• This Day in Crime History

    January 16: 1936: Serial Killer Hamilton Howard “Albert” Fish was executed in the electric chair in Sing Sing Prison. He was responsible for at least 5 murders, including 10-year-old Grace Budd whose murder he was sentenced to death for.

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Movies Based on True Crimes: Changeling *Wineville Chicken Murders*

Northcott victims
Walter Collins, 9
Lewis Winslow, 12,
Nelson Winslow, 10,
unidentified Mexican boy

Poetic Justice
LA Times The Daily Mirror: Changeling stories
Suspected Murder Farm Discovered At Riverside, CAL
Young Northcott – Is He 1928 Bluebeard or the Victim Of Strange and Ghastly Fraud?
Letters Reveal Old Fear Held By Northcott
Northcott Confesses To Slaying
Murderpedia: Gordon Stewart Northcott
Wineville Chicken Murders
Chicken Murders
Louisa (Sarah?) Northcott — Mira Loma, CA 1928
During the 1920s, Boys Became the Prey of a Brutal Killer
The Boy Who Vanished–and His Impostor
Los Angeles Public Library historical photo search (here you can put in the name Northcott and it will bring up the photos for the cases)
Wikipedia: Wineville Chicken Murders

L. A. Unconventional: The Men & Women Who Did L. A. Their Way
Nothing is Strange with You: The Life and Crimes of Gordon Stewart Northcott
The Road Out of Hell

The Changeling


Sarah Louisa Northcott (killed Walter) – died in prison
Gordon Stewart Northcott (killed the others) – executed 10/2/1930


53 Responses

  1. I had no idea this was a true story. Crazy.

  2. I’m the James Jeffrey Paul who wrote the first-ever bio of Gordon Stewart Northcott. It was just published, and is titled NOTHING IS STRANGE WITH YOU: THE LIFE AND CRIMES OF GORDON STEWART NORTHCOTT. You can find it at, at Amazon, or on other online vending sites.

    I’ve already received much media attention–did an interview for NPR’s “Morning Edition” today!

    note from blog owner

    Thanks for stopping by! I could not find it at Amazon. Do you have a direct link? I want this book.

  3. Dear Bonnie the Blog Owner,

    Yes, it is available now from Amazon in both hardcover and paperback. Just enter the title and it’ll pop up.

    Let me know what you think about it!

    I’ll be in Riverside County on the 26th of the month to give two talks on the book. Do you live in southern California?

    Keep up the good work!

  4. Bonnie–There are two errors, I’m afraid, in your page here.

    Northcott’s mom’s name was Sarah LOUISE Northcott, not “Louisa.”

    And she didn’t die in prison. She was paroled after serving almost a dozen years for the murder of Walter Collins, and then went to join her husband in Parsonsburg, in Wicomico County, Maryland, where both of them died within several months of one another in 1944.

  5. Has anyone ever tried testing DNA on those unknown remains found in the desert later? Would it be possible now after so long to do this and could that body possibly be Walter Collins?

  6. Sharon, Those little fragments of bone, hair, and blood-soaked earth no longer exist. Besides, no one seems to have been able to locate a descendant of Christine and Walter Collins. Without that descendant’s DNA to “test against,” any findings would be worthless.

    BTW, I’m giving two talks on the Northcott story on the 26th of this month–one at 1:30 p.m. at the Riverside Public Library, the other several hours later to the Friends of the Library in neighboring Jurupa.

  7. WOW, what a crazy bunch of Freaks. It always amazes me when their is more than one crazy in the family. What a shame for all those children and their familys.

  8. This story sickens me literally to my stomach. It is heart wrenching to hear about those little boys, especially the two brothers who were both taken away from their family, I just can’t imagine what they went through, both there together, brothers are so close esp at that age and knowing that they can’t help each other breaks my heart. It is so disgusting to know that sickos like this man and his family exists now and are out there doing God know’s what to innocent children. People like that don’t deserve to live but death is too good for them.

  9. Anyone know Walter JS Collins release date from Folsom Prison? Walter Sr. was born in Nebraska 1889 .

  10. Question for Mr. Paul. Are there survivng members of the Northcott family around? What happened to them and did they have to change their names? Going to buy your book today. How was Sarah received after just walking out of prison? I am so interested in this story.

  11. Hi I just returned from the new clint eastwood movie changeling. what an excellent movie, clint uses the northcott case to illustrate the strugles women and children faced in pre-war history, christine collins opened ones eyes to the unjust treatment women in poverty and children were delt, starting from being a single mother struggling to raise a child on her own, to having the police indicate she was nothing more then a delusional woman from the time she made her original phone call to the police until northcott was hanged, eastwood displays a perfect feminist view, eastwood touches on a criminals point of view and their rights, in the part where northcott indicates christine collins is the only person who has not bad mouthed him or put him down for what he as done without knowing all the facts, anyone knowing any feminist movement actions would clearly enjoy this movie. I suggest anyone who doubts the treatment women and children received pre-WWII to see this movie

  12. who’s going to make a movie on the stephen truscott case, great canadian unjust

  13. In the movie David “Davey” Clay turned up 5 years after Northcott’s execution. Did a survivor actually turn up, and if so who?

  14. The movie was very good. It was only AFTER I saw it that I read more about the real story, and found out the mother/grandmother was involved… creepy….but I can’t find enough about her. Was she involved in all the torture and murders?

  15. wow! the movie was amazing…. it was just the most aweful thing in the world that happened to those poor boys, in the movie all my husband and i wanted to see was walter come home, just like everyone else wanted to and i was so sad when we found out he died. right after the movie i came home and was researching walter im so sorry for what happened to all those children. god bless those children and their families and the movie was over and above thats the cand of movie you can watch over and over.

  16. I think the movie was well done and descriptive. The script and the acting very well done. Ene though it was slow, the movie kept you going, that means that the movie was excellent. After the movie I got into reading the stories of this terrible murders and discovered that the mother/grandmother was involved in the murder. How come the movie did not capture that and/or said that she confirmed killling Walter Collins. The movie ended as a hope for the mom waiting for his son while in the true story, the mother/grandmother confesses the killing of Walter Collins.

  17. From what I read, Walter’s body was never found and the mother recanted her confession of his killing.

  18. I still can’t find info on the boy, if there really was one, who was believed to be a victim of Northcott but turned up 5 years later. The movie identified him as David Clay. I can’t find anything confirming or denying this. Anyone?

  19. Oh, David Clay existed, all right–in a scriptwriter’s imagination.


    And now he exists on the movie screen.


  20. Okay the movie was a good one. I looked up the history of the Collins case and found the entire true story according to “The Press’. My question is why did the movie not mention incest. The mother/ grandmother and his sister/ real mother and the boy being made to dress up in girls clother when he was a child. “Yes” on 8!!!

  21. Mr. Paul,

    Apparently David Clay was not real. However, there articles prior to the movie that mentioned a survivor which gave (false?) hope to Mrs. Collins. Are you saying that you never found any such evidence?

  22. Hi I think that poeple are crazy i am glad that the killers are dead that is just wrong. I also think that if i had a missing kid and they brought back the wrong boy i would be so mad.I think the mother should not have gone to that insane hospital when she is right. Everyone was dumb in the old days.Thats all i have to say.

  23. I read many articles surrounding this case and theirs some bad information out there and I’d think LAPD and the county of the town Wineville had some dirty dealing covering up ‘a very powerful org’ which used that farm and family. I admit I am steping out the box on this one because many questions dealing with members of that family is obscured. It’s messy.

  24. Well I thinks its really cool the writer of the only book on Northcott stops by to post here, he should be the one with the most answers i think and you could probably find them in the book. On the film, I just finished it and I think it was so jam packed with storytelling that it would easily have made two features. Besides that it was beautifully executed with superb cast and will definetly be a runner up for the oscars. Clint knows his trade!!

  25. changeling was a great movie. i just cant figure out why northcott killed all those little boys. im glad he got what he deserved by going to prison for 2 years and getting hanged.

  26. Just watched the movie, it gripped my heart, the last thing I was expecting…a horror story. All I could think was “this really happened”, it made me cry and ache for the pain and suffering of those children. I too was interested in more detail and finding out that the “mother or grandmother” whatever her relationship that a woman was involved in the horrific murders of children…almost out of today’s headlines…I guess evil knows no gender.

  27. Hey, I just saw the movie and I have to say that this was the first movie that had me in tears practically the entire time. I NEVER cry during movies (and I’m not exaggerating. I have this problem where I never really show emotion) but I was bawling during this. It was such a strong movie about a woman getting justice in a time period where women just didn’t do that. I would recommend this movie to anyone.

    When I Googled the movie, I found this website and it’s my homepage, now. I am so interested in true crime stories like this. (major is Criminology).

  28. Hello, I watched the movie on Cable, which led me & hubsand to find the Northcott home. And found it! We pulled up, the house was for sale. We got out of the car. Walked around the front yard the side yard & went to the backyard. It was in the backyard my heart grew very heavy & the reality flooded me. I was shocked that this house is even still standing. The coop is torn down but you can tell where it was. Who would really want to buy that house? I do have pictures of the house. I can’t believe that this house hasn’t changed at all through all these years

  29. Sarah Louise Northcott was released from prison in 1940 & died in 1944. She didn’t die in prison.

  30. i was just thinking to myself what would happen if the boy was really alive all this time but brain washed into beleiving that his mom died and didnt want him or his mom died how would we ever know what really happended is anyone still alive from back then , i bought this movie and iam really happy i did

  31. James Jeffery Paul PLEASE ANSWER!

    Kay, did sarah kill walter or not?
    david wasnt real?
    where exacly is the northcott ranch were the kids died?
    what happened to sandford clark? did he go to jail? is he dead? and why was gordon northcott singing silent night in the movie right when he is about to be executed?

    Shanna Debison Ciseneras

  32. David was not real.No one knows who exactly killed Walter or if Walter was ever truely killed.He has never turned up alive though. Sarah said she killed him then recanted on her statement so no one knows.
    The Northcott Ranch is in Mira Loma, California somewhere.Sandford Clark went to a juvenile detention center for 5 years and then went back to Canada married and raised a family….. I belive if I remember correctly he died in 1994.Hope that helps a bit please someone correct me if I am wrong about any of this

  33. oh poor kids, how can people be so cruel?

  34. and i think david was real. because (i researched a lot) the cops noted that there was a surviver by the name of david in 1929

  35. sarah did kill walter

  36. sanford did go to jail and i dont think he is alive right now

  37. sanford would be over maybe 90 yrs old

  38. sarah restated that she really did kill walter

  39. Am I the only one who finds all of this fascinating? I mean, the thoughts the must’ve gone through his head and the calculations he must’ve made, such as sodomizing the boys and renting them out to wealthy pedophiles in the area. I may sound odd, but I think he was a very intelligent man who was unfortunately abused to the point where he could no longer control his urges. But looking into his eyes, you can tell he’s empty, and I am forced to have pity on him. If everything I read about him was true he was never given the chance at a good happy life. (if anyone is freaked out by this please don’t be, I’m just really interested in abnormal psychology and everything people are capable of doing to themselves)

  40. I think the whole thing was sad. There might have been some parts left out or some not true in the movie but either way enough of it was true. Its sad that people could be so evil. I can not imagine being a mom and having to go through that. Even though they never found Walter’s body, his mother had to hear all those details in court on what most likely happened to her son. Watching this movie makes you want to lock your doors and and have your children sleep with you at night.

  41. i fell bad for having my child be killed by a stranger and have been put in the place with cycolse and i really hope that that will never happen to my kid once i get older the movie was kinda a lie cause it said that gordan killed walter but it was his mom and in the movie they didnt menchin her in there so they kinda left out a cuple of things so besids that i wonted to know wat happend to standfor clarkes in the movie but they didnt say much abot him and if u could post some pics of him when he was young that would be so great and thanks for all the info about the movie

  42. In response to questions about the supposed survivor:

    From what I understand, there was a child originally thought to have been abducted by Northcott that was eventually found alive and well. They got the idea to turn him into a survivor for the movie, but he was never actually abducted by Northcott.

  43. I worked in state prisons of N.Y. for years & was a Corr. Counselor in the facility where the death house existed at that time. It was not until the 70s that visitors were permitted to visit with inmates without a screen between them. I doubt the truthfulness of the scene in the movie where Walter Collins mom was permitted to visit (confront)
    Northcut face to face without a screen between them. Certainly not without a guard in the room. I’m pretty sure that would have been the policy in prisons throughout the nation……especially state & federal prisons.
    Also, the scene of Northcut thrashing around at his hanging. Isn’t the neck broken (snapped) once the trap door is opened & the individual hits the end of the rope?
    Someone else has asked, “What was the significance of him singing “Silent Night”at the end?? Did that really happen?

  44. Did Walter ever come back?
    Or was his body never found?

  45. It would have been impossible for the police to note that there was a survivor from the Wineville Chicken coop murders, in 1929, as the boy didn’t come forward until 1935, according to folk-lore.

    The screenwriter refuse to comment on this topic, asking everyone to go to their own research.

    I find it interesting that the man who wrote the book on Gordon Northcott thinks that the character David Clay was a fictional account added by the screenwriter.

  46. Why says: “and i think david was real. because (i researched a lot) the cops noted that there was a surviver by the name of david in 1929”

    Why, I would love for you to share some of that research with us here online, so I can also look into this notion of David.

    Please share some of your research and where it can be accessed on the web.

  47. What ever happend to Ms. Collins? Did she ever give up her search? Who owns the chicken farm now? I though the movie sucked now that I know alot more real information. Too many important details were changed. I’m glad I found this site… I can’t wait to buy and read the book you wrote James Jeffery Paul.

  48. This is one of a terrific movies i ever’s gonna be different opinion if it is not a true story..but since it is a true one…i just such ‘more than evil mind’ the Northcott’s has…in brutally murdering those innocent kids…so real bad!!!i felt so sad bout those kids eventhough it was happened 80 years ago…

    Big applause and appreciation for the Reverand for his good and loyal minister to God and in helping mrs. collins and other cases related to LAPD’s bad service at that time..

    one bizarre thing i wanna know…what is the possible reason for Gordon in singing ‘silent night’ on the last moment he will be hanged ???? or was it also a true detail bout his execution moment ???? thanks for the answer guys ! GBU all 🙂

  49. Where are the descendents of the Northcott family


    Was Gordon Northcott’s father involved in the

    murders? I read in LAPD reports that when he was

    interviewed by LAPD he admitted that he knew

    his son Gordon was abducting boys and keeping

    them in the chicken coop? Why wasn’t he also


    Did the entire Northcott family suffer from mental


    Mr. Jeffrey — please reply.


  50. Hello everyone. I saw “Changeling” a few months back for the 1st time, and I got to say, what a great flick. It doesn’t matter when crimes such as these occur, they are horrific and tragic, and my heart goes out for Ms. Collins, even though she is passed, and all the other families that endured this horrible event.

  51. Hellow everyboby my name is mya.I been researching walter collins for like 4 years.I watch changeling all the time and when I see it I think which path did he go in .People shoulde’v tried to follow walter collin foot steps.I hope you find him.Good luck.

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