A Ghostly Recap of My Campfire Reading and Gravesite Visitation

September 29, 2015

There are rare moments when I step outside of the Twittersphere to tell my story directly to followers. Two such moments happened this weekend when I did a campfire reading in Huntsville and my gravesite visitation by Mowat Cemetery on the shores of Canoe Lake.

Photo courtesy of Huntsville Doppler

Thank you to all of those who attended my campfire reading in Huntsville on September 26th. The evening could not have been better – illuminated by a nearly full moon, a warm evening temperature unheard of in my time, with an even warmer reception from those who attended.

For those of you who missed the reading, I gave a brief introduction of who I was as an author (while still maintaining my anonymity) and what it was like to live as an artist and as a man during a pivotal time in Canadian history.

I read selections from the following entries:

December 12, 1916 The Ward and the Hospital

March 23, 1917 Return to Mowat Lodge (still in draft not yet published )

March 27, 1917 Canoe Lake

June 15, 1917 Last Night in Huntsville

After reading these selections, and discussing which parts of Huntsville were actually dry at the time, I described the circumstances of my disappearance and death. I speculated – to the surprise of many – what I believed is the most plausible theory of my disappearance and death, reminding everyone that no single theory adds up to a definitive conclusion. I also described what, I believe, is the larger tragedy of the story – the recovery of the body, a hasty burial, followed by an unsavoury exhumation and a reburial leaving in their wake questions that remain unresolved to this day.

An even more hearty thank you goes out to those brave souls who followed me the next day to the gravesite on Canoe Lake. We could not have asked for better weather, save for the rising afternoon wind that made for a difficult and turbulent return. We all returned safely, myself included.

During our expedition we visited the Cairn, the gravesite and the location of the former Mowat Lodge. Some photos below:

The Cairn on Hayhurst Point
The cross marking where the grave might be located
Location of the former Mowat Lodge
A fine day on Canoe Lake just before turbulent waters.

In the end, it was a worthy journey into the world I was once a part of.

If you want to know what it feels like to approach your own grave, I’ve included a video below.

Thanks for following.





email: ttlastspring@gmail.com
Twitter: @TTLastSpring

The ghost of Tom Thomson is visiting Huntsville this weekend.  Listen to his story.

Canoe Lake, Algonquin Park, September 22, 2015 — The ghost of Tom Thomson will be visiting downtown Huntsville this Saturday, September 26th at 8pm to read selections from his journal, Tom Thomson: Journal of My Last Spring. The reading, an event organized as part of Culture Days, will take place in the Civic Square in front of Tom Thomson’s statue located at 37 Main Street East.

The ghost, an anonymous author who wishes to keep his identity secret, has recreated Tom Thomson’s life as it was in 1917, in the form of a real-time Twitter account (@TTLastSpring) and daily journal (http://ttlastspring.com ). The evening reading promises to shed light on what happened in the last days leading to Tom’s mysterious disappearance on July 8, 1917. Following the reading, the author will  discuss Tom’s life, his art, and of course, the mystery.

For those who are interested in further adventure, Tom’s ghost will be leading an expedition the next day on Sunday September 27th to the gravesite at Canoe Lake departing at 10am. Details can be found at http://ttlastspring.com  

Media inquiries and interviews are welcome. Please use the contact information provided above.

A Matter For The Curious Only #WhoKilledTomThomson

“Tom Thomson family will bar exhumation of body”, Owen Sound Sun-Times, Feb. 8, 1969

A CBC TV producer’s demands that the grave at Leith, where most accept lie the remains of the world famed Canadian artist, Tom Thomson, pioneer of the Group of Seven school of Canadian art, have aroused considerable revulsion in Owen Sound.

Not only do people, many of them long time friends of members of the Thomson family, feel that opening the grave 50 years after the painter’s death would be in very bad taste and would cause surviving members of his direct family great anguish, but they can see no point, even should the unlikely suggestion he was murdered be indicated to be true.

The television film on Tom Thomson, shown Thursday night over CBC, caused great disappointment among local art circles and other interested in the Thomson family. It was quite apparently aimed solely at furthering the suggestion that Mr. Thomson was murdered and increasing the pressure to have the grave opened.


The final decision must rest with the surviving members of the family, two sisters and a nephew. The latter, Geo. Thomson, of the Brantford Art Gallery, stated that his aunts, himself, and other members of the family will not give permission to open the grave neither now nor at any time.

There has never been question in the minds of any members of the family but that Thomson died accidently, as stated officially following the inquest which found death by drowning.

His father, the late Geo Thomson, dean of artists here for many years and widely known for his landscapes, went to the scene immediately on learning that Tom had disappeared and was believed drowned, the son recalls. He spent six days searching for the body. Collecting the artist’s sketches, he returned home and shortly after the family was informed the body had been found.

Geo. Thomson sr. said he had been informed that Tom had suffered a sprained ankle just before his disappearance. He was of the opinion Tom had stepped out of the canoe onto his injured foot, had slipped, hit his head on a rock and rolled unconscious into the water to drown.

Geo. Thomson, asked by a Sun-Times staff members 10 or 12 years ago about the rumor, which had recurred at that time, definitely stated Tom’s body was in the coffin buried at Leith, and that his death was accidental.


A number of Owen Sound residents, some of whom knew the family for many years, were asked for their opinion of the proposal. These opinions follow:

Mrs. S. H. Pearce: – “I feel the proposal is in very bad taste and cannot see where any good purpose could be served. We have a very fine memorial to Tom Thomson, the artist, in our Tom Thomson Art Gallery. I have a great admiration for his works and the part he has played in Canadian art and view the movement as most unfortunate.”

Mrs. Pearce, former women’s editor of the Sun-Times, was active in establishing the memorial art gallery. She feels strongly about the Thursday night showing of the CBC film on Tom Thomson. “Instead of watching what we thought would be a tribute to the wonderful art of Tom Thomson, we watched a group of ghouls at work.”

Ald. Clifford Waugh, city council representative on the civic gallery committee: – “The legend of Tom Thomson is something the people of this area have cherished for years and the CBC, in their stupidity, have deliberately tried to destroy the image of this revered artist which is causing anguish for the Thomson family.”

Mrs. John Harrison, president, women’s gallery committee: – “I thought the suspense in the film was well maintained but was disappointed more time was not devoted to his life and his paintings shown. It is my feeling it would be a good thing to get the mystery of his death cleared up.”

William Parrott, head of the art department at the O S C V I: – “The dead should be left in peace and no good purpose could come of opening the grave at Leith.”

Mr. Parrott said, “Christians do not feel they need to know beyond doubt where Christ is buried before they can honor him, so why should we feel we need to know the location of Tom Thomson’s grave in order to honor him.”

W. M. Prudham, former principal of the O S C V I: – “It would clarify the situation if the grave at Leith was opened. If it is not done the doubt will always keep coming to the surface from time to time.”

Mrs. John Rowe, member of art gallery committee: – “The McMichael Conservation Gallery officials a Kleinburg are anxious to collect the remains of the famous Group of Seven artists for burial in one plot. I think the idea of digging up graves is horrible. Lives remembered are more positive than bones.”

Mrs. K. C. Quirk, member of the gallery committee: – “Exhumation would be pointless. Let the poor man rest in peace. The wishes of the surviving members of the family should be considered.”

Stan Latham,CFOS radio: – “The resting place for Tom Thomson’s bones is a matter for the curious only. To me, it really does not matter. The real Tom Thomson still lives. It is expressed through his paintings. Let those who would honor and remember him do so in the manner of their choice. I would say we do him dishonor to wrangle over his bones. Let the mystery remain with him and the good earth he loved so well and held as sacred.”

Follow Tom Thomon’s Ghost to his Gravesite, Sunday Sept 27th, 10am

On Sunday, September 27th at 10am, I will be departing from the Portage Store to visit and pay my respects at Mowat Cemetery on Canoe Lake.

You are most welcome to come along.

The Portage Store has graciously offered a discount to any ghost followers. Just mention when you reserve you are following Tom’s ghost and you will get a discount for half day rental ($19.95 from $30.00). You will be responsible to reserve in advance, for your permits and PFDs etc.

The logistics:

  • 10 am ready for departure from Portage Store docks (you may wish to arrive earlier to sort out your rental)
  • If you are renting, park in store parking lot; you will not need a day permit. Other lots require a day permit and you risk getting ticketed.
  • The trip will take approximately 3 hours. We will visit the cemetery, and time/weather permitting, the cairn. Approximate return between 1:00pm and 2:30pm.
  • Plan to take snacks, or return hungry enough to have a bite at the Portage Store restaurant. Take sufficient water along; whisky is optional.
  • The more the merrier. Just remember where we are going is very fragile, and our visit is at  the grace of Algonquin.

There is no fee for this tour, save for your rentals and permits. I am doing this to honour the spirit of Tom Thomson. You are welcome to take photographs, I ask that you honour my anonymity and do not post any identifying photos of me online (ghostly profiles are most welcome though)

So just show up on Sunday and let it be known you are following Tom’s ghost. If you wish to let me know you are coming along, retweet this post or send me a direct message on Twitter to @TTLastSpring You can also send me an e-mail to ttlastspring@gmail.com



P.S. Here is full length video to give you a sense of what is in store



Haunting to 2017

July 8th, 2017 will the 100th anniversary of my mysterious disappearance and apparent death on July 8, 1917. This anniversary is less than two years away.

Almost four years ago I appeared on Twitter on November 28th, 2011 as @TTLastSpring  reliving my last days of 1916-17. I had returned from Up North to Toronto, a city that was grey and weary from losing its sons in the Great War. I remember my very first tweet, remarking on how dreary it was that November day.

As any good ghost would tell you, I am bound to repeat the cycle until the mystery is resolved. Soon I will be going into my fourth cycle which I plan to repeat annually until the fateful sequence of events repeat once again, 100 years on, in 2017.

For those of you new to my story, here is an overview of my annual haunting cycle. At unpredictable points during the haunting cycle I occasionally step out of the past and appear at museums, galleries or other significant historical locations. You never know, one day, you too might be standing beside the ghost of Tom Thomson.

August 1916 –  I am fire-ranging (and trying to paint) in the eastern end of the Park. Along with Ned Godin, we are following the log runs and the lumber crews on the Petawawa.

September –  November 1916 After being fired from my fire-ranging job, I gradually make my way westward through the Park. I camp as much as I can, but as the weather turns colder I begin to gravitate toward Mowat Lodge as my base. I make a few trips to Huntsville and Georgian Bay. In mid-November, with the colder temperatures and poorer weather, I begin to feel the pull to return to the City.

November 28, 1916. My first tweet in the City. I’ve been back for almost two weeks, but it takes me those two weeks to get myself back into a frame of mind to do something.

December 1916 – March 22, 1917 My time in the City. Mostly spent in the Shack, painting keeping to myself, but I do manage to get out to see a few pictures, theatre shows and boxing matches. Over the holidays I visit my family in Owen Sound, see my old homestead in Leith, and visit my sister and brother-in-law in Annan. Upon returning to Toronto, I throw myself into painting, have some uncomfortable encounters with returned veterans and girls from the White Feather Brigade. On top of that, Toronto is dry, and the only booze available is by bootleg, prescription, or mail-order from Montreal. Several pivotal events during the period compel me to return as soon as I can up North to complete the project of my last spring.

March 23, 1917 – July 8, 1917 Unbeknownst to me, my last months and days in Algonquin Park. The Park is no longer a refuge but a microcosm on the edge of the Machine of War. While I am sketching, the War is hanging over the horizon: the whistle of troop trains, the constant talk of conscription, and the return of my good friend, Park Ranger Mark Robinson, with first-hand accounts of the useless carnage of War. The Frasers, the Trainors, Lowrie Dickson, Geo. Rowe and the Colsons, together, we become a close community despite our petty conflicts and peculiar predilections. Of course, there are the women too, Daphne, Florence, Fannie, and other women visitors I can’t recall right now. The tensions and intrigue all build up to that fateful day on July 8, 1917.

July 8 1917 That fateful day where I am last seen leaving the dock at Mowat Lodge around noon.

July 16, 1917 to July 21, 1917 The roller-coaster events of a gruesome discovery, a sham autopsy, a hasty burial, and a series of well-intentioned but ill-thought-out actions that turn out be string of indignities to my name and the members of my family. Everyone is led to believe that I am laid to rest in Leith. If that were truly the case, I would not be writing this very entry.

The cycle concludes with an series of heart-wrenching letters between members of my family and residents of Canoe Lake hiding a secret. It’s this secret, yet to be unveiled, that keeps me haunting to this day.

So follow me. Follow the journal of my last spring and learn of my mystery.

I appear in the real world to read my journal entries. I’ll be in Huntsville on September 26th, 2015 8pm at the statue, You can find more details here.

I remain yours truly,



Alexander Young Jackson or Alex, as I called him. We first met in late November of 1913. He had recently arrived from Montreal and was at Lawren Harris’s studio at Bloor and Yonge. I knew of him, I had seen his work, Edge of the Maple Wood at the OSA Spring Exhibition.

At first, I was self-conscious and felt like a country school boy, because Alex had returned from the European Painting schools. All I had done were sketches and still-shoots (photos) up North. He didn’t think too much of my work. He thought it was a bit dull and muddy. Colours of Dutch landscape painting, but without the Dutch landscape.But he was impressed that I had only taken up painting seriously only the year before and of the passion I had for the North. He said my technique was good and he would only be too happy to show me some of the new colour theories coming out of Europe.

I owe much to Alex as his persistence to help me was greater than my stubbornness. If it wasn’t for him I would still be drifting between commercial art firms and living out my days in rooming houses. Dr. MacCallum had repeatedly offered me a year’s stipend to focus on my art and I repeatedly refused.  But with Alex’s jibbing, I eventually accepted his offer. Soon Alex and I were sharing space in the Studio on Severn Street. We were both tight on money, but with the guaranteed stipend  from Dr. MacCallum,  we were doing exactly what we wanted and in a place where we exactly wanted to be.

Summer of 1914

1914 Pine Island

Summer of 1914.

Even though I liked to have a chum with me, I liked being alone better. After my canoe trip with Arthur Lismer in May, he returned to Toronto. I stayed for the rest of the summer. I no longer had to worry about work, money or domestic obligations because of the stipend I was receiving from Dr. MacCallum. A canoe adventure was in my cards.

I took the train west from Algonquin to Depot Harbor. This was the westernmost reach of the J.R. Booth realm. Depot Harbor was the terminus of the Ottawa-Arnprior-Algonquin rail line and as many tourists would descend from Ottawa as there would be from Toronto. A busy little town; I tried to avoid all of the hubbub but it was difficult. I would try to get as far away from the town and sit on the rocks that would jut into Georgian Bay. I was fascinated by the raw power that could be unleashed by a storm. One day the Bay would be a serene blue-green sheet of calm and the next day it would be a wrathful cauldron of grey. I recall the poems of Wilfred Campbell, Lake Lyrics.

My winter months with Jackson were really starting to pay off. That was apparent in the expression of Dr. MacCallum’s eyes when I showed him the sketches I just did. After Parry Sound, I traveled north by steamship and camped with the Dr. at the mouth of the French River. I showed him my sketches and his remark was, “Tom, these are good! They do capture the same feeling when I’m around here.”

Jackson warned me that the Dr. knew very little about art and to be careful and how I should receive his criticism. “Just remember, the Dr. is paying the bills.”

My inclination was to disagree with Jackson. The Dr. might not know about techniques and mechanics or art but he seemed to know what was good to express the northlands. He had the eye of an artist, not necessarily the hands of one.

I accepted the invitation to stay at the Dr.’s cottage on West Wind Island. I stayed for June and July and spent time canoeing and painting with leisure. I had no duties or obligations, only that I would provide the occasional painting lesson to the Dr.’s daughter, Helen.

I enjoyed the time on the island, but the company began to wear on me after awhile. The nature was great, the company wasn’t. Many of the folks vacationing on the island were a plain annoyance. I just wanted to escape from the cake and ice-water socials and find a place to paint in isolation. Despite wanting to be alone, I missed the company of Jackson, Lismer and Harris. Unlike the present company, we could all shut up and paint when the time came. I wrote a letter to Varley asking him to come for a canoe and camping trip but his domestic obligations kept him at home.

Then it hit. The declaration of War, on August 5th, 1914. It was on the same day I was about to depart to Algonquin. It was the day before by 37th birthday. Everyone greeted the declaration of war with great enthusiasm. No one needed reminding that it was actually Great Britain that declared war and the Canada’s decision simply followed suit. I decided I need to get out alone and fast.

I took the steamer from Go Home Bay to the mouth of the French River and managed to purchase an cheap canoe. I canoed east on the French River to Lake Nipissing. At time the river and rapids and treacherous. At one rapids I counted thirteen white wooden crosses – thirteen deaths, most likely, many more.