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Cedar Rapids Gazette


Article published: Oct 31, 2008
Marion boy's disappearance part of 'Changeling'

A story of murder and corruption with a connection to Marion is featured in the new film "Changeling."

The movie is based on the true events surrounding the disappearance of Walter Collins in Los Angeles in March 1928.

Three months later, thousands of miles from Los Angeles, another boy disappeared in Marion — Arthur Hutchens Jr., 11. Arthur had left a note saying he was "going for a hike" but didn't return, according to a Sept. 21, 1928, Gazette article.

The two vanishings would soon become intertwined.

A boy authorities said was Walter was found in DeKalb, Ill. The boy said he had escaped and was making his way back to the coast. Upon his return to Los Angeles, his mother, Christine, insisted that he was not her child. Based on claims that she was crazy, the boy's mother was committed to the psychiatric ward at a Los Angeles hospital.

However, authorities soon discovered the boy's true identity — he was the missing Marion boy, Arthur, posing as the missing Collins boy in order to get a free trip to Los Angeles. He had run away from home.

Arthur lived with only his father after his mother died. According to the elder Hutchens, Arthur had been scolded the day he ran away. Why he was thought to be the Collins boy is unclear, although some accounts suggest a hoax by the Los Angeles Police Department, which was under fire for corruption at the time.

It was later determined that Walter had probably been the victim of serial killer Gordon Northcott, who was alleged to have killed several boys at a farm, which came to be dubbed the "murder farm."

Clint Eastwood directed "Changeling," which stars Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins.

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