The Boy in the Box

In February of 1957, a young boy’s body was found inside a bassinet cardboard box, wrapped in a plaid blanket in the woods by Susquehanna Road, Fox Chase, Philadelphia.

The boy’s body was severely beaten, and his hair had been cropped very recently as clumps of his hair clung to his body. There were surgical scars on his ankle, groin and an ‘L’ shaped scar under his chin. He also showed signs of severe malnourishment. His official cause of death was blunt force trauma.

Over 400,000 flyers depicting the young boy’s appearance were sent out across Philadelphia and were included with every gas bill. The boy’s fingerprints were taken, and police were hopeful that someone would identify the boy very soon. The crime scene was searched again, and police found a man’s blue corduroy cap, a child’s scarf, and a man’s white handkerchief with the letter “G” in the corner.

Despite all this work, no clues or leads in the case were ever made. As of 2021, the boy in the box still remains unknown, as does his killer(s).

This flyer was handed out at the time. Credit: All That’s Intresting

Over the years, there have been many theories as to who this young boy was, and who killed him.

One theory involves a foster home that was just 1.5 miles (2.5km) from where the body was found. A psychic led investigators directly from the crime scene where the body was found to this foster home. When investigators attended an estate sale at the foster home, they found a bassinet that would have fitted inside the cardboard box the young boy was found in. They also found blankets that were similar to the one the boy was wrapped in.

Investigators theorise that the young boy was the child of the stepdaughter whose father ran the foster home. They think that the death was an accident and that they disposed of the young boy so that people wouldn’t think of the stepdaughter as an unwed mother.

In 1968, the lead investigator on the case interviewed the father and stepdaughter (who were now married), and then the investigation into the foster home was closed. Despite lots of circumstance evidence, police were never able to definitely prove that the young boy and the foster home were connected.

Another theory became known around February 2002. A woman known only as “M” or “Martha” came forward with a story of what happened to the boy. She claimed that her mother had “purchased” the boy (who was called Johnathon) from his parents in the summer of 1954. As “M’s” mother was very abusive, the boy was subjected to extreme physical and sexual abuse for around two and a half years.

One evening, the young boy threw up his dinner of baked beans and was given a severe beating with his head slammed against the floor until he was barely conscious. The boy was then given a bath, but he sadly died during this bath. These details match information that was only known by police at the time – that the boy’s stomach contents were baked beans, and that his fingers had wrinkles from being in the water.

Martha’s mother then cut his long hair in an effort to conceal his identity, which would explain the unprofessional haircut the boy was found with. Martha’s mother then forced her to help dispose of his body in the Fox Chase area. As they were preparing to remove the boy’s body from the car, they were interrupted by a male motorist who asked if they needed any help. This story matches that of a male motorist who came forward in 1957.

Whilst Martha’s story is plausible and makes sense, police are unable to verify her story as she has a history of mental illness. Police also questioned neighbours who had access to Martha’s house at the time, and they all denied that there was a young boy who ever lived there, and said that Martha’s claims were “ridiculous”.

Whilst both of these stories are plausible and have some evidence, it is unlikely that authorities will be able to verify either one anytime soon. But hopefully, with the DNA technology we possess today, we will one day know this young boy’s true identity.

Reconstruction images of what the boy might have looked like. Credit: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children


The Boy in the Box, Fox Chase, Philadelphia, 1957, the 1950s, Unsolved Murder, Unsolved Homicide, Murder, Homicide, True Crime, Real Crime, Unsolved True Crime, Unsolved Mystery

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