff that gets solved now I know a and web sleuthing. Like I know we all watched all the gun in the dark we know it happens. Exactly. So we’re gonna go to happy hour and talk about like, What the hell was that number on the back of the picture of Louis you know, could Jenny’s brother Frank, the the brother Frankie that’s mentioned on the photo, you know, like, Oh, I can deal with the phone call? Yeah. Are they even still in the house? Like, was it the mafia? I don’t know. I got a lot of digging. And I’m really excited. There’s a ton of theories. We’re gonna solve it. I hope you guys join us.

Rachel 1:22:58
Cannot wait, let us know your theories. Thank you so much for listening, everybody. Yes,

Emily 1:23:04
thank you. Please be sure to subscribe rate and review. reviews and downloads are huge for us as we get started. And a five star review is super simple on Apple. So please, we we would love it if you would give us that rating.

Rachel 1:23:19
Yeah. And also, we’d love to get to know you more on social media, Emily, and I tag team it. So we are really good at responding to comments and messages. You can follow us on Instagram at horrible history pod or twitter at the horrible pod.

Emily 1:23:34
We also wanted to let you know that there are a couple of ways that you can support this little podcast and help us grow. You know, if you’re looking for extra content, a $5 subscription to Patreon will get you access to the happy hour that I just mentioned. And all future happy hours and you actually will get access to the horrible history episodes a full day early. And I really don’t think you’re gonna want to miss this episode. So please do that. But you can also buy us a coffee at buy me a coffee calm slash horrible history. Yeah, it’s an easier, it’s not as big of a commitment as a Patreon subscription. But a nice little way to just say like, Hey, we like what you’re doing, which is great and helps us know, to keep going.

Rachel 1:24:20
I love that. It’s called bias a coffee because it’s also like, Look, we know you might not be committed. We haven’t been seeing each other that long. Maybe you just want to take us out for a coffee and get to know us.

Emily 1:24:32
It’s get to know you date.

Rachel 1:24:33
Yeah. I mean, if you’re not committed, you don’t have to be, but that would be a treat. We love it. We really hope that you enjoyed such a treat. We really hope that you enjoyed today’s episode, and

Emily 1:24:46
hopefully you’re horrified.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


Intro Music: “Creeper” – Oliver Lyu

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