Dr. Gregory Klages
More than a couple years ago, Dr. Gregory Klages, PhD, research director of the
Canadian Mysteries website called Death on a Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson
Tragedy said he was working on a book about the case. The book finally is available and
reviewed elsewhere on this website here Dr. Klages Fails to Deliver.
“The mystery around Thomson’s death has never attracted a lot of scholarship,” said Dr.
Klages about his book. “It’s attracted a lot of amateur historians and journalists, however.
In the absence of interest from professional historians, untrained historians have led the
investigation of Thomson's death, from Blodwen Davies in the 1930s, to William Little in
the 1950s and 1960s, to Roy MacGregor and Joan Murray in the 1970s and 1980s to Neil
I am one of those amateur historians. Although I have a juris doctorate from the Detroit
College of Law, its not recognized as equal to a PhD among the academic ranks.
Klages, the professional historian whose 2009 doctor of philosophy degree actually is in
communications and culture from the York University, Toronto, is s sessional instructor at
several universities in Toronto. Does that make him a professional historian?
I contacted Dr. Klages there on June 13, 2011, with a question about the forensic report of
Dr. Noble C. Sharpe, M.D., which Dr. Klages reproduced on the Canadian Mysteries
website. I had found big discrepancies comparing it with the forensic report reproduced in
The Tom Thomson Mystery by William T. Little.
When he was preparing the Canadian Mysteries website ten years ago, Klages asked
me to submit an essay to be available there for use only by teachers. I chose as my
subject an explanation of how Judge Little had altered historical evidence and
manufactured facts crucial to his sensational 1970 book. Dr. Klages also wrote an essay
for the website, among other things, commenting critically not only on Little's book but my
"Little's published work is also problematic as it is rife with errors. Neil Lehto suggests
Little purposely falsified and ignored evidence to support a particular theory of what
happened to Thomson and his remains," Klages wrote. "I disagree with Lehto and
suggest many of Little's errors are the kind of unfortunate slips that stem from trying to
manage stacks and stacks of evidence on paper while trying to reconcile the version of
the story gleaned from those papers with verbal testimony gathered over decades."
I was more than a little offended. He'd invited my little essay and then clobbered me
without offering a chance to respond. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to make a
critical comment on his essay.
Regarding the role that alcoholic beverages might have played in Thomson's death, Dr.
Klages wrote, "All published quotations of Mark Robinson's diary have omitted the July 19
reference to Robinson receiving instructions (presumably from Park Superintendent
Bartlett) to tell Shannon Fraser to 'have no more booze come in.' " (Emphasis added.)
To the contrary, I had published Robinson's diary entry on p. 165 of Algonquin Elegy: Tom
Thomson's Last Spring, observing myself that it was noteworthy neither Ottelyn Addison
nor Little had done so.
Klages did add a weaseling footnote to his essay saying, "Lehto does mention this entry
in an undated essay on his website, likely written after his book had been published in
But that doubled his error. I asked for a correction which he promised but has never
delivered to my knowledge.
Anyway, Dr. Klages responded to my inquiry about the discrepancies in the forensic
report of Dr. Sharpe by saying that his "was obtained using a Province of Ontario Freedom
of Information and Personal Access (FIPA) request. As part of the release of the
documents, I agreed that I would not redistribute copies of the originals."
He explained what I already knew. I could myself obtain a copy by making a FIPA request
to the "Archives of Ontario, RG 4-2 "Office of the Attorney General correspondence and
subject files", File #475.2 "Tom Thomson (circumstances of death of 1970", Dr. Noble
Sharpe, RE: Human Bones received from unmarked grave in Algonquin Park, October 30,
Thus, began this amateur historian's year-long struggle with this professional historian,
who, I suspect, knew he was sending me on a wild goose chase. Evidently, Dr. Klages
had already obtained copies of other records answering my question and I believe he
knew that he had not obtained them from the Archives of Ontario.
In August, a few weeks later, the Archives sent me Dr. Sharpe's report signed and dated
on October 30, 1956 without demanding any promise that I would not redistribute copies.
It was significantly different from what Little reproduced but identical to the website
version so I contacted Dr. Klages again to ask if he had yet reviewed Little's version.
Klages said he had retrieved his files from storage and asserted that Little had accurately
reproduced Dr. Sharpe's forensic report dated October 30, 1956, while the Canadian
Mysteries website version actually was from December 12, 1956 but that he could not
share it with me. He said a correction to the Canadian Mysteries website, however, would
I re-contacted the Archives asking if they had a forensic report by Dr. Sharpe dated
December 12, 1956.
Months passed and the website wasn't changed. (It was finally updated sometime in
mid-2016. The corrected formal citation is Centre for Forensic Sciences, Toronto, Ontario.
Documents supplied in response to Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal
Privacy Act request, Dr. Noble Sharpe, Re: Human Bones received from unmarked grave
in Algonquin Park, October 30, 1956. The dating is misleading because this version
actually was retyped from Dr. Sharpe's handwritten notes he dated December 12, 1956.)
I then asked Dr. Klages to explain where he got the report dated December 12, 1956.
He refused to tell me.
"I'm sure you understand that I would prefer to not share all of the archival files that I have
spent considerable time, effort, ingenuity, and cost locating until I have had an opportunity
to fully analyze and address them in published form," he replied. "I understand that you
are eager to see any information I have regarding the 1956 Sharpe report. Until I have
published my findings drawing upon information I have located during my research,
however, I prefer to not share information with other researchers."
I would have understood but for his erroneous and dishonest original answer
encouraging me to go off in the wrong direction on what he knew would be a futile record
search at the Archives of Ontario.
I did not yet know that everything else he had said about Little's version of the forensic
report was wrong, too, and that Dr. Klages certainly knew so.
When talking with me, Dr. Klages happened to mention with some professional pride that
he had written an article for a book called Archival Narratives for Canada: Re-Telling
Stories in a Changing Landscape which was going to be published shortly. A few
months later, on December 1, 2011, I obtained a copy.
The article, The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson, said it was based on "relevant records . . .
which have recently been made available through formal requests by this author for
access to information collected by the Ontario Attorney General's office and the provincial
Centre for Forensic Sciences." ("Emphasis added.)
That was the clue by which on May 14, 2012, I finally obtained from the Centre for Forensic
Sciences copies of an undated summary of Dr. Sharpe's original forensic report that was
reproduced by Little and another fuller confidential version dated December 12, 1956,
both of which were actually prepared by the Ontario Provincial Police and Centre for
Forensic Sciences in 1968 in long-delayed response to a request for the crime lab report
made by a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation script assistant with whom Little was
working on a documentary. There's another essay on this website telling the full story
behind these three versions of Dr. Sharpe's report.
My amateur historian's experience with Dr. Klages might be explained by what this
professional historian had said about Judge Little.
They were "unfortunate slips that stem from trying to manage stacks and stacks of
evidence on paper while trying to reconcile the version of the story gleaned from those