In the summer of 1906, two youngsters who vanished from their lawns in broad daylight captured the attention of the Maritime Provinces of Canada. It turned out that nothing was exactly as it seemed.[This can also be listened to on the Backyard History podcast, where the many quotes from the reporter who did the investigation are read by various voices, perhaps making them more understandable.
A journalist who published under the pseudonym The Special Correspondent broke the story. She was a reporter for The Daily Telegraph, the largest newspaper in Saint John, a sizable industrial port city. In order to look into the puzzling disappearance of the Creamer children, she took a train to the small coastal community of Cape Tormentine on the foggy Bay of Fundy.
Over the course of the more than a month that she spent in the village looking into the case, the Special Correspondent wrote numerous lengthy and in-depth articles about their investigation, which were reprinted all over the Maritimes. The dialogue that follows was directly taken from a series of newspaper articles about The Special Correspondent that were published 116 years ago.
In May 1906, the Special Correspondent arrived by midnight train in the hamlet of Cape Tormentine. A powerful gale with winds coming in from the chilly waters of the straits met her. It was blowing strongly out of the northwest. She was there to look into a strange case in which two kids had allegedly vanished off the face of the planet.
It was a strange case in every way. While their parents were inside the house, two kids had just vanished from their own front lawn after they had only been away from them for ten minutes. There was no sign of them anywhere despite a thorough search.
The first police officer she encountered was Sheriff McQueen, who assured her that “there had been nothing odd about the children’s disappearance.”
Ralph Creamer and Ollie Creamer were the kids. Ralph was about 3 years old, and Ollie was a 5-year-old girl.
The Special Correspondent visited the Creamer family property.
It was Peacock Settlement, a collection of shacks on the edge of a forest in a very remote location five miles from the village of Cape Tormentine, and it was run-down and unkempt collection of shacks.
John Creamer, the father of the kids, was the person she wanted to speak with, but she was informed that after spending an hour looking for the kids in the woods, he had become ill, gone to his room, and was unable to be awakened while the reporter was there.
The children’s mother, Ruth (Goodwin) Creamer, 30, was met by The Special Correspondent, who described her as
She is fair and pallid, and she hasn’t slept well since Sunday night. She continued to fold a piece of the red fabric that was used to make the blouse that her baby boy was wearing when he vanished as she spoke.
Ruth Creamer told The Special Correspondent about her recollections in the following way:
The kids went out to the field on Sunday around 5 o’clock to collect white violets. They had Geneva with them. Since the kids seldom walked far, I was unfazed as I observed them from the window. I didn’t feel anxious for more than an hour. Geneva had returned, but she said nothing to worry us until we started to worry.
The oldest child, a girl named Geneva who was around 7 years old, was described as “a bright, interesting-looking child who speaks without hesitation.”
She claimed that her brother and sister were last seen together on the outskirts of some woods not far from the house, together with a seventeen-year-old neighbor named Russell Trenholm. The child claims that Trenholm then asked Ollie to assist him in his search for the cows. The last thing she noticed when she turned around to get home was the kids standing by Trenholm.
The Special Correspondent then proceeded to the Trenholm property, the residence right across the street. There, their widowed mother and numerous siblings (at least 11 of them) who were absent at the time resided.
Inviting the Special Correspondent in as he was having dinner, Russell Trenholm, who the writer characterized as “an ordinary looking country lad, huge and sluggish moving, seeming slightly unconscious,” openly shared his version of events:
“I left my house between five and five-thirty on Sunday night last. I intended to attack the cows. I turned around and walked up the fields till I reached the woods and the Creamer house. I met Ollie, Ralph, and Geneva Creamer there. They were close to the house’s back entrance and the small creek. They inquired as to my activities. I proclaimed my search for the cows. O Ral questioned if they could be of assistance.
“I walked on into the woods, passing a field with a typical snake fence. They came after me. I observed Geneva helping Ralph jump the barrier before she and Ollie scaled it themselves. They should return home and stop seeking the cows, I advised them.
“Geneva and Ollie scaled the barrier once more, and I hoisted Ralph over and set him down on the other side with his sisters. Then, in order to prevent them from pursuing me, I raced into the woods.
Belle, Russell’s sister, added that she had witnessed her brother hoisting Ralph over the fence from the window of her home.
I assume people are assuming I killed them, Russell Trenholm paused and timidly questioned.
As a result of the Special Correspondent’s articles being reprinted in almost all of the province’s newspapers, anxiety descended upon New Brunswick.
Newspapers were flooded over the following few weeks with reports of kidnapped children in major cities like Moncton and Saint John. But every one of those missing kids was quickly located. The kids in the bigger cities were said to be making up stories and pretending to be kidnapped, perhaps influenced by what they overheard the adults around them talking about.
Much to the Special Correspondent’s astonishment, Sheriff McQueen was enraged with the attention their articles were bringing to the case when they found him again after their findings were initially published. “I can barely believe there is a foundation for taking action until the children are discovered,” the sheriff said to them. I won’t dispute that there are intriguing elements, but in this situation, extreme caution is required. Everything is dependent upon the kids. I would need proof—or at least evidence that is convincing—before I felt justified in questioning anyone.
The government intervened as a result of the Special Correspondents’ reporting and the uproar it generated. A Special Magistrate was dispatched by the province’s Attorney General to “help” Sheriff McQueen, and 200 militiamen were dispatched in a special train to search the area for the missing youngsters. The soldiers searched the forests for signs of the missing youngsters in straight lines with four-foot spaces between them.
To the Creamer’s home, he returned as the Special Correspondent.
“Mr. Creamer was wandering the yard. He appeared sick. He appeared completely damaged. His voice trembled, and his eyes were wet. He had the appearance of a man whose smile had never been present.
Mr. Creamer pointed to the woodland and said:
I’ve heard that it’s all for the best from some people. It is, as we have been told, God’s will. But it’s difficult to comprehend. It’s frustrating when night falls and I turn to look toward the woods, thinking that our little darlings must be there. This tension is difficult.
Geneva was seen by the reporter standing by herself in the yard:
“Geneva was standing at the side of the road. The days have been lonely for her since the previous evening when she had gathered white violets with her brother and sister. Ollie and Ralph were by her side all the while.”
Russell Trenholm moved forward while strolling. The suit he was wearing was much better than the one he had on the day before. Riley, the newly appointed Special Magistrate, had called for him, but before he answered, he announced that he was going to the train station to call his brother in Ontario.
Ruth Creamer, the mother of the kids, was inside when the Special Correspondent visited there. She informed him that she had already been questioned by the recently appointed Magistrate who was assisting Sheriff McQueen:
The mother told the reporter, “The Magistrate asked for the children’s clothes, and I presented a number of stained clothes.” “Why hadn’t I washed them, the magistrate questioned me. I retorted that if bloodhounds were to be used, they would need something that would emit a scent or smell, as I had heard. The child smell would be eliminated if the clothing were laundered. That, according to the magistrate, proved conclusively that I was not involved in the kidnapping of the kids.”
The journalist remarked that: “She spoke indifferently, without even the faintest trace of sentiment or emotion. Mrs. Creamer made no visible indication of the anguish that she undoubtedly felt. Her calm demeanor has prompted some to observe in some places that her demeanor is the result of unconcern. When asked if she had heard the conversation, she only grinned wistfully, as if she believed that those who had spoken could not possibly understand the depths of her suffering.”
The Special Correspondent then made the decision to take a solo stroll through the forest. Russell Trenholm claimed to have gone to his grandmother’s home after being unable to locate the cows.
The Special Correspondent noticed that it took her 10 minutes to walk to the grandmother’s residence.
Readers from across the province were whipped into a frenzy of hysteria by the Special Correspondant’s ongoing coverage of the disappearance of the children, and they started flocking to Cape Tormentine to try and assist in the search and contribute to the investigation.
The militia discovered a crucial piece of information while searching in the woods. a single, three to four-inch-long red cloth thread.
When the Special Magistrate compared it to a piece of Ralph’s clothing, there was no question that they were identical, he claimed. Mrs. Creamer, however, immediately refuted the claim that it was a piece of her missing son’s clothing.
However, the clue, according to the reporter, “is a very important one and had the effect of having the effort in the search renewed with greater vigor.”
An exhausted Sheriff McQueen requested that train fares be increased to deter visitors in an effort to stop the influx of would-be sleuths from all over the world. To the Special Correspondent, he said:
“Most of these people think there has been a kidnapping, and hundreds are eager to see the crime scene and take part in the search. Maybe having to pay for expenses will drastically cut down on the number of people who go. There was no apparent motive for any of the crimes. However, this does not imply that we will stop acting.
By that time, the disappearance had gained more media attention and was dubbed “BABES IN THE WOODS” by newspapers.
A clairvoyant was contacted by newspapers to see if she could tell where the children were. According to this psychic, a large overweight man and a rough-looking farmer type of man abducted the kids. The tale of this psychic made front-page news.
Russell Trenholm was questioned about what the clairvoyant had stated because the Special Correspondent believed the description fit him.
But that’s foolish! Nothing is involved!”
Newspapers in the province started reporting that the kids had to be dead in the following days. That was how directly they stated it.
While still looking for bodies, the militia started draining nearby ponds and marshes.
The Special Correspondent visited Ruth Creamer’s home once more to speak with her and posed the following questions:
Mr. Creamer, What basis do you believe there is for the rumor that your little daughter Ollie complained to you that a man had tried to engage in lewd behavior with her the day before she vanished from Cape Tormentine Station?
The writer wrote, “Mrs. Creamer froze and hesitated for a considerable amount of time. She gave her spouse a fleeting glance before saying:
“It is accurate. Ollie did approach me with a grievance. I was very uncomfortable hearing what the poor little sweetheart did say.
As the long weekend associated with Victoria’s Day was beginning, twenty days had passed since the kids vanished. The Special Correspondent was taken aback by a knock at her door as she was getting ready to return to the city.
She discovered Sheriff McQueen and Special Magistrate Reily inside when she unlocked it. To see the police interviews they would be conducting at the Creamer and Trenholm homes, they invited The Special Correspondent to accompany them.
Sheriff McQueen provided the Special Correspondent with an update on his observations of the investigation as they traveled over the muddy roads in the sheriff’s horse-drawn wagon:
“I have no cause to believe that something is wrong. No reason existed for the murder. Even if anger had been the driving force, there was not enough time to complete the task and dispose of the bodies. The attempt to remove the kids from the neighborhood could not have gone unnoticed in regard to the kidnapping theory.
The Special Correspondent, the Sheriff, and the Magistrate rode past the Trenholm home in the wagon. Working outdoors was Russell Trenholm. He was summoned by the sheriff, who instructed him to follow the carriage to the Creamer home.
The reporter wrote, “The youngster immediately displayed unease. His embarrassment was understandable for a young man who had never traveled farther than Port Elgin and was unaccustomed to being questioned by law enforcement. He was put in a position that does not tend to boost one’s sense of self-worth by circumstance. He walked alongside the carriage as Sheriff McQueen questioned him, approaching the sheriff with a somewhat bewildered air.
“Whatever occurred, Russell, do you think? Sheriff McQueen enquired.
He looked up with a puzzled glance from kicking loose turf, the reporter observed before responding.
Russell Trenholm finally said, “I have no idea what truly happened, sir.
Russell, did you locate the cows?
Do you frequently give up looking for the cows before you do?
“Sir, yes. Well, sir, only when they’re difficult to locate.
“You came straight from the woods to your grandmother’s house, Russell?
I agree, sir.
“And when did you get there?
“Five past six.”
“According to your grandmother, you arrived at 7 o’clock.”
Unable to speak, Russell Trenholm just stared at Sheriff McQueen. The Sheriff kept going while ignoring everyone.
Did you attend classes?
I completed the fifth grade, sir.
Do you read subpar literature?
“I read such literature up until a few years ago.”
The Special Correspondent reported that the conversation was cut off for the following reasons:
“We then noticed Mr. Creamer wandering aimlessly in front of his house. He had a dismal appearance. He appeared worn out and bewildered while toting a shotgun. He fell, bareheaded and frail looking.”
- Who were the Brabant killers?
- The Anthony Godby Johnson
- Missing for 49 Years With
- What Happened to Linda
- The Enigma of Zip Gun
I’m Mr. Creamer. What do you think? enquired of the Sheriff.
“I think Ollie and Ralph have suffered harm that is worse than I initially thought, “replied the father of the kids. “What else is there to believe? We have looked everywhere for it. I’m confident that I’ll never get weary of looking for them. Continue the search! Continue the search! Continue the search!
The sheriff interrupted him, saying, “Mr. I’ve heard that you’re a man who drinks. Is that true?
I’m not going to lie. I drank over Christmas last year. I’ve had some since then.
“Mr. Creamer, are you a good provider?”
“I work as hard as I can. Although I am not wealthy, nobody in my home is in need. anyone in this room!”
“Mr. Creamer, have you been cruel? Have you mistreated your wife and kids?
“No, sir; simply inquire if I have. However, occasionally it’s important to make corrections. However, it’s for their own benefit.
At the Creamer residence, the carriage arrived. Ruth Creamer was alone when Sheriff McQueen and Special Magistrate Reily entered to speak with her.
The Special Correspondent was left outdoors after they had a lengthy conversation.
Later, the Sheriff and Magistrate made their appearances before leaving with the Special Correspondent. She made every attempt to get them to reveal what they had discussed with Ruth Creamer, but they resisted.
The search was suspended soon after.
Without her lengthy, dramatic daily reports on what was happening in Cape Tormentine after she left, the Special Correspondent returned to Saint John, and interest in the kidnapping of the Creamer children swiftly waned.
The entire intriguing drama vanished from memory in a short period of time.
The case is still open, and it has largely fallen into obscurity.
I can make a suggestion, though, that might lead to a resolution and, in a somewhat unusual twist for this topic, a happy conclusion.
In a strange note found in Michael MacKenzie’s 1984 book Glimpses of the Past, the author may have provided a clue as to what actually transpired to the Creamer children in the summer of 1906.
In an effort to divert the police from looking for the kids at her parents’ Toronto house, his mother had stayed behind during the search. However, his mother and older sister snuck away and joined them in Ontario as soon as the hunt was over.
Nevertheless, it didn’t appear like anyone the elderly guy spoke with at Cape Tormentine understood what this outsider who had visited their community was talking about. The inexplicable disappearance of two kids that summer, many years prior, seems to have been forgotten.