The Boy in the Box Mystery

Can you help homicide investigators solve this crime?

URGENT ASSISTANCE NEEDED: If you are age 55 or beyond and you knew, or remember knowing of, a young boy two years old or younger (possibly named Jonathan) in the very early 1950s, living in or within a 40-mile radius of Philadelphia, or if you are or were a physician ( perhaps now retired ) who may have treated such a boy for a condition that would have left resultant scars in the groin area and the ankles ( IV cutdowns ), you are asked to Email such information to our website address ( You will be contacted via Email, and your information will be held in the strictest confidence.

Who was the mysterious "Boy in the Box"? How did he die? Was his death a tragic accident, or a cruel and deliberate act of child homicide? Who killed him, and why? How did the nude, badly bruised body of this little boy come to be placed inside a cardboard box and dumped in a remote, rubbish-strewn lot on the northern outskirts of Philadelphia? Why didn't anyone report the boy missing?  Who were the boy's parents or guardians, and why hadn't they come forward to identify him and claim his body? Will this little boy's true identity ever be known, or will he forever remain "America's Unknown Child"?

These fundamental questions, and countless others, have puzzled investigators for more than four decades. The mysterious death of America's Unknown Child, (formerly known as "The Boy in the Box" or "The Fox Chase Boy"), is one of the most perplexing unsolved crimes of the twentieth century. The case has been relentlessly pursued by dozens of experts over the years, including numerous Philadelphia homicide detectives, eminent criminologists, the FBI, and most recently, the Vidocq Society - an organization that specializes in solving "cold" homicide cases.

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The "Boy in the Box" case attracted both local and national media attention when the story broke in February, 1957, and police initially assumed that the identity of the unknown boy would be determined very quickly. Hundreds of thousands of posters bearing the slain boy's image and physical description were prominently displayed throughout the Philadelphia area. They were also distributed to thousands of police departments around the country. The detectives working the case in 1957 even dressed the body in typical children's clothing and posed it in a sitting position in the hope that this "lifelike" image of the boy might cause someone to recognize him and come forward.

Hundreds of promising leads were tracked down and several likely suspects were identified and interrogated, yet each time the investigators thought that the answer was finally within their grasp, it somehow eluded them. Over the years, the clues and leads in this case have been carefully examined time and time again. In November 1998 the boy's remains were exhumed to extract tissue samples for DNA analysis. He was subsequently re-buried at another location as "America's Unknown Child".

And yet, despite all of their efforts, investigators are not much closer to solving "The Boy in the Box" case today than they were when the mystery first began. In some respects they are worse off now because many of the people who might have had first-hand knowledge about the boy's identity or the circumstances surrounding his violent death are no longer alive themselves. Still, hope springs eternal, and investigators are looking to find someone who may have the key information, hitherto unrevealed, that will bring this case to a satisfactory conclusion.

This web site is dedicated to the goal of solving this baffling mystery, and you may be able to help, especially if you lived in the metropolitan Philadelphia area in the late 1950's or know someone who did.

Please take a moment to study this little boy's pictures closely. Have you seen his face before? Does he look strangely familiar to you? Could you have known him or known who he was at one time in your life? Could he have been a relative, a playmate or the child of neighbors perhaps? Search your memory as hard as you can. Perhaps you, or someone you know, has the essential information that is needed to finally unravel this baffling mystery!

Someone out there knows who this child was! Could that 'someone' be you?

 If you have definitive information as to the identity of the unknown boy or the circumstances surrounding his death, please don't hesitate to contact the investigators. Just go to our "Contact Police" page, or download and complete the Vidocq Society Response Form. Any information that you provide to the investigators will be held in the strictest confidence, and you may even remain anonymous if you wish.

Remington Bristow, an investigator who spent 36 years working on the case, offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the solution of the Boy in the Box mystery. While there is no official reward currently in effect, a Vidocq Society spokesman has stated that his organization will honor Mr. Bristow's $1,000 offer.


The America's Unknown Child web site contains virtually everything that has ever been made available to the general public regarding this intriguing case, plus additional materials that have never been published before. In our news archives, you will find text and photographs from scores of original newspaper articles covering the "Boy in the Box" case, arranged in chronological order. The web site also contains a case summary, the original poster, other photos and maps, pictures of key evidence, several artists' renderings, a case updates page, outstanding articles from "Front Page Detective Magazine", "The Saturday Evening Post", "American Way Magazine", "Philadelphia Magazine", "", and ", a transcript from the CBS News program "48 Hours", a chapter from Ron Avery's book, "City of Brotherly Mayhem", a sampling of theories and opinions about various aspects of the case that were posted on the AMW Forum in 1998, selected E-Mail messages from visitors to this web site, and photos of the unknown boy's original burial & gravesite, the 1998 reburial service, and subsequent memorial services at Ivy Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia. In addition, there are medical examiner's photographs of the unknown boy's body. These were taken in order to document his external injuries. They definitely should NOT be viewed by anyone who is squeamish or who might be offended by such graphic content.


Please roam our site and explore the complete history of the "Boy in the Box" homicide case. Also, stop back from time to time, since the contents of this web site are far from static. We frequently add / upgrade material and report new case developments when they occur. Perhaps you'd like to share your own theories or opinions about the case. We invite you to send us an e-mail message.

Unloved, unwanted by his caretakers and so shamefully abused, this poor little boy's life was taken from him before it ever really began! During the brief span of time that he was in this world, (4 or 5 years at the most), what he did know of life must have consisted of cruelty, hatred, pain and terror!

Today, more than four decades later, "America's Unknown Child" still has no name! Certainly recovering his name and identity as a human being is the very least that he deserves. Please help if you can.


Philadelphia's Other Unknown Child:

"The Boy in the Bag Mystery"


  (Click on photo for details)



 Visits as of 09/30/06


With Special Thanks To:

Mr. Ron Avery for permission to use the story from his book, "City of Brotherly Mayhem".

Mr. Ken Englade for permission to use his article from "American Way Magazine".

The Samuel S. Paley Library, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The Free Library of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Magazine.


We also thank the Philadelphia Newspapers for permission to use news articles and photographs.

All information on this site is provided non-commercially for the purpose of informing the public about the Boy in the Box homicide case. We provide authorship/ownership information for written and photographic materials whenever possible. However, in the event that we have inadvertently included copyrighted material of yours without permission, please let us know and we'll add the appropriate credits or remove the item(s) as you choose.