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Episode #15: Boy in the Box AKA America's Unknown Child - Unidentified (1957)

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

Dec 8, 2022 update:

Investigators have discovered the name of the Boy in the Box: Joseph Augustus Zarelli. All we know so far is that he was born in 1953.

In late February 1957, a bassinet box was found in Fox Chapel just outside of Philadelphia. Upon closer inspection, what was initially thought to be a large doll was found to be a young boy. Also known as “America’s Unknown Child”, the case of “The Boy in the Box” remains unsolved to this day, and the identity of this child remains unknown, for now.

Boy in the Box AKA America's Unknown Child

Age: 4-5 Years Old - Found: 02/25/1957

Est. Date of Death: Days to weeks prior to discovery

Ethnicity: Caucasian- Sex: Male

Height: 3'6" - Weight: N/A

Hair Color: Light Brown/Shaved - Eye Color: Blue

Location Found: Fox Chase, Philadelphia, PA

State of Remains: Recognizable- Nature of Death: Homicide

Injuries: He was found covered with bruises and scars all over his body, clearly indicating abuse. His hair was also recently shaved off and clumps of hair remained adhered to the body. He was severely malnourished and determined to be between the ages of 4-6. However, X-Rays showed signs of “arrested growth”, meaning his growth plates had severe damage, potentially because of fractures, infections, or developmental issues. This made his physical appearance to be that of a 2 year old. His nails were neatly trimmed and he recently had an eye infection that appears to have been treated with medication. His esophagus had a dark brown residue, indicating he may have vomited shortly before his death. His stomach contained baked beans that appear to have been ingested roughly 2-3 hours prior to his death. Cause of death is blunt force trauma (4 blows to the forehead) causing a cerebral hemorrhage.

Distinguishing Characteristics: Two of the scars were surgical scars found on his groin and ankle, and he also had an L-shaped scar under his chin.

Clothing/Items Found: The boy was found in a J.C. Penney bassinet box wrapped in a generic fleece blanket. Several items near his body that may or may not relate to the case are: a handkerchief with a “G” monogramed on it, a scarf, and a men’s jacket. There was also a custom made hat collected near the remains. It was a collegiate-type corduroy cap, blue in color and size 7 ⅛. Labeled “Eagle Hat and Cap Company” and made by Mrs. Hannah Robbins in S. Philadelphia.

Persons of Interest: The hat owner- Described as a blonde man between the ages of 26-30. He requested that a leather strap and buckle be added to the hat. He paid in cash and she never saw him again. The hat was purchased at “Eagle Hat and Cap Company” in S. Philadelphia.

Missing Persons Ruled Out: Hungarian Refugee & Steven Craig Damman

DNA: Available

Fingerprints: Available

Dental Records: Available

If you have ANY information that may help identify the "boy in the box" Please contact us at


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