Friday, December 5, 2008

Wineville Chicken Coop Murders Historical Photos

Farm Near Wineville

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.

As regular readers know, I love true crime. Ads for the film The Changeling noted that the movie was based on true events: the 1928-1930 Wineville Chicken Coop Murders, a case so notorious that the town changed its name to Mira Loma in 1930.

From Wikipedia:

"In September 1928, the Los Angeles Police Department, acting on a tip as to the whereabouts of a missing Canadian boy in the area, went to the Northcott Ranch, a small chicken farm located in present day Mira Loma, California. There they discovered the missing boy, Sanford Clark. Under questioning, Clark claimed that he had been kidnapped by his cousin, Gordon Stewart Northcott, the son of the farm's owner. Northcott had apparently kept Clark prisoner on the ranch, physically abusing him and threatening to kill the boy if he fled. Clark claimed that Northcott had abducted and murdered as many as twenty children between the ages of nine and twelve. Clark was able to lead police to the graves of some of the victims. Northcott was arrested near Vernon, British Columbia, after having fled to his native Canada...

...The Los Angeles Police Department was also involved in a scandal as a result of this case. Arthur Hutchens, Jr., a runaway from Illinois but who was originally from Iowa, claimed he was the missing Walter Collins so he could get a free trip to California. The police considered the case closed and tried to convince Walter's mother, Christine Collins, that Hutchens was her son. When she refused to believe it, she was placed in the psychiatric ward of the Los Angeles County General Hospital. Only after Hutchens admitted he was not Christine Collins' son, ten days later, was she released."

The Los Angeles Public Library has a photo collection which includes 121 photos associated with the case. Enter "Northcott" as a keyword.

Read more about the case here

1 comment:

Dan Dassow said...

Additional information related to Wineville Chicken Coop Murders that may
be of interest to Library professionals:

Larry Harnisch, the leading Black
expert and a collaborator in the 1947 project, has been a copy editor at
The Times since 1988. Keith Thursby has been an editor at The Times in news, sports and design since 1986. Larry Harnisch and Keith Thursby have a blog sponsored by The Los Angeles Times, called The Daily Mirror which explores the history of Los Angeles through reprints of Los Angeles Times articles and public domain information. They have an extensive exploration of the case surrounding the abduction of Walter Collins.

Frank Girardot, editor of the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, writes the Crime Scene Blog. (

People Magazine, INSIDE STORY: How a Boy Became the Changeling Impostor
By Oliver Jones (,,20239857,00.html)
has more information on Arthur Hutchins, Jr.

An excellent book on Gordon Stewart Northcott is Nothing is Strange with You: The Life and Crimes of Gordon Stewart Northcott by James Jeffrey Paul. This book is available from: ( There is an excerpt from the book at

According to News & Observer - Raleigh, NC, USA, Local writer digs into 'Changeling' history by By Matt Ehlers, Staff Writer, October 31, 2008 (

Before James Jeffrey Paul entered the library that day in 1989, he had never heard of Gordon Stewart Northcott, a pedophile whose crimes put the plot of "Changeling"; in motion. But Paul became intrigued when he came across an old crime-history volume that chronicled the sins of Northcott, one of America's most evil, but least well-known, serial killers. Later, he found a photograph that helped cement his interest in the case. ...

Paul, who has a master's degree in library science, is a researcher at heart.

The more he found out about the case, the more he kept looking into it. "I guess I became the proverbial man possessed," says Paul, who traveled to Riverside County, Calif., in the late 1990s to dig into Northcott's crimes. Although an exact number is unknown, Northcott may have killed up to 20 boys. ...

Mr. Paul spoke at the Riverside Public Library (3581 Mission Inn Ave. Riverside, CA 92501) about the case to a capacity crowd on October 26, 2008. (
As part of an interview with Steven Cuevas (89.3 KPCC Southern California Public Radio) he visited the site of the Northcott chicken ranch in Mira Loma, California. (

According to Hollywood Reporter
United for 'Changeling': ANATOMY OF A CONTENDER
: Clint Eastwood sought to make 'a real woman's film' out of a true horror story with 'Changeling.' By Todd Longwell
Nov 20, 2008, 05:30 PM ET "...For Straczynski, the Christine Collins story continues beyond the film. He's working on a book about her and the Wineville murders, which he expects to complete in February.

'There was so much I had to leave out,' he says. 'It's a chance for me tell the full story."

Mr. Paul and Mr. Straczynski worked independently. They were unaware of each other's efforts until earlier this year. Mr. Paul's book focuses on Gordon
Stewart Northcott, whereas Mr. Straczynski's Changeling screenplay focuses on Christine Collins.

I am the principle author of the Wikipedia article on the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders. The article needs to be updated in light of the recent availability of information on the case.

Sincerely, Dan Dassow (