Gordon Stewart Northcott

Gordon Stewart Northcott (November 9, 1906 – October 2, 1930) was a Canadian serial killer, child rapist, and child abductor who was convicted of the murders of three young boys in California and confessed to the murders of nine in total. Sentenced to death, he was executed on October 2, 1930.

Gordon Stewart Northcott
Gordon Stewart Northcott booking photo from September 19, 1928.png
Northcott in 1928
Born(1906-11-09)November 9, 1906
Died (aged 23)
Cause of deathExecution by hanging
Criminal statusExecuted
Conviction(s)First degree murder (3 counts)
Criminal penaltyDeath
Victims3 confirmed (confessed to 9; implicated in 1)
Span of crimes
Date apprehended
September 19, 1928


Gordon Stewart Northcott was born in Bladworth, Saskatchewan, and raised in British Columbia. He moved to Los Angeles with his parents in 1924.

Northcott asked his father to purchase a plot of land in Wineville, California. On this land, he built a chicken ranch and a house with the help of his father—who was in the construction business—and his nephew, Sanford Clark. It was under this pretext that Northcott brought Sanford from Bladworth to the United States.

Wineville Chicken Coop murdersEdit

While residing at his chicken ranch, Northcott abducted an undetermined number of boys and molested them. Typically, after molesting them, he would drive the victims home and let them go. Four of them, however, he murdered at the ranch.

Canadian police arrested Northcott and his mother on September 19, 1928.[1] Due to errors in the extradition paperwork, they were not returned to Los Angeles until November 30.[2][3] Northcott was implicated in the murder of Walter Collins, but because Northcott's mother had confessed to murdering Collins and had been sentenced for it, the state chose not to prosecute Northcott in that murder (however Collins’s murder is still referred to as unsolved as there is no substantial evidence for his being at the farm even though Northcott’s mother has confessed).[4]

It was speculated that Northcott may have killed as many as 20 boys, but the state of California could not produce evidence to support that speculation. Ultimately, the state only brought an indictment against Northcott for the murders of an unidentified underage Mexican national later to be identified as Alvin Gothea—known as the "Headless Mexican"—and the brothers Lewis and Nelson Winslow (aged 12 and 10, respectively).[5] The brothers had been reported missing from Pomona on May 16, 1928.[6]

In early 1929, Northcott's trial was held before Judge George R. Freeman in Riverside County, California. The jury heard that he kidnapped, molested, tortured, and murdered the Winslow brothers and the "Headless Mexican" in 1928. On February 8, the 27-day trial ended with Northcott being convicted of those murders. On February 13, Freeman sentenced him to death.[7] He was hanged on October 2, 1930, at San Quentin State Prison.[8][9] On the day of his execution, Northcott became so nervous that he had to be blindfolded for the walk to the gallows. During the walk, he collapsed and had to be supported by two guards. As he neared the gallows, he began begging for his life. As the rope was adjusted around Northcott's neck, his last words were "Don't, don't." The rope used for the execution was too slack to cause breakage of the neck, and it took thirteen minutes for Northcott to die from strangulation.[10][11]

Popular cultureEdit

Clint Eastwood directed Changeling in 2008, and Gordon Northcott was portrayed by Jason Butler Harner.[12][13]

American Horror Story referenced Northcott in season 5, Hotel. Maid Hazel Evers’s (Mare Winningham) son is abducted and killed upon the farm.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Murder Farm' Fugitive Held: Young Northcott Arrested by Canadian Police Mother Also Believed to be in Their Custody Blood Found on Suspects' Ranch Called Human". Los Angeles Times. 1928-09-20. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  2. ^ "Error in Extradition Papers to Delay Northcott's Return: Officers Go On To See Suspect State Aides Discover Flaws in Legal Documents Burying Alive Charge Laid to Sanford Clark Examination Continues of "Death Farm" Clews". Los Angeles Times. 1928-09-26. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  3. ^ "Youth's Nerves At High Tension: Northcott Embarrassed on Debarking from Train Request for Picture Brings Defiant Refusal Prisoner Lodged in Cell That Housed Hickman". Los Angeles Times. 1928-11-30. Retrieved 2010-04-24.
  4. ^ Paul, James Jeffrey. Nothing is Strange with You: The Life and Crimes of Gordon Stewart Northcott. Bloomington, Indiana: Xlibris. p. 141. ISBN 978-1436366267.
  5. ^ "Northcott Convicted of Slaying Three Boys; His Last Dramatic Plea Fails to Move Jury". The New York Times. February 7, 1929. Retrieved January 16, 2008.
  6. ^ Wetsch, Elisabeth (1995). "Chicken Murders". Serial Killer Crime Index. Archived from the original on 2012-01-06. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
  7. ^ "Northcott put in Doomed Row: Slayer Becomes No. 46,597 at San Quentin Meeting With "Mother" May be Arranged Later Youth "Wisecracks" About Forthcoming Hanging". Los Angeles Times. February 13, 1929. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
  8. ^ Kurz, John (1988-12-15). "Mira Loma History, Riverside County, California: Wineville Chicken Murders". Rubidoux Historical Society. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
  9. ^ Gribben, Mark (2007-02-27). "Poetic Justice". The Malefactor's Register. Retrieved 2008-01-26.
  10. ^ http://www.decidedlygrim.net/?p=7472
  11. ^ "MFDJ 06/14/2020: THE FOOL DEFENDING HIMSELF". www.decidedlygrim.net. Retrieved 2022-03-25.
  12. ^ "Changeling". Universal Studios official website. Archived from the original on 2 February 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  13. ^ King, Susan (7 September 2008). "Changeling actor reveres his boss: Clint Eastwood". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 11 October 2008. Retrieved 5 September 2008.