The summer of 1934 was very hot and dry, crops were poor and the Depression was at its height. However, the weather and drought were not the topic of conversations in Waterdown, but rather the gossip was almost entirely about an unknown figure seen frequently around the village and reported in The Review and various Hamilton papers.
The first of many sightings of a mysterious figure in white began with Art Hood, after he and his family, driving home from church one Sunday night in early August, saw a man dressed in white standing on the side of the road.
After seeing the strange man twice, Mr. Hood contacted the local police, who could find no trace of the strange looking man – and so began a whole series of incidents around a summer ghost, for suddenly he was seen everywhere, both in the village and in the outlying concessions.
Exaggerated descriptions were circulated – he was very tall – certain accounts assert he was over seven feet with extremely large feet as the footprints he left were five inches longer than the largest shoe size readily available. He seemed to be particularly active along the 4th Concession (Parkside Drive) at night, where couples parked along the road for some privacy were his favourite prey. One newspaper article reported that “necking was abandoned as an outdoor sport by the swains of Waterdown due to the walking wraith.”
Copycat “ghosts” began to appear around the village. One night a woman decided to play a prank on her husband and donned a white sheet. Hiding in the bushes outside her house, she jumped out and said “Boo” as he walked by. Her husband, jittery after the many reports of the ghost, knocked her over the head with the milk bottle he was carrying. The bucket of water he was also carrying came in handy for revival purposes!
Newspapers published as far away as Toronto lapped up news about the Waterdown ghost and the village was soon attracting visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the apparition. At weekends, the streets of Waterdown attracted numerous curious visitors, with boisterous parties of “foreigners from Hamilton” and surrounding communities tramping through people’s backyards and tearing up and down the roads in the hope of seeing the “Ghost of Summer 34”.
Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 22 September 2011.