Marc Hoover: The unsolved mystery of the Boy in the Box in Philly

Marc Hoover

Annually, thousands of children disappear for various reasons. If they are found, it’s important to identify them so they can be returned to their families. And if a child is deceased, he deserves a proper burial.

An unknown author once said, “”There is no foot so small that it cannot leave an imprint on this world.”

This brings us to an unsolved mystery from Philadelphia that has lingered for over 60 years. I can remember this story when I was a teenager. I had assumed that it would be solved. I am referring to the case of America’s unknown child; also referred to as the “Boy in the Box.”

On February 25, 1957, a college student found the body of a nude boy between 4 to 6 years old. Wrapped in a blanket, the unidentified boy was inside a bassinet cardboard box bought from J.C. Penney. The Philadelphia police department launched a search that required hours of manpower and detective work leading to nothing. The boy’s fingerprints were taken and compared to local hospitals, missing children and orphanages. Oddly, there were no matches. This meant that he was possibly born at home and never reported.

The media jumped on the story. It was assumed that someone would identify the boy, but no one ever did. Somewhere, a mother had lost her son.

The following applied to the missing boy:

Someone had butchered his hair

His hands and feet were wrinkled which meant he was submerged in water

The blanket he was wrapped in was made in either North Carolina or Quebec

He was malnourished

He was murdered and died of blows to the head

The boy was buried in a potter’s field. He was exhumed in 1998 for a DNA analysis. Unfortunately, his DNA didn’t match anyone. He was reburied without any fanfare. A website has been designed to help in efforts to identify him. The website is

There have been many theories about the boy’s identity. He could have been a foster child who was abused and murdered. Police investigated a local foster home but found no evidence to support the theory. It’s also possible he was a victim of sex trafficking and either kidnapped or sold.

The latest break came in 2002 when an anonymous woman in Cincinnati, Ohio claimed to know the boy’s identify. Authorities referred to the woman as “M” and kept her name anonymous as she had mental issues. She said the boy’s name was Jonathan and that her mother had bought the boy from his mother. Allegedly, the boy had challenges such as he couldn’t speak. The anonymous woman said the boy vomited which angered her mother who then beat the boy to death and discarded his body.

After months of investigation, authorities couldn’t corroborate the woman’s story. Authorities spoke to her former neighbors. They claimed they never saw a little boy in the house and that the woman was delusional. But if she witnessed a murder as a child, that could have led to mental issues. The case has since been shelved and isn’t an active homicide case. I find this to be one of the most unfortunate cases in America. Again, I can remember this crime back in the 1980s. At the time, I was positive someone would provide closure to this case.

Unfortunately, the case will probably never be solved and the Boy in the Box will remain anonymous. Most likely, the killer or killers and anyone who may know the boy’s identity have since died. Unless the boy’s identity appears in journal or someone’s diary, no one will ever solve this mystery.

Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page at He also wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on