January 17th, 2021

Case of mystery tapes solved

By Woodard, Dale on July 17, 2020.

The video tapes which were marked "Paris," "Hawaii" and "Christmas vacation" were discovered in the river bottom by Riley Anderson, and after some investigation, they were returned to the owners. Photo submitted

Dale Woodard

Lethbridge Herald


For Riley Anderson, it was another run through the coulees.

He didn’t anticipate finding old-school video technology that would send he and his mother, Lindsay, on an internet search for the owners.

But thanks to that run, the personal mementos wound up in the right hands of former Lethbridge resident Sieg Widmer and his family in Utah.

A little over a month ago, Anderson was on a routine run in the river bottom when he stumbled across three video cassette tapes on the edge of the path.

“He noticed these three tapes along the path,” said Lindsay. “They weren’t out of their containers and they didn’t look like they had been thrown there, they looked like they had been set there.”

It had rained the night before, but the tapes – dated from 1991 to 1993 – were dry and in good shape.

“There was no sign of them being wet or old or that they had been there for a while,” said Lindsay. “So he decided to leave them there in case somebody was close by and was coming back for them.”

When Riley returned an hour later the tapes were still there.

So he grabbed them and headed home to find the owners via Facebook.

“I thought that was cool that he was trying to find the owner, and don’t I have a nice boy,” said Lindsay with a chuckle. “He’s got three kids and he’s a busy guy, but he took the time and posted them. I shared the posts. The word ‘Magrath’ was on one of the tapes, so I thought maybe it was someone in Magrath and that gives us somewhat of a clue.”

The tapes were marked “Paris,” “Hawaii” and “Christmas vacation,” said Lindsay, adding 12 or 13 people shared the post, but there was still no response from a potential owner.

With no one coming forward, Lindsay looked closer at the mystery tapes.

“I zoomed in and saw the name Sieg and (realized) I remembered this guy and I know where he is,” said Anderson. “It’s been 35 years, but I was going to see if I could find him.”

And so, Lindsay went to work on social media.

“I found a mutual friend that we had and he said he lives in Utah,” she said. “So I sent him a picture and he texted me back right away and said ‘That’s my dad’s handwriting, those are my dad’s tapes.'”

The videos from nearly 30 years ago contained footage of Widmer’s late parents, but also his wife, who passed away six years ago to cancer.

Adding to the sentimentality of the videos was Widmer’s youngest three of his six daughters had never met his parents.

“So we spent a few days catching up on life and who’s doing what and he was pretty excited to see these tapes because he had moved away 35 years ago,” said Lindsay. “His youngest three had never met his parents, so he has video footage of his parents.”

The children’s mother is also prominently featured in the tapes.

“There is lots of footage with his wife, so he was just thrilled to share that with his family,” said Lindsay.

Still trying to piece together how the tapes wound up in the river bottom, Widmer called his brother, who lives on Lethbridge’s west side.

“He said he had thrown a bunch of stuff away in March and might have (accidentally) thrown them in the dumpster and maybe someone went dumpster diving and took them,” said Lindsay. “Even if someone took them out of a dumpster it still makes no sense why they would place them in my son’s path and why my son would find them. My son didn’t know this guy and he didn’t know that I would know whose these were. It’s just such a bizarre set of circumstances. It was kind of fun to find the owner and realize how coincidental it was.”

Even if the mystery is never solved, the abandoned tapes wound up in the hands of immediate family members.

“He’s got them and he said he’s absolutely thrilled with them,” said Lindsay. “He said it’s been so much fun watching these, especially the video portions that contain footage of his wife.”

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