The Changeling


Having recently lost his wife and young daughter in a tragic car accident, composer John Russell (GEORGE C. SCOTT) packs up his belongings and flees New York to take a teaching position in Seattle. With the help of local historical society worker Claire Norman (TRISH VAN DEVERE), John moves into the Chestnut House, a dilapidated mansion that makes the BURNT OFFERINGS estate look like a bungalow. It doesn’t take too long for Russell to realize that he is not the sole occupant of the manor as faucets start running and doors start slamming. After he’s almost taken out by a flying shard of stained glass from a dormer window, John discovers a hidden room in the attic complete with an old-timey wicker wheelchair suitable for a dead child. Faster than you can say microfiche machine, John enlists Claire to help him research the history of the house at the local library. They learn that a child living in the house was a coal cart hit-and-run victim, however she’s not the one behind the haunting. A subsequent séance reveals that the child’s name is actually Joseph, and John spends the rest of the movie in full-on Sherlock Holmes mode as he connects the supernatural activity going down in Chestnut House with prominent Senator Joseph Carmichael (MELVYN DOUGLAS). With its noticeable lack of special effects, aside from the occasional touch of pyrotechnics, THE CHANGELING is an old-fashioned, bump-in-the-night ghost story. GEORGE C. SCOTT’s grounded performance as a grieving man seeking solace for both himself and the kid haunting his house keeps the plotline, especially in the second half of the flick, from bordering too far on the absurd. Okay, maybe the ending was a little out there with the Senator being in two places at the same time, but SCOTT makes the suspension of disbelief worthwhile. 


  • The infamous rubber ball that returns from the river to bounce the stairs and scare the shit out of John
  • The monotone voice and spastic penmanship of the medium conducting the séance
  • The little girl sees the apparition of a drowned boy in the floor of her bedroom
  • Claire tumbles down the stairs after being mercilessly terrorized by the wicker wheelchair
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Did you die in this house, Joseph?
Did you die in this house, Joseph?
15 years ago

This movie scared the crap out of me when I first saw it on the WXON Primetime Movies at age ten! The worst part was that scene where the little girl sees Joseph under the floor of her bedroom. To this day, I fast forward through that part on the DVD!

Amanda By Night
14 years ago

This is probably one of the best ghost films ever made, and dammit, just one of the best movies in general. Even with all the spooking about, what always got me about this film was how moving it was. There is scene where George C. Scott is just crying in bed (shortly before some disturbing pipe banging erupts) and it’s just SO DAMN effective.  Very moving film with extraordinary acting and a good, solid story.

Gawd, I MISS the 70s & 80s.

14 years ago

This is a GREAT Hororr movie, one of the best I’ve ever seen. The thing that confuses me is I never even HEARD of this movie til I was in my thirties! Why is it not sitting side-by-side with stuff like THE EXORCIST, THE SHINING  and THE OMEN (y’know , that Horror 101 stuff thats Required Viewing!)

This movie had a lot of scares in it but I think the simplest one is what makes you realize JUST have creepy and well done the movie is: They managed to make a RUBBER BALL scary! 

14 years ago

I ended up with the a copy of the theatrical poster for this film (and “Halloween II”) after a storage room was cleaned out at my university. I have to say, “The Changeling” poster is pretty awesome but not something I feel like looking at very closely in the middle of the night.

13 years ago

Awesome, awesome, awesome. The film starts with a totally realistic car accident, and doesn’t let up on the believability factor one bit, which is so important in films of this type. Maybe, the big problem with some of these newer movies?

Silver Fang
10 years ago

Great movie. One of the few that scared me as a kid that still spooks me as an adult.

The scene where Joseph manifests himself to that little girl in her bedroom still scares me too much to watch.

Minor quibble: The name of the manor is the Chessman House, not the Chestnut House.

2 years ago

An underrated classic that would’ve done much better at the box office had it not been released during the dawn of slasher movie mania…

Last edited 2 years ago by sixtwo