Real World Horror

Real World Horror: Bobby Dunbar

Bobby Dunbar

Today I am writing to you to talk about the Disappearance of Bobby Dunbar.

You may be familiar with this story, especially if you’ve seen the Clint Eastwood film changeling, which was inspired by these events.

Four-year-old Bobby Dunbar went missing in 1912, during a trip to Swayze Lake. The disappearance was big news and the police went to extreme means to find the lost boy, including but not limited to blowing up the lake (aka throwing dynamite into the lake).

Eight months after Bobby vanished everyone was losing hope of ever knowing what happened to him and the police were at risk of looking like failures. But an arrest was made, a man named William Cantwell was taken into custody as he had a young boy with him who matched Bobby’s description.

The boy claimed to be Bruce Anderson, son of Julia Anderson. Despite this the police took him to Bobby’s home where Bobby’s parents confirmed this was not their son. Bruce did not recognise Bobby’s parents or his brother.

Photo by Pixabay on

However, after meeting Bruce a second time and bathing him Bobby’s mother changed her mind, and claimed this was Bobby, that she recognised him now.

Julia Anderson travelled to claim her son but was put under an undue amount of stress and pressure which caused her to fail to pick Bruce out of a line up of similar boys.

And so Bruce effectively became Bobby.

In 1999 the truth was revealed, when a descendant, Margaret Dunbar Cutwright carried out research and had her father and his cousin (Bobby’s brother’s son) undergo DNA tests which revealed that the two were not blood related. Bruce Anderson was not Bobby Dunbar.

This is a very sad story, two mothers lost their children and the authorities seemed more interested in keeping their record looking good than getting to the truth. While this is not as dramatic as a lot of film/TV/Book horror, it is deeply unsettling due to the truth of the matter.