According to accounts, Mrs. Sodder was awakened near midnight by a disturbing telephone call that ended with weird laughter. Passing it off as a prank, she was headed back to her bed when she realized that the lights downstairs were still on and the doors not locked as she had instructed. Thinking it was only the carelessness of her family, Mrs. Sodder returned to bed. Shortly afterwards, she was again awakened, this time to noises on the roof that sounded “like a rubber ball”. The room began to fill with smoke and Mr. and Mrs. Sodder leapt from their bed to gather their children and escape the burning house. As the family grouped together in the snowy yard, the parents were horrified to discover that their five middle children were not with them.
Mr. Sodder immediately ran for a ladder kept near the house, intending to climb to the second floor window. As flames licked at the eaves, George Sodder saw that the ladder had been removed. The family had no choice but to watch in abject horror as the life they had known was destroyed by soulless flames.
In the next day’s aftermath, onlookers were astonished when no evidence of human remains were found. Further investigation revealed that the telephone line had been cut and the missing ladder was found seemingly tossed down an embankment away from the house. One witness reported seeing the children alive and accompanied by unknown adults in a Charleston hotel after the fire. The following spring, an object was discovered at the site and identified by Army authorities as an incendiary device commonly referred to as a “pineapple”.
The remaining Sodder family would face many years of grief and the torture of uncertainty. The efforts of local authorities, a Washington, D.C. pathologist, The Smithsonian Institute, and the F.B.I. have thus far offered no conclusions. Though rumors still swarm about the fate of five innocent children on a Christmas Eve long ago, the answers may never be known.
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