Yukon History has its fair share of unique characters and fascinating events. Contemporary Yukoners talk about the colourful 5%,quirky individuals who have come to Canadas North to find or reinvent themselves. Northern literature is full of accounts of mad trappers, jilted lovers, miners driven mad by cabin fever, sub-Arctic desperados and victims of racial tensions. In reality, the passions and angers that drove people to murder in the Yukon were more basic and common than popular culture suggests. Strange Things Done explores the inner dynamics of Yukon society through the exploration of these extraordinary events.
Klondike lore is full of accounts of the exploits of Dangerous Dan McGrew, Sergeant Preston of the Mounted, and the Mad Trapper of Rat River. The stories vary from outright fabrications to northern fantasies and, on occasion, real-life accounts. Strange Things Done investigates a series of murders in the pre-World War II Yukon, exploring the boundaries between myths and historical events. The book seeks to understand both the specific events, carefully reconstructed from court evidence and police records, and the broader social and cultural context within which these violent deaths occurred. The murder case studies provide a unique and penetrating perspective on key aspects of Yukon history, such as Native-newcomer relations, mental illness and the folklore about cabin fever, the role of immigrants in northern society, violence in the gold fields, and the role of the police and courts in regulating social behaviour. The investigation of these capital cases also illustrates the fear and paranoia which gripped the territory in the aftermath of a murder, and the societys insistence on quick and retributive justice when offenders were caught and convicted. The Yukon experienced fewer murders than popular literature would suggest, and fewer than most would expect given the region's intense and dramatic history, but those that did occur illustrate the passions, frustrations, angers and human frailties that are present in all societies. The manner in which the murders occurred and the way in which Yukoners reacted also reveals specific and important aspects of territorial society.