The Disappearance of Ambrose Small : Ontario, Canada
Article Written by Daniel Cumerlato
There is no dark mystery here, but only in the heart of the person who remove him from the world. This person must have only felt hate, for to strike down those who are happiest is to commit a terrible crime.
Ambrose disappeared on a sunny afternoon back on Friday December 19th, 1919. All seemed well for him and his family as he walk out of a meeting that made him a multimillionaire. Ambrose had just signed contract to sell all of his theatres, which included The Grand in Toronto, The Tivoli in Hamilton and The Grand in London, Ontario.
This century long mystery is still talked about today, and the question is still being asked by the confused many... “What happened to Ambrose Small?”
Ambrose is Gone!
A crime has been committed and the Toronto police spare no expense. Once the clues and evidence stopped supporting the solution, a more straight-laced detective would replace the first.
The first detective in this case was removed due to a personal connection with one of the top suspects. This may sound to you like a movie plot, it’s not, what we have here is the real life script for the investigation of Ambrose Small’s disappearance.
Meet Austin Mitchell.
Detective Mitchell is a great investigator, so great that he attracted the most mysterious disappearance in Canadian history. He was asked to find Ambrose Small, dead or alive, and put to rest all of the questions from the public and the media.
The current Commissioner of Ontario, Thomas Flynn, was a horse racing enthusiast, and a one-time personal friend of Ambrose small. Flynn's “outside-of-the-box” methods were perfect for this strange case.
In the past he had relied on psychics, which back in the 1920’s were considered gypsies and fakes, that they could not be trusted to "see the future". Mitchell was tried this, but psychics proved to be unhelpful in this case.
Then Detective C.D. Hammond was brought in on the case after public uproar. Hammond was a straight-laced professional. He followed the clues, corresponding to the law and making no friends along the way. Together, Austin and Hammond would unearth the best clues ever found.
Ambrose’s secret life
Within the walls of the Grand in Toronto, Detective Hammond discovered a small room setup for extramarital affairs. The room was described as having wall-to-wall, thick and expensive Oriental carpeting. Expensive fabric was draped along the walls for soundproofing. There was a bar with whiskey and wine, and a bed dressed with satin sheets and many pillows.
There were no electrical lights in this room, only candles.
Ralph Savein sold newspapers to Ambrose Small almost every morning. He claimed to be the last person to see Ambrose alive. This was one a day... after the famous disappearance.
It's said that police debunked his claim, and found out that little Ralph was only seeking attention and fame.
After word got out that Ambrose Small was missing, and that a $50,000 reward was placed on finding him alive (or $15,000 dead), bodies began to be found everywhere.
Every one of the bodies was claimed to be Ambrose by the finder. In many cases the dead men fit Ambrose's physical description. It all came down to one anomaly - Ambrose had hammertoes.
This fact disproved every claim.
Who was she?
The socialite wife of Ambrose.
Why was she a suspect?
Her cold reaction to his disappearance, and seemingly emotionless actions towards efforts to find him.
His disappearance transferred the almost two million dollars from the theatre deal. It's said Theresa knew about Ambrose's affairs and despised him for it.
Who was he?
Ambrose’s assistant at the Toronto Grand.
Why was he a suspect?
At the same time of Ambrose’s disappearance, John was reported missing too. After talking with John's friends and family, the detectives found out that John had hated Ambrose for being greedy and cheap.
John helped Ambrose build his fortune and wanted part of the profits. Ambrose only paid John a pittance of a salary... and never even bought him a present at Christmas!
John even told one of his friends that he would kill Ambrose Small.
The Disappearance of John Doughty
The day after Ambrose disappeared, his assistant John Doughty arrived in Montreal. John was then never seen from again.
The only evidence of his still being alive was found by his sister. There was evidence around Christmas of 1919 in John's Toronto apartment that showed he had arrived and left quickly.
Many years later John was found in Oregon City, Oregon, hiding out under a new identity with a brand new life. One of his current employees, known as “Three Fingers”, saw a wanted poster for John Doughty and immediately called the police to report his manager, a man named Charlie Cooper.
John was brought back to Toronto and his case was met with huge public interest. This would turn out to be one of the most anticipated trials in Canada’s history as thousands gathered inside of Old City Hall.
Disappointment abound when it was found out that there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute John for murder. The jury would find John guilty... for the theft of $104,000 worth of bonds. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
His Ghost and the Theatre he Loved
Many at London, Ontario's Grand Theatre claim the ghost of Ambrose. They say this was his favorite theatre.
Many ghost sightings at the Grand are attributed to Ambrose, but the most famous saved a priceless artifact.
Renovations were being done on the old theatre and a bulldozer was brought in. Just as the machine got ready to break through and tear out the front wall of the auditorium, it stalled!
Confused, the workers started it back up and prepped to destroy the wall , only to have the machine cut out again. This strange occurrence only would occur on the one wall, which made the workers curious.
They found in behind the doomed spot one of the theatre’s original archways, with a priceless and irreplaceable mural painted upon it. They say Ambrose Small stopped that bulldozer to save the mural he loved so dear.
London’s Grand Theatre isn't the only place that has become accustom to Ambrose’s after death visits. The Tivoli Theatre in Hamilton has seen it’s share of Mr. Small.
The Tivoli Theatre, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
We received reports directly from the manager at The Tivoli Theatre for many years, Loren Liberman. He and his staff believe they have the most unique stories about the famous man.
The Victorian Homeless Dude
Reports from its staff have placed the apparition of what was thought to be a homeless man in different locations around the building.
Staff and actors constantly came up to Loren to describe a homeless man they've seen walking around the theatre. The described him in Victorian dress, not the usual modern homeless style.
He wasn’t a tall man at five and half feet, but stood with confidence. The most noticeable feature was his moustache, which was long and curled out at the ends, "like Salvatore Dali!"
Knowing the history, Loren took a book from the Hamilton Public Library with a large picture of Ambrose. Without telling his staff who the man was, he showed the picture around. One by one, all of the staff members agreed that the man in the picture was the same man they saw in the theatre.
A lot of renovations were done on the Tivoli when Sam the Record man bought it and Loren was made manager. There were days on end when the theatre would be a hub for workers and staff cleaning and renovating the space for live theatre (this was a movie house before).
Not many know, but there was a courtyard just behind the auditorium that had an open ceiling. Today this is the space you walk through to get to the theatre during James Street Art Crawls, but back then is was very hidden. It was here that a secret basement was found, and when opened, many old vaudeville posters, movie reels and steamer trunks.
One trunk stood out from the rest because of a gold plate on the front. The plate had "A. Small" carved into it. The workers jumped back when opening the trunk to reveal a skeleton inside of it. At first they thought it was a prop, but it wasn't plastic.
Loren called the Toronto police, which was the closest forensics team at the time. They set to come out the next day, however in the confusion of renovations, the trunk disappeared. Possibly thrown out by a worker by mistake?
Could this have been the real body of Ambrose Small, placed into a trunk bearing his name as a final humiliation from those he'd had done wrong? We'll never know.
READ MORE about the very haunted Tivoli Theatre - Featured on Ghost Walk of Downtown Hamilton (Art of Storytelling)
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