News People Toys appear on toddler’s grave 134 years after his death, but no one knows why

Toys appear on toddler’s grave 134 years after his death, but no one knows why

toys toddlers grave
Toys on the grave of tiny Herbert Henry Dicker, who died in 1885. Photo: ABC
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Herbert Henry Dicker died on June 2, 1885, just after his second birthday.

Now, more than 130 years later, toys are appearing on the little boy’s grave at the Hope Valley Cemetery, in Adelaide’s north-east.

The case has baffled a local historian, who is eager to find out who is responsible and what is motivating them.

Tea Tree Gully Library community history officer David Brooks said the toys had been mysteriously appearing about once every month for the past eight years.

He is holding a night-time guided tour of the cemetery on May 1.

He said the toys – which have included trucks and a teddy bear – made him “happy and sad and curious”.

“The amount of information we have on Herbert is almost none,” he said.

“What we have is his death certificate, but how the toys are getting on there, I have no idea.”

toys toddlers grave
A teddy bear on the toddler’s grave. Photo: ABC

Family connected to north-west Tasmania

Herbert was born on April 16, 1883, to James Dicker and Mary Ann Bowhey.

Their “dearly beloved son” died “after two days’ illness”, according to a death notice in the South Australian Weekly Chronicle, in 1885.

Five years later, the family moved from their Ladywood Farm in Modbury, a suburb of Adelaide, to Wynyard, on the north-west coast of Tasmania, along with their other 10 children in 1890.

All their other children survived to adulthood and lived in Tasmania, according to a profile of the couple on the genealogy website FamilyTreeCircles.

With no family in South Australia – other Dickers in Adelaide appear to be unrelated – the boy’s mourner remains a mystery.

“My theory is there’s a childcare centre next door and they’re tending the grave, or there’s the argument that the ghost of Herbert is stealing toys,” Mr Brooks joked.

Katice Martin, the director of Good Start Early Learning Hope Valley, knew nothing about the grave or the mystery toys.

Carol Lefevre, who wrote a book about Adelaide’s historic West Terrace Cemetery, said the grave was not unusual for the time.

“What it does show is they were affluent and that even with 10 other children, he wasn’t just a spare,” Dr Lefevre said.

She said if the boy’s family could see his grave now, they might consider the toys “desecration” because they could be considered rubbish.