The Body in the Well Mystery




Photo from The Astronomer who Fell Into the Well

October 1867– Almonte Gazette

The Well Mystery

The adjourned inquest on the body found in the well last week was resumed Friday evening last when two witnesses- ones most likely to know something in connection with the strange affair we examined. But their evidence was only to the effect of rendering the strange affair more hidden and mysterious.

Not the slightest clue was obtained as to whom the body might have been in life, or how it came in the well and the coroner came to rest content with the adjournment and take steps to have the bottom of the well thoroughly examined so if there were any traces remaining they could be produced at the next meeting of the jurors.

No future evidence could be provided to solve the mystery of who was in the well and how he fell in.



In August of 2016  a Redwater Alberta woman fell in an open well and struggled for hours to pull herself out. Trieva McBeth said she was walking her dog Loki in a rural area near Highway 643, and while in a secluded area, she fell into an open well that had been obscured by tall grass.

McBeth said she plummeted down the seven foot well – and hoped a passing driver would come to her rescue, but nobody did.

“I never want to have to scream like that again,” McBeth said.

Soon she could see the sky above darkening, and she knew she had to get out before the weather turned.

“I couldn’t get a grip with my feet and I’d just slip right back down, and every time I fell right down was when I came close to actual panic,” McBeth said.

Finally, she was able to use a nylon rope that was tied to a cement block to pull herself out.

“It was as tall as my hands could reach, I could never do that in the gym, I could never do a pull up,” McBeth said.

The whole incident played out over about four hours – and she hopes the well gets covered so the same thing doesn’t happen to someone else.

I cannot even imagine. I really can’t. It would be like running up a hill and never getting to the top.



Perth Courier, December 3, 1875

Richay—Accidentally killed by falling from the lock gates at Smith’s Falls on the 30th   Jonas Richay, Esq., in the 68th  year of his age.

In another article in the same newspaper:  Lamentable Accident:  The people of this town (Smith’s Falls) were shocked to hear that on Friday last James Richey, farmer of the 3rd Line Bathurst, came to a terribly sudden end by falling into one of the locks at Smith’s Falls where he was engaged in the duty of tending to the locks.  It will be remembered that on Friday everything was covered with ice and it was by incautiously walking on the ice covered sills that he lost his footing, breaking his neck on the rocks below.  His remains were interred in the Methodist Cemetery at Perth on Sabbath last.

Abandoned Well Accidents

1998 – Midland, Michigan A four-year-old girl fell through the rotted wood cover of an abandoned water well while chasing a stray cat with her two-year-old sister in the yard of their Larkin Township home. She held onto a pipe in the well to keep from sinking into the 7 to 8 ft. deep water until she was rescued by her father, who had his wife and seven-year-old son lower him head-first into the well by holding his legs. The girl was in the well for about 10 minutes and was very cold, but fortunately she was not injured.

(Source: Midland Daily News, December 15, 1998)


1998 – Delaware City, Delaware A five-year-old girl was rescued within 20 minutes after she fell into a 42 ft. deep well at her grandparents home. The accident occurred when she stepped on a temporary fiberglass cover over the 2 ft. by 2 ft. well opening. She fell to the bottom of the well which had 2 to 3 ft. of standing water. Rescue personnel lowered a fireman into the well to retrieve the girl. She was airlifted to a hospital where she was later released.

(Source: Water Well Journal, March 1998, “Child Falls into Well; Is Rescued Unharmed”)


1998 – Buenos Aires, Argentina A five -year-old boy fell into a 59 ft. deep well shaft while out walking with his mother. He cried at the outset of the ordeal, but after whimpering for three hours, he fell silent. Thirty hours after he fell in, his body was recovered by workers using heavy excavation equipment and mini-cameras. The workers dug a second tunnel alongside the well and a passageway between the two shafts to reach the trapped boy.

(Source: Lansing State Journal, March 21, 1998, “Crews find boy’s body after 30 hours in well”)


1997 – Cockeysville, Maryland Six-year-old boy playing hide-and-seek with his brothers fell into 50 foot deep abandoned well. Rescuers pumped oxygen down hose to child who was standing in chin-deep water. Child rescued by lowering emergency worker with harness and back-splint. Boy airlifted to hospital for treatment of fractured leg.

(Source: Water Well Journal, July ’97, “Contractor Has Role in Boy’s Rescue from Old Well”, by Gloria Swanson)


1997 – Lenawee County, Michigan Two 10-year-old girls playing in yard fell though concrete cover 5 feet into a 25 feet deep, 4 feet diameter dug well. Mother tried to rescue children and also fell in. All three rescued by township fire department unharmed.

(Source: Newspaper article – Adrian Daily Telegraph, February 5, 1997 and report from Lenawee County Health Department dated 2/6/97)


1997 – Central Minnesota Well owner reported that his child, who was playing in the yard, stepped into an improperly sealed unsuccessful well. The child fell into the borehole up to his chest and caught himself with his arms. Other children pulled him to safety.

(Source: Minnesota Well Management News, Winter 1997/98, Vol. 17, No. 4, Minnesota Department of Health)


1996 – Mackinaw, Illinois Ten-year-old boy was seriously injured when he fell into an abandoned well at a park. After falling onto a concrete cover which gave way, the child plunged 40 feet to the bottom of an abandoned 103-year-old well. He broke both legs and an arm.

(Source: Water Well Journal, June ’97, “Children Fall into Wells” and Aqua Notes, newsletter of the Illinois Association of Groundwater Professionals)


1996 – King George, Virginia A third grader fell through a crack in the lid of his grandmother’s well and plunged 35 feet to water. After he fell, pipes under the water squeezed his legs, pinning them. Fortunately, he suffered no broken bones.

(Source: Water Well Journal, June ’97, Children Fall into Wells” and article in Virginian-Pilot, Hampton Roads newspaper)


1995 – Port Orchard, Wash. A construction foreman fell into an abandoned well at a site where a shopping complex was under construction. He plunged 20 feet into the well after stepping on rotted boards that covered the well. At the time of the accident, he was making preparations to seal the well. The local health department asked him to remove oil jugs and automobile batteries that someone discarded near the well. The worker was struck on the head by chunks of brick and crumbling plank and briefly knocked unconscious. He awoke in the water, not knowing how deep it was because he never touched bottom. He climbed out of the well by grabbing bolts protruding from the wall of the well. He was treated for cuts and abrasions at a hospital.

(Source: Port Orchard Independent newspaper, August 2, 1995)


1994 – Home, Washington A 7-year old boy was rescued after falling 40 feet to the bottom of an abandoned well, landing in two feet of mucky water. The boy and his 9-year old companion were roaming around a field when they came across an old shed. After entering the structure, which turned out to be an abandoned well house, they fell through rotten boards covering the well. The older boy caught hold of some piping, climbed out and summoned the help of a neighbor who tried unsuccessfully to reach the boy with a ladder. A firefighter who was an experienced rock climber, was lowered into the well to rescue the boy. The boy was in the well about an hour and suffered cuts and bruises. He was taken to a hospital where he was treated and released.

(Source: Gateway Newspaper article from September 21, 1994)


1991 – Hungary A 19-year old man falls to bottom of a 74 feet deep, 4 feet diameter well. After several attempts, he manages to climb out after being confined for nearly 24 hours. He was treated for a toe fracture, gangrene, lacerations, frostbite, and dehydration.

(Source: Readers’ Digest, September 1994, “Trapped in a Well”, by E. Kovats)


1987 – Midland, Texas 18-month-old girl falls 22 feet into abandoned 8 inch well (Rescued).

(Source: Lansing State Journal, October 1987, various Associated Press articles – This is the nationally publicized case involving toddler Jessica McClure. Years later, the dramatic rescue became the subject of a television movie.)


1986 – Texas 6-year-old child steps off school bus and falls into snow-covered abandoned well (Rescued)


1986 – Colt’s Neck, New Jersey 2-year-old boy falls 12 feet into abandoned 12 inch borehole in yard (Rescued).


1983 – Frascati, Italy 6-year-old boy falls over 200 feet into 16 inch abandoned well (Fatality).


1983 – Louisiana 10-month-old child falls to bottom of 40 foot deep 10 inch abandoned well (Fatality).


1981 – Texas 4-year-old child falls 260 feet into well (Rescued).


Alabama Deer hunter fell into 30 feet deep abandoned well – lands waist deep in muck and water and a loosened board falls and hits him on the head – crawls out by digging hand holds in clay walls with knife – drove himself to hospital – wood splinters removed from scalp.

(Source: Outdoor Life magazine feature called “This Happened to Me: Trapped in Hidden Well. A True Tale” by Steve Lovin, Aliceville, Alabama)


Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun



About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

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