Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Boy In The Box The Unsolved Case of America's Unknown Child by David Stout

One of the saddest stories in all the unsolved mysteries of the world is that of The Boy In The Box, America's Unknown Child. On February 25, 1957 the bruised and battered blanket-wrapped nude body of a malnourished thirty pound little boy, aged somewhere between four and six years old, was found stuffed in a cardboard box with a J.C. Penney's label, thrown away in the rubbish-strewn woods of Fox Chase, Philadelphia. Ever since that day, investigators, both official and armchair criminologists, have been trying to give justice and a name to this child. Some of the original detectives assigned to the case, like Rem Bristow, of the medical examiner's office, never gave up and spent most of their adult lives relentlessly pursuing every clue no matter how far-fetched or unlikely.

This is a case where no one can say more should have been done. This unknown child has touched people's hearts from the start and not a stone has been left unturned to try to solve this mystery. There were door-to-door searches, hospital birth records were meticulously combed through trying to match the boy's footprints with those taken of newborns, schools, both public and private, for healthy children as well as the mentally challenged, were searched and all pupils accounted for, as well as children placed in foster homes, orphanages, and other institutions by the welfare system, immigration records were also searched, and detectives followed up leads about families who led a nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place in search of work. Detectives even talked to children playing in schoolyards and playgrounds to ask if any of their little playmates were missing. There were marks on the boy's body indicative of intravenous insertions or, since some were in the groin area, a hernia operation is also a possibility, and a diagnostic dye had been injected into one of his eyes, so doctors and nurses were questioned in the hope that someone would remember this little boy. There was a massive media campaign to identify him, posters and flyers were everywhere, flyers were even mailed out with gas and electric bills, the child's corpse was even dressed up in typical schoolboy clothes donated by one of the detective's and photographed sitting upright in the hope that this would jog someone's memory. A deathmask was even made using a new dental plastic instead of the standard plaster of Paris so that even after the child was buried they would still have a three-dimensional likeness of his face. Since the child's hair was hacked off very crudely, either just before or after death as strands of it still adhered to his naked body, some have even speculated that the reason he remains unidentified is that, for whatever reason, he was raised as a girl, and cutting off his hair was a deliberate act to make identification more difficult so sketches of what he might have looked like as a girl were made, albeit later in the case instead of near the start. The remains were even exhumed in 1998 and DNA extracted. All to no avail. The mystery remains unsolved to this day.

This is the first book to fully chronicle the mystery, and it is a heartbreaking and riveting read I recommend to anyone interested in true crime and unsolved mysteries.

There is also a website dedicated to this case, http://www.americasunknownchild.net/ though updates are infrequent as "time is the enemy" in a case like this where anyone who might have known this little boy's name is advancing in years and may even already be dead. This site is connected to investigators still dedicated to solving this case and any information can be submitted to them there.

The image at the top of this post is the original poster showing the child's face as well as a man's blue corduroy cap that was found at the scene, which may be a clue or may have nothing at all to do with it; it could have blown off a passing motorist's head or been lost when someone was dumping junk as that area of the woods was a popular dumping ground. I apologize if anyone finds my including this image offensive, I can well understand, it hurts my heart every time I see this child's battered face, but due to the nature of this case, I felt compelled to include it.

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