The Changeling (1980)

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A man haunted by the death of his family moves into a house which is haunted by a ghost that demands justice.


Horror, Supernatural


John Russell - George C. Scott

Claire Norman - Trish Van Devere

Senator Carmichael - Melvyn Douglas

Joanna Russell - Jean Marsh

Captain DeWitt - John Colicos

Parapsychologist - Barry Morse

Mrs. Norman - Madeleine Thornton-Sherwood

Leah Harmon - Helen Burns

Mrs. Grey - Frances Hyland

Minnie Huxley - Ruth Springford

Albert Harmon - Eric Christmas

Eva Lingstrom - Roberta Maxwell

Robert Lingstrom - Bernard Behrens

Eugene Carmichael - James B. Douglas

Security Guard - J. Kenneth Campbell

Mr. Tuttle - C.M. Gampel

Joseph Carmichael - Voldi Way

Kathy Russell - Michelle Martin

Linda Grey - Janne Mortil

Sergeant Durban - Terence Kelly

Archives Clerk - Robert Monroe

Coroner - Hagan Beggs

Secretary - Anna Hagan

Estancia - Antonia Rey

Doorman - Sammy Smith

Tony Grey - Paul Rothery

Security Guard - Bruce MacLeod

Airport Guard - Fred Latremouille

Microfilm Clerk - David Peevers

Sara Lingstrom - Sera Johnstone

Adam Lingstrom - Adam Earle

Music Students - Carl Boychuk, Bryan King, Susan Round, and Nicki Steida

Pilots - Randolph Blankinship and Travis Major

Character thumbnails with links to profiles

Detailed Synopsis

On November 27th in Upstate New York near Hollyburn Ridge, John Russell, Joanna Russell and Kathy Russell are pushing their car along the road. They push it past a phone booth and John walks over to call for help. Joanna and Kathy start playing in the snow as a car and a gravel truck start coming at each other in opposite directions. The car starts to skid out of control when it hits ice and as John is struggling to open the door of the phone booth, he watches as the gravel truck crashes into his car sending it into Joanna and Kathy. He returns to New York City and the Doorman opens the door at his apartment complex. The Doorman then offers to help John if he needs any help. John walks into his apartment and stares at the moving boxes piled up. As Estancia is talking to him, he has a flashback of Kathy playing with a red and white striped ball. The same ball falls out of one of the boxes and John tells Estancia that the ball is also going to Seattle with the rest of the stuff.

On March 4th, John lands in Seattle. He meets up with Eva Lingstrom and Robert Lingstrom. John tells them how after some time he admitted to himself that Joanna and Kathy were dead and decided he needed to go back to work and Robert tells him he has set up a meeting with some faculty at the University of Seattle. Eva tells John that everyone at the university is excited to have him working there. Sara Lingstrom and Adam Lingstrom run into the house and Eva tells them to go and get some cookies. Eva offers to let him stay with them, and after he tells her he is looking to rent a house, she tells him about her friend Claire Norman who might know of a house he can rent. John meets up with Claire and they drive up to the Chessman Park House, which was last occupied twelve years ago. They enter the house and after seeing the size of it and wondering how much it takes to maintain, Claire tells him they have a man named Mr. Tuttle that maintains the houses. Claire then shows him the piano that was left in the house. The house is cleaned up and John moves in. Mr. Tuttle tells John there is a man to deliver a water tank and after John leaves, the piano he was playing, suddenly plays a note on its own. John starts to teach a course on Advanced Musical Form. While at a charity event for the local symphony with Robert and Eva, John runs into Claire, who introduces him to her mother, Mrs. Norman. Mrs. Norman asks him how he is liking the house and as they are talking, an announcement is made introducing Senator Carmichael and his son Eugene Carmichael. Carmichael gives a speech and John and Claire toast each other.

John wakes up to a banging noise. As he is playing the piano, the door suddenly opens and when John asks Mr. Tuttle if there is anyone else at the home, Mr. Tuttle tells him no. Claire stops by to drop some things off and as she is looking at some of the furniture she finds Kathy's ball. John and Claire go riding together and he has a flashback to when Joanna and Kathy were killed. He wakes up crying later and starts to hear banging again. Mr. Tuttle stops by and tells him it was just the furnace. John holds a class with a group of Music Students at his house and after they leave, he thinks he hears something and finds the sink on. He turns it off, but the noise continues and he goes upstairs to the third floor. He finds the tub filling with water and after he shuts it off, he thinks he sees a kid under the water. He goes to the Historical Society and asks Claire if anyone else has reported anything weird in the house. Minnie Huxley tells Claire that she has a call and after Claire leaves, Minnie tells John that the Chessman Park House never should have been rented out and the house doesn't want people living in it. As John is leaving the house, a window shatters. He goes into a closet and finds an area boarded up. He breaks the wood off and breaks a lock on a door. He enters the room and finds it full of cobwebs and dust. He finds an old journal dating from 1909, a music box and a wheelchair. John brings the music box downstairs and plays it for Claire and mentions how it is the same melody as the one he was writing. He tells her he thinks something wanted him to find the hidden room. John and Claire go over the deed records for the home and discover Carmichael donated the house to the Preservation Society, but the earliest deed records are missing. Minnie tells them that a doctor sold the house in 1909 after a family tragedy.

They to the library where a Microfilm Clerk pulls out the record for the 1909 Seattle Daily News. Claire and John find an article about a Dr. Walter Barnard who had a daughter named Cora who was struck and killed by a coal cart. They go to the cemetery and find Cora's gravestone and John wonders why something in the house is trying to contact him. As John is looking through a photo album, Kathy's ball bounces down the stairs. He drives the ball to a bridge and throws it into the water. When he returns home, the ball bounces down the stairs. He goes to talk to a Parapsychologist at the university who tells him of some psychics who he has tested and have astonishing powers. John holds a seance with Leah Harmon and Albert Harmon, while Claire and Mrs. Norman watch. They record the seance and Leah tells him the house is reaching out to him and she starts to write on pieces of paper. The entity reveals itself to be Joseph Carmichael and asks John for help. A glass suddenly flies into the air and shatters against a cupboard. John listens to the audio recording of the seance and hears a boy's voice that says he was killed in his room. A flashback occurs showing Joseph being drowned by his father in his tub. John Calls Claire and collapses after he asks her to come to the house. Claire listens to the recording and after John tells her he started writing on the paper Sacred Heart, she tells him that there used to be an orphanage by that name that closed down. The wheelchair suddenly appears on the top of the stairs and slightly moves.

Senator Carmichael arrives at his headquarters with Security Guard 1 and Security Guard 2. The Secretary tells Senator Carmichael, Minnie has been calling him. Minnie calls Senator Carmichael and tells him John and Claire have been looking up information on the Chessman Park home. They read about Joseph Carmichael who suffered from an illness, but was miraculously cured when he returned from Switzerland. John then figures out that the real Joseph was replaced by a changeling from an orphanage after being murdered and secretly buried. John goes to the hall of records and the Archives Clerk shows him a Sanborn map where the Carmichael Ranch used to be. John goes to where the ranch used to be and knocks on the door of the house and finds a newsletter from the Early Music Guild with a Mrs. Grey's name on it. John tells Claire that he found out if Joseph died before 21 years of age then all of the money from the Spencer estate would be given to charity instead of Joseph's father. John and Claire return to the Grey house and Mrs. Grey tells them that three nights ago when they had their seance, her daughter, Linda Grey woke up from a nightmare and had seen a boy climbing out of the floor. She tells him she knows he wants to tear up her floor, but she will have to think about it. During the night, Linda gets out of bed and goes into the room and where the well used to be and screams when she sees Joseph Carmichael floating in water. Mrs. Grey calls John who with the help of Tony Grey start digging in the well. Claire goes to the house and eventually John finds the remains of Joseph Carmichael. A Coroner continues to dig, but doesn't find anything besides the remains. Sergeant Durban starts questioning John and John lies about not knowing who the remains belong to. Claire, the Greys and the police leave and John breaks into the Grey house. He continues to dig inside of the well and finds Joseph's medallion.

He shows it to Claire and she suggests he show it to the police, but he doesn't think the police will care. John drives to the airport and is grabbed by the Airport Guard. John pulls out the medallion and shows it to Senator Carmichael, but is dragged away by the Airport Guard and Security Guard 2. Eugene asks who John was and Senator Carmichael says he doesn't know. Senator Carmichael then tells one of the Pilots to contact Captain DeWitt and have him call him. Senator Carmichael then looks at an almost identical medallion that he has. John returns home and the doors start to slam shut and he yells at the spirit and demands to know what he wants. Captain DeWitt goes to John's home and starts questioning him and mentions how Sergeant Durban was told by John that he didn't know who the remains belonged to. Captain DeWitt then accuses John of trying to blackmail Senator Carmichael. John tells Captain DeWitt to leave his house and DeWitt tells him Senator Carmichael thinks he has the Senator's family heirloom. Claire comes into the house and before leaving DeWitt threatens to come back with a warrant to get the medallion. Claire then tells John that the Historical Preservation Society have cancelled his lease and have forced her to resign. As John is looking for a place to hide the medallion, he stops to stare at a mirror, which explodes and he has a vision of DeWitt.

Claire calls him and tells him she just saw a crashed vehicle with DeWitt dead inside of it. Senator Carmichael returns to Seattle and finds out DeWitt is dead. He then agrees to meet with John. Security Guard 1 takes John to see Senator Carmichael. Claire tries to call John, but gets no answer. John tells Senator Carmichael about what he knows and then pulls out the medallion and puts it on Senator Carmichael's desk. He then tells Carmichael that he believes the real Joseph was killed in the house by Richard Carmichael, and then the Senator was put in his place. Carmichael thinks John is trying to blackmail him and Carmichael defends Richard. John gives Carmichael all of the evidence he has and leaves as Carmichael threatens him not to tell anyone. Claire arrives at the Chessman Park house and goes looking for John. As she is looking for him, she is chased by the wheelchair around the house. John gets to the house and pulls her outside. John runs back into the house and falls from the second floor. Carmichael looks at the medallions and throws away the one he had. He places it on his portrait of his father and the desk starts to shake. His spirit transports to the Chessman Park home and walks up the now burning stairs to Joseph's room. John leaves the house and drives away with Claire. The spirit of Carmichael then watches his father murder the real Joseph and Carmichael has a heart attack and dies. John and Claire return to Carmichael's home and see his body being wheeled into an ambulance. As the ambulance drives, it passes the burning Chessman Park home, which burns to the ground, except the music box, which suddenly starts playing.