Unexplained Phenomena

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Haunted Town Halls

Haunted Town Halls

From the Case Files of The Searcher Group
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Great Canadian Ghost Stories

Great Canadian Ghost Stories

Legendary Tales of Haunting from Coast to Coast
also available: Paperback
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Ghost Stories and Legends of Prince Edward Island


To fully appreciate any tales of early Prince Edward Island, it is best to understand at least a little about the early peoples and how they lived. For it is with these early dwellers, and the circumstances of their lives, that many legends, folklore, and true tales (as strange as any fiction imaginable) originated.
The Island was first inhabited by the Mi’kmaq First Nations. Europeans brought additional cultures and approaches to life when they arrived. But these early settlers did not have an easy time adjusting. Most of them were poor and unskilled. The general population had little education, with the exception of members of government or high-ranking military officers. No matter the culture, it was through storytelling, usually around the fire after dark, that many tales were passed down.
Many of the stories originated with early settlers to the Island. While trying to eke out existence from a harsh land, they were beset by pirates, privateers, enemy forces, plagues of mice, devastating fires, and corrupt landlords and agents. Their very lives were threatened by the wars of other nations: the French, the British, the Americans, and then the First and Second World Wars. The expulsion of the Acadians was reflected years later by the arrival of the Loyalists, fleeing from their own intolerable situation. Although an island, the influence of the outside world was never far from shore.
A short history will provide insight into the province’s development, but bear in mind that while these facts were being established, all of the aforementioned obstacles and many more affected the lives of the individual.
It is thought that several thousand Mi’kmaq people may have lived on or near the Island prior to settlement by Europeans. In 1534, their way of life changed. Jacques Cartier sighted, landed on, and duly reported to his ruler the existence of the “fairest land that may possibly be seen.” Over the next hundred years, the most frequent visitors were French and Basque fishermen. In fact, it was not until 1720 that Europeans, namely French colonists, began to settle permanently in any numbers.
At that time the Island was heavily wooded. Hard labour was required to even clear enough land to build a home, let alone fields for crops. For a great number of years, settlement didn’t extend more than one farm deep from the shoreline. The development of roads was a slow process, so travel was primarily undertaken by canoe. The Hillsborough River was the main water route, accounting for the distribution of the settlers along its shores.
Early settlement concentrated around Charlottetown Harbour, particularly at Port-la-Joye and in St. Peters Bay, as well as in the areas of Tracadie, Orwell, and South Lake. The Island’s settler population numbered just over seven hundred people by 1748.
Generally, the north shore area was slow to be settled, because sand dunes and shallow waters barring the entrances to the bays and rivers made it difficult to bring large ships to shore. This situation continues even today, resulting in all large shipping taking place from the south shore, and even small fishing boats occasionally facing problems getting in and out of harbour safely in the north.
Through the 1740s and 1750s, the population gradually increased along the north shore, especially between Malpeque and Savage Harbour. After the French were expelled from the Bay of Fundy area by the British, many travelled to the Island by 1758, creating a refugee camp as much as a colony, and increasing the population to around 4,500 people.
The Island remained under French rule until 1758 when the British, having taken the Fortress of Louisbourg for the second and final time, rounded up the French settlers and deported them. This expulsion and its consequences mark a shameful part of history. Only about three hundred Acadians remained, located south of Malpeque and around Rustico and Souris.
In 1763 the Island was formally awarded to the British Crown as part of the Treaty of Paris. There was pressure on the Crown to award land to influential petitioners; thus Samuel Holland came to survey in 1764. The Island was divided into three counties, fourteen parishes, and sixty-seven townships or lots, with each township containing twenty-thousand acres and each county having its own town.
By 1767, Holland had done his job, and the British Board of Commissioners conducted a lottery in which lots were awarded to military officers and others of influence. Each new proprietor had to agree to pay quit-rents to the Crown, and to settle his township with one hundred Protestants within ten years.
Unfortunately for the Crown and the early settlers, most proprietors were not particularly interested in their acquisitions or in fulfilling the requirements. As a result, lots changed hands, rents went unpaid, and a land-ownership problem began that would cause trouble on the Island until after Confederation — still almost a century away.
Basic settlement patterns followed those of the French, which was a natural progression since the British had simply taken over what the French had begun.
A few proprietors tried to settle their lots, and by 1800 communities were developing. The Tracadie area was among the more notable, where Captain John MacDonald of Glenaladale brought several hundred Scottish Highlanders in to farm the area between 1770 and 1775. He did not stick strictly to the letter of the agreement, however, as the Scots were Roman Catholic.
The eastern shores of Malpeque were settled by Protestant Scottish Lowlanders. Lowland Scots and English Protestants settled the New London area, and a number of Protestant families set down roots in the Covehead area. The Rustico area was heavily populated by Acadians who fled British capture in 1758. The religious patterns continued for many years; in fact, they can still be seen today by the careful observer.
This influx brought most of the north shore land under cultivation, and established transportation patterns that ran primarily east and west. The main route from north to south shores was still the mighty Hillsborough River, and it was there and across the bays of the north shore that the first ferries operated.
The Island had been granted separate government from Nova Scotia in 1769 on the presumption that government would be financed by the quit-rents due from proprietors. As they evaded these responsibilities, land ownership became a volatile issue for the populace, who, in 1798, numbered over four thousand.
Roads developed slowly, with the first of note connecting Charlottetown to Malpeque and St. Peters. By 1850 a basic network was in place, with roads running north and south to link these principal routes. Settlement naturally followed, and the population crept southward.
Beginning in the 1840s, relatively large numbers of Irish Roman Catholics immigrated to the Island. They tended to concentrate their settlements inland in areas like Saint Ann and Hope River. Immigration continued, and by 1891 the population had grown to 109,000 before it began a decline, reaching a low of about 88,000 in the 1930s. The population then began a steady increase to today’s population of around 143,000.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, many residents were able to acquire title to their lands. By Confederation about 50 percent of the lots were in freehold tenure. After Confederation the provincial government was able to purchase land and turn it over to tenants by lease purchase agreements.
The primary source of insecurity and the all too often dishonest dealings was gone, and the population had settled into a pattern of development and modernization following that of Canada as a whole. Modern shipping, stronger governments and law enforcement, electricity, the railroad, the automobile, and other technology served to change life, just as the pattern continues today.

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Real Hauntings 5-Book Bundle

Real Hauntings 5-Book Bundle

Macabre Montreal / Creepy Capital / Spooky Sudbury / Haunted Hamilton / Tomes of Terror
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Macabre Montreal

Macabre Montreal

Ghostly Tales, Ghastly Events, and Gruesome True Stories
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The Tobogganing Ghost of Simon McTavish
Mount Royal

In the late 1700s, Simon McTavish was the richest man in Montreal. An immigrant of Scottish decent, McTavish prospered as a fur trader, founding the North West Company, which would compete for business with the more well-known Hudson’s Bay Company, and eventually merge with it. Like many rich men, McTavish was known to be arrogant. He was also somewhat of a dandy, and according to Donovan King, who conducts ghost tours of Montreal, he would strut around town in the finest garments, wearing elaborate jewellery and whacking anyone who disrespected him with a gold-tipped cane. Though he was in no way a nobleman, he insisted on being called “The Marquis.”
Perhaps in an effort to literally look down on the inhabitants of Montreal, McTavish purchased a swath of land on Mount Royal, the highest point in the city, right next to a property owned by James McGill. Soon after, in the early 1800s, he began construction of a grand castle for his family, to be built in the Scottish baronial style. As work on the castle neared completion, McTavish liked to stalk around the construction site, striking anyone working too slowly with his infamous cane.
Then fifty-four years old, McTavish would often make the trek up the mountain from his home in Old Montreal on foot. It was on one of these occasions that he was caught in a rainstorm and developed a cold. Being a stubborn man, he would not listen when his doctor instructed him to stay in bed to recover and as a result, his cold developed into pneumonia, then pleurisy, and finally killed him just weeks before the castle was set to be completed.
There was an elaborate funeral. A mausoleum was built to house his body and a tall stone monument was erected in McTavish’s honour. But work on his beloved castle, so close to being finished, was abandoned. Over the years the structure began to crumble. In an episode of the podcast Listen with the Lights On, King muses about how at one point the disintegrating castle resembled a giant hollow skull from the street below as snow collected in the gaping windows, or “eye sockets.”
Twenty years later, in 1821, McGill University opened its doors, the crumbling castle looming over its buildings from Mount Royal. It didn’t take long for stories to begin to circulate on campus about McTavish, his tomb, and his ghost. These rumours may have been prompted by the school’s rabble-rousing snowshoeing club — apparently the bad boys of the 1800s — who liked to get drunk, strap on their snowshoes, light their torches, and run amuck across the mountain. King likens the sight of these boys and their torches going up the mountain to a fiery snake.
Apparently, this band of mischievous youths liked to make a pit stop at McTavish’s tomb to try and rouse his spirit by yelling and carrying-on. On one particularly passionate occasion they even went so far as to break into the mausoleum and vandalize the place, tipping over the coffin and spilling McTavish’s remains across the floor.
Simon McTavish’s ghost saw its chance and escaped.
It wasn’t long before there were reports of ghost sightings at the castle. McTavish’s spirit was seen peeking from the doors and windows of the abandoned structure at night. It was even reported that the apparition could be found dancing on the castle roof on moonlit nights. But in perhaps the most Canadian description of a ghost sighting ever reported, McTavish’s ghost was spotted tobogganing down the slopes of Mount Royal in his own coffin.
The residents of Montreal became fearful of the mountain after these sightings, and as the castle was a terrible eyesore it was demolished in 1861. To put an end to the desecration of McTavish’s gravesite, the rubble from his castle was used to bury his mausoleum for good. During the demolition a construction worker fell three stories to his death, which some believe was McTavish’s last act of revenge against those trying to bury his legacy as well as, quite literally, himself.
On the Haunted Mountain ghost walk, King posits a logical explanation for the tobogganing ghost. Though it may not be widely known it was almost impossible to obtain legal cadavers, or corpses, for dissection in the classroom until the mid-1800s. Professors had to get creative in order to teach their anatomy lessons, and it’s said that one such McGill professor, nicknamed “The Resurrectionist,” did just that. In the dead of night he would climb up Mount Royal to the Catholic cemetery and dig up a corpse from one of the unmarked paupers’ graves, which wouldn’t be missed, then strap it onto a toboggan and ride down to the medical building.
So we’ve either got a grave-robbing and possibly unhinged professor of medicine, or a dead millionaire out for a joy ride down the slopes of the mountainside he once considered his. Personally, we know which story we’re sticking with. There’s nothing more Canadian than a tobogganing ghost, after all.

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Ghosts of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Chapter 1
Laura Secord Homestead

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to some of Canada’s most cherished historic shrines, but none is more revered than the homestead of the hero Laura Secord, a humble woman whose legendary wilderness trek two hundred years ago warned the British of an impending American attack and likely saved the nation.
With the exception of this one fleeting moment, Laura Secord’s story is not one of glory, but rather of hardship and heartache. Her life, like that of most pioneer settlers in early Ontario, was an almost endless struggle. One would think that upon her death, after ninety-three years of near-constant work and worry, her spirit would have been tired and ready for eternal rest.
Perhaps not. It may be that Laura Secord’s spirit still walks through the rooms of her former home. If anyone would be strong-willed enough to resist the pull of the grave it would be Laura, a woman who throughout her troubled life demonstrated unusual persistence and determination.
For the first few years of her marriage to James Secord, Laura lived a comfortable existence. True, she worked hard, but her husband was a relatively successful businessman and their farm was well-established.
That all changed, irrevocably, when the War of 1812 erupted and Niagara became a battlefield soaked in blood and hatred. During the war, the Secords and other colonists of Niagara lived in a state of fear, not quite sure who to trust — many residents had freshly immigrated from America and had questionable loyalties — and were constantly worried about their personal safety and loved ones. They struggled daily to tend and plant crops, care for livestock, and conduct business, despite the disruptions caused by war.
Laura tried to ignore the conflict, to remain aloof from the fighting and the dying. But her hand was forced when a small group of American troops appeared at her door on June 21, 1813, demanding food and shelter for the night. During the course of the meal, Laura overheard the soldiers boasting of their army’s plan to surprise the unsuspecting British forces at Beaver Dams in the coming days. It was to be a trap. The Secords realized how important it was to warn the British of the coming attack, but who would take the message? There was no question of James going; he had yet to fully recover from injuries suffered the year before while fighting at the Battle of Queenston Heights. The responsibility fell to Laura.
At four thirty the next morning, well before the sun had even risen above the horizon, she set out. It had rained hard during the night, so the ground was a mire of mud, and even at this early hour the country steamed with humidity, promising to be a stifling day. But Laura was on a desperate mission and wasn’t about to let anything — or anyone — stand in her way. To minimize the chance of meeting an American patrol, Laura took roundabout routes and avoided the main roads between villages. This added hours to her walk, and each hour added fresh misery. The heat was oppressive and soon her clothing was soaked with sweat. Her feet ached and blistered. Her eyes blurred from the heat, humidity, and fatigue. Still, she kept moving. Alone and hungry, she summoned all her strength to complete her vital mission.
As the sun set, there was some relief from the heat, but there were still other hazards to contend with: clouds of ravenous mosquitoes, night-prowling animals, and the very real chance that in the darkness she might lose her way or take a painful fall. At one point Laura even lost her shoes in the thick woods, and as a result her feet were soon raw and bleeding, so tender that each step was a fresh definition of agony. Finally, when her strength had been all but sapped from her slender body, Laura came upon a First Nations camp. She had to convince these warriors to let her pass so that she might accomplish her goal. Steeling her nerves, she strode into the firelight. The First Nations people were shocked to see a disheveled white woman stumbling from the forest, and at first were skeptical of her story. But when she explained the urgency, they relented and took her across the fields to the headquarters of Lieutenant James FitzGibbon, commander of British forces in the area.
Armed with her information, the Red Coats and their First Nations allies were able to ambush and soundly defeat the American army at the ensuing Battle of Beaver Dams.3 But Laura received no recognition for her role in the victory, nor any form of financial reward. The Secord family fortunes never really recovered from the disruption brought about by the war and they struggled most years.4 Laura’s financial woes only got worse when, on February 22, 1841, James — the love of her life and constant companion — died.
A widow at the age of sixty-four, Laura had to quickly put aside her grief and look after her own needs and that of her family. She submitted petition after petition over the ensuing years, but the government refused her petition each time.
Finally, in 1860, Laura Secord received the recognition she deserved. The Prince of Wales, Albert Edward (future King Edward VII), toured Canada that year, and on September 8, stopped in Queenston to pay tribute to the veterans of the War of 1812. After being told of Laura’s heroic adventure, he made note that upon his return to England he would arrange a reward for her. He was true to his word. The prince sent Laura £100 as thanks for her bravery. It was to be the only financial compensation Laura Secord ever received for her part in a war that could have ended differently if not for her selfless, courageous journey.
Laura’s travels came to an end in 1868 at the age of ninety-three. Upon her death, she was laid to rest alongside her beloved James in Drummond Hill Cemetery. Today, and largely because of the heroics and self-sacrifice she demonstrated during that legendary walk in 1813, the Laura Secord Homestead is among Niagara’s most popular historic sites. Each year thousands visit the home in which Laura Secord lived during the greater part of her adult life. According to some, her spirit still dwells on the premises.
Countless strange goings-on in the house over the past three decades do seem to suggest that Laura still inhabits the house. On the second floor, people have reported hearing voices. Not the distinct voices of staff or visitors, but rather otherworldly whisperings that hang in the air like a quiet breeze. People look around, but there’s no one there. Others have reported seeing a female ghost in an upstairs bedroom at the foot of a bed.
Once, these ghostly manifestations were accompanied by the pitiful moans of an obviously pained man. Interestingly, after Laura’s husband had been wounded at the Battle of Queenston Heights he endured a lengthy recuperation in this very room. Psychics have claimed that Laura is a sad spirit, but what troubles her is something of a mystery.
Beth (whose name has been changed at her request) worked for the Niagara Parks Commission some years ago, spending most of her time at the Laura Secord Homestead, where she felt strangely at home. Beth was always the quickest to say there were no such things as ghosts, but her experience at this historic building radically altered her view. Over the course of one particular summer, she had numerous encounters with an unexpected — to say nothing of immaterial — guest.
“My first experience happened early in the morning, just as I was walking into the home,” Beth explains. “It was my job to make sure everything was in order for the daily visitors, and I felt it was an important job. After all, many people travelled for miles to visit the place where a heroine who changed history once lived.”
No sooner had the young woman crossed the building’s threshold that particular day than she began to get a strange feeling, and instinctively knew she was not alone. A cold chill slowly seeped through her body even though it was a hot summer day, and goose bumps formed on her suddenly icy flesh. The now-frightened woman could feel someone’s presence, yet she could see no one.
“I called out, but got no answer,” Beth continues. “I thought maybe my mind was playing tricks on me as I tried to make sense of what I felt. I started to shake off my fear, at least enough to be able to move again. Slowly, I started to walk further into the home. But no sooner did I begin than I froze to a stop, as I clearly heard footsteps across the room above me.”
Terror gripped her like a bony hand and wouldn’t let go. She tried to scream but no sound would escape her throat. Her eyes widened with disbelief as a white figure, wearing an old-fashioned floor-length dress, gently floated in front of her. Seconds later — though it seemed like an eternity to the fear-rooted employee — the spectral woman slowly began to fade away.
“After that first incident I continued to occasionally hear strange noises in the house, even though there was never anyone in the building. Sometimes it gave me the chills as I entered the home, but I was never afraid again. I knew whoever this ghost was, she didn’t mean any harm.”
She was just a lost soul greeting her guests.

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