By Darren Lum
Later this week the true-crime documentary series For Heaven’s Sake focusing on uncovering an 87-year-old mystery related to the disappearance of Harold Heaven is coming to a screen near you.
Hosted by amateur sleuths and comedians, Heaven’s great-great nephew Mike Mildon and his best friend Jackson Rowe, the documentary takes viewers on a journey to find the truth about how Heaven disappeared from his remote cabin located in the woods of what is now Minden Hills during the winter of 1934.
Viewers can watch the eight-episode documentary directed by Tim Johnson blending humour and intrigue online with the no fee streaming channel CBC Gem or on Paramount+ (formerly Viacom CBS as of March 4) starting on March 4.
Mildon and Rowe were happy with the finished work and they encourage the public to watch all eight episodes and join them, as they scour for clues, interview colourful characters and follow up leads to unearthing information in the Highlands about what happened to Heaven on that fateful night.
“It really is a journey and we kind of end on a note that I think we’re happy with,” he said.
Rowe and Mildon are thankful to the community of Minden, which figures prominently in footage, for the support and help.
“We went to the Dominion Hotel almost every night. We stayed at the Red Umbrella Inn. Minden, Haliburton County was our home for, you know, three, four months, almost five months, all told. It was nothing but generous, kind, friendly people. As someone born and raised in Toronto I appreciated the heck out of that. I love Minden. I love Haliburton and absolutely I’ll be back,” Rowe said.
Sleuthing for the first time provided the long-time friends, who were also executive producers on the project, a new perspective they weren’t expecting.
“At the start we lacked some perspective. We were head down let’s just solve this thing no matter what it takes and then halfway through we looked up and we realized that we were affecting other people with the information we were trying to bring forward, some of the theories, some of the hearsay that we’re maybe assigning too much gravity to,” Rowe said. “It was a feeling out process. It was a process of us learning what it means to be a detective and actually solve a case. It’s not just what you see in the true crime documentary. As we go through the season that’s something we explore. It’s something that comes to roost, you know, our chickens come home to roost. In that sense that real people are affected by the stuff that we say.”
Mildon continues, “We don’t want to spoil anything, but theories were not evidence and opinions are not facts so we kind of show our journey as amateur investigators figuring out the dos and don’ts of due process.”
They also believe their lack of expertise in detective work will relate to the audience.
“Jackson and I almost serve as that audience perspective of getting the information for the first time and just trying to release that amateur sleuth in everybody,” Mildon said.
With an affection for the area through spending summers here, Mildon appreciated the help of the residents, particularly from the Heaven family members, and is willing to accept any criticism if there is any as a result of the documentary.
“There was such a warmth and so much support within the Heaven family, and trust. They didn’t know the story we’re telling. They just knew facts about Harold and the campfire story we’re investigating so just them opening their doors and giving us cookies was a really warm experience. It’s really about Jackson and I, our journey as investigators. They were just helpful throughout [so] the blame could fall on us if anybody had a problem with the documentary, which I don’t see [happening],” he said.
Minden, like a lot of small towns, they said, proved to be home to great story tellers where local legends are strong. They called it the perfect setting for their unique documentary.
“I don’t know if all small towns are the same, but [they have] … their own ecosystem where they do things a certain way. Everybody knows everyone. Everyone talks to each other. It’s fascinating. It’s an amazing way to live. It’s very Canadian. I’m thrilled. More people should be exposed to it, honestly,” Rowe said.
Mildon said when they got excited the people around them shared in that excitement.
“I would not want to base the show anywhere else,” he said.
Like any creative work, there was plenty of footage of jokes and information left out after the close to a year editing process, but Mildon and Rowe ruled out any spin-offs or continuations of this story.
“I think this put the cap on the Harold story unless someone comes out of the woodwork and tells us something that we didn’t know before, but I don’t know as far as what happens next. We’re really just excited to release this series and see how the town of Minden and the world responds,” Mildon said.