In the past, we’ve looked back at some mysteries from the United States that still puzzle historians, scholars, and crime buffs. Today, we are traveling north of the border to explore similar conundrums from the history of Canada.
10. The Death of Canada’s Strongest Man
During the 1980s, Adolfo Bresciano entertained audiences as a professional wrestler for the World Wrestling Federation under the name Dino Bravo. Hailed, at times, as “Canada’s Strongest Man,” Bravo portrayed a bad guy who often incorporated anti-American elements to vilify him in the eyes of the public.
Alas, by the early 90s, the strongman’s popularity started to wane. He eventually left the company in 1992 and intended to start training younger wrestlers. However, his plans never came to fruition as on March 10, 1993, Bravo was found dead in his home, sitting in front of a hockey game. The 44-year-old had been shot 17 times in the head & torso.
Rumors soon appeared from other wrestlers who knew Bresciano that their former colleague used ties he had to Canadian organized crime and became involved with a cigarette smuggling ring to supplement his income. Allegedly, Bravo knew his days were numbered because he screwed up and allowed a shipment to get impounded by the police. Of course, all of this is hearsay as his homicide still remains unsolved to this day.
9. The Disappearance of Ambrose Small
Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ontario entrepreneur Ambrose Small made his fortune by opening theaters in several cities throughout the province. On December 1, 1919, Small made the biggest business transaction of his life when he sold all his theater holdings for $1.7 million CAD. Twenty-four hours later, he simply vanished, leaving behind his entire fortune.
The investigation into his disappearance didn’t actually start until early 1920. Small, an unapologetic womanizer, was often in the habit of going away without notice, usually accompanied by a singer or cabaret girl who caught his eye. His wife and his lawyer assumed that the same thing happened on this occasion. It wasn’t until a few weeks had passed without word from him that they became worried enough to alert the police.
At first, it looked like this could be an open & shut case. Soon after Small’s disappearance, his former secretary, James Doughty, also vanished. Not only that, but he was last seen at a bank cashing in bonds worth around $100,000. Clearly, this was suspicious, so police began their search for Doughty and caught up to him in Oregon. He confessed to stealing bonds from his former employer, but investigators found nothing to suggest he had anything to do with Small’s disappearance.
Afterwards, police pursued all the leads they could find. They looked into an alleged plot orchestrated by the widow, Theresa Small. They investigated a claim that the theater magnate had been kidnapped by New York gangsters. Some turned to clairvoyants. Even Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle was presented the case at one point. None of the leads panned out and the ultimate fate of Ambrose Small still remains a mystery.
8. The Ogopogo
There might be something monstrous lurking beneath the waters of Lake Okanagan in British Columbia. Many locals, particularly from the nearby city of Kelowna, are convinced that their waters are home to an ancient lake monster called the Ogopogo.
This cryptid is supposed to be a giant multi-humped serpent, with green and black skin. As with its more famous counterpart, the Loch Ness Monster, sightings of the Ogopogo date back centuries. First Nations natives like the Syilx believed there was a supernatural being that inhabited the lake. Canadian author and pioneer Susan Louisa Moir Allison was the first European to report a sighting of the creature back in the 1870s and these have kept coming ever since.
There are, of course, many skeptics who dismiss the existence of the monster. Among them are folklorists who insist that the Ogopogo only came into being through a misunderstanding between the indigenous people and the early European settlers. The former did not regard the Ogopogo as an actual, physical creature, but rather a spirit of the lake who protected the valley.
Even so, true believers remain convinced that a mysterious creature still prowls Lake Okanagan.
7. The Shag Harbour UFO Incident
If the Ogopogo is Canada’s answer to Nessie, then Shag Harbour is its version of the Roswell incident. On October 4, 1967, residents of the small fishing village of Shag Harbour in Nova Scotia claimed that a UFO crashed in its waters.
Eyewitnesses reported seeing four bright orange-yellow lights turning on and off in the sky before landing and floating on the water about half a mile from the shore, leaving behind a trail of yellow foam. They called the police, thinking that an airplane might have crashed. Both the Canadian Coast Guard and local fishing vessels made their way to the site of the supposed landing, but found no trace of any object. Later, authorities were able to confirm that no aircraft went missing. The Department of National Defence conducted their own underwater search but, again, found no signs that anything had crashed there. They labeled the Shag Harbour incident as an unsolved UFO sighting.
As you might expect, this event proved popular with alien hunters, aided by the fact that Shag Harbour embraced its newfound claim to fame. The town opened a UFO museum and even has an annual UFO festival.
6. The Redpath Mansion Mystery
Crime buffs with an interest in Canadian murders still discuss and debate the puzzling details surrounding the event that occurred at the Redpath Mansion in Montreal almost 120 years ago.
At the start of the 20th century, the Redpaths were one of the wealthiest families in the city and they resided at the aptly-named Redpath Mansion in the affluent area dubbed the Golden Square Mile. The family members involved in the tragedy were the matriarch, 59-year-old Ada Mills Redpath, and her 25-year-old son, Clifford. On June 13, 1901, they were both found in her bedroom lying in pools of blood by Ada’s eldest son, Peter. Clifford was still clinging to life, but allegedly died a short time later in the hospital.
What happened in that room on that day remains a mystery. It would be pure speculation to say that the Redpaths used their influence to make the matter go away, but Ada and Clifford were quickly buried 48 hours later. A coroner’s investigation into the matter was opened and closed within two hours, while the family never spoke of the incident in public.
According to the official report, Clifford shot his mom during an epileptic fit and afterwards, stricken with guilt, turned the gun on himself. It’s possible this is exactly what happened, but enough contradictions were found in the story that many people question the official version. For example, the hospital where Clifford Redpath was supposedly taken had no record of admitting him. Also, the coroner’s report included testimony from the family physician who allegedly examined the bodies, but an investigation by a local newspaper revealed that he wasn’t even in the city at the time.
The Redpath Mansion may have been demolished in 2014, but the mystery surrounding it still remains.
5. The Dagg Poltergeist
Canada is no stranger to stories of ghosts and hauntings, and one of the country’s most infamous was the tale of the Dagg Poltergeist who terrified a family over 130 years ago.
George and Susan Dagg seemed like your average couple who resided in a farmhouse in the village of Clarendon situated in the Ottawa Valley. In September 1889, they began experiencing a poltergeist who took over the household. They reported objects floating or being thrown around the house, stones coming through the windows when there was nobody outside, fires erupting spontaneously, and, most notable of all, a ghostly voice that could be heard inside the house.
The center of the poltergeist’s attention seemed to be one of their children, an 11-year-old adopted orphan named Dinah McLean. However, many other people were witness to the otherworldly phenomena, and 16 locals signed statements attesting to the fact. On one occasion, a journalist named Percy Woodcock arrived to cover the story and he held a debate with the spirit on topics such as theology and philosophy. He even noted that, whenever the poltergeist got mad, Dinah reacted as if she had been physically hurt.
On November 18, after three months of torment, the poltergeist suddenly disappeared, leaving behind a very confused and frightened family and a legend that is still going strong over a century later.
4. The Fate of Granger Taylor
On the night of November 29, 1980, Jim and Grace Taylor found a note left behind by their 32-year-old son Granger. It read:
“Dear Mother and Father,
I have gone away to walk aboard an alien spaceship, as recurring dreams assured a 42-month interstellar voyage to explore the vast universe, then return. I am leaving behind all my possessions to you as I will no longer require the use of any. Please use the instructions in my will as a guide to help.
Thus began the saga of Granger Taylor, a man who found his own unique role in Canadian folklore and whose ultimate fate became a favorite topic of discussion among conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts. Although he dropped out of school, Taylor was some kind of mechanical genius. He rebuilt and restored cars, trucks, locomotives, even airplanes, often using the neighborhood kids as his helpers. He was always tinkering with something or other which is why nobody batted an eye when he built his own “spaceship” out of two satellite dishes.
This was evidence, however, that his obsession with aliens was growing more and more, particularly the idea that they were coming to get him. It all culminated with the aforementioned note after which Granger Taylor jumped in his pickup truck and was never seen again.
Six years later, forestry workers found a blast site near Mount Prevost, which was not far from the Taylor farmhouse. They recovered human bone fragments, as well as bits from a shirt which Grace Taylor confirmed belonged to her son. Moreover, it was also known that Granger carried dynamite in his truck for blowing up tree stumps.
For the Taylor family, the case was closed. Granger Taylor was a disturbed man who took his own life. However, the circumstantial evidence was not enough to convince everyone else. Even to this day, some argue that Granger Taylor faked his own death, or that he was kidnapped by the U.S. government to work at Area 51. Or, who knows, maybe he went on the “interstellar voyage” that he talked about.
3. The Oak Island Money Pit
Is there buried treasure on Oak Island, a tiny piece of land off the southern shore of Nova Scotia? Many people believe there is, and for over two centuries they have sacrificed their time, their fortune, and, in some cases, even their lives trying to find it.
The origins of the Oak Island Mystery are shrouded in uncertainty because the details have only been passed around through word of mouth with little to no records to back up the claims. According to the story, at least, the one who started the craze was a teenager named Daniel McGinnis, all the way back in 1795. While exploring the island, he found a depression in the ground in an area where the oak trees had been removed. Immediately, his mind conjured up images of buried treasure left behind by pirates who prowled those waters decades prior. He recruited two of his friends and they started digging.
The trio dug for weeks without success, but their story was enough to arouse the interest of other parties. A few years later, a group of men formed the Onslow Company and launched a full-blown excavation venture. Allegedly, at 90 feet down, they found a stone tablet with a strange inscription on it. Translated by a professor, it supposedly read “Forty Feet Below, Two Millions Pounds Are Buried.” A replica of the tablet exists, but the original’s location is unknown, if it ever existed at all.
These are the stories from just the first ten years of the hole which became known as the Money Pit. Its tale continued for over 200 years more and is going strong. People still search the island, thinking that, perhaps, the location was wrong. Some believe there is pirate treasure in there; others Incan gold or British plunder from the invasion of Cuba. The most outlandish ideas suggest that Oak Island might hide original Shakespearian manuscripts, or even the Holy Grail buried there by the Knights Templar. Clearly, this tiny island has captured the imaginations of people and it’s unlikely to stop anytime soon.
2. The Ghost Ship of Northumberland Strait
For over two centuries, people living on the coastlines around the Northumberland Strait have reported sightings of a burning ghost ship that appears for several minutes at a time before vanishing.
Many witnesses who claimed to have seen the phantom vessel have given similar descriptions. It is a three- or four-masted schooner, with bright white sails that are engulfed in flames. Sometimes, large groups of people have all reported seeing the ghost ship at the same time. According to legend, in 1900, a group of sailors went a step further and, when the ghost ship appeared, they boarded a boat and headed out towards it, never to be seen again.
Some believe the vessel is the returning Colbum, a barque that wrecked during a storm. Others say it is the Isabella, which set off towards the United States with a cargo of lumber and was never seen again.
Scientific explanations for the phantom ship include the possibility of it actually being the weather phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s fire, or perhaps moonlight reflecting off fog banks. Regardless of explanation, Canada has embraced the tale of this ghost ship and, in 2014, even featured it on a new stamp.
1. The Highway of Tears
There is a stretch of Highway 16 in British Columbia between the cities of Prince George and Prince Rupert that’s about 450 miles long. At first glance, it would appear to be like any other highway in the world, but this one hides a tragic and murderous past. Ever since the 1970s, it has been the location where numerous young women have been either disappearing or turning up dead. Most of their cases remain unsolved as police face accusations of apathy, incompetence, and even racism as the majority of the victims were indigenous. It is a dark and shameful chapter in Canada’s history which has been dubbed the Highway of Tears.
Even though these crimes have been going on for decades, it wasn’t until 2005 that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police launched a task force called Project E-Pana to focus on this lethal stretch of road. They officially linked 18 cases that date between 1969 and 2006, although locals and indigenous activists assert that the true number is closer to 50.
We should specify that nobody thinks that all the crimes were done by the same person. In fact, no fewer than four different serial killers (Brian Arp, Edward Isaac, Bobby Jack Fowler, and Cody Legebokoff) were either proven or, at least, suspected of using the Highway of Tears as their hunting ground. And yet, they still account for only a small portion of the total victims.
As the years passed with very few successes, dozens of officers who were once part of the task force were reassigned to other cases. Some of the ones who remained are realistic about their chances and admit that most of these murders will never be solved.