The Boy in the Box is one of the most famous murder victims for a multitude of reasons. Also named America’s Unknown Child, the identity of this boy killed in the 50s in Philadelphia remains unknown, just as his case remains unsolved, one of the most notorious Cold Cases today.
In 1957, an unidentified Caucasian male, aged 4-6, whose nude body was wrapped in a cheap plaid blanket, was found lying face up inside a large cardboard box that once contained a baby’s basinet. The body was first found by a young man who had been checking his muskrat traps, but because he believed the police would charge him for the traps he decided not to report his find. Some days later a student spotted a rabbit running around and knowing of traps he went to check. That’s when he discovered the body as well, and a day later, after some hesitation, the crime was reported.
The boy’s body was dry and clean. His arms were carefully folded across the stomach, fingernails and toenails recently trimmed. His hair had been cut recently – very close to the head, in a crude, hurried way, perhaps as a deliberate attempt to conceal the child’s identity. Small clumps of cut hair clung to his entire body, suggesting that someone had groomed him while he was unclothed, probably either shortly before or immediately after death. There were many bruises all over the child’s body; particularly on the head and face.
As expected, because of the strange nature of the crime and the age of the victim, the case received massive media attention, with pictures of the boy being circulated extensively. The police even dressed up the boy and took some post-mortem pictures in hope to make him more recognizable. But all the effort brought no results.
There have been hypotheses over the years, none of which could be proven. Despite the DNA developments and its use in forensics, the boy’s identity and that of his murderer or murderers remains a mystery.