Norman Elder circa 1990
17 July 1939|
|Died||15 October 2003
|Parent(s)||Robert James Elder|
Norman Sam Elder (July 17, 1939 - October 15, 2003), explorer, exotic animal owner, writer, artist, Olympic equestrian, was one of Toronto's eccentrics. Elder, was the owner of the Norman Elder Museum at 140 Bedford road in the Annex, an affluent neighbourhood in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Norman Elder was the son of Robert James Elder, wealthy founder of Elder Carriage Works, the first carriage business in southern Canada. The company provided carriages for the Eaton's Company.
He grew up on Park Lane Circle, Toronto, where he discovered himself, his love of animals, and his knack for outrageous endeavors.
He also ran for Alderman in Toronto where he had many remarkable television interviews before losing.
In 1998, an Ontario Court sentenced Elder to two years less a day in prison for sexual contact with several young men.
Elder died on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 in Toronto of an apparent suicide by hanging. Along with Robin Hardy and Scott Symons, he was the subject of a chapter in Ian Young's 2013 book Encounters with Authors: Essays on Scott Symons, Robin Hardy, Norman Elder.
The Norman Elder Museum
The museum was a private home containing thousands of artifacts collected from his travels. The upper floors of the Museum served as a rooming house for up to 10 tenants.
The Norman Elder Museum was home a number of exotic animals. 'Tony', a Galapagos Islands tortoise, lived for many years, roaming the first floor. He ate lettuce and would often walk to those in the room. He enjoyed his neck being scratched, and would extend it during the process. He eventually fell ill and was transported to Guelph University hospital, where he died. There, he was frozen until he could be delivered to a taxidermist. He was eventually returned to the museum stuffed.
Also living in the museum were two very large pythons and a boa constrictor which lived in the basement and often escaped to other parts of the house. Also residing in the house from time to time were a fruit bat, three lemurs, several chinchillas and numerous ferrets.
Of the myriad artifacts displayed within the museum, the most peculiar were a reconstructed panther skeleton, a collection of grapefruit-sized turquoise malachite eggs, fossilized elephant bird eggs, unexploded military mortar shells, an elephant skull with jaw-bone, dried elephant dung balls, a stuffed dingo, and various human skulls from the Ganges river.
The back garden held an underground, granite-walled tunnel which led to a room known as the tomb. The entrance to the tunnel was a secret doorway under Elder's bed in the first-floor master bedroom.
140 Bedford Rd. was gutted and renovated after Elder's death, leaving little trace of the house's former occupant. Norman's beloved dog Charley (who was stuffed and mounted on a movable wheeled platform) was retrieved and is owned by a private collector.
As an explorer, Elder embarked on lengthy expeditions to remote areas of Papua New Guinea, Namibia, the Amazon, the Congo, the Arctic, Madagascar, and many other countries. He founded the Canadian Chapter of the Explorers Club in 1979.
Norman Elder was an accomplished equestrian. He competed as a member of the Canadian Equestrian Team in Three-Day Eventing at the Olympic Games, first in Rome in 1960, and again in Mexico City in 1968.
His brother Jim Elder also competed in the Olympics six times in equestrian events, winning one gold medal.
Elder was the author of 'The Norman Elder Horse Book'.
Conviction for indecent assault
The men were all between the ages of 18 and 20 at the time of the encounters but Canada's laws at the time gave 21 as the age of consent for same-sex contact.
- This Thing of Darkness: Elder's Amazon Notebooks, Published by NC Press, Box 4010, Terminal A, Toronto, Ontario, 1979, ISBN 978-0-89696-086-2
- The Norman Elder Horse Book, Published by NC Press, Box 4010, Terminal A, Toronto, Ontario.
- Noshitaka: when I came to the Machiguengas, self-published, Don Mills, Ontario, 1966
- "‘Encounters with Authors: Essays on Scott Symons, Robin Hardy, Norman Elder’ by Ian Young". Lambda Literary Foundation, August 26, 2013.
- Harold Levy. "Protector jailed for sex assaults: former Olympian lured teens to house, Mar 13, 1998. p. A10". The Toronto Star.
- Donn Downey. "Norman Elder loses appeal, gets 2 years for molesting boys, Mar 12, 1999. p. A13". The Globe and Mail.
- Young, Ian. "The Trials of Norman Elder." Encounters with Authors. Toronto: Sykes Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9695286-2-3