“Changeling”: The Real Place, The Real Evidence

October 28, 2008 at 12:40 pm (Uncategorized)

This is the last set of photos related to the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders (the true story behind the film, “Changeling”) that I plan to post on this blog. While not the worst of them (I left those out), the following photos include material and descriptions that are disturbing. Don’t read further if you think you can’t handle it, please.

I have limited this set of evidence photos to those that are specifically related to Walter Collins, for the sole reason that Eastwood’s “Changeling” centers around Walter’s disappearance; it is by no means an attempt to diminish nor invalidate the tragic fate of the other boys (possibly as many as 20) tortured and brutally murdered by the Northcotts. 

I post these photos not only to satisfy morbid curiosity (which we all have–after all, we’re Human), but to emphasize that while “Changeling” is a movie featuring the narcissistic histrionics of Angelina Jolie, the sickness and violence of the Northcott case was very real. The following photos are a glimpse of that reality.

All photos and captions were taken directly from the Los Angeles Public Library Archives, and are primary-source material; they are digital scans of actual evidence used in the real Northcott case in 1928 (disturbing content–this is your last warning!):


Deputy Sheriffs C. A. Sweeter, left, and Ben B. deCrevecoeur point out the entrance to a chicken coop at the “murder farm” in which Walter Collins was imprisoned, according to Clark, and murdered by Northcott. In his admission of killing the Collins boy, Northcott says he made his victims pray before an altar which he had built specially for the purpose before he killed them. “I wanted the little boys to make their peace with God so they would go to heaven,” declared Northcott. Stains found on a rude canvas cot where Walter Collins slept have been analyzed and identified as human blood.


Chicken coop on the Northcott farm near Wineville, where Walter Collins was buried. Northcott‘s mother, Sarah [Louise] Northcott, confessed to this killing.


View of the chicken coops on the Northcott farm, where an arrow points to the room where Walter Collins was imprisoned and killed, according to Clark.


The “murder farm” of Gordon Stewart Northcott near Wineville in Riverside County. The panorama shows in detail the exact places where dark deeds transpired, according to Deputy District Attorney Earl Redwine and Sanford Clark, Northcott‘s 15-year-old nephew, whose story brought about Northcott‘s arrest at age 24 in Canada. Clark accused Northcott of mistreating, murdering and burying boys in quicklime. Two boys were murdered and three buried in the chicken houses in the background. Arrow at right shows a coop where Clark asserted Northcott imprisoned Walter Collins, kidnapped Los Angeles boy, and finally killed him with an axe. Collins was held captive in the coop, slept there on a rude cot, and could only look into the pens at right. Slaying and burial sites of the Winslow brothers are noted.


J. Clark Sellers, criminologist, examines an axe which Sanford Clark says Mrs. Louise Northcott used in Walter Collins’ murder. Rex Welsh, police chemist, declares the axe is stained with human blood. It was found in a chicken coop on the ranch.


Sanford Clark shows officials the chair from the “murder farm” in which he says the Winslow brothers and Walter Collins sat when they were killed, struck from behind by a hammer and hatchet wielded by Gordon Stewart Northcott.


Keywords: Christine Collins, Walter Collins, Changeling movie, true story, 1928, LAPD, Gordon Northcott, Wineville murders, Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood


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“Changeling”: The Real Criminals

October 28, 2008 at 11:45 am (Uncategorized)

The number of daily visits to my blog has been in the hundreds since my post on Christine Collins; it seems there is a lot of interest out there in the true story behind “Changeling”. 

Gordon Stewart Northcott’s case has been known as the “Wineville Chicken Coop Murders”; Wineville is now Mira Loma, a town in Riverside County. Its citizens decided to change the city’s name due to the widespread publicity (and notoriety) of the atrocities that took place on Northcott’s farm.

Here are some more photos of the real people that were involved in this horrific (yet morbidly fascinating) case. The photos and captions are from the Los Angeles Public Library Archives’ official record; these are facts:

The boy who returned as Walter Collins pencils specimens of his writing, which proves he is not the real Walter Collins, according to Milton Carlson, handwriting expert. Later it was learned his real name is Arthur Hutchens, alias Billy Fields.


Sanford Clark, Gordon Northcott‘s nephew, who first revealed the so-called “murder farm” and accused Northcott of killing at least three boys there. He declared he was held captive at the farm and made to assist in the murders.


Sanford Clark, 15, who asserted four boys were slain on a “murder farm” by [Gordon] Stewart Northcott, 24. He is shown looking over photos of missing boys. He claimed Walter Collins was a victim and picked his photo out of 30 but could not identify a boy found and returned as Walter Collins.


Northcott signing out in the “big book” at the Los Angeles County Jail as he departed for Riverside to go on trial as the slayer of the Winslow brothers.


Gordon Northcott led officers to an ash heap containing bones believed to be Walter Collins’ and is aiding a further hunt for the graves of his victims.


Mrs. Louise Northcott pleaded guilty on December 31, 1928, of murdering “the boy named in the indictment as Walter Collins,” but said the victim was another boy.


Sarah Louise Northcott, left, as she arrived at San Quentin Prison in the custody of Mrs. Clem Sweeters, wife of the Riverside County Sheriff, to serve a life sentence following her murder confession.


Keywords: Christine Collins, Walter Collins, Changeling movie, true story, 1928, LAPD, Gordon Northcott, Wineville murders, Angelina Jolie, Clint Eastwood

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The Real Christine Collins (subject of the film “Changeling”)

October 25, 2008 at 7:51 pm (Uncategorized)

I decided to resurrect my blog in light of the opening of Clint Eastwood’s film, “Changeling”, because I am deeply disappointed by what I’ve read in the reviews.

The other day, the Los Angeles Times printed an article telling the true story of Christine Collins’ case. The following was mentioned in the second paragraph, in describing her:

“[Christine Collins] was also a professional woman who worked at the telephone company and apparently prided herself on maintaining a nonemotional, businesslike manner when dealing with men in authority.”

The full L.A. Times story can be found here.

I did an online search and found these photos of the real Christine Collins (from the L.A. Public Library Archives):

The L.A. Times story includes a clip from “Changeling”. After seeing this clip and others, I am disgusted. It seems to me that Christine Collins was a woman of professionalism and dignity, yet she is being portrayed in this film as a hysterical, screaming and crying drama-queen by Angelina Jolie. How dare Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie dishonor the memory of this strong and brave woman!

Christine Collins made a positive difference; she was an unlikely pioneer. One of the final outcomes of her suing the City of Los Angeles was the California State Legislature passing a law that requires law enforcement to have a warrant before a person can be incarcerated in a (lock up) psychiatric ward/facility. Because of Christine Collins, the cops can’t simply decide they don’t like your attitude and have you locked up in a psych ward to make you go away (and discredit you). 

A few important points of correction (of factual errors in both the film AND reviews):

1) The Collins case was not “Depression-Era”; Walter Collins went missing (and a different boy “returned” to his mother) in 1928. The “Depression Era” was the 1930’s (the crash was in 1929).

2) Christine Collins was not “working class”; she was “middle class”. She did very well for herself.

3) At the time of Walter’s disappearance, Ms. Collins’ ex-husband was in jail for his involvement in running a speak-easy.

4) When the police “returned” a boy to Ms. Collins that was not Walter, she said, “I do not think that is my son”. The police responded by telling Ms. Collins that, because of the months-long trauma that she had endured, her memory was likely failing her. This is a very important point. Christine Collins was not some weak, damsel-in-distress submissive female who allowed herself to be convinced by the police that the boy looked different because he had been “starving” (as she is portrayed in the film); rather, the police sadistically took advantage of her vulnerable state of mind. Any person who has been through psychological trauma–male or female–is vulnerable to manipulation by those in positions of authority. The point of the “Try him out” suggestion to Ms. Collins was that she would take the boy home and later, when the trauma and shock “wore off”, she would “remember” the boy as being her son. 

On a final note, here is a photo of Christine Collins’ son, Walter. Ms. Collins submitted this photo to the LAPD with the attached note (seen in lower left corner) in explaining how the boy they brought to her was not her son Walter:

Keywords: Christine Collins, Changeling, Clint Eastwood, Angelina Jolie, movie

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