February 25, 1957
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The nude body of an unidentified boy is found wrapped in a blanket and discarded in a cardboard box

The boy was approximated to be between 4 to 6 years old, had blond hair (that had been cut unprofessionally) and blue eyes, and did not fit the description of any children reported to be missing in the area which led police to believe the child was transported to the location after he was killed.

Police received a tip involving a woman, between 40 and 50 years old, and a boy approximately 10 to 12 years old, dumping something in the area the boy’s body was found around 40 hours before the body’s discovery. Police also focused on the blanket and cardboard box the boy was placed in for clues. The box originally held furniture, and had been shipped to Upper Darby at one point. The blanket had a plaid or “Navajo-Indian pattern,” and had a large piece cut from one side. Investigators believed the cutting was done to remove identifying markings possibly of an institution like an orphanage or home for mentally-disabled or -delayed children.

Unfortunately, all tips led nowhere, the Boy in the Box case went cold, and his body was buried in a potter’s field.

In the late 1990s, the boy’s remains were exhumed to extract DNA from a tooth in an effort to identify his remains. After the DNA was recovered, he was given a funeral service, headstone, casket, and grave plot. No leads came from the newly obtained evidence, however, possibly due to degradation of the DNA.

In 2002, a woman identified as “Martha,” “Mary,” or simply “M” revealed to her psychiatrist she knew the identity of America’s Unknown Child. She claimed her parents had bought the boy from a human trafficking ring to use as a “sex toy,” and he had been sexually and physically abused for nearly two years before his death. She stated her mother had accidentally killed the child while hitting him as she bathed him. The mother then cut his long hair to help hide his identity and enlisted “Mary” to dump the boy’s body. While investigators noted “Mary” provided information not known to the public, they could not confirm her story with physical evidence and her mental instability prevented her from testifying in court.

The Boy in the Box remains unidentified. Information pertaining to the case should be directed to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678), the Philadelphia Police Department at 1-215-686-3334, or the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office 1-215-685-7445.

“John Doe1957.” National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Accessed: February 25, 2020. http://www.missingkids.org/poster/NCMU/1231830/1/screen (image source)
“Some can’t forget unsolved ‘Boy in the Box’ case.” Philadelphia Daily News. March 6, 2017
“Couple Sought in Boy’s Murder; Woman Hunted in Search for Girl, 4.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. February 28, 1957
“Find Body of Boy in Cardboard Box.” News-Record [Neenah, Wisconsin]. February 27, 1957
“Mutilated Body Of Boy Found In Cardboard Box.” The Daily Times [New Philadelphia, Ohio]. February 27, 1957

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