In 1968, Dr. Noble Sharpe, M.D., Ontario's chief forensic medical investigator, re-wrote his
1956 report on the skeletal remains dug up by Judge William T. Little in the little Mowat
Cemetery on Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park where Tom Thomson was originally buried in
I obtained a copy of the re-written report from a confidential Ontario government file never
before available to the public. This essay draws attention to the astonishing question raised
by what caused Dr. Sharpe to conduct new testing for his 1968 report he backdated to
December 12, 1956.
On October 18, 1956, Dr. Sharpe's original conclusion was that the remains belonged to a
younger, taller man of native Indian ancestry buried less than twenty years. This was
hurriedly reported to the Canadian press by Ontario Attorney General Kelso Roberts.
So rushed was the announcement that Dr. Sharpe had not yet written his report.
"As you got personally involved in this case through the necessity of a press release on
October 18th, I thought you might be interested in the laboratory examination," Dr. Sharpe
wrote to Kelso on November 5, 1956. He enclosed a copy.
After recovering them on October 9 at Canoe Lake, Dr. Sharpe had immediately sent the
skeletal remains to Professor J. C. Borleen Grant of the University of Toronto's anthropology
department and it was Dr. Grant's preliminary conclusions that had been reported by Kelso.
Dr. Grant's report was not finally prepared and dated until December 11, 1956.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sharpe had the skull examined by Professor Eric Linnel of the University's
department of neuropathology. They sawed off the skull cap and together concluded that a
three-quarter inch jagged hole in the left temple was the result of medical surgery not
Dr. Sharpe's official report dated October 30, 1956, was duly noted and filed by Kelso and
the skeletal remains were returned to the Mowat Cemetery grave by Corporal A. M. Rodger
of the Ontario Provincial Police, according to a memo on the case prepared by Dr. Sharpe in
1967 who also said Corporal Rodger placed there a marker.
That's where this part of story typically ends.
The 1968 version of Dr. Sharpe's report and an article he wrote for the In his 1970 article for
the Canadian Society of Forensic Science Journal , however, add some sensational new
information and raises a question about the skull's actual whereabouts today. In his article,
Dr. Sharpe wrote:
“The profile and full face photographs of Tom Thomson made available to me in 1956 were
none too clear, nevertheless, I found no evidence of Mongoloid bony points nor of agreement
of bony points. [In 1968 the] Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was able to find and
reproduce excellent pictures. I requested and was provided with actual size prints for
comparison with the skull. There was no bony point agreement. The skeleton was not that
of Tom Thomson. I suggested Mr. Walter Kenyon of the Royal Ontario Museum be
consulted. He agreed with my opinion.”
Until now, researchers and writers on this part of the story may have assumed that Dr.
Sharpe was reporting on events of 1956 when Walter Andrew Kenyon had just been hired by
the Museum as an assistant curator of ethnology. But he did not earn Canada's first PhD
degree in archaeology until 1967 and it is evident from what follows that he was not
consulted in 1956 but rather in 1967. Kenyon died in 1986.
In 1967, Miss Flora MacDonald, a script assistant doing research for a CBC documentary
on Tom Thomson's death, had requested the Ontario Attorney General to produce Dr.
Sharpe's complete report from 1956. With Dr. Sharpe's assistance, the Attorney General's
office eventually prepared and sent a heavily edited summary of the 1956 report to the CBC
which was relied upon by Judge Little for his book, The Tom Thomson Mystery. Dr. Sharpe
also prepared an updated report from his handwritten 1956 notes he dated December 12,
1956 that was intended for law enforcement use only by the Ontario government.
I have obtained copies of all three -- the original (both handwritten and typed versions),
the edited summary and the confidential version updated in 1968 along with its cover letter
signed and dated January 26, 1968, by Dr. D. M. Lucas, then director of Ontario's Center for
Forensic Science . Dr. Lucas said, " . . . this copy is for the use of the Ontario Provincial
Police or the law officers of the Crown. It is not to be released to any other party without my
Not included in the summary delivered to the CBC that was used by Judge Little's book or
the 1956 version on the Canadian Mysteries website, Dr. Sharpe's revised report prepared
in 1968 confidentially noted:
"From recent tests not then available, I place time of burial up to 20 years before 1956, not
longer." (Emphasis added.)
While he and Dr. Kenyon could have compared photos of the skull with CBC's photos of
Tom Thomson, what possibly could Dr. Sharpe have tested in 1967. Was it the skull dug up
Dr. Lucas explained that the revised report transcribed from Dr. Sharpe's handwritten
notes had not been reviewed by Dr. Sharpe. "Since Dr. Sharpe was not available to assist
with the transcribing of his notes, I should not want him to be held responsible for any
typographical or other errors," he said.
Therefore, he wanted the revised report treated as confidential. However, it also raises a
Where is the skull today?