Lindsey Wixson & Magda Laguinge by Sebastian Faena
E.T. inspired editorial for CR Fashion Book
This billboard stood along route 16, West Virginia for over four decades. It tells the story of a bizarre family mystery that never got solved.
On Christmas eve 1945, the Sodder family home caught fire. Both George, Jennie and their nine (out of ten) children were sleeping at the time of the tragedy, luckily both parents and four children managed to escape. However, Maurice, Martha, Louis, Jennie & Betty (ranging from age 5 to 14) were nowhere to be seen. Father George tried hopelessly to save his five children thinking they were still inside the house, perhaps trapped by the flames. After several attempts, George soon realised it was too late. Their house went up in flames and nothing but ashes were left. In less than 45 minutes their lives changed forever.
The big mystery however, started after thorough police investigation. Expecting to find remnants of five young bodies, the police were shocked to find…nothing! Not a single human bone was found at the scene. The Sodder family instantly knew their children were still alive.
Police investigation soon faltered, without any leads as to what happened that Christmas night. But even so, the Sodders didn’t give up and hired a private investigator to solve this mystery and eventually put up the billboard at route 16. Offering a $5000 reward for information leading to the recovery of their children.
remarkably, 20 years later a cryptic handwritten note was sent to mother Jennie Sodder. It contained a photo of a young man, written across the back it said: “Louis Sodder, I love brother Frankie.”
The resemblance to the then 9-year-old Louis Sodder is uncanny. But fearing that his life and that of his siblings could be in danger by publishing the note, the Sodder family decided against it. Instead they hung the picture of the now 20-something-year-old Louis on the billboard hoping to get some new leads.
Unfortunately a year after receiving the note, dad George Sodder died. Spending most of his life looking for 5 of his children and never unraveling what really happened to them. Mom Jennie never stopped mourning since the fire, and wore black until she died in 1989. Both parents never stopped looking for their children, never gave up hope. Sadly, the Sodder five case still remains one of the biggest unsolved mysteries to this day.