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The Child Abducted by the Boogeyman

On December 17, 1962, 3-year-old William (Billy) Ebenezer Jones Jr. and his 2-year-old sister Jill were playing in the snow near their home in the town of Vineland, New Jersey, USA.

From 11:45 to 13:00, their mother went out to the street approximately every half hour to check on the children. However, she was preparing lunch and had a third child in her arms, with no nanny available. So it’s understandable that she was very busy, tired, and not particularly vigilant about her children.

And in principle, there was no real need for vigilance; the children didn’t wander far from home, and the area was very quiet and peaceful. No child had ever gone missing there before. Besides, it was the 1960s, when children played outside without adult supervision from a very young age, and no one worried about anything bad happening to them.

At 13:00, when the mother went outside to call the children for lunch, she found Jill standing near the front door, holding a small pot with an artificial red poinsettia flower in her hands.

When the mother asked Jill where Billy was, the little girl simply said, “The Boogeyman took him.”

The Boogeyman is the English equivalent of the Slavic Babayka in English-speaking countries. It’s a creature from folklore used to scare disobedient children, threatening that the Boogeyman will come for them and take them away in a sack, then eat them.

That day, there were no signs of tragedy looming. In the morning, Miss Jones, seeing her partner off to work, took the children to the bank and to the barber shop, where Billy got his hair cut. Then the children wanted to play with the two family dogs near the house.

By the way, when the mother found Jill without Billy, it turned out that one of their dogs, named Baby, was missing too. The other one was happily playing around the house with Jill.

The mother quickly searched the nearby streets, but Billy was nowhere to be found, and no one had seen him. And during this time, an unknown man in a green car slowed down next to her and asked, “Are you Miss Jones?” But the woman didn’t say anything to him because she didn’t know him. Whether he was connected to Billy’s disappearance remains unknown.

At 14:00, the mother asked for help from neighbors and contacted the police. Soon, a large-scale search operation was organized, involving the National Guard, firefighters, and search dogs. In the following hours, they searched all nearby areas, checked ponds, streams, parks, forests, and the abandoned amusement park “Palace.” But Billy seemed to have vanished into thin air.

Detailed questioning of Jill about who took her brother yielded nothing. The girl also couldn’t explain where she got the artificial flower in the pot. Later, the investigation found out that the flower was found in a trash can by neighboring children and given to Jill at some point.

At the early stages of the investigation, this flower was considered a crucial piece of evidence; allegedly, the abductor might have given it to the child to distract from his victim. A local seller of artificial plants was even suspected, but now it was no longer considered a significant lead.

The police paid special attention to a local architectural curiosity known as the “Palace of Depressions.” It was a whimsical “fairytale castle” built in the 1930s from stones, clay, and various debris taken from a dump.

The thing is, this building was already associated with a murky history of a baby abduction. In 1956, the then-owner of the building contacted the FBI and claimed that kidnappers held a little Peter Weinberger, a baby stolen from his parents in New York, there.

But later, he claimed it wasn’t true and ended up spending a year in prison for perjury. But why he made the initial claim at all remained unclear.

The police searched the “Palace of Depressions,” but found nothing suspicious. However, the ominous building retained its sinister aura and was repeatedly vandalized by local residents until it was finally demolished in 1969.

Little Billy was also searched for from the air with the help of two helicopters borrowed from the nearest Naval Air Station. But again, to no avail. And the search dogs quickly picked up Billy’s trail near the door of his house and… then promptly lost it.

A few days after Billy’s disappearance, the missing dog Baby suddenly ran back to the house from somewhere. His fur was thoroughly wet, as if he had fallen into water, although it could have been wet from the snow as well. Where Baby had been during his absence remained unknown.

Subsequently, the investigation found out that between 13:00 and 14:00, a garbage truck passed through the street where the Jones family lived, collecting trash from bins near the houses. It was theorized that Billy might have climbed into a trash bin and accidentally ended up in the truck with the garbage. Alternatively, someone could have quickly killed him and hidden the body in the trash, which the truck then carried away.

The garbage collectors were thoroughly questioned, but they swore they hadn’t seen any little boys resembling Billy when they were working on that street. The police also systematically searched the dump where the trash from that street was taken, but found nothing.

A year passed after Billy’s disappearance, then another, and the Jones family still didn’t lose hope of finding him, speculating that the boy might still be alive, perhaps adopted by other people.

In 1964, out of desperation, the Joneses decided to turn to psychics. The first one immediately said that Billy was definitely alive and claimed that he had been abducted by a man whose wife had suffered a mental breakdown after the death of her own young son. This psychic went on to say that the abductor had taken Billy to an Amish community in Pennsylvania and was raising him there as his own son.

However, investigators were skeptical of this theory, believing that Billy, who was almost 4 years old at the time of his abduction, would likely retain memories of his real family and would have told someone about it as he got older.

Then the family found another psychic, who said that Billy had been killed in a hit-and-run accident. The panicked perpetrator then buried the boy’s body nearby. This psychic’s descriptions of the perpetrator’s appearance and his car yielded no results when presented to the police.

More than twenty years passed. In the 1980s, Jill, Billy’s adult sister, agreed to undergo regressive hypnosis to try to remember what happened to her brother and what role the Boogeyman played in it.

She recounted seeing herself and Billy standing outside their house holding hands, and then they saw two men fighting near the Palace of Depressions, which was located very close to their house. Then it seemed like something was skipped. Jill only remembered herself walking alone to the house door.

The disappearance of Billy Jones Jr. remains one of the largest unsolved missing persons cases in the state of New Jersey to this day.

In 2009, the case was reopened, as investigators hoped that advancements in DNA technology and age-progressed photos of Billy could lead to a breakthrough. However, this did not happen.

Many have wondered, and continue to wonder, why young Jill said that Billy was taken by the Boogeyman. Was there really some horrifying supernatural creature that abducted the boy in the best traditions of horror movies? Or could it have been someone in a scary mask? Or was it a stranger who, when the girl asked who he was, jokingly replied that he was the Boogeyman?

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