The Strange Case of Bobby Dunbar

On August 23, 1912, Percy and Lessie Dunbar loaded up their two young sons and left their home in Opelousas, Louisiana, for a camping trip at nearby Swayze Lake. That night, 4-year-old Bobby Dunbar wandered away from the family’s tent and disappeared. A search party soon tracked him to the lakeside, and authorities concluded that he had fallen into the water and drowned. However, a day or so later, Bobby’s hat was discovered some distance away from the lake, and people began to wonder if he might have been kidnapped. Percy Dunbar offered a $6,000 reward ($167,000 today) for information about the missing boy, and on April 13, 1913, police arrested William Cantwell Walters near Columbia, Miss. Walters was accompanied by a young boy the same age and general appearance as Bobby Dunbar. Walters claimed the boy was Bruce Anderson, the son of Julia Anderson, a caregiver to Walters' parents. Anderson later confirmed that she had given permission for her son to travel with Walters. The whole story sounded suspicious, so the Dunbars traveled to Mississippi to see if they could identify the boy. As odd as it may sound, Mrs. Dunbar said she just wasn’t sure if the boy was Bobby. She finally said she recognized some familiar moles and scars and declared the boy was, indeed, her son Bobby. A judge agreed and the family took him home. Walters was convicted of kidnapping, but was released after two years in jail. Bobby remained with the Dunbars, married and had a family, and passed away in 1966. Many years later, his granddaughter submitted to a DNA test. The results show that Bobby Dunbar was, in fact, Julia Anderson’s son Bruce. Whatever happened to the real Bobby Dunbar remains a mystery today.