The Death of Alfalfa


Because of the notoriety of his death, people are still interested in what happened to Alfalfa. What happened to him? Was he killed in a bar fight? Was he shot in a dispute over $50 owed to him? Read about his death based on newspaper stories from the time. Remember that newspaper reporters are entitled to make mistakes based on the limited information they are given by the police, so you may find conflicting stories of what really happened.


See the house where Alfalfa was killed at the bottom of this page!

Here are some confusing facts that remain:

Some questions that remain:
Here's a great new story from a live witness to the crime!!

Witness recalls the sad, simple truth of Alfalfa's death

by Colleen Cason
Scripps Howard News Service
From the Philadelphia Daily News, January 25, 2001

The life of a Little Rascal who grew into a troubled man faded to black 42 years ago last Sunday. Carl Switzer, who as the scrawny, saucer-eyed Alfalfa of the "Our Gang" comedies made America laugh, came to an unhappy end - shot dead over $50.

For Tom Corrigan of Thousand Oaks, Calif., that night stands out like young Alfalfa's cowlick. He was just a few feet from Switzer when the fatal shot was fired.

A coroner's jury ruled Corrigan's stepfather, Moses S. "Bud" Stiltz, acted in self-defense, but that's not how the then-14-year-old Corrigan saw it.

"It was more like murder," said Corrigan, today a 56-year-old restaurateur who sports the 10-gallon hats of his late father, western movie star Ray "Crash" Corrigan.

Corrigan rarely speaks of the night of Jan. 21, 1959, but, surprised to hear the Internet brims with conspiracy theories about the death of the man he called Alfie, he agreed to go on the record. While Web postings claim Alfie used a police badge to bluff his way into the house and that he was killed over a drug deal, the truth is simpler and sadder.

Just before dark on that January day, Tom heard a knock on the front door. Then Alfie said, "Western Union for Bud Stiltz." Tom recognized the voice instantly. Although Alfie was 32, his voice deepened only slightly from the cracking twang of his Little Rascals days.

Alfie had been around Tom's family as long as he could remember. Crash Corrigan and Alfie had a mutual friend in TV cowboy Roy Rogers. Washed up as a child star at 14, Alfie tended bar and along with Rogers guided celebrities on bear hunts. Young Tom worked at Rogers' Chatsworth skeet-shooting range. He often hung out with Alfie, stopping with him at the dingy bars that dotted the long boulevards of the San Fernando Valley.

Although Rogers landed Alfie small parts in movies, the rural Illinois kid who starred in 61 of the "Our Gang" comedies was broke. Syndicators were making millions running the shows on television, but not a cent was going to the gang.

Rita Corrigan opened the door to find Alfie drunk and demanding. By now, Tom Corrigan had come into the living room.

Alfie swore he would beat Stiltz. With him was Jack Piott, a 37-year-old bit actor. Alfie and Stiltz had feuded for months over a debt.

Alfie had borrowed one of Stiltz's hounds for a hunting trip near Lake Shasta. The dog chased after a bear and disappeared. A rancher found the dog and wanted a $50 reward. Alfie believed Stiltz should pay because it was his dog. When Stiltz refused to hand over the cash, Alfie was forced to borrow the money or lose the dog.

"It just got to be a principle stand with Alfie," remembers Corrigan. "He was feeling down and out and thought Bud should cover it."

For his part, Stiltz decided he wanted more than principle on his side. He greeted Alfie that night with a .38-caliber revolver in his hand.

Stiltz was not a man to be trifled with. Crash Corrigan hired the 38-year-old St. Louis tough guy as a bodyguard when he received death threats after a business deal went sour. In addition to supplying muscle, Stiltz was a crack mechanic and welder - skills that came in handy at Corriganville, the movie set and tourist attraction Crash built near the California town of Simi Valley. But Stiltz was the proverbial fox guarding the henhouse. It wasn't long before Rita Corrigan left her husband for him.

Corrigan readily admits he never liked his stepdad. "He was mean. He'd push me around. I never knew what my mother saw in him."

So it was no shock to young Tom when a brawl broke out over the gun that night. While Alfie wrestled for control of the weapon, Piott broke a glass-dome clock over Stiltz's head. His eye swelled shut.

The gun went off. Tom screamed. A piece of plaster from the hole blown in the wall or shrapnel from the bullet grazed his leg. Tom's two younger sisters ran to the neighbors' house to call the police.

The room got dead quiet. "Well, we shot Tommy, enough of this," he remembers Alfie saying as he and Piott retreated. Tom had just stepped out the front door when he heard the gun go off in the entryway behind him. He didn't see Stiltz shoot Alfie. But he turned and saw Alfie - a surprised look on his still-freckled face - sliding down the wall. He had been shot in the groin.

It was then Corrigan spotted a closed penknife at Alfie's side. He figured it either fell out of his fist or his pocket.

Stiltz backed Piott against the kitchen counter and threatened to kill him. Piott pleaded for his life. Rita Corrigan begged her husband not to shoot. Stiltz didn't fire. Corrigan thinks he would have if he hadn't heard the emergency sirens wailing in the distance.

But in the days that followed, he might have wished he had. Piott's version of events bore little resemblance to Stiltz's account. Stiltz claimed Alfie came after him with a knife, screaming he was going to kill him. Stiltz said Alfie managed to close the weapon as he fell after being shot. Corrigan knew that was a lie.

A now-deceased Los Angeles Police Department detective, Pat Poe, interviewed Corrigan and asked if he would tell a judge what he saw. Although afraid of his stepdad, he agreed to testify.

He was never called. A coroner's jury bought Stiltz's version and cleared him a few days after the shooting.

"He didn't have to kill him," Corrigan said. He pointed to a bearskin rug above the bar of his Thousand Oaks Boulevard steakhouse. "Alfie gave that to me when I was 11. He said I was too old for a teddy bear so he'd give me a real bear."

Tom Corrigan is not the only one to remember what happened 42 years ago. Every Christmas until Bud Stiltz died in 1984, he received a card signed "Alfie."

Patrick:This new story closes a lot of questions that everyone has had surrounding this story!

Thanks to LAScandals for the articles below. These are the old stories that have been published surrounding that fateful night.


NORTH HOLLYWOOD Calif. Jan. 21 (AP) - Carl Switzer, freckle-faced Alfalfa of the "Our Gang" comedy series, was shot and killed tonight by a friend in an apparent argument over money, the police said.
The off-key singer of the "Our Gang" series was shot in the abdomen by a friend, Bud Stiltz the police reported.
The shooting was preceded by a quarrel over finances involving a bear hunting guide business in which Mr. Stiltz and Mr. Switzer were partners.
Mr. Switzer, 32 years old, accompanied by a friend identified as Jack Pilott, confronted Mr. Stiltz in this San Fernando Valley community and argued with him about an unpaid debt.
Detective H. C. Clark said there was a struggle for a pistol. It discharged, resulting in Mr. Switzer's death, he said.
Until last October Mr. Switzer worked as a bartender in the "Wolfe's Den" in near-by studio city.
He appears in the current picture "The Defiant Ones."
Mr. Switzer's pictures included "General Spanky," "Scandal Street," "Barnyard follies," Reg'lar Fellows," "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage patch," "Going My Way," "State of the Union," "High and the Mighty," and "Dig That Uranium."

The Evening Bulletin - Thursday, January 22, 1959
Alfalfa, "Our Gang" Star, Is Killed In Fight With Friend Over $50 Debt

North Hollywood, Calif. Jan. 22 - (UPI) - Carl (Alfalfa) Switzer, 31, the freckled child actor in the old "Our Gang" movies, was shot and killed last night in a battle over a $50 debt.
His former business partner was booked on suspicion of murder today.
Switzer, who played "Alfalfa", the character in the old series currently being rerun across the nation on television as "The Little Rascals," was shot in the stomach by M. S. (Bud) Stiltz, police reported.
Stiltz, a welder, said the former juvenile star, who in recent years was down on his luck, was threatening him with a knife when he shot him.
Badly Beaten
Stiltz, badly beaten, said Switzer and a friend, Jack Piott, 37, came to the home of Mrs. Rita Corrigan, 38, former wife of stunt man Crash Corrigan, where he was staying and began banging on the door.
"Let me in," Stiltz, said Switzer demanded, "or I'll kick in the door."
Stiltz opened the door to Switzer and Piott.
"I want that 50 bucks you owe me now, and I mean now." Switzer said to Stiltz, his former partner in a bear hunting scheme in which Switzer worked as a guide - one of the varied jobs at which he worked during recent years.
The two men got into a violent argument over the debt involving a reward for the finding of Stiltz's missing dog, then began fighting.
Hit With Clock
During the fight Switzer grabbed a glass-domed clock from a dresser in a bedroom and smashed it on Stiltz's head, Stiltz said.
Stiltz, who was bloodied and had a blackened left eye and a bandage over his right eye, grabbed a gun from a dresser drawer and Switzer made a lunge for it. They wrestled into the living room and the gun went off, the bullet smacking into the ceiling without hitting anyone.
Mrs. Corrigan and her three children, a boy, 14, and two girls aged 12 and 13, who had been in the house during the fight, fled to a neighbor's home to call police.
Switzer, according to Stiltz, got possession of the gun briefly but Stiltz got it back.
Switzer drew a knife and screamed, "I'm going to kill you, you ----," Stiltz said.
(Continued at top of next column!)

Threw Knife
"I took the gun away from Alfalfa and he threw the knife at me," Stiltz said. "That's when I shot him."
A knife was found beside Switzer's body on the living room floor of the ranch-style home.
Stiltz, who said he knew Switzer for about a year and a half, told police, "Alfalfa wanted me to pay him the reward money. Originally he said it was $25 and at one time it was up to $75."
Switzer once was arrested for cutting down Christmas trees in Sequoia National Forest where he had worked as a guide. The actor, who couldn't seem to adjust to a humdrum adult life after his early success, pleaded guilty to the charge and paid a $225 fine. He was given a suspended 30-day jail sentence and placed on probation for one year December 12.
Shot Once Before
A year ago, Switzer suffered a flesh wound in a shooting by an unknown assailant in front of a bar in the San Fernando Valley.
Later, in 1958, he attempted suicide.
Switzer never earned a cent from the numerous reruns of the "Our Gang" series on television.
He was only seven when he signed up with Gordon Douglas, then director of the "Our Gang" comedies, produced by Hal Roach.
Switzer's latest role was in the film, "The Defiant Ones," starring Tony Curtis. He played a top-featured comedy-relief part.
New York Times - Friday, January 23, 1959
Hunting Guide Accused
Charged with Murder in Death of Alfalfa, Once a Child Star

Hollywood, Jan. 22 - (UPI) - A murder complaint was filed today in the death of Carl (Alfalfa) Switzer, freckle-faced member of the "Our Gang" movie series, who was shot to death last night.
Mr. Switzer, 32 years old, a leading figure in the film series now being shown on television as "The Little Rascals," was shot in the stomach by M. S. (Bud) Stiltz, a hunting guide. Mr. Stiltz will be arraigned Jan. 30.
Mr. Stiltz said Mr. Switzer had drawn a knife and that he had shot in self defense. Jack Piott, 37, who was trying to help Mr. Switzer collect a $50 debt from Mr. Stiltz, contended that Mr. Switzer had been unarmed. A knife was found underneath Mr. Switzer's body.

New York Times - January 27, 1959
Suspect Cleared in Shooting of "Our Gang" Comedy Star

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 26 (AP) - The shooting of Carl Switzer, a film actor, during a fight over $50 was justifiable homicide, a coroner's jury ruled today.
Mr. Switzer, 32 years old, knows as Alfalfa, was famed for his role in the "Our Gang" comedy films of a generation ago. They now are on television. Mr. Switzer was a bit player in recent years.
Moses S. Stiltz, 38, a welder testified: "Alfie charged me with a jackknife. I was forced to shoot, and he closed the knife as he fell to the floor."
Testimony brought out that Mr. Switzer and a friend, Jack Piott, 37 had been drinking before they sought out Mr. Stiltz last Wednesday night. They found him at a friend's home and Mr. Switzer demanded $50 that he contended Mr. Stiltz owed him. Mr. Stiltz denied any debt.
They scuffled and Mr. Stiltz got a gun. He said he fired in self defense. Charges against him were dismissed.

His baby pictures tickled generations of kids all over America and in half the world. A head taller than the rest of Our Gang, Alfalfa was a skinny kid with a yo-yo for an Adam's apple, a generous assortment of freckles, and irrepressible cowlick and a trained voice that could consistently sing off-key while he crossed his eyes and blew bubbles. Whatever the misadventures of the lovable, ragtag Gang, a banjo-eyed Alfalfa played them around a boyish screen crush on four-year-old Darla. She responded in kind. The series was a colossal hit.

Between 1935, when he was eight years old, and 1942, when the no-longer-concealable end of adolescence ended his participation in the still-popular series, Carl W. Switzer played his Alfalfa role in 60 Our Gang shorts for Hal Roach. In 1955, along with Spanky, Buckwheat, Darla and Porky, he was introduced to a new generation when the Our Gang pictures were turned into a TV series, The Little Rascals.

But television had been an obscure, experimental novelty in 1935. Switzer and the rest had nothing in their contracts about TV residuals. They never got a dime of the millions the series earned from endless syndication.

Darla Hood gracefully retired from movies at at 14. Switzer hung out at the shabby fringes of the industry. He was a has-been who struggled for bit parts, a star who was washed up before he was old enough to drink. But drink he did. And brood. Switzer, known to his friends as "Alfie," refused to accept that there was no place for him in the Hollywood of the '50's.

Alfie had a few famous friends, among them Roy Rogers and Henry Fonda. He knew them, not from the sound stages, but from the backwoods. To eke out a living, Alfie had become a part-time hunting guide and sometime bartender. His friendship with Rogers got him two minor appearances on The Roy Rogers Show in 1956. Fonda helped steer him to obscure bit parts in The Gas House Kids, Going My Way, and Pat and Mike.

He met, courted and married Kansas heiress Dian Collingwood in 1954. The marriage lasted four months. Hedda Hopper wrote its obituary: "Bear hunting and marriage don't mix."

By the end of 1958, things seemed a little brighter. He got a small supporting role in The Defiant Ones. While his paycheck was modest, his performance in the picture, which was scheduled for release in 1959, showed promise as a comeback vehicle.

But in the meantime Alfie had to earn a living. He borrowed a hunting dog from a friend, Moses S. "Bud" Stiltz, for a hunting expedition he was guiding. But the dog ran off and Stiltz, a welder, was upset. Alfie posted a reward for the animal: $35.00

A few days later, a man called Alfie to claim the money. He delivered the dog to the tavern where Alfie tended bar. Much relieved, Alfie bought him a few drinks. The bar tab came to about $15.00.

In the next weeks the frustration that had dogged Alfie seemed to overwhelm him. He was 32 years old, broke or almost broke, and his long-awaited comeback was on hold until The Defiant Ones was released. Somehow he got it in his head that Bud Stiltz owed him the $50 he'd spent recovering the dog.

He called Stiltz and asked for the money. The welder didn't see things the same way. Alfie had borrowed his dog, and Alfie had lost the dog. If he'd had to spend money to recover the animal, that was Alfie's problem, not his.

But Alfie wasn't in the mood for logic. He wanted the money. He spent most of the night drinking January 22, 1959, with a pal, studio still photographer Jack Piott. Drinking and brooding and drinking, he developed a powerful hatred for Stiltz.

Late in the evening Alfie and Piott rang the doorbell of Stiltz's San Fernando Valley home. Piott flashed a studio prop department badge. "Open up, police!" he shouted. The door opened a crack, and the two visitors pushed their way in.

"I want the fifty bucks you owe me and I want it now," shouted Alfie.

I don't owe you any fifty," screamed Stiltz. "You lost the dog, you pay." Alfie looked around the living room, and his eyes came to rest on a heavy clock under a glass dome. He grabbed the clock, swung it at Stiltz. "I'm gonna take $50 out of your face," he screamed. The clock struck above Stiltz's right eye and blood gushed. The swollen eye began to close.

The welder backed into the bedroom. Alfie followed. Stiltz opened the closet. He reached in and took out a .38 caliber revolver. Alfie grabbed for the gun. It went off, the bullet burying itself harmlessly in the wall.

Alfie shoved Stiltz into the closet and closed the door. He picked up the gun, laid it on the dresser and returned to the living room. "He's trying to kill me," he said to Piott, as he took a switchblade knife out of his pocket. He flicked it open.

He turned his head at the sound of Stiltz returning from the closet. He held the gun in his hand. Alfie brandished his blade. Stiltz fired a bullet that caught Alfie in the stomach. He died en route to the hospital.

"Alfalfa" died on the evening of January 22, 1959. Ordinarily, his shocking death would have been big news. It might have recovered a measure of the recognition he'd been denied during his adult life.

But the fickle gods of filmdom's fame had made other plans. Hollywood's most famous director, Cecil B. DeMille, died the same day, after a long illness. Prepared obituaries and celebrity tributes to DeMille's genius buried the death of Carl Switzer in relative obscurity.

Bud Stiltz was freed after a coroner's inquest ruled the shooting was justifiable homicide.

Switzer was shot at the Stiltz home in Mission Hills. Exit San Diego Freeway (I-405) at Devonshire. Go east past Sepulveda one block to Columbus Avenue, turn north (left). This is a pleasant residential street lined with many producing orange trees, remnants of the orchards that once dotted this community. The house at 10400 Columbus where Alfie Switzer died is a single-story stucco ranch house with a large white trellis covering the front door area.

I recently visited this house. The street is lined with open ranch houses. This house has a picket fence around it, and is covered with trees, and a bar like structure in front of the door. It's as if something is hiding in there!


Carl Switzer lived at 5415 Sepulveda Boulevard, Van Nuys. Exit San Diego Freeway (I-405) at Burbank. Go south on Sepulveda to 5415, on the right side, just before Clark Street. The original property is long gone, replaced by a two-story stucco apartment building with a flagstone entranceway.

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