SAMPLE E-MAIL MESSAGES & RESPONSES
Topic: Various Theories
Over the years, literally hundreds of alternative theories have been presented about this case. We do not subscribe to, endorse, or seek to promote any particular theory or set of theories. Our role is to inform the general public about the case, clarify misconceptions and answer specific questions. Therefore, we seldom provide feedback expressing our views about the potential merit of theories we receive. Frankly, we are not in a position to make such judgments. All theories are forwarded directly to members of the investigative team. They are best qualified to evaluate them.
E-mail Messages andResponses:
I feel strongly that this poor child was being passed off as a girl while he was alive. I was relieved to see that somebody else had also had that thought.
He was most definitely beaten by a family member or someone close to him. Severe beatings resulting in death are usually done by someone close to the victim. They usually take out their rage/love on the victim. A child of that age could not have possibly knowingly offended an adult to the extent that such a result was inevitable. The offender, undoubtedly a male, used the child to vent his anger, possibly anger directed towards another.
I have come up with a compilation of theories that I feel address a wide range of the possibilities. He lived at the foster home, and was-in-fact the son of the daughter and step-father. It was a home birth and therefore no documentation was found or record kept of his birth. The possibility of a cross-sex upbringing is interesting but doesn't change my thought on what happened. The boy had medical problems that needed attention and since they did not have the resources, they decided to attempt a home treatment of the boy's illness. And the 7 (already healed) scars may very well been treated in a hospital or at an established medical facility, but repeated doctors and activity in the public eye may have deterred further necessary trips to a professional. Instead of a doctor, they tried to perform what they had earlier seen being done to the boy by medical professionals. I don't believe any of these people had a very extensive medical background or certification of any kind. So when the boy began to struggle and thrash, the father held him and tried to control him through force. Whatever they were trying to do to the boy, maybe something medical or just basic grooming, the boy was not happy with the situation and was killed in the struggle. Seizure could have been a possibility. If these people didn't care at all for the boy they wouldn't have clipped his nails and let him play in the pond. But if your child had died by your own hands accidentally, you'd be scarred too. With little education and not many resources they probably figured that they would discard the body temporarily, but were caught too soon to do anything about it. There were cut blankets and a J.C. Penney bassinet. HELLO! There you go! My question is, why weren't these people more closely monitored or interrogated? This is baffling! You'd think that they would have been prime suspects. Malicious, no. Violent, yes! Cruel and cold-hearted, yes! Unmoral and completely unjust and barbaric, yes! The state probably couldn't afford to lose a person who was willing to operate a foster home due to all the children floating around, so they probably cut some kind of deal. That makes the most sense to me.
The crude haircut looks actually as though the head was partially shaved. This made me think that someone may have tended to his head injuries.
I get the feeling that this child was from some institution or orphanage. He was not treated for injuries outside of the place where he was. Probably this child was abandoned at birth and ended up in a custodial setting. Checking nearby facilities, probably something investigators already did, would be my first thought. Perhaps this child was from Canada or of foreign parentage and then abandoned. But I still say check the institutions.
Did they search in Canada, Nova Scotia, or perhaps American Indian links in that part of New York that borders on Pennsylvania? I feel strongly that there is an American Indian link for some crazy reason. I looked at the boy and at his eyes and that's the first thing I thought of. He looks like he is part American Indian. I know there were tribes in that area. I believe there were Lakowaxon up near Colombia County, New York. Lakowaxon is somewhere on the New York/Pennsylvania border. It's his eyes. Has anyone else thought of that?
Is it possible the unknown boy may have been Amish? Amish boys usually wear their hair long, have fair complexions, don't go to regular school, are not vaccinated, and the community is very closemouthed. I know that there are thousands of Amish people living in Lancaster County, which is not very far from Philadelphia. To tell you the truth, the boy looks like he is of Dutch or German stock. I gave the Amish theory a lot of thought. Did they go down that road during the investigation? I was born in Ohio and there are a lot of Amish there as well. They do not use electricity, running water, or other modern conveniences. They also do not associate themselves with the concerns of the world, such as police business, and if there were a problem in the Amish community it probably wouldn't be mentioned to a police official or any other outsider. The Amish would be more inclined to "cover it up" and deal with it internally. Even if they were questioned about the matter by outside authorities, the natural tendency of the Amish would be to deny any knowledge of it. They certainly wouldn't come forward and VOLUNTEER any information to the police.
I believe the police were on the right track in suspecting the foster family. The death was caused by someone who had never committed murder before. Judging by the crime scene they did a poor job of concealment, and the body showed numerous signs of either ongoing abuse or a series of recent abusive attacks. Based on the area in which the body was found, the killer left two very clear messages. One is I live nearby, and the other is please find him. The person that did this to the boy knew him, judging by the care they put into preparing his body (crossing his arms, etc.). They also knew he'd be recognized by his hair. The boy was probably the youngest child in the family and met his demise at the hands of a female, possibly his mother. His physical condition could have been caused by a frustrated young mother. This takes us back to the care taken when disposing of the child. Too much care was taken for it to be someone who didn't have some personal interest in the boy. Folding his arms like a sleeping child, cleaning him, etc. is all a mother's instinct. This would also explain no one looking for the child. She already knew! And fear of prosecution keeps her in hiding. These are some of the things I noticed in looking over this site and attempting to profile it. Profiling is a subject I've been studying on my own for several months now. Hopefully this might be of some use to you, even though you have more experience than I. Please let me know if any of this was useful at all or at least close to anything you had thought.
All of this may have been touched on by others, but here are my thoughts. I hope you'll find this worth reading.
Fact: The boy was malnourished, which indicated poverty or illness. Childhood illness and lack of vaccinations link him back to an impoverished home
Fact: The boy was laid out, as if for burial. His nails and hair were trimmed, and his arms positioned. I don't really think the hair cut was necessarily done in an attempt to disguise identity so much as an attempt at a "proper" funeral procedure, however poorly done. This would most likely have been done by a woman. Men of that era just wouldn't have taken those things into consideration as much. The woman could have been his mother or possibly a female relative living there (sister, grandmother, aunt?). Whoever she was, she was either abused herself (resulting in cowed behavior), mentally handicapped or immature. I think she probably loved the little boy, and wanted to give him a decent burial, but couldn't afford it, was trying to keep his death a secret, or was too afraid to ask for a proper funeral for him. She carried him out and tried to bury him by herself or with ineffectual help (like that of another child). She was either interrupted or was unable to break through the frozen ground. This could be tested if the site was searched for attempted "digging" marks after the body was found. I think she probably talked to someone outside the family regarding the investigation, but didn't admit to anything. She was illiterate or uneducated. Her build was probably small and overly thin, maybe frail. She was local, and likely attended a nearby church at some time in her life.
I believe there were many children in the home....too many mouths to feed, and an economically stressed parent or parents. The unknown boy was probably a middle child (i.e., neither youngest nor oldest) in a group of children that may or may not have all been siblings. This would be indicated by the lack of clothing or shoes on the boy (some of it maybe used by other children around the same age/size?), and the cut in half blanket with the piece cut out of it. I can almost hear someone saying not to "waste" a "good" blanket or clothes on a child that no longer needs it, when there are others who do. It's almost a "Depression Era" mentality.
If there was a "father" present, he was likely the killer, based on male/female roles of that time. He would have been a blue collar worker, at least in his late thirties, possibly laid off at the time. He would be domineering and egotistical, with a pronounced stride. He may not have been a chronic abuser; x-rays of the boy showed no signs of fractures, present or past, but he had several scars, a few of which didn't appear to be linked to past medical procedure. Cigarette burns, maybe? Physical abuse tends to escalate, getting more severe over time, and blunt trauma or force/squeeze trauma is the most likely. Also, if a child of that age is chronically abused, the likeliest places to show injury are the wrists (twisting injury of "Stop that!", or "Come here, you!"), the back (child curled into fetal position for protection), and of course the mouth and face (disagreeing, failing to answer, or verbally angering the abusing parent).
The "father" was probably under stress, and may have been prone to alcoholic bouts. He may have been chauvinistic and had little patience with a male child showing signs of "weakness", such as crying or running to mother for comfort. He was verbally abusive or intimidating on a regular basis. He likely felt a little bit of remorse after the boy died. If the killer was female, she was likely unmarried, alcoholic, high-strung, or mentally deficient and under a great deal of stress. The child's death was accidental, and she felt a great deal of remorse. If she was mentally handicapped, she may not have understood the consequences of battering the child until she was unable to rouse him. The bassinet would indicate an infant or pregnancy to someone in the family or close by , and may have been a gift. "Stillborn" babies in that day and age were all too common, and was how some mothers dealt with unwanted pregnancies.
Has anyone investigated the local churches? There might (long shot) be baptismal records, or more likely, attempts at charity. If it was a very large family, and the father was recently out of work, a church may have tried to bring food to them on the previous holiday.
The little boy may have sucked his thumb, judging by the protruding front teeth. I think he was either unable or unwilling to speak much. Perhaps he was slow or had a speech impediment. He may have had "lazy eye" resulting in a facial expression some would interpret as dim-witted, and it could have been treated with eye drops. He would have been shy and withdrawn around others if he was indeed abused, or handicapped. One of the other children in the home may remember something, but could have been given an explanation for the boy's disappearance other than his demise.
If the little boy was illegitimate or the product of incest/molestation, the family would most certainly have covered it up, and kept him hidden or lied about his origins.
I think the best evidence is the cap. The person who placed the body there was wearing that cap at night. He was probably in a hurry and lost the cap. If it had been during the day he would have easily found it. The best witness was the lady in the store that sold it. Has there been a sketch made based on her description? As far as the box from J.C. Penney, it may indicate another infant in the dead boy's family. Since the foster family has been eliminated, spotting a "similar" bassinet in their house with the number of children that they had cared for would not be that unusual. It seems that if the actual bassinet had been spotted at the auction, it would had been booked into evidence.
My theory is that the young man that bought the cap was the stepfather or boyfriend of the dead boy's mother. He probably lived and worked in the area of the hat store. It seems that the couple would have to have been somewhat isolated from an extended family. Perhaps a military member or recently discharged person. My guess is that this family had only recently located in the area and left soon after the murder. If they had been better established someone would have remembered the child. The area around the hat store is the starting point. The dump site is just that, far from the guilty party. Perhaps checking hospital records near the hat store for possible treatment of the boy, or birth of a sibling, or police records for domestic disturbance calls in the area involving a man of that description would be useful. City directories. Welfare rolls? Union rolls? It might be helpful to get new publicity in the case with an emphasis on the area around the store, perhaps sending info to area high school alumni associations from the years after that time. Neighborhood kids see everything. Perhaps someone who was a teenager then might remember a young couple with a boy that age that came and went. Perhaps hold a well publicized memorial service. My guess is that mother is still alive and feeling great remorse.
Is it possible that the mother was from Eastern Europe or Germany and came here with a discharged American soldier? The malnutrition would have been rare here but probably not in Germany after the war. That might explain the lack of concern of relatives. The mother may have also been limited in English and afraid to report the abuse that eventually led to the death. It's hard to believe that a boy would not be missed by a relative of the parents, unless they were no longer in contact with either side of the boy's family. Likely the killer is not the boy's natural father. Immigration records for a GI's bride with a boy of the right age might shed light. She may have joined him after he returned and left the military. The boyfriend or stepfather's family might not have ever known about the boy or the disappearance might have been explained that the boy returned to Germany to live with his grandparents or natural father. The German side may have just lost contact over the distance or not be living.
I think the parents had something to do with this and I believe that they did not live in the area because someone would have recognized the little boy. I believe the parents were passing through the area and lived somewhere else. The cap is a good clue. Maybe the father bought the cap while they were passing through the area and that is when the murder happened. Then the parents left the area, maybe to go home - wherever that may be. That explains nobody recognizing the child, no definite leads, and the parents were cleared of any questioning because they were not living in the area.
I'm a reporter for a newspaper in the Philadelphia area as well as a forensic science major in college, working on my Bachelors Degree. I've been fascinated with this case for several years, but just recently found this website. I've read through all the theories proposed by people, I find some of them very plausible. I'm aware the Philadelphia Police Department Investigators have been over this evidence many, many times, and more than likely have been over almost every scenario there is, but I haven't seen the suggestion that someone placed the child there on purpose.
With the amount of care that was taken to prepare the child's body for what seems to be a proper burial, is it possible that someone, possibly a parent, placed the child's body there, maybe half-hoping someone would find it? I would think that would be good reason to place the child in a bassinet box. Maybe the perp wasn't sure if they wanted the child to be found, but to place him in an area so close to a road, perhaps they were hoping the child would be located. Of course, I assume its also possible that the perp was well versed in forensics and took such care to ensure he or she would not be identified.
I agree with the posts that the child came from a less than fortunate family, maybe that would account for the child being naked, perhaps they needed the clothing for another child of the same size.
I also agree with posts that the child was abused. It certainly appears that way from the medical examiner's photos. Although the unnamed foster family was cleared, I'm sure there were other families like that one. In my studies I have found that incest cases were not treated then they way they are now. It was a family disgrace. Perhaps the child was from a family with the same circumstances as the foster family.
As far as the scarring, is it possible the child had been born in another area and the medical procedures were performed in the area of the child's birth? That would explain the lack of medical records in the area.
I visited vidocq.org because the society was mentioned on a tv program about murder investigations. I must say I am intrigued. After sifting through your current investigation (America's Unknown Child) I feel as though I should e-mail you my thoughts on the subject. Obviously, I am only limited to what you have posted on the Internet with regards to newspaper articles and assorted photographs. Also, I feel it is pointless to publish such a limited amount of reports and photographs on the net. We can't get a true feeling of the investigation - only tantalizing glimpses. It's frustrating to learn that the boy had lacerations on his neck, without more description than that. I'd like to know what questions were asked of the foster family household. I'd like to know what answers they gave. I'd like to read for myself Fred Benonis' account, rather than a mere summary written by someone else. I'd like a lot more first person reports and accounts.
Anyway, here's my two cents worth:
1. I don't think you'll ever manage to fit a name to the boy - unless, that is, you pull one out a hat. Too much time has passed and anyone who might know something is either dead, doesn't care or doesn't remember, or probably thinks "It's been 40-odd years. Nobody will be interested now." How long will the Vidocq Society keep investigating this case anyway?
2. Whoever killed him - whether accidentally or otherwise - has committed the perfect crime.
3. I think the boy was dumped... pure and simple. Nobody intended to bury him, least of all at that particular site. Take a look at the discovery site photos - especially the one of the box with the boy still in it. The undergrowth at the site is too dense. The foliage and root system would be a bitch to dig through - especially in February. This means whoever dumped him did not love him. If the boy was loved (as stated in some accounts), wouldn't it be better to bury him in the back yard? Also, why dump him in a box in a place where everyone apparently went to dump their garbage? Wouldn't it be better to weigh him down and toss him into the nearby creek?
4. How far from the road side was the box dumped? Is there any reason as to why the box was found on its side, and not upright? Did it just fall over?
5. I agree with the assumption that the death was accidental... and this (like so many others) is my THEORY on how the boy died. It's probably wrong, but at least it's a working hypothesis. The extent of my forensic knowledge is solely based upon true crime tv shows which detail brief insights to investigation techniques and forensic pathology procedures. Imagine the scene: A frustrated parent/guardian and an unruly child. The boy was apparently being spruced up for something. He didn't want this, so he threw a temper tantrum and ran away while he was having his hair cut. His parent or guardian ran after him and caught him by the arm. This could possibly account for the bruising on his left arm - especially if the grip was vice-like to prevent him from escaping again as he was dragged back for the haircut to be finished. Maybe the boy wrestled free again and made a run for it. By this time the parent/guardian was really losing it. He/she caught up with the boy and layed into his legs with a bat or paddle, thus causing the extensive bruising. The more the boy struggled and screamed the worse the beating. Eventually things calmed, and again the haircut resumed - though this time the really frustrated parent/guardian puts the boy in some kind of headlock to get the job done.
The large bruise to the right of the boy's head may be the heal of the hand while the smaller ones could be finger marks. A headlock such as this could be maintained on a struggling child so that an electric razor (if one was used and not scissors) could be run from the front-side of the head to the rear. The bruising on the nape of the neck - if it isn't post mortem lividity could be from the force exerted to push his head forward and down so that the back of his head could be done. The bruising to the boy's chest could be a result of being pushed down on something that dug into him as his hair was being cut. Unfortunately the struggling and the intense pressure of maintaining the hold cut the blood from his brain and he died.... I can't really factor in the wrinkled skin, though it seems plausible the boy was being groomed just after a long bath.
6. Remington Bristow said he always believed that the foster home was linked to the case because of what he found there. Later in 1961, the foster home was closed and the farmhouse sold. Bristow went to a preview of an auction of its furnishings and spotted a bassinet like the one sold by J.C. Penneys. "It was covered with dust, sitting in the basement," Bristow said. Outside, he found plaid blankets hanging on a clothesline. The blankets had been cut in half to fit the metal cots the children had slept on. There was also a duck pond on the property; Bristow theorized that this could have been the place where the boy's hand and foot had lain in water. Although he wasn't able to prove anything, this, in my mind, is the key to the case. I believe, like so many others who have e-mailed you that the foster home was involved, largely due to the existence of the bassinet and the blankets that were cut in half. The bassinet, if it still exists today is another important clue. A comparison paint analysis with the paint flecks found on the inside of the JC Penney box would be another little piece of the puzzle put in place, though, this is probably a lost opportunity.
7. DNA sampling has also been suggested. This, in my opinion, is futile unless you have something to compare it to. I would also suggest you perform a DNA analysis of the people involved in the case (or their descendants) - whether they are a suspect or not. This would be a positive step forward in establishing whether the boy was the missing child Steven Craig Damman (despite the earlier conclusions), or the son of the dysfunctional foster home family - which I am inclined to believe. But, as you say you can't go around forcing people to undergo DNA testing and opening old wounds - especially after 40-odd years.
8. You say several psychics got in contact with you giving the name of the unknown boy. Were these names the same or did they differ slightly, or were they totally different?
9. The woman and her young male companion (of approximately 12-14 years of age) who apparently were "unloading something" from their car near the Fox Chase thicket where the boy was found also seems to be an important factor. The driver who offered to help seemed to think (or was it just his point of view) that they were deliberately obscuring the license plate and acted suspiciously. Were these people ever traced and interviewed? What did they have to say? They were 100-200 feet away from the body, but in which direction were they facing? Were they facing towards the body, or had they driven past it, as if they were stopping periodically to scatter evidence?
10. Somewhere in your extensive postings people ask questions about the blue corduroy cap and other pieces of evidence, to which you reply that you do not know their present location, but on Page 10 of your Archives there is an account from the Philadelphia Inquirer, dated Sunday, October 23, 1988 which states "Over the decades, he (in reference to Bristow) has investigated thousands of leads and talked to thousands of people about the case. He has three desk drawers full of files of his own. On his interviews, he carries a battered black briefcase containing copies of police reports, an autopsy report, a police cast of the boy's face, a cap found nearby, a piece of the blanket and several strands of the boy's hair."
Am I correct in thinking that when Remington Bristow died all his case notes, his briefcase containing the boy's death mask and all his other bits and pieces were appropriated by the Vidocq Society to help in the investigation. Is this cap the same one you say you can't find or a different one?
Thank you for writing to the America's Unknown Child web site, and for offering your comments and theories about the case. We're sorry to hear that you are frustrated by the "limited amount" of first-person reports and photographs on the site. Please bear in mind that even after the passage of four decades, this is still an active homicide investigation. Consequently, strict rules of confidentiality remain in effect. Most of the original police reports, autopsy findings, interview notes, photographs, etc. are classified, and they will probably remain so until the case is finally resolved. Tight security restrictions also prevent us from responding to some of your questions regarding specific aspects of the investigation such as the identity of informants, the verbatim testimony of suspects, the status of current leads, or the findings produced by pursuing certain paths of inquiry. The premature release of such sensitive information could be detrimental to the ultimate resolution of this case. Frankly, only a tiny portion of the information about the Boy in the Box investigation has been approved for release to the general public. Be assured that the America's Unknown Child web site contains virtually everything about the case that is legally permissible to publish. If and when additional information is declassified and approved for public consumption, we will make it available promptly.
We have been authorized to provide the following limited responses to specific questions that you asked in your message:
1. The Vidocq Society has been participating in this investigation for the past three years. Their involvement is strictly voluntary and open-ended. That being said, we anticipate that the Vidocq Society will maintain its present level of participation for the foreseeable future.
2. There is no such thing as the "perfect crime." This case, while admittedly far more difficult than most, can be solved.
3. The cardboard box was found 15 feet south of Susquehanna road. There is no evidence to support the notion that the box was ever standing in an upright position at the discovery site.
4. Remington Bristow's suspicions, hunches, and "conclusions" were based solely upon circumstantial evidence, conjecture, and the impressions of a psychic. In short, he was mistaken. The foster family was definitely not involved in the perpetration of this crime.
5. Repeated efforts to obtain a valid DNA sample from the boy's badly degraded remains have failed thus far. Should those continuing efforts eventually succeed, the sample will be used to confirm a genetic link between the boy and any future suspects / informants.
6. Your conclusion about the subsequent mishandling and contamination of the original evidence is correct. DNA tests of such badly contaminated objects would be inconclusive at best. The Philadelphia police department now has stringent rules and procedures in place that effectively preclude any intentional or inadvertent contamination of evidence.
7. Psychics have only provided us with first names, which are, of course, virtually useless to the investigators. There have been very few "duplicate" name suggestions, although the name "Edward" or "Eddie" has come up at least three times over the years.
8. After the death of Remington Bristow, a few of the Boy in the Box items that had been in his possession for more than 30 years were returned to the Philadelphia police department. Other case-related items, including his personal investigative files, were passed down to his descendants. The Vidocq Society was not involved in the case at that time, so they naturally received nothing. The death mask mysteriously disappeared while it was in Bristow's possession, but the blue cap was recently turned over to the homicide division by Bristow's descendants. As for the other evidence: only two small pieces of the J.C. Penney carton and a tiny swatch of material from the blanket survive. Pictures of these items in their current condition are shown on our Evidence page.
Hello, just a couple of thoughts.....The child looks to be of Irish decent, not Scottish. The parents were probably involved in the child's murder. The father was unemployed and the family was under stress. There was more than one child in the home. Check Immigration for Irish immigrants from the early 50s. (dad, mom, & infant). The younger child was born in the U.S. (looking for the wrong birth certificate). The family was not mobile as previously thought (someone knows this family.) The unknown child looks to be of " Special Needs" ie...Autistic, Tourettes Syndrome, P.D.D. (Check local records for that. I don't think that they were hiding it.) The father appears to have been of hot tempered nature. The mother was helpless and ruled by an iron clad fist. Dad is probably dead by now, but when alive, he drank socially at a local pub. Look more to the inner city (very poor). Try New York. Cutting of the hair? Probably done by mom while dad restrained the child. It was too unprofessional for it to have been done by a barber. The family was too poor to pay also. My impression is that you guys aren't looking in the right place, but it's there. Thank you.
I read with great sadness the story, accompanying news reports, and E-mails about America's Unknown Child. I have no formal criminology education, and my only "expertise" is in Psychology. I am licensed with the State of California and have spent my entire adult life working with the mentally ill and developmentally disabled in a large institution. There are many theories, some of which are complex, but my interpretation is based on the facts of the case combined with the photo of the boy as he was found. The story is tragic, and in 1957, a seldom discussed or acknowledged family dynamic.
The Mother was the "protector" and the Father the "punisher." The Father combined isolation with abuse to maintain complete control of his family. The family moved often and the little boy was not allowed to establish friendships or social ties to one community. He was never enrolled in school due to his age. The Mother came from an abusive environment and did not speak out. She, too, was battered. The death was probably an accident, with the Father seeking physical control, and getting enraged, went too far. For some reason (perhaps a learning disability or jealousy) the Father never bonded with his son. The boy's body could have been discarded in many places where it might never have been found, but the Mother decided where the child would be placed, and that he would be groomed and protected, sheltered but not hidden. The area chosen felt secure to the Mother. I feel this was her last attempt to love and protect her child. The area being rural, the close proximity to a Catholic "home," and the placement of the body and blanket were all deliberate. I don't feel there were any older children who could talk about the murder, but perhaps a young child who the Mother would want to protect and thus keep silent. Sometimes silence does last a lifetime. I wish you luck and God's grace as you continue with this investigation.
I have read most of the e-mail responses to your site and I feel that many have missed the important clues to the case, at least in my opinion. Our office does many investigations into many different areas and we have always found it important to stick to the facts that are at hand. This avoids one from side tracking onto dead ends. Therefore I shall suggest to you all a couple of ideas based just on the simple known facts of the crime.
Note; from observations of bone structure and facial structure it appears that the boy is of Scandinavian heritage. It would also appear that the child was from a poor or under educated family or area. The fact that his mother or family did not practice the idea of changing the position of the child's head while he slept caused the flat or abnormal shape to the back of his head.
The idea that the child was an orphan, or was from a foster home, or a mental hospital is a very good angle or lead to examine, however I do not think this is the case. It is common knowledge that some medical records would exist if he were somehow a ward of the state.
It is my belief that the boy was sold to the killers by his own family. He was sold to people who were more affluent, his parents thinking that the boy would be better off with the richer people than the natural parents. It seems apparent that the boy was not from the immediate area. Rather he was from a more rural area and probably had had no recorded medical care, hence no vaccination or other indicators or any modern medical care. Judging from the boys heritage it would be fair to think that he was from Wisconsin or perhaps the Adirondack region of upper New York state, or from the Amish community in rural Pennsylvania. I suspect that the child was probably delivered at home and his birth not recorded with the county or state. I would also suspect that the mother of the boy was single and very young. (low to mid-teens)
The extent of bruising on the arm and leg and head suggest that he was held down by more than one person. Obviously the place where the body was found was a secondary crime scene and the actual murder was committed somewhere else. I assume that to revisit and investigate that portion of the crime would be fruitless. Nonetheless this murder shows all the tell-tale signs of a ritualist crime.
Why wasn't the body buried, dismantled, burned? Why a box? When I first looked at the photos of the boy one cold hard idea struck me. The idea that the body could not be buried! It is forbidden by certain cults to do so. The box is a major clue as to who the killers were. It is a well known fact that certain religious cults (Talmudic Fundamentalists-- Cabalists) practice 'Purim Rituals', that's why the box! It is against the traditions of the practice to bury the body. Tradition dictates that the body must be left above ground and not destroyed. You might try searching for stories of other young children murdered whose bodies were found in similar circumstances. Look for same aged children, always white and fair, left either in a box, under trash, in a cave or river. The bodies will not be dismembered, burnt, scattered etc. In the Philadelphia area over a short span of years you should be able to confirm or rule out this idea. One question that I have that has not been addressed is, whether or not the boy had been drained of his blood? With the blood drained and the fact that the body was not destroyed or buried; you now have a new direction to travel in the solving of this murder.
I think that the boy may have been electrocuted - perhaps as a form of torture. Water on hand and two feet would seem to indicate that the boy was in a container with water, and forced to be bent over to a degree. It would also make electricity better able to have an effect on his body. The bruises on his forehead could have been caused by some sort of metal hat or something designed to allow some degree of electrical current to inflict pain on the boy. His legs could have been strapped in place. Visualize a metal cuff on the left arm, a metal hat, and metal straps around the legs, all designed to restrain, and maybe inflict electrical suffering. The hair could have been shaved to make the apparatus a better fitting thing. When I first read Remington Bristow's ideas of a kid not intended as a murder victim, I felt he might be right. But this boy's death is probably more in harmony with the concept of electrical torment. The location of the bruises on legs, one arm, and the head, would indicate in my mind, restraint, with possible electrical torment. Add to that the wettened parts of the anatomy, and I think it is a possible scenario.
As for the cardboard box, in the original position it looks bent in the middle of two sides. That suggests to me that it was grabbed by one person, and not two or more. The person grabbed it by squeezing an edge and lifting. This also suggests to me (because the box was so close to the side of the road) that it was not taken far. Assuming that only one person did that, I would suggest it was likely a male who dumped it, or an "athletic" woman.
I recognized your "unknown" boy in the box as the son of my childhood friend (name deleted), a doctor who had founded a special school called the Child Study Centre. My childhood friend told me that his son died "when the doctor pulled out his shunt," but now I don't believe his story.
What I believe happened was this: the boy misbehaved, and his father - who was half-deaf because he had caught rheumatic fever as a child - got angry when the boy began to argue with him. The father was furious - he had been weak but had become strong, and his son was showing signs of disobedience and, therefore, weakness when he wanted him to be the strongest person he could be. He grabbed his son by the neck, and then when the boy struggled, he shook him or slapped him, causing the internal haemorrhaging. Guilt stricken, he then strangled the boy with wire, beat him, and smothered him to cover up the injury that had caused the haemorrhage. Then he and his wife put the boy in a box and left him at the spot where he was later discovered. The rest you know.
Hello, I just discovered your Web Page on the Boy In the Box Mystery and find it excellent. Also profoundly disturbing. I don't really believe this theory myself, so only resort to it when all your scientific approaches thin out. This involves a lot of subjective speculation, but nobody else seems to have offered it, so here goes:
I wonder if there might be occult connections involved. Like maybe a coven of witches or Satanists had sacrificed this child in an evil ritual of some sort. There is another unsolved case called the Zodiac case in the SF Bay Area that had occult connections. Also, remember the Charles Manson cult... If true, perhaps this entire event might have been meticulously planned and orchestrated by highly intelligent people. Also, things that might seem ad hoc at first glance might actually convey meaning and purpose. Notice that the boy's arms were carefully folded with trimmed nails. Could this suggest an evil funeral motif? The proximity to a Catholic Church/School might be an act of mocking, profaning, or even blaspheming God.
Something about the setting gives me a hunch that perhaps the whole scene was designed not for concealment, but rather precisely, IN ORDER TO BE DISCOVERED. Maybe to send a message or signal to some person or persons. Similar to some Mafia killings where the intent is to send a clear signal to a rival gang.
Symbolism - Could there be Indian symbolism? Well, Susquehanna is an Indian name. The blanket pattern SORT OF looks like an Indian pattern, though I'm not sure. And wasn't the Patron Saint of the Catholic School an Indian named Kateri Tekawitha?
Symbolism - Could there be water symbolism? There is a Susquehanna river. Note the watermarks on the boy's hand and feet that don't really seem to add up. "Penney's Bass-In-Net"? See if there is a Penny Lake, Penny Stream, Penny Pond, Penny Creek in Philadelphia. One person mentioned a "Pennypack Park" nearby. That name ALONE could be significant!
More info on how occultists might drop these sorts of hints can be found by studying the Zodiac killer. He often killed on holidays. In the Boy in the Box case, St. Valentine's Day comes to mind. Kind of like a Satanic Valentine all wrapped and packed. BTW, Zodiac also used water symbolism in his murders.
The blue hat seems too neat a clue to me. Easily traced, and the buyer specifically draws attention to the purchase. How often have you ever bought a hat and asked for a belt and buckle added on? But maybe there is some connection to an "Ivy-League" school. I also wonder if the woman and 12-year-old boy seen nearby were in on it somehow.
Basically, however, I think that whoever did this went to extraordinary lengths to avoid getting caught. But also simultaneously placed the body there in such a way as to guarantee that it would be discovered exactly as intended. This was not the work of a novice.
This theory has probably been tossed around before, but I think it makes the most sense. Poor drifters or slum dwellers have this kid, and get tired of supporting him. They have been abusing and mistreating him. But they have a stroke of conscience, and decide to give him to the nuns, where he will have a better life. So, just like an unwanted puppy, they put him in a box while he is sleeping, or maybe knocked unconscious, and drive/walk to a spot near the school, where they leave the box at the side of the road in hopes that someone driving up the road in the morning will find him. Well, its night time, so they don't realize that the spot they set him in is not visible enough. They also don't think about the fact that it is winter, and very cold. Before morning, the boy is already immobilized with hypothermia, but still alive. Since no one can see him, he is not found until much later, when he has already died, and the parents have probably moved on to another town, like drifters usually do. Even if they heard about it, they would not want to come out and risk arrest.
The killer, or at least the abuser, was probably right-handed. The bruises on the boy's left arm indicate that someone grabbed him from the front. It appears more likely to me that the boy's arms were grasped by a young male (or even a strong young female), rather than a fully-grown adult. Anyone much taller than the boy would probably have grasped him by the upper arms or shoulders - not at a point just above the elbow. Perhaps the boy's abuser/killer was a sibling, playmate, or young family relation (cousin?). The right side of the boy's head seems to be more badly butchered than the left (haircut), which could indicate that the killer was holding the boy with his left hand and cutting the hair with his right. The marks on the forehead appear to be deeper where the forefinger, middle finger, and ring finger would press the skin.
The young boy came to mind today while I was reading about another child. I placed his main head shot on my desktop to look at the fingerprints on his forehead. I find it unusual for the three going across being so even; the 4th comes to me as the pinky finger. I am trying to read up on palmistry on the types of hands that would have the 3 major fingers close to the same length or they are long enough, that went bent to holding something down, they could easily be distributed evenly across an object (if this makes sense). That would make the thumb pressed rather hard on the top of the head. I tried using my own fingers to press on a curved object from the front and if I had succeeded holding it in place, I would have had my thumb on the cheek of the child- that would be my right hand holding. However, if I used my left hand to hold down in front, then my thumb would or could be the smaller print, but it would be such an awkward position for me to do. BUT, my fingers did not lay evenly across the object because my fingers are not the same size and they are not long.
I was thinking of the spacing between the ring finger and the pinky. I was also looking at the kind of finger that would make that impression on his forehead. rounded, square, oval tips....then the fingernails. I had a book on palmistry here, if it is still here I will look through it as it had some interesting features that describe the kind of person such as a bluecollar/greycollar that works with tools or the hands vs., a model's hands, typist, etc.
Siblings sometimes kill other siblings. I think it's possible that some older kid (or kids) in the boy's family beat him to death, and the parents covered it up to protect the other child or children. The kids could have thrown rocks at his head knocking him down and then repeatedly kicked him in the legs. They could have also caused his other bruising by kicking him and /or throwing rocks (his arms) leaving him to die. If he was indeed a hidden child, it certainly would not have been reported. Further, the kids (depending on ages) could have possibly gotten him to his final resting place. The crude haircut could have been done by the other kids out of sheer meanness.
This is probably a stretch, but John Powroznik may not have been completely honest. Is it possible he beat this child and then shaved his head in an attempt to conceal the dead boy's identity?
I have read the case summary on the "Boy in the Box", and I believe that:
1) The killer is likely the unknown child's father.
2) The father is/was single at the time, likely passing through the area with the child.
3) The child had been recently put in the father's custody.
4) Child was killed at a different location and placed at the scene at random, the murder was not premeditated.