Whispers in the Woods

            In late October of 1959, Merle Newcombe and George Weeden planned a hunting trip over the weekend. They departed Chapleau, Ontario Thursday night, arrived at Newcombe’s camp, and had dinner. Friday morning, they woke, had breakfast, prepared some sandwiches for lunch, and left the cabin. They never returned.

 Merle Newcombe in July of 1956. Seen here being way cooler than you will ever be. Photo posted to Pinterest by Spiral Bay.

Merle Newcombe in July of 1956. Seen here being way cooler than you will ever be. Photo posted to Pinterest by Spiral Bay.

            Around 11:30 that day, a pair of trappers walking along the train tracks came across the men. These trappers continued on their way to a trap that needed attending. When they returned twenty minutes later, the men were already gone, never to be seen again.

            No one noticed that they were missing at first. When they did not return immediately following the weekend, Merle’s wife assumed they had decided to keep hunting a little longer. It wasn’t until a few more days passed that she grew worried and went to the camp herself. Snow had fallen on the Saturday and she found the snow around the camp undisturbed. They were not equipped to be outside in that time of year so she grew concerned.

            The next day George Weeden failed to show up for work in the rail yard in Chapleau. Being unmarried, this was the first time people took notice of his disappearance.

            An OPP constable out of White River was placed in charge of the search. Constable Bob King lead search efforts over the following week, but weather concerns in such a remote area quickly stopped them. No sign of the men was found at the time, even when Constable King resumed search efforts the following spring.

            No new breaks in the case came for ten long years. In September of 1968 a wallet was presented to the OPP in White River. It contained two dollars and some personal documents belonging to Newcombe. Allegedly, the wallet had been found under the mattress in the camp that the men had been staying in. How it had never been found before then was never explained.

 George Weeden. Photo posted to Pinterest by Spiral Bay.

George Weeden. Photo posted to Pinterest by Spiral Bay.

            Two hunters going missing in the woods might seem fairly typical, which is what the OPP and RCMP of the seemed to think. These were not typical hunters though. Merle Newcombe had been raised nearby, owned the camp in the area, was well versed in the woods, and had been living in the area for all fifty of his years: hardly the type of person to lose their way. This is especially true given his companion George Weeden. Weeden was 63-years-old and in poor shape. A train accident in 1941 had left him with a broken back and permanently damaged leg. He had told several people before the trip that he would do all his hunting from the area near the train tracks.

            Wild animals could have gotten to them, but bear and wolves are far from stealthy. They do not typically hide their crimes. If an animal had found these men and gotten to them, evidence would have been left for the searchers.

            Most involved in the search and the limited investigation suspected one answer alone: homicide. Why anyone would have murdered these men and then left their camp intact is anyone’s guess, but as more than half a century has now passed since the day the men went missing, it is unlikely we will ever know.


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Joseph Alexander

Joseph is a homonculus animated by a need to solve mysteries. When no mysteries abound, crude mexican cuisine will frequently suffice. He grew up in a small, Northern Ontario community and is still suffering the consequences. Also, he writes sometimes.