Ambrose Small was a wealthy theater owner from Ontario, Canada. He was also a womanizer, a gambler and possibly a cheat. He disappeared in December of 1919. As is wont to happen when men of his caliber disappear, there were many suspects and many false leads, making it difficult to solve the case. To this day, the only sightings of Ambrose Small since his disappearance are that of his ghost at his biggest theater-The Grand Opera House.
Ambrose Small was born in 1863. His father owned a small hotel in Toronto where Ambrose began working when he was 13-years-old. It was not long before Ambrose took on small management tasks, including arranging entertainment for the hotel. Ambrose also had a part time job at the Grand Theater. Over time, he became very successful booking entertainment, which led to a lucrative career in the field.
With success came a love for gambling and women. Ambrose Small was a notoriously avid gambler. It is also said that he was a cheat. It is quite possible given that he seemed to win a bit more than he lost. As for women, showgirls were his disposable female of choice for a time. He went from one beautiful hopeful to the next, capitalizing on the pretty women’s hopes for a career in show business.
Despite Ambrose Small’s penchant for a variety of women, he married a rich heiress when he was 39. It is highly likely that Ambrose married his wife Teresa for money rather than love. His behavior both before and after the wedding are evidence of this. Very soon after Ambrose and Teresa Small were married, Ambrose began using his wife’s money to buy theaters and fill them. He bought the Grand Opera House, where people have claimed his ghost resides. Ambrose also continued seeing other women, one named Clara Smith in particular. He even had a room built in the Grand Opera House for the sole purpose of having extramarital relations.
Ambrose Small was a scornful man in his success. He treated other people as if they were below him. He continued to make enemies in love, business and gambling. He also lost interest in his business. Ambrose was so consumed by his lifestyle that he had given over most of the control of his theaters to his personal secretary-John Doughty. In the end, he decided to sell them.
On December 2, 1919, Ambrose Small sold all of his theaters to Trans-Canada Theaters Limited for 1.7 million dollars. The deal was made good with a check for one million dollars and the promise for 700,000 more. Both Theresa and Ambrose signed the check and deposited it into their bank account. Ambrose went on to have two meetings with his lawyer and then he disappeared.
It was days before anyone began searching for Ambrose Small. Teresa Small suspected that he was just up to his usual bad habits, or that is what she said. His mistress, Clara Smith did not report anything, either. When the search finally did begin, it was a massive one. Police teamed up with all kinds of reward hunters (Clara had put up a 50,000 dollar reward), but they came up with nothing but a few dead-end facts and rumors.
Interestingly, John Doughty disappeared on the same day as Ambrose Small. He was eventually found in Oregon and charged with stealing a little over 100,000 dollars in bonds. This was, of course, very suspicious, but there was no evidence that tied him to the disappearance of Ambrose Small. He could have been planning to steal the money and run because he knew Ambrose had just sold the theaters. His disappearance on the same day may have been a coincidence, albeit a strange one. Both Clara and Teresa were implicated, but there was no evidence in that direction either. Countless tips came in, but after all these years nothing has turned up.
Taylor, Troy, Ambrose Small, retrieved 9/11/10, prairieghosts.com/ambrose.html
Cumerlato, David, The Disappearance of Ambrose Small, retrieved 9/11/10, hauntedhamilton.com/gotw_ambrosesmall.html