Tom Thomson

Canadian painter Tom Thomson was last seen setting out on a fishing trip in a canoe on July 8, 1917. When his body was found floating in Canoe Lake eight days later, the circumstances behind the young artist’s demise became one of Canada’s most infamous mysteries.

There were two unusual aspects of the body that led many to believe he hadn’t simply fallen overboard: A piece of fishing line was wrapped 16 times around Thomson’s left ankle, and there was a wound on his temple. Some investigators agree with the accidental drowning theory, but if it was an accident, what caused it? It’s possible that Thomson’s canoe simply hit a piece of floating debris from a nearby logging operation. Some have even suggested the unlikely—but technically possible—scenario that he was hit by a sudden tornado.

Others have suggested that Thomson received a blow to the head, possibly from a paddle. There’s also the possibility of suicide—that Thomson purposely drowned himself, using the fishing line to tie a weight around his ankle.

The murder theories are even more numerous. Among the proposed suspects are American draft dodgers hoping to stay anonymous and poachers going to desperate lengths to hide their activities. Perhaps enemy spies or saboteurs were hiding in the woods, planning to attack the nearby train tracks used to transport goods bound for the war effort in Europe. None of them would have wanted Thomson to report spotting them.