Not dead, he insists

On January 12 1934, Edgar “Barney” Ward was in New York state, working as a mover, away from his wife and family in Toronto. That day, he grabbed a copy of a two-day-old edition of the Toronto Daily Star. Out of habit, he turned to the Deaths section of the newspaper, and was quite startled to discover his own name in it:

Apparently, someone who looked a lot like the unfortunate Mr. Ward had committed suicide by taking cyanide. The double had been taken to the funeral home and a period of mourning had happened before Mr. Ward’s son realized that the dead man was not his father.

Upon reading the news of his own death, Mr. Ward sat for fifteen minutes, understandably shocked, before calling his wife on the telephone and assuring her and his family that he was, in fact, still alive.

The January 22 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star provides the complete story:

The paper also included a photo of Mr. Ward, looking very much not dead:

I tried to trace Edgar Ward in the Toronto city directories, but the records are unclear.

  • The 1933 directory lists him as a labourer living at 10 Grenadier Ravine Drive, as mentioned in his bogus death notice.
  • The 1934 directory doesn’t list him in the Names section, but the Streets section lists Edgar Ward at 10 Grenadier Ravine.
  • The 1935 directory lists an Edgar Ward working as a mechanic and living at 202 Seaton Street. In the Streets section, 10 Grenadier Ravine Drive is listed as “information unobtainable”.
  • The 1936 directory still lists Edgar Ward at 202 Seaton, but now lists Mrs. E. Ward at 10 Grenadier Ravine. She is not listed as Edgar’s widow, which might mean that the Wards split up at about this time. 202 Seaton and 10 Grenadier Ravine are at opposite ends of the city, which might (or might not) support this hypothesis.
  • The situation remains unchanged in 1939. In 1940, Mrs. Ward is still at 10 Grenadier Ravine, and Edgar Ward is no longer listed.
  • Mrs. Ward last appears at 10 Grenadier Ravine in the 1945 directory. In 1946, there is a Mrs. E. Ward elsewhere, but Ward is a common name, so there is no way to tell whether this was her.
  • Neither of them is listed in the 1947 directory, so the trail ends here.

Grenadier Ravine Drive is a small road resembling an alleyway in what was formerly the town of Swansea. 10 Grenadier Ravine has obviously been remodelled since 1934.

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