July 15, 2024

1963 Castleton Massacre Story

A story of survival

Article by Valerie MacDonald

A former Northumberland County woman has co-authored a book about the 1963 massacre of her family that she survived.

Words like “stalker” and “women’s shelters” and “femicide” were not in use 60 years ago, says former Castleton-area resident Margaret Carson who narrowly escaped being murdered. The co-author of, The Castleton Massacre, her story is about how she survived the killing spree perpetrated by her mother’s estranged husband and former minister.

Carson now lives in Almonte, Mississippi Mills near Ottawa. She was 12 when she and her brother Brian were caught up in this terrible tragedy in Northumberland County when her the family was brutally murdered.

She is the only female in her family who survived the ordeal, and now she has co-authored the telling of that incident with her cousin, Sharon Cook, whose family took she and her brother in after the massacre in May, 1963.

It is “important for her children” and Brian’s too, as well as their grandchildren, to know what really happened that day, she said.

While her memory of the event has never left her, Carson said it wasn’t until her cousin, a historian, approached her about putting recollection of the event into a book and publishing it, that she agreed to tell her side. That was about three and half years ago.

“She initiated it,” Carson stressed.

In 1963, there were three houses on the same piece of property when the murderer, Robert Killins, began his rampage on May 2. There was no support in rural Ontario in those days for women and their families who were terrorized like by men like Killins, who was respected and well educated. There were no women’s shelters, no one spoke about domestic abuse and people simply, “grew silent,” because “no one knew how to speak about it,” Carson said.

She survived that day because someone tried to tackle Killins as he went from house to house during the massacre that resulted in the death of “four women and two unborn babies”, states the book’s on-line overview by Dundurn Press (Publisher)

She only got away because of this intervention. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by this tragedy, at age 71, Carson is beginning a series of book signing tours to tell her story. 

“I don’t know that you ever completely come back” from such horrific events, Carson told the News Now Network, but having a strong role model as an anchor is one way of “keeping a sense of yourself.”

Carson was fortunate in that she had a good foundation provided by her biological father (who died a year before the murders) and her birth mother. Those role models, together with her cousin and the “very stable” family that raised her afterwards, helped her get on with her life, she said.

“Children of trauma need stability, a safe place and lots of time” to recover, she said.

The book launch is set to official launch near the end of July but is already on book shelves.  In addition, a young teacher who “tried to help” at the time of the murders has created a podcast people can hear. (See information below)

There are several book signings already organized for Northumberland including those in the Brighton and Centreton libraries, along with ones being scheduled for Warkworth and Port Hope libraries. The official list follows:


Aug 4th (Thurs): Brighton Launch at Brighton Public Library 6:30-8pm. 35 Alice Street, Brighton 

Aug 5th (Fri): Grafton Podcast and Launch, Alnwick/Haldimand Public Library in Centreton.  There will be an introductory podcast in front of the audience (all welcome) by Tricia Dunk leading into our book launch/presentation on August 5, Friday, starting at 4 pm. The podcast is called Open Book 

TBD: Warkworth, August and Port Hope, September


Podcast Interview with Peter Miller (young teacher at the time who was present during tragedy)

#castletonmurderstory, #thecastletonmassacre, #dundurnpress


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