Changeling stories — Part I

Police Capt. Jones and LAPD officers search the lake in Lincoln Park for the body of Walter Collins, Los Angeles Times, April 6, 1928.
The boy claiming to be Walter Collins poses with Christine Collins, Aug. 18, 1928 Several regular readers have asked to see the original stories that formed the basis of the current movie “Changeling,” written by J. Michael Straczynski and directed by Clint Eastwood. The movie’s website is here>>>

Alas, The Times published far more stories than I can ever upload to the Daily Mirror. Over the next few days, I’ll try to post a few of them just to give a sample of the coverage–and of course the competition also filed stories that would only be available on microfilm at the Los Angeles Public Library.

The Times stories are available from The Times archive or via ProQuest from the Los Angeles Public Library (you will need a library card to sign in).

Photo of the real Walter Collins
A Glendale service station attendant says he saw the missing boy in the back of a car.
Police suspect kidnapping is retaliation against boy’s father, a Folsom inmate. Missing boy found in DeKalb, Ill., refuses to identify “daddy.”
“I do not think that is my boy,” Christine Collins says. Police insist boy is Walter Collins despite statements that he was killed.
Mother returns boy, saying he’s not her son. Handwriting expert says boy is not Walter Collins.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in #courts, @news, Changeling, Film, Front Pages, Hollywood, Homicide, LAPD, Parks and Recreation. Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to Changeling stories — Part I

  1. bruce says:

    Just saw the movie, ugh, what a compelling story, but the movie is full of inaccuracies. It is interesting to read the truth, or at least the public version. The movie would have made a better documentary rather than to distort the story with a lot of mushy made up stuff. It is pretty hard to take, so I would not recommend the movie for those two reasons,


  2. mrsqmac says:

    I loved the movie! Very interesting storyline. The fact that it doesn’t follow the details exactly how they occurred is normal for a film. The facts were almost the same. Great story!


  3. Me says:

    I disagree, Just saw the movie. And now have done some research online. I thought it was pretty accurate for the amount of time hollywood has to portray a lifetime story. It was well acted, well thought out. Disturbing as well.


  4. Insideguy says:

    In a case where truth is stranger than fiction this story has too many complexities to fit into one film. As it is the film is 2 hours and 20 minuts long. Many of the events needed to be eliminated from because they would distract from the main story which is acttually two stories that through whatever mystery is how a single woman brought down the hierararchy of vastly corrupt government by asking the single queston, “Where is my boy/” and the other is, of course, that of the gruesome murders. It looks at many unusual themes we have rarely or never seen .
    We need to be grateful to the screenwriter, the director and the actors for saving this story from oblivion. I think Christine Collins, who never knew what really happened to her son, would be grateful, not for her story but for the fact that we can now help her memory of Walter live on.


  5. Marian says:

    What a movie! Sat on the edge of my seat. . . and cried for Christine Collins and what she had gone through. After seeing many movies this year, this is no doubt an Oscar winner, both for “Best Picture” and “Best Actress”. Angelina Jolie was superb! Only a mother, could have played this part and she was amazing. I will keep my fingers crossed for her.


  6. watermarq says:

    Wow. You folks sure out a lot of stock in media reports from the late 1920’s.
    If the media today is just a WEE bit on the biased/uninformed side, do you really think it wise to make a value judgement of Eastwood’s work based on some old newspaper scans?
    I’m not disagreeing with you, because I had the same thought, but age does not equal accurate, unbiased reporting.


  7. jack messenger says:

    I’ve seen the movie and it is nothing short of enthralling. Clint Eastwood is the master storyteller of our time. Additionally, he’s unique in that his movies always offer more in terms of unexpected plot twists. He leaves the moviegoer with the feeling they’ve watched MORE than just one film. His films are multi-layered. “Million Dollar Baby” turned out to be a different movie than most people thought it would be at face value. Likewise, “Changeling” falls into the same category. Thank you, Clint, for bringing this gruesomely fascinating case to life. It’s as complex as the Black Dahlia ever was. Powerful stuff.


  8. vickie says:

    Thought Eastwood did another great movie he is onw of the great story tellers of are time WAY TO GO CLINT


  9. Francesca says:

    Just saw The Changeling so had to find out what happened to Christine Collins. Thought the film was very well done and although apprehensive initially about the length did not notice the time go by. Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich and Angelina Jolie did an excellent job bringing this disturbing story to the big screen and I highly recommend it. Oscars should be awarded.


  10. Mark says:

    I saw the film tonight, too and thought Angelina Jolie’s performance to be superb. She really captured how a mother might feel in such a devastating situation. I was unnerved by the opening scenes as she looked for her son frantically and was incensed at the treatment leveled at women just because “it could be done.” Very nice and considering the limitations of adaptation, very true and respectful of the spirit of the entire case.


  11. JW says:

    I saw the movie on Friday night and am in complete agreement with everyone who said the movie is an Oscar winner, and also that only a mother could play this role. I have no doubt in my mind that Angelina was thinking of what she would do if faced with the same situation as Christine.
    I have to also agree with the person who said that age of a news article doesn’t necessarily mean accuracy, however in light of the fact that the press was out for LAPD blood I think that they might have been a little biased, but also that the truth about what happened to Christine at the hands of the LAPD was also sensational enough for the press to NOT inflate the story.
    This is, after all, the case that cemented the LAPD’s reputation as the most corrupt, incompetant and least trustworthy PD in the US.
    As it stands now, I am thankful that we live in such a technologically advancded society where we have the “Amber Alert” system with which to keep children safe.


  12. I have to be honest I had no desire to see Changeling. As much as I like Eastwood I’ve never been a big Jolie fan. And the story looked way to melodramatic to me.
    But the previews don’t reveal the serial killer side of the story at all. I’ve loved reading these clippings and I’m now interested enough that I’ll have to see this movie.


  13. Bill West says:

    This is an Oscar worthy film. Saw it Friday night. There is no doubt that Eastwood and the writers had to combine the events into a feature film. This was not easy to do. While they had to “twist” a few facts to fit the story, they kept true to most of the basic true events. If someone starts to research a movie immediately after seeing it, it speaks to the movie’s affectiveness I think.


  14. chimatli says:

    I saw the movie today and I agree with the rest of the comments, it’s a fine film.
    I do have problem with the portrayal of Los Angeles and in particular Lincoln Heights. As a resident of Lincoln Heights and a fourth generation Angelina, I am quite familiar with the way my neighborhood looked during this era from my research of Los Angeles history and my own family photos.
    This area of Los Angeles is surrounded by hills and street curves. The scenes in Lincoln Heights didn’t feel like this area. Most of the streets in the movie were grid-like and dense, more representative of downtown. The scene where she leaves the Lincoln Heights precinct and walks out to what looks like Spring St was particularly annoying. It was a very straight road of non-ending 3 story buildings with City Hall in the distance.
    North Broadway and Main Street curve and cross the river and neither of these streets had the kinda New York density the movie portrayed.
    Also, they were very few Mexican-Americans in the film despite the fact that there were many Mexican-American police officers at this time (see your photo of Ybarra, Sepulveda etc in the other post). Lincoln Heights by this time also had many Mexican-American residents. I know this for certain as my grandmother lived in Lincoln Heights for a short time in 1935.
    Perhaps this may seem as quibbling to some. I know it’s impossible and impractical for films to be 100 percent accurate but these glaring discrepancies did affect my viewing of the film. I expected more from Clint Eastwood.
    One more thing, I loved that you mapped out the places where Christine Collins lived. When she mentions her address in the film, I was quite surprised as I knew the street she mentioned. I have to say though, I really doubt even back then, that Ave 23 looked as idyllic as it did in the film. Thanks for digging up all the info!


  15. Kathy Aiken says:

    Saw the movie today and thought it was outstanding. I stayed to watch all the credits, but never saw anything about where the movie was filmed. I’m sure the exterior shots of the train station were not filmed in LA, but in San Bernardino, CA. That is where I grew up and my family frequently visited the depot. The station is still standing, but in very poor condition today. The exterior looks much the same as it did in the 1940’s and 50″s. Anyone else out there agree?


  16. daniel says:

    ok first off i just want to say the movie to me was boring but the story of the boy and his mother and the guy killing the kids that was interesting it was a good thriller but i dont like the mushy gushy stuff…and does any one know if walter was ever found just wondering….


  17. donna says:

    Daniel – the ‘gushy mushy’ stuff u talk about is a story of an unbelievable pain and suffering endured by a woman who lost her child and was let down and treated inhumanly by the authorities – has any of this came to your mind when you said the story was ‘boring’ and ‘ gushy mushy’?! Its about real people, have some respect!!!


  18. IAN PAYNE says:

    I have just seen the film in England – a very tragic case and it must have been an aweful experience for Christine. I commend Clint for making such a thought provoking film, rather than a quick buck typical H’wood blockbuster, which appears to be the norm these days !!!!!


  19. Don Green says:

    As an English criminal barrister I found the film fascinating and compelling. Well acted well directed I came away from the film extremely moved by what I had seen to such an extent that it has made me want to investigate further the truth of the story. Admittedly for dramatic reasons much has to be truncated and edited but the basic story lines particularly the power of the state to incarcerate those believed to be ‘nuisances’ resonate even today!


  20. Nicole Laza says:

    I just saw the movie and thought it was great. I live in nearby Cypress Park which is next door to Lincoln Heights. Well I wanted to see if the house that she lived in still existed, but it does’nt. I wrote down the addresses that I got from this page. Thank you! I found 3 out of 5. I also found the theatre where Walter went the day he was kidnapped. Its located at 3232 N.Figueroa St. The building exists but its now a sandwich shop. I’ts very sad to think something like this happened in the late 20’s. I, too would like to know what happened to Christine Collins. Where and when did she die and where is she buried? Also, Lincoln Heights did not look like it did in the movie just go under Historical Lincoln Heights L.A


  21. Estelle says:

    Great movie, as usual Clint does an excellent job of directing and should get the acadamy award for it.Sorry to say this Clint, but I do not remember women wearing all that eye make up. Jolie was excellent, although I normally do not care for her.
    Congratulations to the whole cast, they all did an exellent job.


  22. Leigh says:

    my great grandfather was names walter collins, i do not know much about him… which made the movie more interesting. my family tree is a little hard to get, but if anyone knows christine collins’ maiden name that would be great


  23. zawadi says:

    This is one of the most touching movies that I have seen in years and one I will never forget. I am still shocked at how the people you are supposed to put your trust in, will allow a mother to suffer like Ms. Collins.
    I hope that she and her son are together tonight.


  24. Missy says:

    great story . I really enjoyed the movie but this blog is even better ! After reading that Christine Collins husband was in jail, is it possible that Collins and Northcott were in the same prison ? Does anyone know what happened to Walter’s father ?


  25. Someone says:

    This movie was definitely a truly beautiful movie and definitely oscar material. props to Angelina! However, researching the truth and finding out unshown material, it makes me really think. Were there really 20 boys killed? Did Christine Collins really go to the psychopathic hospital?


  26. Audrey says:

    This is the best movie I have seen in a long time.Clint Eastwood, you did a terrific Job presenting the real life drama of Christine Collins and all related events occurring at that time,ie.corruption and evil. God bless all victims and their falilies, then and now. Great job Angelina & cast.& crew. I have recommended this movie to many co-workers,family and friends. Definately an Academy Award Winner-for the movie,Clint Eastwood and Angelina Jolie.


  27. Ho Lian-Yi says:

    These are some really great articles. Thank you.


  28. Emmma says:

    I’ve just seen the movie and wrote the newspapwers notes … It was a great movie but I can’t stop thinking: the evidences said that there were 3-4 crimes, or in the movie it is said about 20!! Did I miss something? What do you, guys, think about?


  29. Alexander says:



  30. Veronica Medina says:

    I thought the movie was wonderful.Very disturbing at times,but left me wondering a lot about the real story.I’ll definately have to look in to it!


  31. Youngme says:

    This story just goes to show us all how there are so many horrific events happen and how unaware we all can be. The media plays a tremendous role in how we get most of our information. Watching this movie just brought chills down my spine, thinking about the re-awakening this old story and how it becomes alive again. Its almost as ms. Collins is speaking from her grave, telling us as a society to wake up and work together for fighting in all justice for any defenseless children. There are so many missing children in this world and its so scary to know that this is
    what goes on behind the scenes. There are actually real
    live lunatics and the horror films we see are based on
    some sick and twisted reality somewhere in this world.
    For all those defenseless and innocent childrens souls we hope you are at rest. All those evil and psychotic murders burn in hell if you dont pray for mercy and forgivness. One day we’ll see Walter Collins in heaven reunited with his mother.


  32. Rose says:

    I saw the movie and thought it was wonderful, wish they had put a little more about the murders in Wineville, But to comment on the views that ” Lincoln Heights” was not accurate, well those scenes where filmed in The city of San Dimas, my city! U see shots of downtown Old San Dimas wich is on Bonita ave, Christines house is on 2nd st., its the house next to the church, the trolley scences where filmed on San Dimas ave, and the alley scence was shot on a small street passing 5th st. Thank You Mr. Eastwood for picking our pretty little town and hope u decide to come back and film here again!!!!!


  33. HLS says:

    Just saw the DVD “Changeling” – great story, wanted to see if Angellna deservde the oscar nomination. Researching the story, well, the movie is quite different from the actual history – “Its don’t think its the same story!” Someone code 12 me please!


  34. Jaime says:

    Excellent movie. So many twists and turns, even after everything started to die down. Does anybody besides me think it’ strange that Christine Collins passed away about 7 years after all this happened? How did this vivacious young woman die so young?


  35. Pamela says:

    I have to say that this movie was a lot better than I expected. I’m so glad I rented it last night! Angelina Jolie is one of my favorite actresses and now she is my all time favorite actress. It wasn’t too Hollywood, but of course it left out a couple of facts, but I understand the whole story now that I read Wikipedia.


  36. dody says:

    I saw the movie last week and although I found it disturbing, it was undoubtedly one of the best movies I’ve seen. Clint is a extremely talented director. Definitely Oscar material. What I truly don’t understand is people on this blog speaking negatively of Angelina. She is obviously a very talented actress. I have seen most of her movies and have yet to see one that she wasn’t outstanding in.


  37. diamond says:

    i just finished watching the movie, reading some comments and reviews and also looking at some research on the subject. i have to say that i really did not believe that this movie was based on true events. i remember seeing or reading somewhere that “based on true events” doesnt actually mean that the supposed events happened; generally used for ratings and such. i have to admit, as disturbing as the facts were, my eyes stayed glued to my laptop screen….intriguing movie. riviteing performances…angelina jolie was an absolute knockout in this film. im a huge fan so naturally anything she plays in, im wathcing!
    i also wanted to piggyback on a comment that someone else wrote on this site about the facts of the movie and its inaccuracies. lets keep in mind that although based on true events people, it is still a movie. understand that some things may need to be changed for anothers’ protection, or just to simply save time. it is a lot to put into 2 hours.


  38. tamsam07 says:

    Nothing has been written about what happened to the Clark boy who helped Northcott with the murders. Anyone know what happened to him?


  39. matrix says:

    I hope that Ms. Collins and her son Walter are together tonight


  40. JC says:

    Can you imagine so large and interested attendance at essentially a police corruption trial today?


  41. Bill says:

    I tend to view the inaccuracies as intentions of the movie. Namely that men are the perps of societal and human evil (the police, the killer). A story demonstrative of such evil leaves out the facts that Northcutt’s murderous mother got out on parole after 12 years despite her participation. Funny how you don’t hear equal rights advocates even today shouting for equality in crime sentences.


  42. porkborg says:

    By Hollywood standards, the film was very accurate. Sure they took some liberties (killer’s mother helped and she’s not even in the story, boy’s father was in prison, fake boy confessed while she was in the psychiatric hospital — not after), but the key facts are mostly there. And the main plot lines (corruption, female oppression) are spot on.


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