adapted by Ken Watson from the story told by Clint Fleming
WARNING - this story is not for the squeamish - if you're a sensitive person, stop reading now.
This is an abbreviated version of the tale told in Clint Fleming's book "When the Fish are Rising" published in 1947. John Clint Fleming was born in 1894 near Chaffey's Lock, a descendant of William Fleming, the first lockmaster at Chaffeys. He grew up at Chaffeys, but joined the army and headed overseas in 1914 to fight in WWI. He married in England, returning with his new wife to Chaffeys after the war, becoming a guide and commercial fisherman. He was well read and an excellent story teller, as evidenced by this tale. - kww
There is a tale told at Chaffeys Locks of a ghostly apparition on Opinicon Lake, a solitary paddler in a dugout canoe, the ghost of Old Davy Davidson.
Shortly after the canal was built, a man by the name of David Davidson arrived in the area, building a cabin at the far end of Opinicon Lake. He made his living as a trapper, fisherman and hunter. Although he only made a modest living, rumours circulated that he had a nest-egg stashed away.
By the 1880s, old Davy was a fixture on the lake. In that era, the area was overrun by pack peddlers - men who walked the trails and/or travelled along the canal by boat, stopping at every settlement to sell their wares. It was later rumoured that one of these peddlers got wind of the money Davy was reputed to have hidden near his cabin.
The last person to have seen Davidson, was a neighbour from across the lake, a fellow by the name of Thompson. Davidson had come over and visited him in late November. Thompson says that in the days following the visit he hadn't seen Davidson. A week passed and Thompson became worried, there was no smoke from Davidson's cabin and no sign of Davidson himself. It had turned cold, there was now ice on the lake, so Thompson had to walk around the lake to get to Davidson's cabin.
Thompson stopped at the house of another neighbour, a fellow named Buck. After explaining what he was up to, Buck agreed to accompany Thompson, and the two men continued on to Davidson's cabin. There was a light covering of snow on the ground, but when they got to Davidson's cabin there was no sign of any footprints other than the ones Thompson and Buck were making. Davidson's dog was at the door. Thompson called the dog by name, and it allowed the men to approach the cabin.
When they opened the door they were greeted with a grisly sight. Old Davy was dead, tied to a chair, his head beaten in, his face slashed. Davidson's dog ran into the cabin and wouldn't let the two men approach old Davy's body. So the men retreated, heading off to get help.
They returned a few hours later, after dark, with several men and boys carrying lanterns. One of the young lads knew the dog well and had come prepared with a haunch of venison. He coaxed the starving dog outside and tied it up. The men entered the cabin.
It was a horrifying scene that greeted them. There was blood everywhere in the cabin. Someone had gone to a lot of effort to try to get old Davy to divulge the location of his horde. He had been beaten, burned with hot poker and strangled. Some of the men had to leave when they looked down to see that the killer had even nailed Davy's feet to the floor.
The cabin itself had been torn apart. The trapdoor to the store room above the ceiling was open. The cupboards were all opened, drawers pulled out and the contents strewn all over the floor. The mattress had been cut to shreds and even parts of the floor had been torn up.
Several of the men stayed while others headed back to get the authorities. They returned the next day with the postmaster and county constable. The only conclusion that could be reached was that Davidson had been murdered by person or persons unknown. Although a pack peddler had been sighted in the area in about the presumed date of Davidson's death, he was never found.
Davidson had no known relatives and his worldly possessions were few, some traps and guns. So after a few weeks of fruitless investigation, the matter was dropped, the crime unsolved.
Davidson's cabin remain abandoned. Some years later a group of hunters chose to use it as an overnight shelter. They boarded up the broken windows and put canvas over the open doorway. A fire was started in the old stove and they settled in for the night. Sometime later the men were startled by the canvas on the door flying open and then closing. "That's just old Davy coming home" one of the men joked. Another, more skeptical, said "it's just the wind" - even though it was a flat calm.
Then they noticed that the door to the stove was open. The man tending the fire swore that he had left it closed. They made a pot of tea and when served, a joker in the crowd poured seven cups, even though there were only six men. A few didn't appreciate the humour, it was a pitch dark night and the thought of a ghost in the cabin was clearly spooking them.
Later, the canvas flapped again, just as if someone had opened and closed it. A couple of the men jumped. As they were recovering their composure with nervous laughter, one looked at Davy's cup of tea - it was empty. That was it, some of the men wanted to leave right then and there, but calmer minds prevailed and they stayed the night. There were no more disturbances.
The next day, after a good morning hunt, they returned to Chaffeys. Arriving at the landing, they met an old man and told him their story. "Oh sure," said the old man "that's Davy, sure enough. Funny you lads didn't see him, I've seen him, plain as print, a number of times. He likes a calm night, with just part of the moon showin' and a few clouds skitterin' acrost. But you don't have to be afraid of Davy; he won't hurt you."
The old man was right, some swear to this day that on a calm night on Opinicon Lake, a dugout canoe with a solitary figure sitting motionless in the back can be seen gliding quietly across the lake.
Davidson's horde has never been found - perhaps the killer found it, perhaps it never existed or perhaps it still remains to be found.
Fleming, Clint, When the Fish are Rising - Tales of the Rideau Lakes, Mastercraft Printing and Graphics, Kingston, 1981 (reprint of 1947 original).