303: Terror on the School Bus: The Chowchilla Kidnapping

Episode 303: The Chowchilla school bus hijacking and kidnapping, a notorious case that occurred in 1976, involved the abduction of a school bus carrying 26 children, nineteen girls and seven boys, ages 5 to 14, and their driver, Frank Edward ‘Ed’ Ray, who was 55. It was orchestrated by three young men from affluent families — brothers Richard Schoenfeld, 22, James Schoenfeld, 24, and their friend Frederick Newhall Woods IV, also twenty-four. The crime was motivated by a desire for ransom money and as a cure for their boredom. The kidnappers hid the bus and took its occupants to a buried truck trailer in a quarry in Livermore, California, intending to demand $5 million for their release. Remarkably, led by Ed Ray and Michael Marshall, 14, one of the older children, the victims managed to escape without any ransom being paid. Even though they all made it out alive, the victims suffered psychological scars that changed their lives and persist to the present day.

This was the largest kidnapping in U.S. history, and it has a Canadian connection.

After their hostages escaped, all three kidnappers went into hiding but were eventually apprehended and convicted, although one of the suspects, the mastermind behind the kidnapping, Frederick Woods, fled to Vancouver, British Columbia, before being arrested by the RCMP.


Kidnapped! At Chowchilla — The School Bus Hijacking by Gail Miller and Sandra Thompkins

Oroville Mercury Register 16 Jul 1976, page 1

The San Francisco Examiner 16 Jul 1976, page 3

The Fresno Bee 16 Jul 1976, page 25

‘Major Break’ Expected in Mass Abduction (Published 1976)

The Province 23 Jul 1976, page 1

The Vancouver Sun 30 Jul 1976, page 1

Merced Sun-Star 07 Aug 1976, page 1

Merced Sun-Star 07 Aug 1976, page 9

Chowchilla bus kidnapping: Rare photos from one of the largest abductions in U.S. history

Chowchilla bus kidnapping survivor’s lifelong fight to keep her captors behind bars

Chowchilla bus kidnapper released from prison

Chowchilla nightmares / 25 years later, kidnap victims still struggling to forget past

Chowchilla bus kidnapping survivor’s lifelong fight to keep her captors behind bars

James Schoenfeld: Chowchilla Bus Kidnapper Paroled Almost 40 Years Later

Chowchilla school bus kidnap victims file lawsuit 40 years after abduction

Children of Chowchilla: a study of psychic trauma – PubMed

The ballad of the Chowchilla bus kidnapping

New Documentary Examines Kidnapping of School Bus Full of Children — and How They Miraculously Escaped

Edward Ray – A Local Hero | Chowchilla, CA

1976 Bus Kidnapping | Chowchilla, CA

Edward Ray Day in Chowchilla

EDWARD… – City of Chowchilla, California (Government)

Kent Morrill – Ballad Of Chowchilla Ray (1976 Bardel Records)

Ballad Of Chowchilla Ray | Robert Goulet

Survivors of Chowchilla kidnapping break silence in new documentary

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