This case is the one that really got me into unsolved mysteries after many years of not having read about them. I can't say for certain what it was that intrigued me. What I can say for certain is that the photo of the Boy in the Box is one of the most unsettling photos I've ever seen and that I'm going to share it with you now to give you nightmares and/or break your heart.
|This image has haunted me for years. I can't say for certain why, but it's always made me uneasy.|
The location: Fox Chase, Pennsylvania. The date: February, 1957. A man visited the site to check on his Muskrat traps, only to instead discover a box. Within it was the body of a young boy. Afraid of the repercussions of his traps—or that they'd simply be taken away—he fled and didn't report the body.
This next part has variations to it. I'll cover both, though I can't say for certain which is the real one—or if they're both real and I'm just senile. Regardless, a few days later, another man who was driving saw a rabbit cross the street. Knowing that there were traps nearby, he got out and chased after it, only to find the boy in the box. Just like the previous man, he too fled. The next though, he reported the discovery.
The other variation/man to find the boy was a man who went to a clearing to spy on a girl's locker room. However, while in the process of enjoying himself, he found the body. Terrified, he too ran off and went to a nearby church to confess. He asked the pastor what he should do and he was told that he should do what was right: tell the police. The next day, he did.
Regardless of which was true, the police arrived and began their investigation. The boy was estimated to be between the age of 3–7 and weighed a paltry 30 pounds. Height wise, he was 3 feet, 6 inches. He was naked and wrapped in a blanket. The box he was found in was for a bassinet—one that was sold at a JCPenney. His nails had been clipped and hair had been recently cut, and poorly at that. Clumps of hair were still stuck to the body. Whether it was before or after death couldn't be determined. The boy was also malnourished and was bruised—and had been killed thanks to blunt force trauma. He also had scars on his body—including one on his ankle, groin, and an L-shaped one on his chin.
Police took the boy's fingerprints and were hopeful that someone would come forward with information as to who the boy was. The story had attracted an extraordinarily large amount of media attention—with the Philadelphia Inquirer pressing 400,000 flyers with the boy's likeness on then. The vrims scene was searched repeatedly, with 270 police academy recruits joining in. During these searches, a few items were discovered. A corduroy cap, a child's scar, and a man’s handkerchief with the letter “G” in the corner. However, none of these items lead anywhere.
With hope running low, police went ahead and made a post mortem photograph of what they suspected the hold may have looked like in life; dressed and seated as though it were a school picture. As was the case with their other efforts though, it lead nowhere.
Over half a century later, there have been no leads in the case that have gotten anywhere. Two in particular, however, have been favorites among both detectives—both professional and amateur.
The first is that the child was an orphan. A mile and a half from the crime scene was a foster home. Remington Bristow—an employee of the medical examiner's office—contacted a psychic to assist in him cracking the case. Said psychic led Bristow to the foster home. Upon further investigation, a bassinet similar to the one sold at JCPenney was found—along with a blanket that bore a similar design to the one the boy was wrapped in.
Bristow believed the boy was the son of the foster home owner's stepdaughter, who had given birth outside of marriage. Fearful that his stepdaughter would be seen as a whore, the man disposed of the body. In spite of this, Bristow believed that the death was not a murder, but an accident.
Although the evidence was circumstantial and may have seemed to convincing to Bristow, police didn't think the same. Without any links that were solid, Bristow's theory was ignored and he later died in 1993.
Five years later, Philadelphia police lieutenant Tom Augustine and members of a group of retired policemen and profilers—called the Vidocq Society—interviewed the owner and his stepdaughter, who was now his wife. After this, the investigation into the foster home was closed.
The second popular theory came about in 2002 from a woman in named Martha—or simply M. Although she had a history of mental health trouble, her testimony was still believable enough for police to see it as credible.
Martha claimed that the boy—whose name was Jonathan—was purchased by her violent and cruel mother from his parents. Following this, Jonathan was subjected to brutal physical abuse and was sexually abused for two and a half years. Martha stated that once, during dinner, Jonathan vomited up his baked beans. As punishment, he was repeatedly slammed against the floor until he was semi conscious. After this, Jonathan was given a bath and promptly died during it. The details matched information that was known only to police; that he had the remains of baked beans in his stomach and that his fingers were water-wrinkled.
After realizing her adopted son was dead, Martha’s mother cut Jonathan’s long hair, hopeful that it'd conceal his identity. Once it was done, she forced Martha to assist in disposing of the body. At the dumping site, as they were unloading the corpse, a motorist stopped and asked if the two needed help. Martha stated she was told to stand in front of the license plate as her mother said they didn't need any help. Eventually, he drove off. This information matched up with a testimony given by a witness in ‘57, who told police the body had been put into a box that was previously discarded at the scene.
While the information given by Martha was credible, police weren't able to confirm the validity of her story. Not helping matters were neighbors who visited Martha's house during the time she claimed that Jonathan was living in the house; with all of them stating the story was “ridiculous”.
While the two theories above may not be factual, one rather significant lead came about in 2013 when a Philadelphia man informed two writers—Jim Hoffman and Louis Romano about a possible identity in Memphis, Tennessee. Hoffman and Romano went on to request that DNA be compared between the boy and the family. When the DNA of the family member was retrieved and tested, it came back as a match—four years later in 2017.
In March of 2016, the boy was entered into the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; a facial reconstruction of the child being released along with said addition.
In the end, The Boy in the Box remains one of America's most enduring and sorrow-inducing mysteries. It's a reminder that evil cares not for the age of its target. On a happier note though, in August of 2018, the boy's DNA profile was submitted to the same one used to identify the Golden State Killer. Whether or not it will finally lay the case to rest, only time will tell. Until that day, one can only hope the boy has found solace.