Topic: How Can I Help? (and Other Questions)

E-mail Messages and Responses

Being a native of northeast PA, I am always interested in stories from home. My family moved from the Lehigh Valley area to Arizona in 1977 (I was 13). I have lived in Ohio since 1987 but over the past 2 or 3 years, I have been going "home" more. I recently picked up a few copies of "Philadelphia" magazine at the library and read about the "boy in the box" yesterday. Being a mother of 2 children, I can think of nothing more precious to me than my babies (ages 13 and 7). I can't stop thinking of this poor child. I am deeply heartbroken. How can this little be have no one come forward and say they loved him? I know it's been almost 50 years and this horrific crime happened before I was born. I can't get the pictures out of my head. When I first read the story and saw the photos yesterday (during my lunch) I could not help myself from sobbing uncontrollably. I looked at the article again today at lunch and started crying again. On my way home, I kept seeing the pictures in my head and started crying again. I don't think I've been this upset by anything in a very long time! How could someone treat this sweet little boy worse than an animal and then leave his lifeless body in a dump like a piece of trash? I wish I could hold him and make him know the love he never received in this life. But since I can't do that, I would like to do something. Is there a group or organization that pays for the upkeep of his plot? Or is there an address where I can send an something to be taken to his grave (flowers, toys, etc)? I wish I could somehow help to close his case and bring to justice the horrible monster responsible. He was just a child and no child deserves to die the way he did. And he certainly did not deserve to be left in a cardboard box, buried without a proper name. In a world where people cry over the mistreatment of animals, how could someone do this? Please tell me who to contact. If I lived closer, I would go visit his grave myself. I only wish that I could have somehow given this boy the love he deserved. I would like to help in solving this mystery. It has left me so heartbroken to know this child lived a tragic life and was killed savagely and left with no way to identify him. I know I can't get into hospital records and that the police have probably done everything and looked at every angle possible. Is there any way for a concerned person such as myself, to get medical records from the 1950s? I would like specifically to look into all male children having hernia surgery in the Philly area during the early 50s. I can't give up on this little boy. How can I help?

Your Email to our website has been forwarded to me for reply. Like so many other folks who have visited the website, your expressions of outrage at this crime are most understandable. I am one of the investigators who continue to work on this tragic case all these years later. It has been a most difficult case to solve, but we keep trying. A big problem for us at this late point in time is the fact that most anyone who would have knowledge of this crime has either already died or soon will. I appreciate how you as a mother would be particularly touched by what you read on the website, and I can also see how and why the case has been so very troubling to you since first you read it. As far as wanting to be of help to us as we continue to search for answers, the only thing I can suggest to you in that regard is to keep us and our work in your prayers. Prayer can do so much and it would be good to know you've joined the legions of others who support our efforts in that way. The boy was reburied in Ivy Hill cemetery here in Philadelphia on Nov. 11, 1998 after previously having rested in a pauper's grave from 1957 to 1998 prior to the Vidocq Society becoming involved in the case. The Vidocq Society, of which I am a member and serve as a volunteer investigator, deals with helping to solve cold cases. The cemetery is located at 1201 Easton Road, Phila., Pa. (19150) if you would care to have flowers sent for placement on his grave as so many others have done. Once again thank you for your interest and your input, and may God bless you and your young ones richly. Joseph McGillen, VSM


I'm just a private citizen with no law enforcement background, but this sad story has deeply touched me, and I wish I could personally do something to actively help the investigators solve this crime. Please write back and tell me how I can participate in the investigation.

As a private citizen, participation in the actual criminal investigation isn't possible. However, private citizens can make a significant contribution to the investigation by helping to publicize the Boy in the Box case. We suggest that you inform your friends, relatives, co-workers and business associates about the case. If you have a website, you can help spread the word via the Internet by placing a link to the America's Unknown Child website ( on your site. We are, of course, grateful for that kind of support. It is vitally important to make as many people aware of the case as possible. The more people who know about this intriguing, baffling mystery, the better our chances of finding someone who has the key evidence or information needed to solve it.


Are there any books published on the Boy in the Box?

Virtually everything that has been published about the Boy in the Box case is on our web site (look in the archives). There have been no books entirely dedicated to the subject, but Ron Avery devoted a chapter to it in his book "City of Brotherly Mayhem". If you'd like to purchase a copy of the book, Ron Avery can be reached via the Philadelphia Daily News. Also check out the Saturday Evening Post article from July, 1958, which covers the first year of the investigation in great detail.


I would like to be on a message board regarding the boy in the box. Do you have a message board?

Our web site does not host a public message board, nor do we have any plans to do so in the future. There is, as far as we know, no public discussion group about the Boy in the Box case, but there is nothing to stop you from forming one. Speaking from bitter experience, a word of caution is offered in that regard: If you do decide to create a public forum about this case on the Internet, please be prepared to deal with a lot of pranksters and disruptive, insincere people.

It's been our experience that public message boards on the Internet are frequently subject to flagrant abuse by irresponsible people whose only intent is to show off, ridicule others, or behave in an insulting, abusive or disruptive manner. We are firmly dedicated to honoring the memory of the unknown boy, and treating him with dignity and respect at all times. Inappropriate comments, morbid jokes and other foolish or offensive remarks can never be tolerated. The tragedy of this boy's death is not a laughing matter. That is why we have chosen not to include a public message board on the America's Unknown Child web site.


I heard somewhere that when the boy's body was found that his eye lids and lips were stitched shut. Is this correct or just the story growing when retold? If it is true why is there no mention of it on the web site?

The story that you heard about the boy's eyes and lips being sewn shut at the time his body was discovered is false. That is why nothing has been written about it - it didn't happen! Actually, the boy's left eye lid was partially open at the time he was found. The photos of the boy on the original poster accurately depict his condition when discovered.


I would like to share with you some of the thoughts and questions that have come to my mind.

Is it possible/probable that a child might be born/raised completely outside the U.S. social/welfare/educational system (regardless of the disadvantages this might bring for the parents as well as the child himself)? Possible reasons for this might be neglect, the attempt to keep his existence a secret (I am thinking of an illegitimate child, possibly from an unlawful relationship such as incest), or the parents'/caretakers' ignorance as to the requirements of the system.

The boy's parents have never come forward; is it possible/probable that they might have believed their child already dead at the time of the body's discovery? He might have been abducted some time before. After what time are death certificates issued in case of a person's disappearance?

Also on the subject of a possible abduction: as far as I understand the boy did not have a whole life of abuse behind him. The number of old scars and fractures was not excessive, signs of fairly recent medical treatment were found (although no vaccination marks). This might indicate that either his caretakers' attitude towards him changed drastically in the months prior to his death, or that he was in the company of different people with less regard for his wellbeing. Were abductions of children for "commercial purposes" (child labor, adoptions, sexual perversions) common in the 1950s?

Your message was referred to me for review. My response to the three questions you posed is:

1. It is possible that a person involved in this crime could have lived completely outside the U.S. social/welfare/educational systems, but I am not persuaded toward that conclusion as a viable answer.

2. Generally speaking, if a person has been missing for 7 years and all efforts to learn their whereabouts or fate have come up short, a petition to have them declared legally dead can be filed, usually by the next-of-kin.

3. Abductions of children for "commercial purposes" did occur during the 1950's. Whether they were "common" or occurred more or less frequently than today, I simply do not know.


I went to the Ivy Hill Cemetery today to try to find the tomb of the "Boy in the Box" (the place that he was buried on November 11, 1998). I couldn't ask anyone where he's buried because today is Sunday, and I couldn't hang around long because a thunderstorm was coming down. I was just wondering if anyone working on the "Boy in the Box" case could tell me the location of the boy's present tomb, or the specific location of the boy's original grave.

The grave of America's Unknown Child in Ivy Hill Cemetery is really quite easy to find, since it lies just inside the main gate on Easton Road. (There is a photograph of the main gate on our web site, as well as other photos of the grave itself.) Just walk (or drive) through the narrow passageway. The chapel will be on one side of you and the cemetery office will be on the other. As you come out of the passageway and into the cemetery proper, you will see the boy's grave directly in front of you. There is a large black headstone engraved with the image of a lamb. It is flanked by a white granite bench. The boy's original headstone is at the foot of the grave.

There really isn't any way to locate the exact spot in the city cemetery where the boy's original resting place was located, unless you had visited the grave when the boy was still buried there and know how to find the spot from memory. The city "cemetery" (for want of a better word) is just a large open field, usually overgrown with weeds, on the west side of Dunk's Ferry Road just inside the northern limit of the city. There are several soccer fields immediately south of it. All of the graves in the cemetery (criminals, paupers, and body parts) are unmarked, so there isn't anything to see there. In other words, if you didn't know in advance that this field was a place of burial, you'd never suspect that to be the case just by looking at it.


Did you ever get any good solid leads from America's Most Wanted? Why not have an artist sculpt the child's face to make him appear more life-like, and show it side-by-side with the bust of the possible father?

Following the initial "Boy in the Box" broadcast two years ago, many tips and potential leads were received via the AMW site. From time to time, the Vidocq investigators still receive leads from that source. They also track down leads that they receive from a variety of other sources, including the America's Unknown Child web site. Some of the leads have initially appeared to be quite promising, but as of this date, none of them have ultimately proven to be really "solid". A casting ("death mask") of the unknown boy's face was made in 1957. This replicated his features far more accurately than could be achieved by any sculpture. Unfortunately, the death mask was lost during the time it was in the possession of Remington Bristow.


I am a filmmaker, and I feel this crime story would be an incredible documentary film. Please inform me if the organization that is dealing with this case would be willing to let me and my crew create a documentary film on the Boy in the Box. I have created several independent films, one of which is currently showing throughout the Philadelphia area, and I also shoot commercials in the Delaware County region. Please write back with any thoughts on creating this film. It really is an amazing story. You can visit my web site to get some of my credentials.

We appreciate your interest in the Boy in the Box case and your desire to create a documentary film about it. Please be advised that the Vidocq Society has already signed an exclusive contract with Danny DeVito's "Jersey Films" Company to produce a motion picture about the case. Therefore, it cannot participate in the production of your proposed documentary. Of course, this in no way prevents you from producing the film on your own, or seeking the assistance of another law enforcement agency, such as the Philadelphia police department.


I am very interested in this little boy. I feel like he is one of my own. I have read and reread the web site a hundred times in the last couple of weeks. This is one of the worst crimes I have ever heard of. This little boy has been permanently embedded in my mind. It's awful that no one has ever claimed this beautiful little boy. I want to write a book about this case, but I don't know who to contact. Who would I have to talk to about it? Would I have to get permission from someone? I was wondering how I should go about getting in touch with the detective on the Americas Unknown Child case.

We applaud your sincere interest in the Boy in the Box case and wish you every success in your book publishing effort. There has never been an entire book devoted to the history of this fascinating mystery. However, since this is still an active homicide case, the investigators must adhere to strict rules of confidentiality. Therefore, it is essential that you observe the proper protocols. For example, it would not be possible to interview the members of the current investigative team without going through the appropriate channels and obtaining the necessary approvals from those people who are responsible for dealing with the press and the public at large.

At the Vidocq Society, the individual that you should contact is the Director of Communications, Dick Lavinthal. He is a very congenial person and we're sure that he will do whatever he can to assist you. You can reach Mr. Lavinthal via E-mail ( or by phone 215-545-1450. You can also contact the Public Affairs Office of the Philadelphia Police Department. Their telephone number is 215-686-3388. The mailing address is One Franklin Square, Philadelphia, PA 19106. You might also try Ron Avery, author of the book "City of Brotherly Mayhem." Mr. Avery knows a great deal about the history of the Boy in the Box case. He can be reached via the Philadelphia Daily News.


I was wondering if you might be able to help me. I am doing an investigative report for my Criminal Investigation class about the unsolved Boy in the Box case from 1957. I have to give a presentation after all of my research is finished, and I was hoping there would be a way for you to send me any information pertaining to the case, or if you could give me an e-mail address for someone at the Vidocq Society that might be able to help. The presentation has to be ready by March 8th. Please write to me and let me know if you could do this for me.

The America's Unknown Child web site contains virtually everything that has ever been made available to the general public about the case. For security reasons, we cannot provide any information beyond what you will find on the web site. You are certainly welcome to download any news articles, photographs or other materials from our site to use in your report. If you need further assistance or advice please feel free to contact us.


I live in northeast Philadelphia, and I'd like to know why no one in the city has renamed a street in northeast Philadelphia as AMERICAS UNKNOWN CHILD in honor of this child, or put up one of those historic signs that you see around Independence Hall. An historic sign should read something like "In loving memory of AMERICAS UNKNOWN CHILD." It should also have the words "may god protect him in heaven forever" followed with the date FEB 25, 1957. Then let the public know where this sign is so that people can put flowers and teddy bears there since this child's name is not known as of yet. I think that the city of Philadelphia should do something for this poor little boy who was killed so long ago in 1957.

Unlike Independence Hall or Penn's Landing, a former crime scene is not a significant "historic site" that merits erecting a marker, nor does the city name streets after unknown homicide victims. There already is a place where people can go to pay their respects to America's Unknown Child and leave flowers, teddy bears, etc. The boy's gravesite in Ivy Hill Cemetery is open to the public year-round. Directions to Ivy Hill Cemetery are provided at the top of our 1999/2000 Memorials page.