Episode 362:

A Generous Number of Apples

Joseph Augustus Zarelli, "Boy in the Box"


Felix de la Caridad Carvajal, Cuba's First Olympic Marathoner


Episode 362: A Generous Number of Apples

This week, Georgia covers the "Boy in the Box" case and Karen tells the legend of Cuba's first Olympic marathoner, Felix de la Caridad Carvajal.

Listen on Apple Podcasts.

Joseph Augustus Zarelli, "Boy in the Box"

Joseph Augustus Zarelli, "Boy in the Box" Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Elier Padilla Gómez on Unsplash 

Other Images:

Facial reconstruction of “Boy in the Box”, recently identified as Joseph Augustus Zarelli (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)


"In the Ivy Hill Cemetery in Cedarbrook, Philadelphia, there is a headstone that reads “America’s Unknown Child.” It’s a permanent reminder of the child who lies beneath it, a boy who was found beaten to death in a box some 65 years ago. Since then, he’s been called the “Boy in the Box.”

One of Philadelphia’s most famous unsolved murders, the identity of the “Boy in the Box” baffled investigators for years. Since his discovery in 1957, detectives in the city have pursued thousands of leads — some better than others — and come up empty.

But thanks to genetic genealogy and some old-fashioned detective work, the Boy in the Box finally has a name. In 2022, he was finally identified as four-year-old Joseph Augustus Zarelli..."

-Source: “How The Creepy Case Of The ‘Boy In The Box’ Was Finally Solved After 65 Years” by Kaleena Fraga (All That’s Interesting)

Felix de la Caridad Carvajal, Cuba's First Olympic Marathoner

Felix de la Caridad Carvajal, Cuba's First Olympic Marathoner Notes:

Other Images:

1. Group of runners in the 1904 Olympic Marathon Race, including Felix Carvajal (#3 in the group) (History and Art Collection / Alamy)

2. Start of the 1904 Olympic Marathon Race.  Felix Carvajal (#3 in center) (History and Art Collection / Alamy)

3.  Felix Carvajal (History and Art Collection / Alamy)


"Sometime in early 1907, a steamship carrying the red and yellow flag of Spain sailed into a harbor in Havana, Cuba. A smaller, much less luxurious version of the Titanic, the steamer docked and unfurled walkways to bridge the gap between the boat and the pier. As the crew began cleanup and unloaded freight, passengers marched out and toward the customs house nearby. One man walked up to a customs agent and presented his papers. He had no luggage, and his mustache could have been the inspiration for Mario and Luigi. His name, his papers claimed, was Félix de la Caridad Carvajal y Soto.

There was one catch: Félix de la Caridad Carvajal y Soto was dead.

More commonly known as Félix “Andarín” Carvajal, he was Cuba’s first Olympian, finishing fourth in the 1904 Olympic marathon in St. Louis. He had gained fame in that race after walking from New Orleans to Missouri, and then eating some apples during the race that made him sick. He stuck around in the U.S. for a bit after those Olympics and ran a few races—enough to be profiled in multiple newspapers in the leadup to the 1906 Intercalated Games, a short-lived idea that would have hosted another Olympics every four years in Athens, between the traveling Games to be held every four years. Carvajal was a favorite to win the marathon at those Athens Games. Instead, the race went off without him. 

Carvajal had arrived on a steamer in Italy a few weeks before the Games. He never made it to Athens, though. One rumor was that he went to a bar in Italy, showed off some of his Cuban money, and was then robbed and sent out to swim with the fishes for eternity. Whether it was murder or an accident, Carvajal was presumed dead. His obituary was published in Cuban papers: The fourth-place finisher in the 1904 Olympic marathon was dead. 

Then that Spanish ship sailed into Havana with a man claiming to be Carvajal. He had all the papers he needed. Even if it seemed unbelievable, it turned out Félix de la Caridad Carvajal y Soto was alive and, even if he was a little worse for the wear, well. If the customs agent needed any more proof that it really was Carvajal who had stepped off that boat, it came as soon as the agent let him go: Carvajal did not walk away, he ran, ran all the way to one of his old acquaintance’s home in Havana, where he was given a fresh meal and a place to stay for a few days. 

In March 1907, he raced American professional runner Henry W. Shelton, in a long-distance competition. Shelton quit by the time Carvajal finished 40 miles, unable to keep up and unwilling to see how long Carvajal could go. News of Carvajal’s return made it up to the United States: CUBAN MARATHON RUNNER CARVAJAL COMES TO LIFE.

The stories that followed were sensational, describing the runner who had nearly died eating apples at the 1904 Olympics and who had simply disappeared but come back to life. (No reporter, apparently, ever even asked where Carvajal was for those six or so months.) Those sensational stories have reemerged over the past 115 years, in remembrances of the 1904 Olympics and the weirdest marathon ever..."


-Source: “The Barely Believable Life of Felix Carvajal” by Liam Boylan-Pett (Lope Magazine) 2021

Georgia's Episode Sources

  1. “After 65 Years, the ‘Boy in the Box’ Has a Name” by Jesus Jiménez (New York Times)
  2. “How The Creepy Case Of The ‘Boy In The Box’ Was Finally Solved After 65 Years” by Kaleena Fraga (All That’s Interesting)
  3. “Mystery of ‘Boy in the Box’ Sparks Various Theories Over Six Decades” By Gerrard Kaonga (Newsweek)
  4. “Normal Height & Weight for Boys” by Tara Thackeray (Livestrong)
  5. “The ‘Boy in the Box’ haunted one late investigator for decades” by Jason Nark (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
  6. “‘The Boy in the Box’; ID leaves cemetery workers emotional” by Natasha Brown (CBS News Philadelphia)
  7. “The Boy in the Box: The Tragic Story of an American Unsolved Mystery” (American Hauntings)
  8. “The Burden of an Unsolved Case and Its Nameless Victim” by David Stout (New York Times)
  9. “The History of the Vidocq Society” (The Vidocq Society)
  10. “Philadelphia’s “Boy in the Box”; Identified After 65 Years In One Of City’s Oldest Unsolved Murders” by Nicole Acosta (People Magazine)
  11. “Philadelphia Police Reveal Name of the ‘Boy in the Box’” (NBC Philadelphia)
  12. “Philly’s Girl in the Box remains an overlooked mystery” by Lynette Hazelton (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
  13. True Crime All the Time Unsolved Episode 58 – The Boy in the Box
  14. “Vidocq Society” (Wikipedia)
  15. “The Boy In The Box Is One Of Pennsylvania’s Greatest Mysteries” by Beth Price-Williams (Only in Your State)
  16. “We Investigated The Chilling Case Of America’s Missing Boy” by Ryan Bergara, Shane Madej, Nyla Wissa (Buzzfeed)

Karen's Episode Sources

  1. “The Barely Believable Life of Felix Carvajal” by Liam Boylan-Pett (Lope Magazine) 2021
  2. “El andarín Carvajal, campeón de los pobres” by Jorge Oller Oller  (Cubaperiodistas) 2011
  3. “Fleet of Foot and Tireless is Felix Carvajal, The Cuban” (The Courier Journal) 1905
  4. “Felix Carvajal” biography (Olympics)
  5. “Longboat’s Rival is Queer Cuban Runner” (The Province) 1907
  6. “America's first Olympics: the St. Louis games of 1904” by George Matthews
  7. “The 1904 Olympic Marathon was the worst race ever run” by Mike Vago (AV Club)
  8. “The Unbelievable True Story of the Craziest Olympic Marathon” by Ashwin Rodrigues (Runner’s World) 2021
  9. “The 1904 Olympic Marathon May Have Been the Strangest Ever” by Karen Abbott (Smithsonian Magazine) 2012
  10. Louisiana Purchase Exposition: The 1904 St. Louis World's Fair (Missouri Secretary of State)
  11. Tokyo 2020 Facts and figures (International Olympic Committee)
  12. “8 Unusual Facts About the 1904 St. Louis Olympics” by Evan Andrews (History) 2021
  13. “AFRICA’S FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH THE OLYMPIC GAMES IN . . . . 1904” by Floris J.G. van der Merwe (Journal of Olympic History) 1999
  14. American Runner Wins (New York Times) 1904
  15. “Wingspan” by Jaime Vega (The Brownsville herald) 1968
  16. “M.A.C. Marathon Race Will Be West’s Greatest Contest” (St. Louis Globe-Democrat) 1905
  17. “Cuban Runner Who Surprised St. Louis Athletes is Alive” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) 1907
  18. “Fantastic Tale of Cuban Runner in Olympics” by Wendy Foltz (Battle Creek Enquirer) 1960
  19. “First two black Africans to participate in the Olympics in 1904 honored” (SABC News)
  20. “The Athletes” by Sean O’Toole (Cityscapes) 2015
  21. “FÉLIX CARVAJAL, DERROTADO POR EL HAMBRE Y CINCO MANZANAS” by Pietro Sánchez Quesada (Ed24) 2021.