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The German Spyhole

Compiled by Maggie Stoyles in Summer 2020

There have been many stories and legends told at Cave Springs Camp. We describe a legend as a story that has been passed down from person to person, with some true parts and some false parts. Some of our legends are newer, and some are very, very old. The thing about legends is that they morph and change as time goes on, so how I might tell these stories may be different from how a counsellor would have told them in the past (even last summer!), but overall the concept remains the same. We have included “the real version” of some of these stories, especially when history is involved. Often it is just as interesting to know what actually happened, and usually, it is more important. 

Lots of information found in this book is from the Cave Springs Farm: Fact and Fancy book that was written in 1952 by W.F. Rannie, as well as some community newspaper articles. The rest is general camp knowledge and stories that have been told and retold.

The Legend

There was a man who lived in Germany who wanted to be a farmer. At night, he would dream of the sheep, chickens and corn he would own, and during the day he would get lost in thoughts of hay bales and horses. Unfortunately, World War II had just begun, and he was not interested in being part of the war. So instead, he decided to pack up a suitcase and move to Canada, where he hoped he would eventually save up enough to start a farm.

He moved to the small town of Beamsville, where he bought a little house and started to learn about Canada and farming. The problem was, he didn’t know how to speak english at all, so he would have to learn. He learned english by listening to the radio and watching the TV, but he found that listening to other people speak worked the best. His favourite hobby was to sit at the local coffee shop and try to understand the conversations that were happening around him.

The problem was that Canada was fighting on a different side of the war than Germany, so the people of Beamsville thought that he was a German spy! They were worried he had been sent by Germany to listen to their secrets and report back. They were so afraid that he was a spy, that one night they had a town meeting and decided to chase the German man out of town. They made a plan to show up at his house later that night and scare him away forever.

Luckily, the German man had become friends with the coffee shop owner, who ran to his house and warned him of the oncoming mob. By the time the people of Beamsville got there, with their pitchforks and torches, he had already run up the escarpment. The people searched his house and everything around it, burning it to the ground when they could not find him. They ran up the escarpment looking for him. The german man was smart though, and he had found a secret tunnel through some rocks that went down the escarpment. As the crowd ran up, he went down through the hole. Then, when the people couldn’t find him on top of the escarpment and ran back down, he went up through the hole. This continued for a while until the people of Beamsville eventually decided that he had left for good, and they gave up and went home.

The man from Germany spent the next few years living out of the tunnel in the escarpment. He ate what he could find and lived in the forest, hiding whenever he heard anyone come up the path. After many years, the war with Germany ended and the people forgot about the German man. He came out of hiding and sued the town of Beamsville for burning down his house, and ended up getting $10, 000, which during the time was enough money to buy himself a farm like he always wanted. The man from Germany, who was not a spy, lived happily ever after with his sheep and his chickens. 

The Real Story

During the first world war, there was a German man who lived on King St that was said to have been under investigation for spying. He was threatened out of town and eventually ended up in Germany, but there are no records of official charges or suspicions.

Many years later, two men from Illinois, USA, came to visit the ice caves and mentioned that their German father left some belongings in a hole on the escarpment during the first world war. 

There was also an army base in Grimsby where similar instances of  finding “German spies” occurred.