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The Mysterious Case of the Babes in the Woods

One aspect of the unsolved are the cases of people who have seemingly come from nowhere, with no clue or hint as to what their identity might be. Many cases of mysterious people from nowhere come in the form of people who have died under enigmatic circumstances, yet for who we have no idea of who they, where they cme from, are or how they ended up dead. One very strange case revolves around a pair of very young children who turned up dead in a rural park, alone, forgotten, and with a case that has gone on to become one of the sadder unsolved mysteries out there.

A particularly tragic case occurred on January 14, 1953, when a macabre discovery was made by a gardener at Stanley Park, near Vancouver, British Columbia, in Canada. Here in a patch of thick, overgrown brush were found the bodies of two young children, just bones really, covered with a rain cape and left to the elements. Strewn about the bodies were found assorted odd items such as a single woman’s shoe, a cheap fur coat, a child’s lunch box, two helmets, and a hatchet, which was determined to be the likely murder weapon. An examination of the remains showed that they had in fact been dead and stashed under that brush for around 5 years, and that the children themselves had been around 6 to 10 years old at the time of death, thought at the time to be a boy and a girl, possibly siblings, but other than that they had absolutely no idea of who they were. It was also unknown just what the clues found at the scene meant, and the case quickly became one of the country’s most famous cold cases, the nameless children nicknamed “The Babes in the Woods,” and for decades there were no leads, no witnesses, and no hints as to the identities of the skeletal corpses.

While many of these mysteries still remain, in 1998 police decided to use modern DNA testing techniques on the remains, which were stored at the Vancouver Police Museum, in an effort to get to the bottom of the long standing mystery. Although they still could not get an identity for the children, they nevertheless made some shocking new discoveries, which determined that rather than a boy and a girl as police had long thought, the corpses were actually two boys, and that they were brothers. While this did nothing to solve the conundrum of who they actually were or why they were killed or by who, it did totally change the game as far as the investigation was concerned and how it was handled. Considering that authorities had been positive that the victims were and boy and a girl, their whole approach had rested on that assumption, causing them to drop the ball with how the whole thing was handled and shaping the leads they pursued.

One witness report that became rather ominous in retrospect was a report apparently made a few years before the bodies were even found, from a couple who had claimed that they had seen two young boys walking through the park with an adult male and woman, with one of the kids holding what looked like a hatchet. The same couple was seen later that day without the children, and with the added morbid detail that the woman had seemed to be wearing only one shoe that was covered with what looked like blood. At the time the police had not even been looking for a missing boy and girl, the victims had not been found, and because when the investigation started they had been looking for a boy and a girl this report of two little boys sort of remained forgotten until the DNA testing cast it in a new light. Considering the amount of time that had passed, the witnesses to this could not be relocated, and it remains a frustrating lost lead in a case that has never been solved.

This disturbing case leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions. Who were the Babes in the Woods and who were those people who had been seen with them all of those years ago? Were they their parents or kidnappers? Had they been planning to kill the children or had something happened? Why was the woman wearing only one shoe and why had a child been carrying around a hatchet? Why had the children never been reported missing by anyone, and most importantly who were they in the first place? The answers to these questions remain elusive even all of this time later, and the Babes in the Woods remain without names, their secrets in a sense still buried out in that park.