The Ghost of Summer ’34, Part 2

During the hot, dry summer of 1934, crops were poor and the Depression was at its height. Local conversation, however, centred on numerous sightings of a mysterious figure in white around Waterdown. Media outlets from as far away as Toronto reported on the “walking wraith” haunting the 4th Concession (Parkside Drive) area.

Most of the time the ghost failed to appear and prance around for the out-of-town visitors. One reporter for the evening edition of The Telegram, however, did see the phantom and described the experience.

…a shadowy form was running across the field. Now, people had always been told that ghosts drift over the ground. This one ran. There was no doubt about it, for once it stumbled. Also, it climbed a fence and fences were popularly supposed to prove no obstacle to ghosts, they simply melt through them.

The village gradually became frustrated with the constant pranks of the “Waterdown Wraith.” Many loaded their shotguns in anticipation of a run-in with the apparition, since there was a common belief in the village that the ghost was simply a prankster.

Names of suspects were soon gathered – being athletic and a fast sprinter were the main criteria for inclusion.

At the top of the list among the young men who were the chief suspects were Russell Thompson, a medical school student in Toronto and member of the school’s track team and the Briggar boys, well-known high school athletes – and all living on the 4th Concession, from where the ghost was thought to emanate.

One night, the fire department, while out ghost hunting, saw a white clad figure at a distance. Leaving their truck, they followed the spectre up the railway track and saw it turn into the Thompson driveway.

The next day, motorcycle officer Darby of the Ontario Provincial Police appeared on the Thompson doorstep and proceeded to search the house. When Mr. Thompson was told the search was for evidence of the ghost, he reportedly said, “If some people didn’t drink so much beer, they wouldn’t be seeing ghosts!”

As September came, the ghost that had haunted Waterdown suddenly disappeared.

The identity of the ghost was never solved, though many people believed it returned to medical school in Toronto. An article in the Hamilton Spectator said the ghost was a “wanderer searching for someone in the area” – however, all Mrs. Briggar had to say about the whole incidence was that “her good white tablecloth had gone missing and never returned!”

Sylvia Wray is the former archivist with the Flamborough Archives. She can be reached through the Archives at

This article was originally published in the Flamborough Review, 13 October 2011.


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