There’s nothing that grips the imagination quite like a true crime conspiracy. Whether it’s the identity of Jack the Ripper or if the Sodder children were kidnapped, there’s a conspiracy theory for just about every true crime case out there. Here are four of the most popular ones:
George Hodel Killed the Black Dahlia
George Hodel was a physician who was investigated in connection with three murders, the most notable of which being Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia. Short was murdered in 1947 in Los Angeles. Her murder was highly publicized because of the brutal way her body was mutilated, with many people speculating that whoever was behind the murder must have had some medical training because of the very specific way her body was cut in half.
George Hodel was considered as a suspect but was never charged, and attention waned until his son – a Los Angeles detective – accused his father of several murders (including Elizabeth Short) after he passed away. Hodel’s daughter, Tamar, had also accused her father of being the Black Dhalia killer during a trial in which she accused her father of sexual abuse.
George Hodel was a trained doctor who went to medical school at the time the method used to cut Short’s body in half was taught. Several people also claimed at the time that Short and Hodel had a relationship. Many detectives at the time and even the District Attorney believed Hodel was the killer, but he was never charged due to a lack of evidence and the fact he fled to the Philippines. The case remains unsolved.
Francis Tumblety was Jack the Ripper
Francis Tumblety grew up in the USA and was apprenticed as a doctor after spending some time working at a pharmacy. He travelled frequently, including to Canada where he was arrested for performing illegal abortions and in connection with the suspicious death of one of his patients. Following his arrests, he moved across the pond to London and was posing as a doctor with special knowledge of Indian cures and medicines by 1888.
Tumblety was considered as a suspect by the police in 1888 for several reasons, namely because of his medical knowledge and the fact he fit the profile of Jack the Ripper. There were reports at the time that an American doctor had asked to purchase the uteruses of deceased women – a very odd request. In addition, it is said that Tumblety had frequently confessed his hatred of women. In November 1888 he was arrested for a different crime, but he was released on bail in time to kill Mary Jane Kelly. He was then re-arrested, this time for the murder of Kelly, but he was released and left the UK, subsequently vanishing into thin air and never charged or convicted of any murders.
The FBI Killed Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968, and James Earl Ray was convicted of his death and sentenced to 99 years in prison. The FBI has always maintained that Ray was responsible, but Ray claims he was forced into a confession and wasn’t behind the shooting – and King’s family believe him.
In the years leading up to his death, King was subjected to consistent harassment by the FBI. They bugged his phone and followed his movements. They even sent him a letter saying they would expose an alleged affair if he didn’t kill himself. In fact, a group of former FBI agents asked for there to be an investigation into the harassment of King leading up to his death, and although there was evidence of harassment, there was no evidence that the FBI was behind the killing.
The Sodder Children were Kidnapped
On Christmas Eve in 1945, a fire broke out at a home in West Virginia. The house belonged to George and Jennie Sodder, and at the time of the blaze, both they and nine of their 10 children were present. When the fire started, George, Jennie and four of their children managed to escape. George went back in to save the remaining children, but was unable to do so.
The stairs inside the house were alight, so he intended to use a ladder that was stored at the side of the house to access the upstairs from outside, but the ladder was not there. George attempted to move two of the trucks he used for his business up to the house so he could climb inside and save his children, but the trucks wouldn’t start – despite working perfectly fine the day before. There was a water barrel at the side of the house which George tried to use to extinguish the fire, but it was frozen.
The family tried to call the fire department, but their phone did not work, neither did the neighbor’s phone or that of a nearby tavern. Eventually the fire department were alerted, but their response was slow at best. Once they arrived, they declared the fire was the result of faulty wiring and that the five children had perished, therefore closing the case.
Faulty wiring was ruled out by a repairman, and no bones were found after the fire despite other household items being in tact, leading the Sodder family to launch an unsuccessful years-long campaign to find out what really happened to their children.
George Sodder – a native Italian – was an outspoken critic of Mussolini, and believes his children were kidnapped as a result of his political views and are still alive somewhere, although this has never been proved.
These are four of the most contested and widely believed conspiracy theories of some of the most famous true crime cases. Perhaps the advancement of modern technology will put these theories to bed, but until then, what do you believe?