Walter Collins Impostor – Changeling


Walter Collins Impostor - Changeling​The strange case of the Walter Collins impostor was recently covered in a blockbuster movie called Changeling ( Angelina Jolie ). His body was never recovered and his mother never gave up hope that he would someday return home…


On 10th March 1928, 9-year-old Walter Collins disappeared without a trace after his mother had allowed him to purchase a ticket to the local theater.

Shortly afterwards the there was a huge media explosion on the incident and the nation got behind Walter’s petrified mother. There was a national campaign launched to locate the missing boy.

Lack of Evidence

No matter how hard they tried – the police could not turn up anything on his whereabouts.

He was allegedly spotted as far north as San Francisco and Oakland. One report claimed he was spotted at a Glendale gas station in the back seat of a car, wrapped in newspaper with only his head showing.

Walter’s dad was in prison at the time of his disappearance and there were rumors that former inmates might have snatched up the boy as a form of revenge.

The Walter Collins Impostor

In August of that same year a young boy claiming to be Robert handed himself over to Illinois authorities. His mother was overjoyed and payed a high price to transport her missing son back to Los Angeles.

Her joy was short lived – the boy looked a lot like her son but he was certainly not Walter.

The police had already closed the case and were receiving a great deal of credit for returning the boy. They did not want the public to find out they had failed.

Walter Collins (left) and Arthur Hutchins
Walter Collins (left) and Arthur Hutchins

They forced Collins to take the boy into her home and ‘try him out’. She was emotionally drained and could not take any more pain – she took this young impostor home with her.

She lasted three weeks before the emotion of the charade overwhelmed her. She returned the boy to the authorities and told them he was not her son.


LAPD Capt. J.J. Jones was not at all happy that Collins had returned the boy to the authorities. He refused to believe he was not her son and claimed she was an evil mother.

Collins had brought with her son’s dental records and a group of close friends who all backed up her claims that this boy was not Walter.

He paid no attention whatsoever to the evidence and committed her to the Los Angeles County General Hospital’s psychiatric ward for evaluation.

She was only in the hospital for five days as Jones finally managed to extract the truth from the Walter Collins impostor.

The boy was actually named Arthur Hutchins and he was a 12 year old runaway from Iowa. He had left a miserable family life to live on the road completing odd jobs for money.

He had heard about Walter’s disappearance as he sat eating food in a roadside diner. One of the customers there told young Arthur that he looked a lot like the missing boy.

Arthur then saw an opportunity to see Hollywood so he turned himself in to authorities and carried out the charade of being Walter.

The heat was now on Capt. Jones and his department so he then claimed that they had finally solved the case. He linked Walter’s disappearance to the victims of Gordon Stewart Northcott and his mother.

These two psychopaths had recently been charged with the abuse and murder of 11 young children on their ranch in Wineville ( now Mira Loma ).

Walter’s body was never found and his mother never gave up hope that he was out there somewhere and would one day return…

If you have any thoughts or opinions on this subject please leave them in the comment section below.

4 comments on “Walter Collins Impostor – Changeling

  1. When they found the remains at the ranch. Did they ever find Walters remains or his dental records. Or from the changeling does the boy (samford) who confessed participation initially ever say for sure they killed Walter? Someone please email me if they ha e he answer thanks

    1. No I don’t think there was any proof of Walter ever being there Zak ( on the ranch ). This is why his mother never lost hope of him someday returning. It could well be that the authorities just linked him to the ranch in another attempt to close the case. It’s all very sad really.
      Thanks for stopping by Zak,
      Look forward to speaking with you again 🙂

  2. This “Sanford” boy was there at the ranch through it all, have the authorities tried questioning him about Walter??? He himself was a victim and her saw the boy. He could have cleared up the misunderstanding. Surely a mother knows her own child. With proof in hand and folks behind her to back up her claim that the imposter was NOT her son, what right did Captain jj Jones have to have her committed? I would have certainly sued his pants off.

    1. Hi Alexis,
      I’m not really sure how raising a case for compensation worked back in those days but I’m pretty sure it would of been difficult for a woman to achieve!

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