The Trail Went Cold – Episode 51 – The Hatbox Baby

Christmas Eve 1931. Superior, Arizona. While driving through the desert, a couple named Ed and Julia Stewart experience a flat tire and pull over to a remote spot. They soon discover an abandoned newborn baby girl inside a hatbox and turn her over to the authorities. While the story of the “Hatbox Baby” becomes a media sensation, the child’s family cannot be located, so she is adopted out to a couple, whose identities are kept secret from the public. Over 50 years later, a woman named Sharon Elliott is shocked to learn that she was the mysterious Hatbox Baby. Even though Sharon attempts to uncover the truth about her past and finds some promising leads, she does not receive any conclusive answers about the identity of her family or how she wound up in the desert. Was the discovery of the Hatbox Baby a genuine Christmas miracle, or an elaborate set-up orchestrated to protect someone? For our final Christmas-themed of “The Trail Went Cold”, we will be shying away from violent crime and chronicling a much more unique mystery than usual. Special thanks to listener Jonathan Burroughs for providing the opening narration for today’s episode.

Also, a big thanks to Esther Gamez for providing us with another terrific piece of cover art for this episode. Be sure to check out Esther’s Facebook and Tumblr pages to see more of her artwork.

We would like to thank Sock Club for sponsoring the Trail Went Cold. To earn 15 % off your next order of socks, visit and use the discount code “cold”.

Additional Reading:

Spokane Chronicle (Dec. 26, 1988)

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

2 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 51 – The Hatbox Baby

  • Personally, If I was Sharon I would be relieved if I found out I wasn’t a baby left in a hat box and abandoned in the Arizona desert and was just a baby some young girl gave up because she had the baby out of wedlock, sure it’s no miracle tale but at least for Sharon I imagine that result would be far preferable to this miracle story. Because if you think about it, yes it has the romanticized Christmas miracle angle for everyone else since she was saved and it’s a miracle but if you think about it realistically if the story is true it’s a miracle yes, but a miracle with some extremely dark undertones. I mean after all if the story is true that means Sharon’s birth mother abandoned her in the Arizona desert which is vast and has extreme temperature fluctuations and probably contains it’s fair share of wild animals. What i’m getting at here is if some one did abandon a baby in the Arizona desert they probably intended for it to die not be found and adopted out. So personally I have to believe that Sharon herself must think this stories bull or else why would she go searching for the parents who left her to die in the desert? As for where I stand on it Idk it would be a huge coincidence if it played out like the Stewart’s said but at the same time I think if it was the truth that would explain why no one ever come forward because as taboo as having a child back than out of wedlock must have been I can imagine abandoning said child in the desert would look even worse. Sure unsolved mysteries tried to cutesy the story up with a lost love angle but if what the Stewart’s said was true their was no love involved in this story in the beginning just shame and I imagine if it was found out to be true and the legitimate mother did come forward people’s feelings about her wouldn’t be to favorable,it certainly wouldn’t be the heart warming reunion unsolved mysteries was painting out. If it was just a mother out of wedlock though who gave up her child maybe she can’t come forward for the same reason as if she had abandoned her baby in the desert, the stories such a sensation now even if she came forward and told people it was a hoax you know there would always still believe she did abandon her child in the desert, so at this point she loses regardless of whether she abandoned her baby in the desert or not so she could never come out to Sharon and just tell her she was her mother and probably took that knowledge to her grave i’m guessing. I also don’t blame the niece because if Edna was Sharon’s mom you have to realize her surviving family doesn’t know the truth and I imagine they don’t want to risk living with the stigma that one of their relatives abandoned a newborn baby in the desert,though I do doubt Edna was Sharon’s mother even the risk of it is probably terrifying for her surviving relatives.

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