Monsters, murders and myths: Canada's mysteries

Some of the country's greatest mysteries:

Fact and fiction blend in these uniquely Canadian tales

Sightings of a creature living in B.C.'s Lake Okanagan have persisted for generations. The first reported sighting of Ogopogo — the Okanagan Lake Monster — came in 1872, after a local woman said she saw a creature swimming against the waves during a storm.

According to reports, the dark green, snakelike creature has a goat-like, bearded head, humps on its body and ranges in length from about five to 20 metres. Witnesses say it moves fast along the surface of the lake.

Aboriginals called it N'ha-a-itk, or lake demon. According to legend, the creature was a murderer possessed by demons. The gods punished him by turning him into a sea serpent.

Ogopogo apparently has some company. Western Canada has no fewer than 19 lakes with some kind of sea serpent dwelling therein.

Fact or fiction? You be the judge. And while you're mulling that over, here are some other uniquely Canadian mysteries to consider:

What happened to Tom Thomson?

Babe Ruth keeps his eye on the ball. (Associated Press)

Tom Thomson, a prolific Canadian artist whose work inspired the Group of Seven, was reported missing two days after he set out on a canoe trip on Canoe Lake in Ontario's Algonquin Park in July 1917. His body was found six days later, with a badly bruised temple and fishing line around his ankle.

A coroner's report concluded Thomson had died by accidental drowning, but no autopsy was performed. Some believe he lost his balance in the canoe and struck his head on the gunwale. But others believe he was murdered in a dispute with a local lodge owner over money.

His family arranged to have his body buried in the family plot near Owen Sound, Ont., but according to persistent rumours, his friends buried him near Canoe Lake and put sand in the family plot. His family has never allowed the grave to be exhumed.

Is there buried treasure at Oak Island, N.S.?

First discovered by a teenager in 1795, the mysterious "money pit" of Oak Island, N.S., has stymied treasure hunters for decades.

Modern engineering has failed to crack the mystery of various layers of logs and metals, mysterious inscriptions on stones, and booby traps that have either flooded the pit or caused it to collapse inward.

Who's responsible? Guesses range from the Freemasons and the Knights Templar to the Vikings, or British or French explorers.

What's inside? Theories abound, including pirates’ booty, the royal jewels of France, the treasures of King Solomon's temple, and the Holy Grail.

Is the sasquatch real?

From fuzzy photos and blurry film clips, for more than 150 years there have been eyewitness accounts of sasquatch or Bigfoot sightings along the Pacific coast, from northern California to British Columbia.

Sasquatch, an aboriginal word meaning "hairy giant," refers to a large man-like creature believed to be roaming the woods.

In April 2005, a man from a northern Manitoba community captured on videotape what he says was a sasquatch. However, the video, which was shown on an American television network, failed to live up to its billing as "footage of the century."

Skeptics say no one has ever produced any concrete evidence such as skulls or bones, arguing footprints, film or photos can be manufactured.

Who killed Sir Harry Oakes?

Sir Harry Oakes became the richest man in Canada and one of the wealthiest people in the British Empire after finding gold and iron ore mines in Ontario. He moved his family to Nassau, Bahamas, to escape high Canadian taxes.

His July 7, 1943, murder is still a mystery. A family friend found the charred remains of his body on a gasoline-soaked mattress that had been set on fire. Investigators discovered his skull had been bashed in four times. His son-in-law was tried for his murder, but he was acquitted.

Other suspects included legendary mobster Lucky Luciano and the governor of the Bahamas, the Duke of Windsor (who had briefly been King Edward VIII before abdicating the British throne).

Did a UFO visit Shag Harbour, N.S.?

Was there a UFO in Nova Scotia? On Oct. 4, 1967, residents, RCMP officers and an Air Canada pilot reported seeing strange lights in the sky near the tiny Nova Scotia community of Shag Harbour. Witnesses said the lights hovered above the water before disappearing into the water.

Is the Bambino's first home-run ball in Lake Ontario?

On Sept. 5, 1914, 19-year-old Babe Ruth hit his first homerun as a professional baseball player at Hanlon's Point Stadium on the Toronto Islands. Many believe the baseball wound up sinking to the bottom of Lake Ontario.

Others say the ball was stolen, bronzed and is on display at a downtown Toronto bar.

A search of the area turned up nothing except a yellowish-brown foam floating on the surface. A preliminary report was rushed off to Canadian Forces Headquarters in Ottawa as seven navy divers from HMCS Granby searched unsuccessfully.

While many still believe a UFO was involved, other Cold War-inspired conspiracy theories include a downed Russian aircraft or sunken Russian submarine.

Who ordered the destruction of the Avro Arrow?

The Avro Arrow, a sleek white jet developed in Malton, Ont., in the 1950s could have become the fastest plane in the world and made Canada a world leader in the aviation industry. Instead, the jet program was cancelled and the planes, their blueprints and models ordered destroyed.

Nobody in the government or military has ever admitted to giving the destruction order.

One theory has it that Prime Minister John Diefenbaker gave the order under pressure from the U.S., while others say it was the Department of Defence or even Avro president Crawford Gordon.

Did the wrong man hang for Thomas D'Arcy McGee's murder?

Thomas D'Arcy McGee, journalist, politician and early Canadian visionary, was gunned down in the door of his rooming house in April 1868.

Irish immigrant and tailor Patrick James Whelan, who was arrested a day after the government posted a $2,000 reward, maintained his innocence throughout his trial. He was hanged in a snowstorm in February 1869, one of the country's final public hangings.

Controversy surrounds Whelan's conviction. Sources said the bullet found at the scene didn't match the recently fired revolver found in Whelan's possession.

Experts have suggested modern-day ballistic tests on the bullet, kept at the Ontario Archives, could prove whether Whelan's gun was used.

Are butter tarts a true Canadian invention?

Is a mixture of butter, sugar and eggs inside a flaky pastry shell one of the few truly Canadian recipes?

Nobody knows where the butter tart comes from, but there are many theories. Some say it's a variation of pecan pie brought north by slaves from the United States, while others believe it could be related to Quebec's sugar pie.

Other regional recipes could have spawned the tasty treats, including Mennonite "shoofly pie" or "backwards pie" from the East and West Coasts. Or it could have come from across the ocean, a Canadian cousin to England's treacle tart.