We must go back 55 years to investigate the story of the Boy in the Box, also known as America’s Unknown Child. This tragic case involves a little boy between the ages of 4 and 6 who was found inside a J C Penney box, abandoned in a small dump on Susquehannah Road, Fox Chase, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The little boy had been horribly abused, probably since birth. His body was covered in faded, yellowing bruises, as well as fresh bruises and cuts. There were a number of cars discovered on his body which appeared to be made for IV cut-downs. X-rays revealed the old scars of broken bones, too numerous to be explained through simple accidents. read America’s Unknown Child
A coroner I researched stated, “when I see a terribly abused child lying deceased on my table and I know that this is the first time in his life that this child has known any peace, it is especially tragic.” Doubtless this was the situation with this little boy. The nude body was freshly washed and his hair was cut and razored in a crude fashion, possibly to disguise his identity. He was partially cloaked in a tattered, crude blanket with fibres that were traced to many sources, none of which were helpful in identifying the culprit. The fingers on his left hand were wrinkled with the “washerwoman” effect of having been immersed in water for considerable time. Could it be the boy was beaten into unconscious and drowned in a bath?
This scenario is possible yet an autopsy would have revealed this fact were it true. In fact details of the boy’s autopsy have never been released to the public with good reason. Just as police withhold significant information from the press about high-profile murder cases in order to weed out the “weirdos” who falsely come forward claiming to be the killer, releasing the autopsy report might assist people with ulterior motives in explaining physical injuries. For instance, a person who lays claim to knowing or being related to the boy could use autopsy information to try and mislead police (and now the Vidoq Society) about the case. Why? Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame. Andy Warhol knew a thing or two about that. Especially after Valerie Solanas shot him at close rage in the torso. But I digress.
Nearby was the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a home for “wayward girls“, the unkind 1950s expression for young unwed mothers. This would explain why the home was an important focus for police. Upon attending an estate sale at the foster home, an investigator in the medical examiner’s office, Remington Bristow discovered a bassinet similar to the one sold at J.C. Penney. He discovered blankets hanging on the clothesline similar to that in which the boy’s body had been wrapped. Bristow believed that the child belonged to the stepdaughter of the man who ran the foster home; perhaps they disposed of the boy’s body so that she wouldn’t be exposed as an unwed mother, since in 1957 there existed a significant social stigma associated with single motherhood. Although significant media coverage surrounded the case, no one offered pertinent leads as to the boy’s identity.
Bristow spent 36 years on the case, often following leads to distant parts of the country, on his own time, and at his own expense. He consulted a psychic who led him straight to the Good Shepherd school. Solving the mystery became a personal, life-long obsession until his death in 1996. Veteran investigators all agree that, but for Remington Bristow’s personal crusade, the Boy in the Box case would have been completely abandoned and forgotten long ago. read america’s unknown child- the mystery of the boy in the box
Decades after Bristow’s death two police officers tracked down the man who ran Sisters of the Good Shepherd and his foster daughter, who were now living in another part of the country. The man and his foster daughter had married. After investigating the two on two separate occasions, the police were satisfied they had nothing to do with the Boy in the Box case and the lead was dropped. It would also be foolish if the Home’s director had abused the killed the boy, then dumped his body on the same road as the school.
The Vidoq Society, comprised of volunteers without police experience, have also maintained a vigilant quest to discover the boy’s identity. Recently the website America’s Unknown Child posted by the Vidoq Society released this statement:
If you are age 55 or beyond and you knew, or remember knowing of, a young boy two years old or younger (possibly named Jonathan) in the very early 1950s, living in or within a 40-mile radius of Philadelphia or if you are or were a physician ( perhaps now retired ) who may have treated such a boy for a condition that would have left resultant scars in the groin area and the ankles ( IV cutdowns ), you are asked to Email such information to our website address.
The case remains officially unsolved. Investigators were able to extract mitochondrial DNA from the boy’s tooth. They are now attempting to link him to entries in a national mitochondrial DNA database.
I applaud the Vidoq Society in its unending quest to solve the case and bring closure to the public who mourns the little, lost boy. However I doubt this case will ever be solved. It has been five decades since the murder and the careless disposal of the child’s body. It will always remain a case shrouded in tragedy and mystery.