Unsolved Historical Mysteries: The Disappearance of Bobby Dunbar

In August of 1912, a four-year-old boy named Bobby Dunbar disappeared during a family fishing trip to Swayze Lake in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. The boy was found eight months later in Mississippi and reunited with his parents. Or was it?

During a nationwide search for Bobby, authorities received a report that a boy matching his description was traveling with a handyman named William Cantwell Walters. When interrogated by the police, Walters claimed that the boy was actually named Bruce and that his mother, Julia Anderson, gave him custody over him. However, his story was dismissed, and the boy was sent to Louisiana to be identified by the Dunbar family.

Different reports in newspapers gave different reports about what happened next. While some reported that Bobby instantly recognized his mother, Lessie, and that the two embraced, others reported that the boy cried and that Lessie was unsure whether he was her son. Lessie was allowed to bathe the boy the next day and said she was convinced he was Bobby by identifying his moles and scars.

In the meantime, Anderson came to Louisiana to confirm Walters’s story that the boy was her own son, Bruce. However, after failing to identify him from a lineup of five boys of similar age and physical characteristics, which included Bobby/Bruce, her claims were rejected.

Dunbars fully accepted the boy as their missing son while Walters was jailed for kidnapping. Walters later appealed and received a new trial, which prosecutors decided not to pursue. Anderson never stopped claiming the boy was her son, but unable to afford a lawyer, she was forced to accept the fact he was living with a new family. But the story doesn’t end there.

The boy spent his entire life living as Bobby Dunbar, got married, had four children, and died in 1966. However, intrigued by the story, his granddaughter Margaret Dunbar Cutright decided to launch her own investigation about the disappearance of Bobby Dunbar, which caused her to believe the boy who returned to the Dunbars wasn’t actually him. 

In 2004, Bob Dunbar Jr., the son of Bobby/Bruce, accepted to undergo a DNA test. The test ended up showing that he had no relations with his cousin, who was the son of Alonzo Dunbar, the younger brother of Bobby Dunbar.

Was Isaac Newton’s Theory of Gravitation Inspired By an Apple Falling From a Tree?

Even people who are not interested in science are familiar with the story of an apple falling from a tree, which inspired famous English...

Should William Shakespeare’s Authorship of His Plays and Sonnets Be Questioned?

William Shakespeare wrote 39 plays, 154 sonnets, and three narrative poems over the course of his life. However, some believe that Shakespeare didn’t actually...

Let’s Take a Look at the French Revolution

The French Revolution, which began in 1789, is one of the most significant events in modern history. It marked a break from the historical...