Years ago I posted a newspaper clipping from many many years ago about kids putting up wagons on top of buildings. I couldn’t figure out how they did it and thought it was a strange sort of prank. Little did I know it began many moons ago in Spencerville, ON.
Here is the story…..
The Spencerville poltergeists have done it again. Despite a beefed-up Halloween night police force and a warning that the perpetrators wouldn’t get off lightly, a hay wagon once again found its way to the roof of the village’s old bank building. The tradition goes back to the days when turning outhouses upside down was considered a good Halloween trick.
Ten Ontario Provincial Police officers in six cruisers kept their eyes peeled for the mischief-makers well into the small hours Thursday morning in this community about 15 kilometres northeast of Prescott. But police had to respond to a report that vandals were lobbing Molotov cocktails around the streets of nearby Cardinal at around 9 pm said Prescott OPP Sgt Phil Say.
They didn’t catch the tricksters who boosted the wagon seven metres to the roof within half an hour “Sometimes they put it up two or three days before or after Halloween. But up it goes one way or another” Sgt Say said the owners aren’t amused. The 80-year-old building was sold to two Ottawa women four years ago.
It received more than $5000 in damages several years ago when holes in the roof damaged antiques in the building. Last year the owners hired a guard but the wagon went up two days before Halloween says Maryjane Reed one owner. Ms Reed says she can understand the village’s affection for tradition but it’s costing her money And she says the villagers know who does it but the circle is closed to outsiders.
“They won’t talk because it’s an old custom” Sgt Say said. Some local farmers also consider it a joke he says. Often they don’t bother to report the wagon until that wagon has gotten up to the roof of the Royal Bank building. Sgt Say said he isn’t sure how it’s done ‘ It’s a tradition” he said but he estimates it takes about six.
Sgt Gaw suggests that the job is for people to lift the wagon which is done easily in a few minutes by a team of scouts to monitor the dismantling of the wagon and reassembling it on the roof.
Kingston, Ontario, Canada
Fri, Nov 02, 1990 · Page 31
Vandals responsible for a Halloween prank that damaged a Spencerville antique shop may never be caught because residents arent co-operating with police, says the investigating officer. “I drive into town and the doors close. Nobody wants to rat on a neighbor,” said Const. Jeff McConnell, of the Prescott detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police.
A Halloween tradition, which dates back 50 years, was repeated Oct 30 when a farmer’s hay wagon was hoisted onto the roof of the antique shop. Windows and a door were broken, and the roof was damaged. Either that night or the next day, vandals went beyond tradition and spray-painted the building with obscenities, and broke windows, McConnell said. In total, the building sustained $15,000 in damages. Bernice Campbell, who bought the former bank building in 1986, said her insurance company has discontinued coverage.
Two youths responsible for the hay-wagon prank last year were convicted of mischief, McConnell said. They were caught because someone in the community, located about 60 kilometres south of Ottawa, told police who was responsible tor the vandalism. McConnell said he hopes someone will do the same this year because his investigation is “going nowhere.” Two police cruisers and the police station were also damaged Halloween night, McConnell said.
Even after police arrived, small fires were set in the streets and some people threw eggs. “Spencerville on Halloween night is a war zone,” McConnell said. “People, for one day of the year, decide to act like idiots.” Ross Somerville, deputy reeve of Edwardsburgh Township, said that when he arrived in town about 9:30 p.m., there were about 150 youths milling in the streets but they weren’t throwing anything. Somerville, who as a teenager participated in the hay wagon prank, says damaging property was never the point of the joke.
When Bernice Campbell bought a building in Spencerville nobody told her it came with a curse. But after six years the Ottawa woman has had enough. What started as a harmless Halloween prank has destroyed, her antique business and left her on the verge of nervous collapse. “I’m devastated,” Campbell, 64, said Sunday in an interview. “It’s not right what happened to me.”
The curse returns every year around Halloween, when gangs of pranksters show up at her shop. It’s a tradition in the town, which is about 60 kilometres south of Ottawa, stretching back 50 years. Every Halloween a farmer’s hay wagon is “borrowed” and lifted onto the roof of the former bank building. No one knows how the wagon lifting got started. But it’s out of control.
The wagon was boosted on top of the building again this year, the night before Halloween. Windows and a door were broken and the roof was damaged in the process. Then about 150 youths went on a rampage. They tossed eggs and spray-painted obscenities on the building in shocking pink paint. On the night of the incidents, two police officers were assigned to Spencerville until 3 a.m., according to Staff Sgt. Brent Hill, who’s in charge of the Ontario Provincial Police detachment in Prescott.
He said, however, that as far as he knew the worst of the damage was done before his officers were on the scene. “It definitely wasn’t done when we were in the village. We wouldn’t stand for any of that.” Hill said that while his officers were there a few minor fires were set in the streets and some people threw eggs.
The wagon was taken down sometime in the past couple of days, although Campbell doesn’t know who did it. And the township has sent her a letter offering to clean up the graffiti. But she remains bitter. “I’ve got all kinds of water damage inside,” Campbell said. “I spent so much fixing the place up, new floor and a furnace. Now it’s all ruined.” Last year, vandals hung her in effigy from the wagon. “They caught me in my car and started rocking it,” she said.
“When I opened the door, they pelted the inside with eggs.” Campbell said her insurance company has discontinued coverage. “I’m losing everything I put into the place. The damage this year is about $15,000 but it would be twice that to fix everything up.” Ross Somerville, deputy reeve of Edwardsburgh Township, doubts 100 police officers could stop a tradition that many in the village of 500 consider harmless fun.
“Just like summer comes round every year, that wagon goes up,” said Somerville, who watched the crowd this Halloween. As a youth, Somerville said, he helped hoist the wagon. Last year, two men were convicted of mischief following the pranks. And Hill said this year’s excesses are under investigation. But Campbell says slap-on-the-wrist punishments are no deterrent. She feels the township should compensate her.
David Sloan, who was township reeve until last week when he was defeated in elections, scoffs at the suggestion. “I don’t know how we would be responsible for the township residents breaking and smashing things,” he said. “If any other place is broken into we’re not responsible, we don’t have to come good.”
The Ottawa CitizenOttawa, Ontario, Canada18 Nov 1991, Mon • Page 11
Comments from If you grew up in Prescott, Ontario remember…
Who out there remembers the prank of putting the hay wagon up on the roof of the Royal Bank in Spencerville. Does anyone have any stories about it?
Halloween Wasn’t Halloween Unless we had the wagon on the bank. Good times.
The farmers always knew where to find their missing wagon the next day. Usually it was Cliff Acres’ wagon. We girls were the police look outs and the guys the workers haha.
We had wagons coming in all directions back in the day. lol
At the back of the bank there was a lower section where the vault was, we would hoist a few boys up, they jumped up to the main roof. Roll the wagon up the wall tongue up, we pushed, they pulled. We were in and out in seconds. You could not rob a bank that quick, lol
I think the police had as much fun trying to catch us than we did putting the farm equipment up there. They would drive around the block and there would be something hoisted up there by the time they came around. One yr they were goin to catch everyone involved by taking pictures. They never got one of us.
I remember Dad telling me about a year the police were convinced they would stop it.
He said the decoys went out to distract the police, the wagon went up and everyone was back at the hotel watching the police come back…. I think he mentioned a certain Constable Kashubi? got peppered with farm fresh eggs too amongst this goose chase lol
We always enjoyed seeing the wagon up on the bank. We lived in Spencerville for 8 years but were considered newcomers so we never knew who did it. LOL
Little did the boys know that we sat back and watched the whole thing happen. And then acted all surprised that it did!! Wouldn’t have been any fun if we cops intervened too soon. It was gonna happen, so along with everbody else, we might as well have enjoyed the action!
North Augusta was a different game. Guys there didn’t know how to play. So they got lotsa eggs smashed in their pockets, guys running into fences in the dark, etc. No sport at all!
My Uncle Ted was the bank manager there for a few years. He had a good sense of humour about the inevitable lol
Lots of fun while it lasted, now the wagon is gone, and the bank they put it on is gone too.
Lots of fun while it lasted, now the wagon is gone, and the bank they put it on is gone too. I have no year when it disappeared.
So what happened to the NEW Royal Bank building
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