This episode of The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down serves as a prelude to The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 4.
Host Matty Blake meets with the Oak Island team in the War Room to discuss the forthcoming treasure hunting season, which will be documented in Season 4 of The Curse of Oak Island. He relates his observation that Oak Island Tours Inc. has erected heavy excavation equipment in the Money Pit area, and asks if Season 4 is going to be “Oak Island: Rise of the Machines”. Marty responds that the team has brought in two cranes, one of them with the ability to lift half a million pounds, and the other with a 200,000-pound capacity. They will use these cranes to excavate the Money Pit area. Marty states, “we think we know exactly where to dig.”
Rick explains that the team has two “hard targets” in the Money Pit area on which they plan to sink shafts. The first target is Drillhole Valley 3, which the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. speculate might intersect the “vault” supposedly drilled through by William Chappell and Frederick Blair in 1897. The second target is Drillhole C1, prescribed by Charles Barkhouse, at the bottom of which a remote camera operation revealed the presence of shiny, curved, gold-coloured object. Marty, with obvious distaste, also reveals that the team also plans on conducting an excavation in “the stinky swamp.”
After the meeting, the team takes Blake on a tour of the Money Pit, now levelled and crowded with heavy duty equipment. Dave Blankenship explains that, in several days’ time, they will sink shafts in Valley 3 and C1 by twisting toothed caissons into the earth with a casing oscillator, and will remove the material inside the caissons with a massive shovel called a hammergrab.
Next, Blake meets with Craig Tester, Jack Begley, Dan Henskee, and Drake Tester (Craig’s son) at Smith’s Cove. Craig explains that the team hopes to discover the legendary Smith’s Cove filter system sometime this season. To do this, they plan to erect a water-filled “bladder system” cofferdam around the area in question, pump seawater from the enclave, and excavate once the area is dry. Upon being prompted, Dan Henskee explains that he chose the Smith’s Cove excavation site after finding metal stakes there, which he claims were planted there by Robert and Bobby Restall in the 1960’s to mark the Vertical Shaft.
After visiting Smith’s Cove, Blake takes a solo tour of the Oak Island swamp, which appears to have been completely drained. Soon, he is joined by Rick Lagina and Dave Blankenship. Rick explains that one area of interest in the swamp is the spot at which Fred Nolan discovered a line of wooden survey stakes. Nolan and Dan Blankenship had a section of one of these stakes carbon dated to 1550. Another area of interest is a log wall Fred Nolan discovered in the swamp, the exact whereabouts of which remain a mystery.
Blake proceeds to try his hand at exploring a section of the swamp with an excavator. When he fills a sandbag corral with swamp muck, Dave Blankenship insists he manually sift through the detritus in order to determine whether he has dug up anything of interest. Blake obliges and digs through the rotten mud with his bare hands, much to Dave’s amusement. After digging for some time without finding anything significant, Blake calls it quits.
Next, Blake accompanies Craig Tester and Charles Barkhouse to the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History in Halifax. Craig discloses that their Oak Island Treasure Trove Licence stipulates that, in the event that they recover artifacts of cultural and historical significance on Oak Island, they must donate them to the province. They four men then enter the museum, where Charles shows them a section dedicated to various discoveries made on Oak Island over the years. Some of the items on display include old coins, musket balls, and pieces of old worked wood. Charles points out a brooch and a silver spoon handle, discovered on Oak Island’s Lot 24 (once the residence of Samuel Ball) by Gary Drayton in Season 3. He also indicates the Spanish 8 maravedis, discovered in the Oak Island swamp in Season 1.
After visiting the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History, Matty Blake accompanies Jack Begley to Oak Island’s Lot 26 in order to do some treasure hunting with a metal detector. Jack informs us that it is best to make a “double pass” with the metal detector, scanning over the same area twice before moving on. As it turns out, Jack has already made a hit. He asks Matty to sink his shovel in a circle around the mystery object, forming a plug so as to not damage whatever the metal detector has picked up. Once Matty has removed the plug, Jack runs a hand-held pin-pointer metal detector over it, and over the hole below. The mysterious metal object appears to be buried even deeper, and so Blake removes another plug. After scanning the spoils with Jack’s hand-held metal detector, he uncovers the rusted head of an ancient nail.
Next, Blake meets with Dan Blankenship at the Money Pit area. He asks the seasoned treasure hunter if he is optimistic that all the heavy duty equipment the Laginas have brought to the island will hasten an end to the Oak Island treasure hunt. Blankenship replies, “The massiveness of the operation is impressive, that’s for sure. But as far as adding any assurance of being successful in digging in the old Money Pit area, not necessarily. I used to laugh and say ‘they call it the ‘Money Pit’ because so much money is spent on it.’”
Next, the two men head to 10-X. Blankenship describes the innovative method by which he, his son Dave, and Dan Henskee sank the shaft, saying “necessity is the mother of invention.”
Later, at the Money Pit area, Blake and the Oak Island crew watch as the casing oscillator is delivered and installed. Then, the first toothed section of caisson is placed over top of Valley 3 and secured in the jaws of the oscillator. Dan Blankenship is afforded the honour of starting up the oscillator, and in no time the sinking of the first Money Pit shaft this millennia is underway.
In a final scene, Matty Blake sits down with Rick and Marty Lagina in the Money Pit area. The brothers express their pleasure in finally digging in the Money Pit, and articulate their confidence that they will overcome any obstacle the operation might throw at them.
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The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down; S2E1 was last modified: November 9th, 2018 by Hammerson Peters
This episode of The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down serves as a recap and analysis of The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 3 Finale: Secrets and Revelations.
Recounting John Chatterton’s Dive in Borehole 10-X
Host Matty Blake sits down with Rick and Marty Lagina to discuss John Chatterton’s successful dive to the bottom of Borehole 10-X in Season 3, Episode 13. Rick expresses his belief that Chatterton’s analysis- namely that 10-X is a natural cavity- is fallible due to the visibility issues Chatterton faced during his dive. Marty, on the other hand, believes that, as a result of Chatteron’s dive and subsequent analysis, there is now “an ‘X’ through 10-X.”
A video plays in which John Chatterton describes what he found at the bottom of 10-X to the Oak Island team. When the video has finished playing, we see that Chatterton and his dive partner Howard Ehrenberg have now joined Rick and Marty at the table. Chatterton breaks down some of the technicalities of his dive in 10-X, elaborating upon his experience inside the shaft and the chamber below. He explains that the chamber’s “tunnels” suggested by various sonar scans appeared to be natural fissures. He goes on to explain that the chest-like object indicated by the scans and an earlier underwater camera operation appeared to be an angular rock, and that the corpse-like object Dan Blankenship believes he saw during his own dives to the bottom of 10-X appeared to be an anomalously rough section of ground.
Brian Abbott’s Sonar Interpretation
Next, we see a replay of sonar expert Brian Abbott’s affirmation that the rectangular object at the bottom of 10-X depicted by his sonar scan appears to be a manmade chest- a supposition apparently nullified by Chatterton’s findings. When the video has finished playing, we see that Brian Abbott has joined Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Dave Blankenship, John Chatterton, and Howard Ehrenberg on stage. Upon being prompted, Abbott explains that the reason for his confidence in asserting that the square object at the bottom of 10-X is artificial is due its consistency with the chest-like object visible in “snapshots… of several [objects] that were down in the cavity.” Marty suggests these snapshots were Dan Blankenship’s old photos of the 10-X chamber. Abbott, however, is adamant that the photos he saw were much clearer than Blankenship’s photos, and that Montreal-based engineer and Oak Island historian Les MacPhie was the one who showed them to him.
The Pillars of 10-X
After grilling Abbott, Matty Blake brings up the two vertical posts in Borehole 10-X indicated by various sonar scans and underwater camera operations, yet conspicuously absent from Chatterton’s dive report. Chatterton explains that one of these posts appeared to be a stationary drill pipe- almost certainly a product of Triton Alliance’s erstwhile excavations in 10-X- and that the second was a “dynamic” floating PVC pipe. Dave Blankenship follows up on Chatterton’s assertion by stating that he has no idea where the PVC pipe might have come from.
The Tunnels of 10-X
The talk soon turns to the “tunnels” in the 10-X chamber indicated by various sonar scans. After some heated discussion, Dave Blankenship states his desire to pump the water from 10-X and physically explore the tunnels and the rest of the cavern without any visual impediments, to which Rick voices his assent. Marty, however, opines that there is no need to drain 10-X, as John Chatterton explored the “tunnels” manually and concluded that they were far too short and narrow to permit the passage of men and materials. Rick counters Marty’s suggestion by reaffirming Chatterton’s earlier statement, apparently expressed off-camera, that he only manually explored about 10% of the wall surface of the 10-X cavity- too small a percentage, Rick maintains, for them to completely write off 10-X. Marty counters that by asking Chatterton to give him “the odds that [he] missed a human-sized tunnel.” “Pretty slim,” Chatterton answers.
In the end, Marty concludes that, although the team will have to talk it over, there is likely “an ‘X’ in 10-X, for now.” Rick says that, if he had the option to disregard financial and logistical constraints, he would hope to pump 10-X dry as soon as possible.
Next, Blake does a one-on-one interview with Dave Blankenship. Dave, one again, expresses his desire to pump Borehole 10-X dry in order to remove the visual impediment of murky water. “Dad’s on board with it,” he says. “If it collapses, it collapses.”
The War Room
After that, we see a pre-recorded video showing the McGinnis sisters presenting their gold cross to the men of Oak Island Tours Inc., and explaining how, according to family legend, the cross was first discovered on Oak Island by their ancestor Daniel McGinnis. Once the video is finished, we see that Rick, Marty, and Craig have joined Dave Blankenship on stage. The men discuss how they hope to verify whether the cross did indeed come from Oak Island. “If it came from Oak Island,” Marty declares, “and if it came from… the time frame that it is supposed to have come from… it would be gigantic.”
The next scene is a pre-recorded homage to the War Room, Oak Island Tours Inc.’s beloved on-site headquarters. Matty Blake reveals that the War Room was initially built as a small Oak Island museum by the Nova Scotian government in the 1970’s. The video goes on to pay tribute to the treasure hunters of the past who toiled to solve the Oak Island riddle.
Highlights of Season 3
Next, Matty Blake asks Rick, Marty, Craig, and Dave about their favourite developments in Season 3.
Rick, when asked about his favourite development, does not refer to a specific incident, but rather states that he is pleased the crew is still together and engaged in the search.
Marty’s favourite part of the season was finally getting a diver to the bottom of Borehole 10-X, a major goal long held by the men of Oak Island Tours Inc.
Craig states that the relationship built between Fred Nolan and the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. is the highlight of the year for him, as it opens up a whole new realm of future possibilities.
Dave states that no particular development in Season 3 stood above the rest, in his eyes.
The team ends the segment by speculating as to the nature of the shiny, metallic object revealed to lie at the bottom of Drillhole C1, and by revealing some plans for the future.
Les MacPhie’s Photo of 10-X.
In this segment, sonar expert Brian Abbott discloses that the reason he so confidently asserted the artificiality of the rectangular object that his sonar scans depicted lying at the bottom of Borehole 10-X- which John Chatterton, during his dive, determined to be a rectangular stone- was due to a photograph he was shown during his time on Oak Island. This photo, allegedly a snapshot of the chamber at the bottom of Borehole 10-X, shows what appears to be a treasure chest, complete with a lock and a rounded lid. Upon hearing Abbott’s disclosure, Marty suggested that the photo Abbott saw was Dan Blankenship’s grainy snapshot of the 10-X chamber, taken from a screen monitor in the 1970’s. Abbott denied this, however, maintaining that the photo belonged to Les MacPhie, a Montreal-based engineer and Oak Island historian.
It appears that the image Abbott was referring to (shown above) is an enhanced version of the Blankenship photo that Marty referred to. Les MacPhie included this photo in an Oak Island presentation entitled “Review of the Findings at Hole 10X Oak Island, Nova Scotia”, the digitized version of which you can find at OakIslandCompendium.com/Les-Macphie-Archives.html. Les MacPhie apparently discovered this photo in a letter from Dr. Mark S. Schmalz, a computer scientist of the University of Florida, to Triton Alliance, dated January 23, 1995.
Marty’s Hand Gesture
In this episode of Drilling Down, sonar scan expert Brian Abbott described the reasons behind some of the claims he made regarding the nature of the objects lying at the bottom of Borehole 10-X. While Abbott spoke, Marty Lagina, who sat behind him, made an inconspicuous but clearly deliberate hand gesture at the camera. Specifically, he placed his right hand on his left forearm, keeping his middle and ring fingers together but splaying his index and pinky fingers out to the sides. As if to draw attention to this gesture, he looked directly into the camera when presented with the opportunity.
In an old Facebook thread, treasure hunter Jack Begley speculated that Marty made this gesture as a subtle salute to Jeff Irving’s theory, presented in Season 3, Episode 9 of The Curse of Oak Island. Irving’s presentation to the Oak Island team included a section in which he referenced a particular hand gesture- the gesture Marty imitated- which Christopher Columbus appears to be making in Portrait of a Man, a posthumous rendering of him painted by Venetian artist Sebastiano del Piombo in 1519. Irving claims that this gesture represents “the Word of God.”
Jeffrey Irving describes this hand gesture- along with a number of truly remarkable discoveries- in more detail in a particular video on his Facebook page. He claims that this gesture “is a symbol relating to the guardians of the Ark of the Covenant,” and proceeds to show that it is mysteriously present in dozens of oil paintings, sculptures, and photographs. These pieces include:
A photograph of Colonel Theodore Roosevelt (future President of the United States) sporting his “Rough Rider” 1st U.S. Volunteer Calvary uniform in 1899, following the Spanish-American War.
An illustration from the 1886 book Bible Pictures and What They Teach Us depicting Aaron and Hur of Exodus holding up the arms of Moses during the Battle of Rephidim.
An image depicting Christ and the words “Christ the King”, artist unknown.
Descent from the Cross, painted by Venetian artist Niccolo Frangipane in 1593.
A modern Greek Orthodox-style icon by artist Aidan Hart depicting Saint Joseph of Arimathea holding the Holy Grail at Glastonbury Tor, England.
Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem, painted by French Neoclassical history painter Merry-Joseph Blondel.
Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templars, painted by Fleury Francois Richard in 1806.
A 16th Century French portrait of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, co-founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit Order).
Portrait of George Washington, by 18th/19th Century American painter Gilbert Stuart.
Interestingly, American writer Jason Colavito reveals on his website (www.JasonColavito.com) that Irving’s theory is but one of many revolving around this hand gesture. He writes that the gesture has “previously been claimed as a secret symbol of Freemasonry,” Mary Magdalene, Satanism, and the Marranos (Spanish crypto-Jews (secret adherents to Judaism) forced to convert to Christianity). Colavito goes on to argue that the gesture is “really nothing more than the natural position of a relaxed and extended hand… among people… of certain European heritage.”
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The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down; S1E5 was last modified: November 8th, 2018 by Hammerson Peters
Transcript of an Interview with a Cryptid Hunter (2018)
Starring Frank Graves
Narrated by Kelsea Crowe
Voice of young Frank: Shawn Foster
Executive Producer: Dan Chomistek
Script, Music, and Narration by Hammerson Peters
Hello and welcome to an Interview with a Cryptid Hunter. In this documentary, we’re going to showcase a never-before-seen interview of an extraordinary man who explored one of the most inhospitable tracts of wilderness on the planet, risking his very life in an effort to uncover the shocking truth behind Nature’s most carefully guarded secrets. Without further ado, here is an Interview with a Cryptid Hunter. Enjoy!
Ivan T. Sanderson
Throughout the course of his research, the author of this book came across a string of references to a mysterious adventurer named Frank Graves. This gentleman was a protégé of Ivan T. Sanderson, one of the founding fathers of an unorthodox discipline known as cryptozoology. More than fifty years ago, he made a historic expedition to a mysterious valley in Northern Canada famous for its gruesome myths and legends. He is credited with the discovery of two different cryptids, or hidden animals, yet unknown to the civilized world. And he has an intriguing connection to an elusive photograph for which cryptozoologists have hunted for decades.
In a few short years, he made a huge splash in the cryptozoological community, earning himself a place in books and magazines. Then, as suddenly as he appeared, he vanished without a trace. Some men have searched for him in vain. Others dismissed him as a myth. For years, the fate of Frank Graves remained a mystery… until now.
Frank Graves’ story begins in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the early 1960’s. Back then, he worked as a heavy duty mechanic for a truck manufacturing company. In 1965, his comfortable eight-to-four routine changed forever with his introduction to a fascinating character named Ivan T. Sanderson.
Ivan Sanderson was an eccentric Scottish biologist and adventurer. Educated in zoology, geology, and botany in England, France, and Switzerland, he began his academic career leading specimen-collecting expeditions all over the world on behalf of various British learned societies.
In 1932, during one such expedition in the jungles of Cameroon, he and his hunting partner were attacked by a giant bat which the locals fearfully referred to as ‘Olitiau’. This incident sparked Sanderson’s lifelong interest in animals yet unknown to science- creatures begetting the field of study which he coined “cryptozoology”.
During WWII, Sanderson worked as a counter-intelligence operative for both the British and American Navies. After the War, he left his old life behind and immigrated to America, where he enjoyed a long career in radio and television, educating and entertaining his audience in his capacity as a naturalist.
Sanderson’s interest in unexplained phenomena was rekindled in the 1950’s, when UFO and monster sightings became more frequent in the United States and Canada. Unlike many of his academic contemporaries, Sanderson refused to dismiss these stories out of hand, risking his professional reputation in order to give them the attention which he believed they deserved. By the late 1950’s, he was writing essays on UFOs, and in 1961, he wrote the first book to seriously address the question of whether hairy wildmen truly roamed the wilderness of North America.
In his book, Sanderson referenced a wildman tradition from a mysterious region in Northwestern Canada- the watershed of the South Nahanni River. This remote territory, nestled in the heart of the Mackenzie Mountains, was associated with strange tales of lost tribes, lost gold, and a tropical enclave in the subarctic wilderness. A string of mysterious decapitations which took place there in the early 1900’s resulted in the area acquiring a gruesome nickname: the Headless Valley.
Well, I guess you have to go back to when I met Ivan Sanderson. I worked for Chilton Publishing Company. Chilton published a lot of Ivan’s books, and I believe they published that one called ‘Abominable Snowman: Legend Come to Life’. I had talked to a couple of friends down there and said I was interested in this Abominable Snowman thing, and a friend of mine said, “The guy who wrote this,” he said, “his name is Ivan Sanderson.”
I said, “Yes.”
He said, “Well, he comes down to Book Division.” So they said, “The next time he comes down, I’ll give you a call.”
And I met him. I went down there. He greeted me. He had a Hawaiian shirt on, all bright colours, flowers all over it. Most of the time he walked around barefoot. Either sandals, or barefoot. And he had this thick grey hair combed straight back. And, you know, a really pronounced British accent. We just hit it off right off the bat. Right off the bat. And we had a really good time.
And he invited me out to his house in Blairstown, New Jersey. You’ve probably seen pictures of that. It’s like a little white house. You had to go way out into the middle of nowhere to get to it. You’ve seen, I guess… there’s old newsreels where they show the old little house he lived in with his wife, Alma. Going up there was like stepping into another world.
Oh, Ivan, he was like a one-of-a-kind person. He was very outspoken, kind of outrageous. My parents didn’t like the idea that I was friendly with him. They said, “People take Ivan Sanderson with a very large grain of salt,” and I said, “Well, I don’t subscribe to that. I think he’s a very, super intelligent guy, and he’s very down to earth, and I would do anything for him.”
The American Expeditionary Society
He called me one day, and he said, “You know, there’s a bunch of people going up to the South Nahanni River, to the Headless Valley. Get out a globe and look.” And he says, “You’ll see where it is.”
Ivan connected me with them, because he saw a chance for me to go someplace and really look into the Bigfoot question, see what I’m saying? See, I was a very introverted, little guy, you know what I mean? Like, I wasn’t into anything like that, and I had to make a jump from being just an average, everyday go-to-work-everyday to jumping off into something that was really, in many ways, extremely dangerous. It was extremely dangerous.
The group to which Ivan Sanderson introduced Frank Graves was a team of American university students who hoped to resurrect the dying art of old-fashioned discovery expeditions. These young men called themselves the “American Expeditionary Society”, or “AES”.
In the summer of 1965, Frank Graves and the AES boys equipped themselves at Minnesota State University before heading north to Canada, bound for the Headless Valley.
You know, once I got there, and got to talk to these people- it was George Boyum, Wayne Egrebretson, Michael Eliseuson, and we took somebody at the last minute, who was hanging around the school bus while we were painting it red, white, and blue: his name was Bruce Shorer. He lived, like, across the street, and he wanted to go on the trip. So, we said, “Well, if you want to go on the trip, what can you do?” And he said, “I can cook.” So, we just took him.
So they were there for the University of Minnesota, and Wayne Egrebretson, collected birds. He shot a lot of birds and preserved them- stuffed them- to bring them back. Remember, Ivan connected me with these people. They weren’t going there to look for Bigfoot. I was going there to look for Bigfoot.
We bought a 42-passenger school bus, and we took all the seats out of it. And we had a guy come over. We painted the bus red, white, and blue- red on the top, white on the sides, and blue on the bottom- and we had a guy come over, and he professionally wrote, ‘American Expeditionary Society’ on the side of it.
We all left from Mankato. That’s right, we all put this together in Mankato, Minnesota. We had our headquarters in the second floor of the school building. You know, it was summertime, so somehow we got the second floor of the school building, and we put all of our equipment in there- all the food. Everything we had to do was all packed there, and outside was the school bus that we painted red, white, and blue. And then we got all of the equipment- the camping equipment, everything, the outboard motors, all of it, and packed it into the bus. And we left from Mankato.
The Road Trip
We went up through International Falls into Canada. We drove that right up into Canada. We drove across the provinces. You know, Saskatoon, Edmonton, all over the place. You know, red, white, and blue bus with ‘American Expeditionary Society’. We didn’t have any problems with it, but people would, you know, ask what we were doing and where we were going. And we had a very nice time. We stopped in Edmonton. And we would actually live in the bus. You know, we had all our camping equipment there, so we would sleep in the bus.
It’s a miracle, really, that we actually got there. I mean, it’s a long trip, and that was an old bus that was put together. And George and I got it running, you know what I mean? We got it mechanically sound and tuned it up and everything.
So, we drove across all the provinces and we went up through Peace River. And there’s an all-weather highway there. I understand now that that highway is probably paved. When we went there, it was a 300, 400-mile highway with nothing there. There was nothing but gravel. Just gravel. Driving the bus- it was like a boat in the water, you know what I mean? It just kind of swayed back and forth in the gravel.
And all the way up to a place called Hay River.
When we got to Hay River, we lived with Cree and Slavey Indians. It was just like the Old West- wood sidewalks, people fighting in the streets. I mean, it was really rough.
I would have never stayed in Hay River, believe me. I would have rather gone into Vietnam than stayed in Hay River, to tell you the truth. Hay River was a tough place.
Hay River was the end of the road. We had to leave our bus there. Big four-motor airplane. We packed all our equipment in it, and we flew to Fort Simpson. They let me sit- because I was photographer- the pilot and the co-pilot let me sit between them, in the little seat between the pilot and the co-pilot, while it was flying, and I shot a little film from there.
And then, landing, you know? I looked down, and I said, “You’re going to land down there? There’s nothing but woods.” And then you see this little landing strip, you know? A dirt runway in the woods. And this plane went down, and they landed it. And we all got out, and we were in Fort Simpson.
The first time I saw the Mackenzie River, I didn’t pay much attention to it until George- he was looking at it, like, fix- and he says, “Look at the current on this river.” It was so wide that you couldn’t see the other side, but the current was, like, 18 miles an hour. I didn’t even think about it until he brought it to my attention. “Look how fast that current is.” And he said, “The South Nahanni is going to be a lot faster than that.”
Two of the people on the trip- George Boyum and Wayne Egrebretson- they were farm people, and they were very tough, outdoor people. But Eliseuson- Mike Eliseuson- Bruce Shorer, and myself- we were kind of like city people. You know, we were all kind of new to things like that.
We had the Indians build us a 30-foot, very well-built, beautiful flat-bottom boat, but it was too small. So we had to make changes. So we swapped that boat, which was brand new, for an older boat that some Indians had. It was a 40-foot-long boat… not 40-foot, about 30-foot boat… flat bottom. There are different kinds of boats, but the kind of boat we went up there in is a flat-bottom scow with outboard motors on it.
We had two 14 horsepower motors. Everybody up there had- in those days, 30 horsepower was, like, the minimum to attempt anything. And we had two 14 horsepower McCulloch engines. And it had a lot of freeboard in it, so we could load… Everything we took we packed in steamer trunks. We had five steamer trunks that packed into the boat and everything else was around us. That, and we all sat on top of the trunks.
And we left from Fort Simpson. We went up the Liard River. The Liard River is a very placid, nice, wide river. We went up through there. Took days. And the next stop was Nahanni Butte.
Nahanni Butte is a 6,000-foot mountain right at the confluence of the Liard and the South Nahanni River. That’s where we met the Turners. The Turners were very good people. They ran a thing called Nahanni Safaris Ltd. and they took hunters up to Virginia Falls. The Turners, they had a big house built there, like a log cabin house. Don Turner was the son. Don Turner was a young guy, about our age. There was a daughter.
The father was hard as nails. He was a big tall man. I saw things up there I didn’t like. You know, there was a dog there that was very emaciated and bony, and I went way out of my way to get food for it. And I was trying to feed it, and the old man came over to me and said, “Harden your heart to that,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
I said, “Well, as long as I can do something about it, I’m going to try, you know? Why is this dog starving to death here, you know, with all this food?”
And he just said, “That’s the way things are up here, you know? Harden your heart to it.” So, I didn’t get along with him that well, but the son was good.
Now, there’s another family there that we became very friendly with, and that was the Bruckers- John Brucker. John Brucker worked for Nahanni Safaris Ltd. He worked for the Turners. And Brucker was a very tough… I guess he was French-Canadian. He lived at Nahanni Butte. And Brucker was like a jack of all trades. He was a hunter, a mechanic, a very good man on the river with a boat. So, Brucker was a very good guy. A very loud, outspoken guy. He talked loud. He was a small man, but very tough, you know. Very broad-shouldered, but small. And very close… his head was always shaved.
He used to say to me all the time, “Why don’t you talk very much?” Because everyone else would be talking and doing things, and I’d just be sitting there listening, you know? Every now and then he’d look at me and say, “Why don’t you talk? Why don’t you talk? What’s the matter with you?” I’d say, “I’m OK, I’m fine,” you know. I liked him, but he was kind of a brash person, you know what I mean? As I told you originally, I came from a little guy, you know, going to the store for his mother to taking off on a trip like this, you know what I mean? It was a gigantic change in my life, you know what I mean? So I did spend a lot of time sitting there quietly watching people.
When we went there, it was like the Wild West. There was no police. The RCMP would come maybe once a month. They would fly in and ask everybody how things were going and fly away, and other than that, there was no law and order. I mean, it was really… you really were going back in time. People carry guns, you know. I carried a gun wherever I went. Now, remember, this is 1965. It’s probably a little different up there today with the advent of all the different types of communication. The only way we could talk to anybody up there, we had to go into the town and get to a phone there and call somebody, you know? There was no other way to do anything.
During his stay at Nahanni Butte, Graves decided to ask some of the locals about the hairy wildmen said to haunt the region. In doing so, he came across stories of an entirely different sort of creature known to the natives as the Nuk-luk.
I became friendly with various people- the Indians there, the Slaveys and the Cree Indians. And once you get to where they trust you, and will talk to you, that’s when they talked to me about these things. When I got really friendly with the Indians at Nahanni Butte… there’s a place called the Twin Buttes that I couldn’t get to. It wasn’t that far away, but it was an arduous trek to get there. And they told me that there were people living there. And these were, like, sub-human people. They weren’t like Bigfoot. They were, like, little small people that wore clothes- not clothes, but, you know, clothes that they made from skins and things. And that they were very hairy, and that they lived at a place called the Twin Buttes.
Graves wrote about these subarctic pygmies in a letter to Ivan Sanderson. The natives told him that one of these creatures had actually been seen on three occasions the previous year. This particular specimen was said to be…
“Rather short in stature, and to be quite strong with a beard and usually wearing simple clothing. The name given this creature is ‘Nuk-luk’, or ‘Man of the Bush’, or as told to me, by one old man, ‘Bushman’.”
The first Nuk-luk sighting took place in April, 1964, in the woods near Fort Liard. According to Graves:
“An old Amerind named John Baptist came upon a man-shaped creature who was rather strong and sported a long dark beard. He wasn’t wearing any type of clothing and carried no weapons… He was said to be rather shy, for as the band of trapping Amerinds advanced upon him in a friendly manner, he uttered a low growl and fled.”
The second sighting took place at Nahanni Butte in May, 1964. One night at dusk, while weaving a birch bark basket, a Slavey woman:
“Was made aware of a presence outside of her cabin. When she looked out of the door she saw nothing, but a little later, she looked up at the window, and there, saw a face. This face was identical in every respect to the one seen earlier that month.”
The woman and two of her children went outside to look for the little creature, but by that time it had retreated into the bush.
“Now we go to my favourite tale. This was told to me by a boy of about 14, whom I knew only as Jerry. He was recommended to me, for my purpose, by the school teacher there. This little boy saw a creature, identical to the previous mentioned one, except for a few exterior differences. This sighting is said to have occurred last fall right outside of Fort Simpson.
“One evening, at about 9:00 p.m., the little fellow’s dog began to bark. This event is not unusual for his home is located right on the edge of the city dump, and a dog can pick up the scent of many different night scavengers during the passing of one night, especially in that country.
“On this night, however, the boy and his father went out to the dog to find out what was the matter. When they got out to the dog, it was quiet and standing most still. At first, they detected nothing of unusual interest, but when the father turned on a flashlight for a little extra investigative work, they heard a slight noise. As they turned the light in the direction of this sound, they were surprised to see a rather small, dark creature.
“This creature is said to have remained where he stood for several minutes. At about that time, the dog, again, began to bark.
“With that, the creature departed at speed. He was seen by several bystanders who gave slight chase, but upon their entrance into the picture, the creature quickly headed for the bush. He was not pursued.”
The Kraus Hot Springs
And we stayed there for a week or two, and then we went to the hot springs.
The Kraus Hot Springs lie on the South Nahanni about sixty kilometres upriver from Nahanni Butte. Back in the early 1900’s, they helped inspire a legend of a tropical valley hidden away somewhere in the Canadian subarctic. In order to get there, the American Expeditionary Society had to pass through an obstacle known as the Splits- a deadly labyrinth of islands and log jams that had claimed the lives of many a canoeist.
We had a camp at the hot springs. We actually had a big tent all set up, and that’s where we spent a lot of time- at the hot springs. A man named Gus Kraus and his wife, Mary, lived there. Gus Kraus, at the time, was about 77. I’m almost that old myself now. But he did things like he was in his twenties. He was a very tough outdoor guy, cut down big trees, dragged them all through the bush. Gus was the kind of guy, if he would light his pipe, he would reach into the fire and pick up hot coals in his fingers and light his pipe. He was a very nice guy- a very nice guy to talk to.
His wife was an Indian woman named Mary- kind of a short woman, wore glasses. Actually, Mary had shot Gus when they all lived at Nahanni Butte, and before they moved up to the hot springs. It was in the wintertime, and I saw a movie of this. When we were at the hot springs they showed us an 8mm movie of something… swimming in the hot springs in the winter. Because no matter what happens, the hot springs are always there. They would go back to the hot springs and go in the water even though it was, like, 30 below.
And at some point, there was a problem between Gus and Mary, and Mary shot Gus in the head with a rifle- a .22 rifle. And the bullet went behind, hit him right behind the ear, and it went around his head and came out the other side. Only a .22, you know, would be capable of doing that. And I never really found out what that was about. And nobody got in trouble for it. But it was a very well-known thing that happened there that people used to talk about, about how Mary shot Gus. And Gus would show me, say, “Look, see where the bullet hit me, right here?” And he’d say to her, “You’re a bad shot, Mary!” And she’d just laugh. I don’t know what that was about. Nobody ever really explained why she did that. But that happened before we got there.
And they had a son named Mickey. Mickey was about, I guess, 11 or 12. We actually got playing with him. We used to play tag with him. We did this for days on end up there. We ran around playing tag for days on end. We had a lot of fun doing that.
I mentioned something about wolves, and the Mackenzie timber wolves are the largest wolves in the world. They’re bigger than anything in Siberia. And Mackenzie timber wolves, when I first started to see their tracks, I could put my whole hand in the track, and the footprint was bigger than my whole hand with my fingers spread out. They had very odd feet. Their feet are very wide. And they’re very lanky. They have long, spindly legs, and they used to say up there- the Indians would say they weigh 180 pounds but they’re all skin and bones. Now just imagine, like, you know, a typical German shepherd, maybe 75, 100 pounds. These wolves typically weighed 180 or more, and they were very skinny and lanky, with very large heads. They were very odd-looking.
Wolves were the hardest thing to see. You very seldom ever saw them. The only time you’d see a wolf is, you’d have to go out at night, and you’d have to sit someplace very quietly along the river. And then the wolves would come out, and come down to the river to drink. You would never see them ever, but they were all around you.
There was an experience where I was out with… Mickey and I used to go on walks. And we went off one day, and he was always afraid of wolves. He would say- oh, it was his mother. One day, she said, “Mickey…”- we were taking a walk- and she said, “Mickey, don’t go too far, because the wolf will jump up on you.” She used to say that all the time- “The wolf will jump up on you.”
And we were about two or three miles away from the hot springs. Well this one day, we were out walking, just a nice day, and something was running… They have these things called snyes. A snye is like a little inlet off the river that doesn’t move- just like a little body of water. And Mickey and I were walking along, and the snye was down below us, and something was running through the water. And Mickey said, “There’s something down there.” And the path came up in front of us, about 50, 60 yards. It came up from the left, up the hill, to the main path. And I just caught a glimpse of something gray coming up the hill. And it got up to the top and it was a wolf. And it looked right at us. And I never- see, I never shoot things. I’m a very prolific person as far as guns go, my hobby is guns, I target shoot and all that. But I don’t shoot animals. But Mickey was scared.
And this wolf came up, and he was about, I guess, twenty yards away. And he looked at us. Now, animals up there, they shun people. They run from people. And this wolf looked at us, and he started to come directly toward us. And Mickey was scared, and he says, “Oh, the wolf is going to jump up on me.” And I had a shotgun. And I didn’t want to do it, but I fired a shot around it. And the foliage around it- you could see where the shot hit the foliage. And he didn’t react to it. And he came closer. And this time, I shot at him, and the foliage all around him was affected by the shot, but the wolf wasn’t affected by it. And it just turned- at that point, it just turned and quietly shot off the path into the undergrowth. And we didn’t see it again. We went to try and find it. There was no blood. Nothing. But I know I didn’t miss the wolf. There was no way. I didn’t want to shoot it at all, but he was afraid, and I might have been a little afraid myself.
Back in 1965, Frank Graves described this harrowing experience in a letter to Ivan Sanderson:
“An enormous white thing that I at first thought must be a Polar bear sort of wandered out of the trees. It wasn’t a bear; it looked more like a gigantic dog. It stood straight up on rather long legs, more like a dog or a wolf. I had seen plenty of wolves and some of them are enormous enough up there; but this thing was twenty times the size of any wolf I had ever heard of. By a sort of reflex action I fired at it- and it was less than twenty paces away and only partly screened by little bushes. I hit it with two barrels of ball-shot. It didn’t even jump, but turned away from me and just walked back into the forest. I reloaded and fired again, and I know I hit it in the rear, but it just kept on walking.”
Graves’ story reminded Sanderson of another tale that a friend had told him years ago. While prospecting in Alaska in the 1950’s, this friend had come across huge, solitary, white wolves deep in the arctic wilderness. After hearing Graves’ story, Sanderson suspected that these colossal canines might constitute another species of animal entirely.
His theory prompted him to write an article, which was published posthumously in the October 1974 issue of the magazine Pursuit. In this piece, Sanderson remarked that the enormous, wide-headed, dog-like creature that Graves encountered in the Nahanni Valley evoked a particular species of ancient canine believed to have gone extinct several million years ago. Perhaps, Sanderson surmised, descendants of this ancient animal still survived in remote corners of the arctic. Sanderson dubbed this hypothetical creature the “Waheela”, and thus a new variety of cryptid was born.
Well, the other theory that Ivan talked to me about was, he said that he thought it was what they call a ‘ghost wolf’, meaning that it isn’t really there. I mean, there’s a lot of room for this. You know what: Ivan, he wrote a lot of books about the Bermuda Triangle and everything that pertains to that. You know, like time differentials, and the fourth dimension, and all. And he thought, because the… as I say, I did not want to shoot this wolf. I didn’t want to shoot anything. When it became apparent that he could have hurt us, I shot at it, and everything around it was affected by the shot, and it wasn’t. And that’s when it turned and ran off the path to the right, up into the bush. And this bush is very heavy. Plus the carpeting of that type of forest is moss about a foot thick. It’s a foot thick. It’s like walking on a sponge everywhere you go. Once you get off the game trails, you’re walking in like a sponge. So once any animal gets into that, you can’t hear them. Once it went off the path- see, I only heard it because it was in the water, and it came up the path, which was a dirt path, and when it got to the top is when I saw it. But once it decided to leave, it jumped off the path into the woods to the right, and then you couldn’t hear it anymore.
So, anyway, Ivan’s personal opinion was, he thought it was what they call a ‘ghost wolf’.
Ever since Sanderson’s article, there have been several ideas put forth as to the identity of this strange animal. Some have drawn parallels between it and another mysterious canine from the Great Plains. Others have attempted to connect it with a monster of Inuit myth.
Frank Graves has his own thoughts regarding the nature of the Waheela, which he shared for the first time in this interview.
Well, they’re called Mackenzie timber wolves. They are, I mean, that is an established variety of timber wolf. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. They’re very long-legged, with big feet, large heads, kind of skin and bones, but averaging 180, 200 pounds. And they stand higher than three feet at the shoulder. Much higher. So, it’s an established variety of wolf in that area.
While we were at the hot springs, an interesting thing was, George and Bruce Shorer were trying to make wine, but they were using something other than whatever you use to make wine, where you have to brine it and let it sit, and all this. Anyway, it makes a smell. And you’re not supposed to do that in Canada. Up there, it was outlawed. And they were doing this, and it takes weeks for this to get to a point where you can drink it. Some kind of mash, you know? It was in buckets. Well, it wasn’t in the camp; it was maybe 100 yards away.
Well, while we were there, the RCMP came. Two RCMP guys. They flew in an airplane, and they landed right by the camp. And we went down. They tied the thing off. They came up and they visited with us, and they were just visiting, you know? They talked to use and we made them steaks, and we had a good time, and nobody mentioned this, right. And time went on, and they stayed maybe two or three days. And they visited with Gus Kraus, and they brought news, you know, and talked about what was going on, and this, that, the other thing.
They also made some interesting comments about airplanes. The said that they saw- this was the RCMP- they said that they saw jet fighter planes up there, and he said it wasn’t a Canadian plane. He said he thought it was Russian. So, but he said those things happen up there in the area.
To make a long story a little longer, when they were getting ready to leave- and we did everything; we had knife-throwing contests, we put up targets on the other side of the river and shot at them- and they were about ready to leave, and got down to the airplane, and they said, “So, listen, guys. In about a week, dump about two pounds of sugar in that, and you’ll have really good booze.” Nobody was… we were scared to death, because you could smell this all over, and it was illegal then. And we all just kind of looked at each other, like, “What are you talking about?”
But you have to understand that the underlying reason for the whole trip was to investigate reports of Sasquatch, Omah. In that area, There’s what they call the… Sasquatches is kind of a name that’s bandied around up there, but up there, they refer to them as Omah, which is the same as Sasquatch. They’re all basically the same creature. The Omah is basically the same type of a creature as Sasquatch. And actually, there’s another variety. They’re called hillside gougers. Hillside gougers.
And, to give you an idea of how people are up there: we hadn’t mentioned anything about Sasquatch or anything, and we were up there with the Turners, you know. Just having a visit with them. Sitting around, drinking Canadian beer, things like that, and having a nice talk. And George Boyum just said, you know, kind of casually, said, “How many Sasquatch have you seen?” And when he said that, everything changed. The people clammed right up. It leads you to believe that there’s a lot to it, you know what I mean? They don’t want these things exploited. Once that was said, then we kind of had to work our way back into why we were there, you know, to collect mosses and things like that. We had to get around that, you know. Once we brought that up, they became a little bit defensive about things.
The people up there, except when you got to talk to, as I did- I talked to young Indian people, and they’re the ones who would open up. The older people would not talk to you. So, in my opinion of course, these things are there. They do exist.
During his time at the Hot Springs, Graves made several excursions into the wilderness, accompanied at all times by an Indian guide. On one particular outing, he and his companion made a fascinating discovery, which Graves related in a letter to Ivan Sanderson.
“We made several successful forays up side valleys and canyons during the days while we moved up river, and we got our food quite fast. But then one misty day we set off up a canyon that the Indian said he did not know personally but which was ‘not lucky’. And in truth we did not spot a living thing in three hours; so we started back down to the river. Then suddenly my pal stopped, and pointed down at the soft wet ground in a little clearing and actually gave one of those grunts that movie-makers love to have their ‘Red Indians’ make. He was a bit rattled and so was I, for there, most clearly marked in the mud, were three footprints of what appeared to be a barefoot man who would have had to take a shoe with an internal measurement of at least sixteen inches! My friend gave this thing a name, but I never really did catch up with that as we went down that valley at no dog-trot, I can tell you.”
There’s a thing in Canada: if you have your picture taken riding on a moose, you get $10,000 from some organization. And we almost did it. When we left the hot springs, and we were about to enter the First Canyon, and a moose was swimming across the river. And we went over to it and- this is the honest-to-God truth now- I was going to jump off onto the moose and try and ride on it. And they were going to make a movie of it. I was afraid that if we jumped on it, it would drown. We changed our mind; we didn’t do it.
Beyond the Hot Springs, the South Nahanni runs through what is known as the First Canyon- a channel of white water flanked by two towering limestone cliffs. It is here that the American Expeditionary Society encountered the first of the Nahanni’s many rapids, for which the river is notorious.
There’s two or three places on the South Nahanni- George’s Riffle and the Lafferty Riffle- that are very, very, very tough, and seasoned people get killed there. George’s Riffle is the hardest place to navigate on the river. You have the current coming down about eighteen miles an hour, but it runs into very narrow areas, and it’s all white water, and you have to navigate up through that. And a lot of people get hurt there and get killed there. Boats flip over. And we made it up there the first time, went right through all that riffle. And then we got into the real trip. We went up to the Headless Valley.
And that was our main camp, in the Headless Valley. We stayed in the Headless Valley for over a month. There was a cabin built there by the government, and it was just put there for anybody who would visit there could stay in the cabin, they’d have some kind of shelter. And directly across from that was what they called the Prairie Creek Delta. And the way it looked, it was deceiving to look at it, it looked like it was very close, but it was very far away. And the trees that lined it- they’re sheer walls, and they lined it all the way up to the top and down. But the trees, it looked like grass. These trees were 100 feet tall. They looked like little pieces of confetti. The scale- once you explained it to people- “these trees are 100 feet tall”- then they realized how vast everything was and how large it was.
The game up there is so plentiful I would liken it to Africa. I mean, every single day you saw moose. Every now and then you saw a grizzly bear. When you got up a little bit you’d see Dall sheep, caribou… I mean, this was all day, every day. See, the thing about Canada is that everything is bigger there. I’ve seen ravens here. The Indians, they like to catch these ravens and keep them for pets. And you know how they catch them? They take a fly line- a fly rod- and they put a little piece of jerky on it, and a little hook. And these ravens get on the top of their cabins and things, and they’ll throw the line up there, and the raven will pick up the end of the line to get the piece of jerky, and they’ll hook them, and they’ll catch the hook in their beak, and they’ll very easily reel them in. And they catch them, and they keep them as pets.
But the ravens up there have like 4 or 5-foot wingspans. They’re very big. We used to see them walking around, and they’d be like, maybe 3 feet tall. I’m serious. And I’ve seen ravens in other places- upstate and all in there, the ravens are maybe 18 inches high. These were like 3 feet tall, and they were all over everywhere. But everything up there was big.
Once you get in there, it’s actually primeval. I mean, you could, in my opinion, run into anything. I mean, you could run into literally anything. I remember George said one day- we were up on a little trip walking around- he said, “This is primeval.” He said, “We could run into anything here.” He was a college guy, you know, and he was a biology guy, and he knew a lot. And Wayne Egrebretson was a biology guy. They studied all this; they had a firm grasp of what they were looking at. I didn’t, but I remember George said to me one day, he said, “This is a primeval forest here.” He said, “Really, anything can be here,” meaning Sasquatch, or anything, you know. We could even find a dinosaur.
But prior to that, they had found a herd of woodland bison that were seen from the air by either the RCMP or somebody. And there’s some kind of a film clip of that somewhere. And that’s how they were identified. And they were supposed to be extinct. Ivan talked about that a lot. But right in that area, where we were.
And the one thing that nobody ever talks about are the insects up there- the bugs. They have whole seasons of bugs there that really, really, really tax everything. You run through… when you first get there, you have gnats. And people walk around with these screens over their heads. And you have to have them or your mouth will fill up with gnats. I mean, there’s zillions of gnats. And there’s a whole season for gnats. And this goes on for weeks. The air hums with gnats.
And then they go away, and you get what they call “bulldogs”. These are these black flies. And these flies are so nasty. The will land on you and start biting you, and you know how you just shush a fly away? They don’t go away. They’re biting you, and you have to pull them off. And there’s a whole season of bulldogs.
That lasts for a week or two. Then you get mosquitoes. This is all in the spring, early summer. You get the mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are big, and the air is alive with them. And you find yourself bathing in all this bug repellant. Of course, the Indians have their own stuff, and you put that on, and nothing bothers you. Because the stuff you take up there- you know, bug spray and all- doesn’t do anything.
Albert Faille was the big name up there. He always wore this grey outfit with a grey hat. And he had a beard of a thin, old man. At the time he was probably eighty years old.
Faille had, at some point, been up there by himself, and he was injured, and he broke his back. And he managed to survive a whole winter up there in the Headless Valley with a broken back. And he survived it and made his way back to the Hot Springs and Nahanni Butte, where he was nursed back to health.
He became a folk hero up there. Everybody knew Albert Faille. Faille was… we spent a lot of time with him, and we would give him food. We cooked all the time, give him big steaks to eat, and catch fish for him. Albert Faille was one of these austere personages that you held in reverence. You didn’t just pop down next to him and say, “How’re you doing?” You approached him very carefully. “How are you, sir?” and that kind of stuff. “How do you feel today” and “What’s going on?” You kind of worked into it. If he liked you, then he would talk to you.
He told us about a cave that ran from the hot springs to the Headless Valley. Fourteen miles. He said, “There’s a cave that runs from behind the hot springs, it runs through the mountains, and it comes out in the Headless Valley.” Oh, that was very interesting to us. But I’m not much for caves. I don’t like doing the caves, and I kind of turned that idea down. But it’s a fourteen-mile cave he talked about. That’s a long cave.
Much of Nahanni Country, especially the area surrounding the Headless Valley, is pockmarked with deep caves that lead into the rock. Legend has it that these caverns are haunted by some sort of sinister presence, from evil spirits to Neanderthals to hairy, red-eyed giants. During his time in the Headless Valley, Frank Graves stumbled across one of these caves and made a shocking discovery inside.
When we were in the Headless Valley, we would take walks. George and I, we would go across the river, across the Nahanni, and we put the boat up over there, and then we would go on a walk across the Prairie Creek Delta. This is like two or three miles until you get to the mountains.
I would always carry a rifle. You can’t carry handguns up there. It would have been so much nicer if you could carry a handgun. But I always carried a rifle, and it made everything tougher. Because the rifle that I took with me was a rifle that my father gave me. It was a big, heavy gun, and I always carried it around with me.
This one time, we got split up in the Prairie Creek Delta area. We just did things. You didn’t think about it; you just did them. And we would be going up in this area and there would be water coming down. We would just walk right through it, and if it turned out to be twelve feet deep, you just went right through it, you just kept going to get where you were going to go. And it was actually very dangerous because if it rained, this whole area would flood very quickly. I mean, it would flood in a matter of minutes. You’d have big trouble.
We got a little split up, and I did some climbing. And I don’t mean walking up something. And I’m no climber or anything, but I actually climbed up a rock face. I’m talking maybe several thousand feet. Because once you start doing these things, you can’t stop. You have to keep going. You can’t come back.
And I was climbing up, and I got fairly close to the top and I found a cave. I stopped for a while. I was getting a little nervous because I was wondering how I was going to get to the top. Because you’re climbing up these rock faces and I found this cave. When I say “cave”, it went in about ten feet. I don’t know whether it was a naturally-occurring fault in the rock, but it went in about ten feet.
And I got in there, and I found a spear. Not knowing anything at the time, being a novice at all this, I picked it up and held it. It felt like it was made of stone, but you could see that it was a spear that somebody had hewn, and it was probably very, very, very old. And it had apparently turned to stone. I remember trying to figure out how I was going to get it down, because I had this rifle over my shoulder, and I had a pack on my back, too. And I had this spear. At the time, I really didn’t think about it being important, but I wanted to try and get it back. And you could actually see where somebody had sharpened this up, and it had a point on it. It was maybe an inch and a half in diameter, and it was about six feet long. But you could see that it wasn’t just a naturally-occurring thing.
I had to tuck it behind me and put it in the rifle- you know, between the rifle and my back in the pack- and I actually climbed the rest of that with all that on my back. And I got almost to the very top, and I had to make a… it was just like in a movie. At this point, you’ve got to go to the top. I had to reach up about three feet to where I could see was the very top- the very last place I could grab a hold of. I spent a minute or two thinking about it, and I just lunged up, and I managed to grab a hold of it, just like in a movie. And I pulled myself up, and I got one leg up on the top, and I started to pull myself up, and the spear fell. I dropped it. And it went all the way down at least a thousand feet or more down into the rocks, into the water. I was very lucky. I could have died right then, because if I hadn’t made that last grip, I would have fallen. I wouldn’t even be here now.
It would have been interesting to bring that back. A lot of people would have liked to look at that. It wasn’t wood. I mean, you can see where it had been wood. You could see where it had been hewn from something. Like a fairly straight limb from a tree or something. But it apparently was very old. And, I mean, it wasn’t sharpened with tools; it was just like somebody had hewn it on a rock or something and got it to where it was a fairly sharp point. I don’t mean sharp enough to stick it through something, but it was sharpened. I talked to Ivan about it later, and he said, “God, you bring it back,” and I said, “I tried to but it was as I was trying to get purchase on that last little ledge before I fell, I lost it. I don’t even know if we could have found it, you know what I mean? It was interesting. I think that would have been interesting to bring back.
There’s three canyons on the river: the First Canyon, the Second, and the Third. After the Third Canyon, you get to Virginia Falls, which is the highest waterfall in North America. It’s about 400 feet, twice as high as Niagara. And that’s when it got really hairy, because the river gets really rough up there.
We just took the boat up with nothing in it. We just packed ourselves in it, unpacked the boat at the Headless Valley, and we just took a boat trip up to Virginia Falls. And once we got up there, we stayed up there for about a week or so.
We met four or five people that had come over the continental divide in canoes. They came across the Rocky Mountains in canoes. These were really tough people. They were young guys from some university. And they were really, really, really tough guys. They did the trip we did in canoes. We spent a couple weeks with them at the Headless Valley- first at the Falls, and then at the Headless Valley.
The Great Pancake-Eating Contest
And we had what’s called- it’s written on the walls up there- we had an eating contest in which we pitted ourselves against their group, and we had an eating contest. We made pancakes, we made beans, we made all kinds of stuff, and we carefully catalogued the whole contest. It lasted a few days. I was supposed to be the best eater there. I ate 34- I think 35- big pancakes, and one of their guys ate, like 50 pancakes. I mean, these were big pancakes. When I think back on it now, I don’t know how anyone survived that. We were all sick for about a week after that. We ate buckets of beans. And it was all written on the side- the doorway- of the cabin. When we did it, it was noted on the cabin.
George shot a moose. A small moose, like a young moose. We ate very well there. I mean, we ate steaks all the time. We had moose meat every day. The Turners, when they came up there, Nahanni Safaris, they shot a Dall sheep, and they quartered it. When they stayed with us, we all had that meat for a while. And the fishing was… I’m not a fisherman- I don’t really care for it- but George was a fisherman, and he would go out in the morning and catch twenty or thirty trout in, like, five minutes. And when you looked into the water, the water was this green, beautiful, emerald colour, and you could see the fish in it. I mean, you could see thousands of fish. I’m talking thousands of trout that are a foot long, or bigger. And George caught one of those lake trout. He caught a trout that weighed about 35 pounds. And we used to make all these really nice dinners. Use trout, and then, of course, we made biscuits. We had enough to make biscuits for an army up there. So we had biscuits and trout. Of course, we took tons of rice. And we would make stew from trout and rice, and we had biscuits with it. And if you wanted a steak, you just went out and cut off a big piece of steak and cooked it.
We actually made what’s called dried meat. The Indians showed us how to do that. You have to hang it up and smoke it. You have to make all these little strips. It’s like jerky. I mean, it’s the same thing. We made our own jerky. And then the jerky, of course- once you put that into water, it turns right back into meat. It dries up like leather, and you keep that in your pocket all day. When you get hungry, you just take a piece of that and chew it up. But if you want to cook something, you just boil water and drop the jerky back into it and you have meat.
There was comments made about the moose, you know, and somebody said, “This moose tastes wild.” One of the guys said, “This has a wild taste.” And George says, “It doesn’t have a wild taste. It tastes like moose. You know? Moose is moose. Mutton is mutton. Venison is venison. It doesn’t taste like steak.” You know what I mean? Each one of those meats is an entirely different animal. We ate very well up there.
We had a little bit of a time problem, because the trip was kind of put together quickly at the last minute, and we all ended up there. We only had so much time to do what we were going to do because we weren’t prepared to stay for the winter. Everything changes when it gets cold. The only reason we left was because, one morning, all the mountains around us looked normal, and the next moment they were all white, and they said that’s when we had to leave.
When we came back, we got down to Fort Simpson and we had to get back to the school bus at Hay River. So what we did was, they have tugs that run up and down the Mackenzie River, and we got on a tug called the YT Husky. They push flat-bottom barges up and down the river. We were sitting on the dock with no place to go, nothing to do, with all this equipment, and a barge pulled in with a tugboat. We went up and talked to the captain and he said, “Just stow your stuff on one of the barges and come up on the tug and live with us.
It took three or four days to go down to Hay River. They took us down there, and we had a really nice time on the tugboat. We lived on the tugboat. We helped them a little bit. And the tugboat brought us down to Hay River.
The Thunderbird Expedition
About a year after his adventure in the Nahanni Valley, Frank Graves developed an interest in a new sort of unexplained phenomenon: Thunderbird sightings.
The Thunderbird is a winged monstrosity of First Nations and Native American mythology. From the Pacific Northwest to the Maritimes, this avian colossus features in native folklore all across North America.
Legend has it that the Thunderbird was endowed with the ability to create storms. Lightning shot from its eyes when it blinked, and thunder boomed when it flapped its wings. Native artwork often depicts these creatures carrying off enormous prey such as whales and bison.
Every once in a while, Canadians and Americans report seeing giant birds eerily evocative of this monster of native lore. In 1966, Frank Graves and a young man named Jay Blick decided to investigate one such report in Northern Pennsylvania on behalf of Ivan Sanderson.
I like all kinds of things like that. They’re very intriguing to me. And Ivan had been… he wrote an article about it, about Thunderbirds. And apparently at some point, an airplane or something had been knocked down somewhere, and they found tissue on the aircraft that was from a bird. But because the way that the tissue was, the amount of it, it had to be a very, very large bird. And this plane had apparently hit a bird in the air and crashed, and it got him off on this Thunderbird thing.
And there’s an area called Renovo. It’s up in Central PA. And they had sightings of Thunderbirds up there. I, of course, was immediately intrigued on this. See, Ivan had meetings. He would have meetings. He would rent places, and all of his big people would come to these meetings, like Oliver Swan, and Joe Hefner- these were like publishers, people involved with newspapers in New York- and they were on his board. And he would have meetings every now and then, and I was always invited to those. There was one at the Arirang House up in Manhattan, where we would all go up there and have dinner, and then they’d have a meeting. At these meetings, we would talk about all these different things, and when they got about Thunderbirds, that was something I could look into because it’s in Central PA. So, I had a little meeting with him and he said, “We’d love you to go up to Renovo and investigate this. We have people up there who are seeing these big birds.”
So immediately said, “Fine,” and I went with a guy- I think his name was… was it Jay Blick, or something? Like, a heavy-set guy. And he had one of Ivan Sanderson’s old Plymouth station wagons. He had two Plymouth station wagons. One he travelled all over the country in. Well, this Jay Blick, he met me up there, and I had a ’58 Plymouth at the time. Beautiful car that I got from my grandfather, it was like brand new. And I met him up there, and we went to the town of Renovo.
We went to a man named Bill Hess. Bill Hess was the historian for the town. He’s the one that came up with all this information about the Thunderbird, and he talked about… he gave us names of people. He was an old man. He lived in a house outside of town. Well, we went up and talked to him. He had actually seen a Thunderbird, and at the time he might have been 80 years old, and he lived out in the woods.
We investigated that, and then we spent three or four days up there. We went up into the mountains, and we found a couple perches where we could sit and look over everything. There’s a place called the overlook up there where you can see for like twenty miles. We went up and sat up there and that was our investigation. We talked to people that had seen them, said they’d seen them. We talked to Mr. Hess, who was the historian of the town. And this was all documented. I did writing on it, and so did Blick.
We got along fairly well on the trip. We actually camped out. We didn’t stay in a motel. We went up in the woods, and we set up a camp. You know, made a campfire. We stayed there a couple of days, but we were mainly looking for these birds. We would go up at night and look. Because they were supposed to only be seen at nighttime. They were very rarely… nobody ever saw them in the day. And we went to a place where you could overlook the whole area, and we sat up there and watched and watched and watched.
Actually, a game warden came along, and he said, “What are you guys doing up here?” We had guns and everything. Rifles. And he said, “Do you have a permit for that rifle?”
And I said, “No”.
He said, “Do you have a permit for that shotgun?”
“Well, what are you doing up here?”
And we told him, “Looking for Thunderbirds.”
And he started, “Oh, Thunderbirds. Alright”. You know, he kind of laughed the whole thing off.
Something happened to Blick on the trip. I can’t remember what happened to him, but he all of a sudden didn’t want to say there. He wanted to come back. We were there for maybe three, four days. And then we came back, and I gave my material to Ivan Sanderson. Told him what happened, and this, that, the other thing.
That… that’s kind of an up-in-the-air thing to me. I’m not sure about any of that, but the people I talked to seemed very genuine. Very genuine. I don’t know why they’d come up with a story, you know what I mean? They’re out in the middle of nowhere. They didn’t profit by it in any way.
The Missing Thunderbird Photograph
According to legend, an American sharpshooter killed a Thunderbird in the deserts of Arizona sometime in the late 1800’s. He and some of his friends later posed for a photograph with the bird’s carcass, which they had nailed to a barn wall.
Thousands of people have sworn they have seen this photo in some old book, magazine, or newspaper. Yet despite a thorough and concerted search for it, no one has been able to find it again. Some cite this bizarre case as an example of the so-called Mandela Effect- a phenomenon characterized by a collective false memory. Others propound more exotic theories involving alternate realities and extra dimensions in an effort to make sense of this strange state of affairs. Whatever the case, the missing Thunderbird photo remains one of most perplexing cryptozoological mysteries to date.
One man who claimed to have once owned a copy of this photo was Ivan T. Sanderson. In an article for the magazine Pursuit, he stated that he had given this copy to Frank Graves and Jay Blick prior to their Thunderbird expedition in upstate Pennsylvania. The photo never returned to his archive, and its fate remains a mystery.
Fortunately, Frank Graves saw this photo prior to its disappearance.
I do remember a picture of- like, this would have been in the 1890s or something- a picture of a big, black bird on the side of a barn. And there were people standing across it. I do remember that now, but I don’t remember the circumstance. I do remember that.
See, something spurred me to go there. You know what I mean? Like, I’m very into doing things like that, because it’s interesting to me, and I believe that these things, for the most art, are real. I don’t believe people make these things up.
I’m trying to remember… I think it was that picture… I think Ivan Sanderson showed it to me, and I think that’s why- one of the reasons I went on the trip.
I remember something. There was a bird, and its head… the thing about the head was you couldn’t see the head. The head was hung over, and all you could see were the wings. Black bird, and there were people standing in front of it, like across it, to show how long it was. It was like, maybe twenty feet, thirty feet across. But the thing about it was you couldn’t see the head. The head had been… was hanging over. You know what I mean? Like, nobody held up the head or propped it up. So, that’s what was wrong with the picture. You couldn’t… in other words, anybody could have faked feathers and things, or whatever, but the head would be hard to fake. And this, you couldn’t see the head, because the head was hanging down in the front, you know what I mean?
I recall this. The bird- it was a black bird on the side of a barn. See, I didn’t think about it until you said “nailed to a barn”. And there were people standing in front of it, and all you could see were these wings. And the head was slumped over, so you couldn’t see if it had a beak, or what it was, you know what I mean? I do recall that.
I don’t remember what happened to the picture. You’re saying that we took it to… we took it with us. If that’s what it said, then I guess that’s what happened. I don’t recall that. But I recall the picture. I just don’t remember the incidentals, you know?
I’m sure that Mr. Hess is probably passed on by this time. He would know for sure. His name was Bill Hess, and he was the town historian for Renovo. He had all kinds of information there in his files, so it could be that we gave him the picture. I don’t know. I don’t recall.
The thing about the picture- I do recall seeing a picture; Ivan showed it to me- and it was a black bird on the side of an old barn, and there were people standing in front of it with their arms outstretched. But you could not see the head of the bird. You really couldn’t tell what kind of a bird it was, you know what I mean? It was a black bird like a raven or something. The Thunderbird is really supposed to be a raven. A giant raven. That’s really what Thunderbirds are supposed to be. Some of the current thinking is that they are a type of an eagle that’s not seen very readily. There’s the ocean eagles, there’s a lot of eagles that are very large. The biggest eagles, I think, have a 9 or 10-foot wingspan. But I think, from my knowledge of this, I think Thunderbirds are ravens. They’re just giant ravens.
Giant Swan of New Jersey – A New Cryptid?
Hey, I’ll tell you something very quickly, just for the hell of it. I drive a truck, and I was over in New Jersey five or six years ago, over on 295, and I was coming up in this little area and I saw what looked like a papier-mache swan. I thought it was a papier-mache swan that was like on a float, like in a parade, and maybe had fallen off a truck and was on the side of the road. And I was coming up on it, and I thought, Boy, look how big that is! This is me telling you this. It was a beautiful white swan, but I thought it was papier-mache. That’s how big it was. It might have been five feet long. And the bird was down, like, sitting down on the ground. But it was a swan. Long neck up, and it was just sitting there. And I thought it must have fallen off a flatbed, and somehow it didn’t get broken up.
And as I came up on it, it got up! It raised up onto its feet. And I thought, God, it’s alive! And I was coming up on it, and I was in the left lane- it’s a three-lane road there- and I moved over as far as I could to the right. And it got up, and it started to look like it was going to try to walk. And it was on the shoulder by the guardrail. It was on the left side.
And that impressed me so much, I went up- I was afraid it was going to get hit- and I went up to the next exit, I got off with a tractor-trailer, and came all the way back down just to see what happened to it. I thought, It’s going to get hit. You know? It’s going to wander out onto the road and get hit. Because I’ve seen geese wander across the highway and get hit. But this was… when I say big, it was huge. And it was a swan. It was absolutely unreal how big it was.
And when I came back, it was gone. So, it must have flown away. And that bird, as I’m telling you right now, it was at least five feet long, and sitting there, it was about three and a half, four feet high, and the neck- of course, it had the swan’s neck, which went up like a swan would do, and that was maybe another three feet up. And I really thought it was a papier-mache impression of a swan, you know, from a float. And when I got up to it, it got up and started to walk, and it was absolutely huge.
And I told you, I went up to the next exit, turned- because I thought it was going to get hit. I should have stopped right then, but I couldn’t stop. And I went up to the next exit, which is about two, three miles, I came all the way back down, turned around and came all the way back up and it was gone. I expected to see feathers all over the road, blood, you know, and carnage, but it was gone. So apparently, it was able to fly away. I just mentioned that for the hell of it, because we’re talking about large birds.
The End of an Era
See, once Ivan passed away, everything kind of fell apart. A lot of connections were broken at that point. When Ivan was alive, I was connected to a lot of people. Once he passed away, everything kind of just went quiet.
I kind of miss some of it. I miss Ivan Sanderson. He was a one-of-a-kind guy, and Ivan and I had a pretty good relationship. I miss him.
Thank you for watching Interview with a Cryptid Hunter. If you enjoyed this documentary and would like to learn more about Frank Graves and the American Expeditionary Society, please check out the book Legends of the Nahanni Valley, available on Amazon and Kindle.
Special thank you to Frank Graves for agreeing to participate in this interview, and for contributing ‘lost’ footage from the 1965 AES Nahanni expedition.
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Interview with a Cryptid Hunter was last modified: November 2nd, 2018 by Hammerson Peters
There’s something special about childhood memories. Whether you like it or not, some of them are seared into your grey matter as indelibly as a rancher’s brand into a spring calf’s hide. You may struggle to recall them at will, but every once in a while, certain experiences will drag you up to your mental attic, crack open some dusty old album, brush the cobwebs away, and present you with some stunningly vivid childhood memory which your conscious mind had long forgotten. The smell of a particular tobacco smoke, for example, may transport you back to your grandfather’s porch. A particular phrase might evoke that scary old Ukrainian widow who lived down the street from your parents’ house, whom you and all the neighbourhood kids were convinced was a witch. And the sensation of frostnip on your ears might elicit those 10-mile winter hikes you made every morning to school… uphill through the snow both ways. More often than not, these childhood memories seem to be of very specific scenes, events, pieces of trivia, or fragments of conversation which would probably fail to penetrate even the surface of your awareness as an adult, yet somehow managed to sink themselves deep into your childhood brain.
One such memory came back to me several months ago, when my friend Sandy Marentette introduced me to the legend of the vampire of Wilno, Ontario. “Vampires in Ontario?” I mused. “That rings a bell.” Immediately, my mind conjured up images of my elementary school library. I could see the green steel bookshelves, the sunken reading space, and the laminate folding tables at the back of the room, laden with clunky computer monitors. Beside the librarian’s desk was a revolving wire book rack, and on that rack, on prominent display, sat a children’s novel entitled Vampires of Ottawa. Its cover art had evidently made a lasting impression on me, for even in my mind’s eye, I could clearly see a black-cloaked, grey-faced, Dracula-like figure chasing a kid through a dusky cemetery- an image which, I recalled, had chilled my 6-year-old soul to the core.
After that unexpected trip down memory lane, nostalgia got the better of me; I actually ended up tracking down the book and reading it cover to cover. Vampires of Ottawa, as it turns out, is a children’s novel by Canadian author Eric Wilson, constituting one of a series of books chronicling the very Canadian adventures of a juvenile sleuth named Liz Austen of Winnipeg, Manitoba, a la the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. In this particular story, Liz travels to our nation’s capital to deliver a speech on vampires for a public speaking contest. A string of mysterious events steer her towards the country manor of a wealthy Romanian-Canadian industrialist who happens to be crippled by the fear that a vampire is lurking somewhere on his estate.
The book Vampires of Ottawa begins in the Ottawa Jail Hostel, a spooky hotel with a dark history, which I covered in my article on haunted hotels in Ontario. Although the novel fails to mention it, the Hostel has a bizarre vampire legend of its own. This observation got me wondering, “How many vampire stories does Ontario have?” As it turns out, more than you might expect.
The Vampires of Wilno, Ontario
Right now, it’s Halloween season. There’s a bite in the air, the sidewalks are covered with leaves, and in three weeks, neighbourhoods all over the country will be crawling with little ghouls and goblins on the prowl for candy.
One spectre who often makes an appearance around this time of year is the Headless Horseman, a traditional European/American spook immortalized in Washington Irving’s 1820 short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The eponymous setting of Irving’s story is a secluded vale tucked away in the hill country upriver from New York City. Of this
locale, Irving wrote:
“From the listless repose of the place, and the peculiar character of its inhabitants, who are descendants from the original Dutch settlers, this sequestered glen has long been known by the name of Sleepy Hollow…
“A drowsy, dreamy influence seems to hang over the land, and to pervade the very atmosphere… Certain it is that the place still continues under the sway of some witching power that holds a spell over the minds of the good people, causing them to walk in a continual reverie. They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, hear music and voices in the air. The whole neighbourhood abounds with local tales, haunted spots, and twilight superstitions…”
If Sleepy Hollow has any equivalent in Canada, it is arguably the quiet backcountry east of Algonquin Provincial Park. Instead of comprising the hill country of the Hudson River, this enchanted region constitutes the watershed of the Madawaska River, and rather than accommodating the descendants of Dutch settlers, this area is populated by the progeny of Irish, Scottish, German, and especially Polish immigrants. This region is steeped in folklore and superstition, and, like Sleepy Hollow, some of its inhabitants are prone to exotic beliefs. Last June, for instance, I wrote an article on the strange death of an eighteen-year-old girl from Palmer Rapids, Ontario, who drowned herself in the Madawaska in the summer of 1948, prompted by the teachings of a strange sectarian cult that her father had invented.
In the heart of the Madawaska Valley, just half-an-hour’s drive north of Palmer Rapids, lies the tiny community of Wilno, Ontario- the oldest Polish settlement in Canada. Most of Wilno’s residents are of Kashubian extraction, Kashubs being members of a northern Polish ethnocultural group descended from Pomeranian Slavs. Although many of Ontario’s Kashubs historically identify as Polish, the dialect they speak and the culture they embrace bear traces of their unique Pomeranian heritage.
Back in 1858, when much of Poland was under Prussian rule, the poor, hardworking ancestors of Wilno’s present inhabitants abandoned their Prussian homes and headed for Canada, comprising one of the first waves of what is known today as the Kashubian Diaspora. Somehow, these emigrants had learned that the British were offering free land to settlers along the Opeongo Line– a colonization road which stretched from the Ottawa River to the Madawaska Highlands. The Kashubs travelled by horse and buggy to the city of Gdansk, made the long train ride to Hamburg (at that time, one of the thirty nine states of the German Confederation), and took steamships across the Atlantic to the Port of Quebec. From there, they travelled up the St. Lawrence and further up the Ottawa River to the trailhead of the Opeongo Line. That accomplished, they trekked up the rough colonization road into Madawaska Country, where they carved out settlements from the wilderness. The first permanent community that these Polish-Canadians established was the village of Wilno, Ontario.
The Kashub immigrants who settled in Ontario, like Poles the world over, were staunch Roman Catholics. In addition to their Catholic faith, however, the first Ontario Kashubs imported an older folk religion into the Madawaska Valley. A complement to their Catholicism, this shadowy tapestry of folklore and superstition was a product of Eastern Europe- a relic of their Slavic ancestors. This old religion constituted a belief in hexes, black magic, and various supernatural entities, and prescribed methods by which people could protect themselves from these malevolent forces and remedy their noxious effects. Ethnologists and anthropologists refer to this particular type of belief system as “daemonology”.
In the 1960s, a young, Harvard-educated linguist named Jan Louis Perkowski heard rumours that this belief system was still alive and well in the Canadian Kashub community, and that one element of this Canadian-Kashubian daemonology was a belief in vampires. In 1968, he received funding from the National Museum of Man in Gatineau, Quebec (now the Canadian Museum of History) to investigate this rumour. Perkowski subsequently travelled to Wilno, Ontario, where he interviewed fifteen Polish-Canadians and documented their folklore and traditions. He completed his study in 1969, and three years later, he published his findings in a controversial paper entitled “Vampires, Dwarves, and Witches among the Ontario Kashubs”.
In his paper, Perkowski claimed to have uncovered a strong vampire tradition among the Kashub-Canadians which deviates only slightly from that espoused by their European cousins. According to Perkowski’s informants, the Kashubian vampire is a malicious, undead being into which certain people transform after death. If left to its own devices, the vampire will emerge from its coffin at midnight, visit the homes of its relatives, and either kill them by sucking out their blood or carry them away, never to be seen again. Once the blood-sucking revenant has dealt with its family members, it will make its way to a local chapel and ring the church bell. Anyone who hears the bell ring will die within the year.
According to Perkowski’s interviewees, there are two signs which indicate a person’s predisposition towards vampirism, both of which occur at birth. Babies who are born with a caul- a “cap” of placental membrane on their heads- are believed to transform into vampires called “vjesci” after death. Babies who are born with two teeth, on the other hand, are said to turn into “wupji”. There is no difference between a vjesci and a wupji aside from the natal omens which betray their sinister natures.
There is only one method by which people destined to become vjesci can be prevented from completing their macabre metamorphoses. The placental cap that they wore as babies must be dried and ground into powder. On the future vjesci’s seventh birthday, the powder must be slipped into his/her food or drink and consumed.
Although vjesci can be cured of their affliction in this manner, people born with two teeth will invariably become vampires once they die. Fortunately, there are several techniques which effectively prevent wupji and uncured vjesci from rising from their graves and carrying out their grisly work. Pouring sand into the corpse’s coffin will prevent the vampire from resurrecting for as many years as there are grains of sand; the vampire cannot rise until it has counted every grain, and the speed at which it counts rarely exceeds one grain per year. Similarly, placing a fishing net inside the coffin will prevent the vampire from rising for as many years as there are knots, as it must untie every knot before leaving its tomb, and cannot untie more than one knot annually. Another tactic involves placing the corpse face-down in its casket so that it claws its way deeper into the earth rather than up and out of the grave. A more permanent solution is to place a small cross made from poplar wood inside the coffin, sometimes under the corpse’s tongue. Poplar crosses appear to be Canadian substitutes for rosary crucifixes, which European Kashubs place under the tongues of their own suspected vampires.
If none of these precautions are taken before the vampire is buried, there is but one recourse: someone must exhume the vampire at midnight and either drive a long nail into its forehead or decapitate the corpse with a shovel and place its head between its feet. People who attempt this gruesome procedure will often open the coffin to find the vampire sitting upright with its eyes open, looking around wildly and stammering unintelligible words.
According to one of Perkowski’s informants, the Kashubs of Wilno, Ontario, had to resort to this hideous measure on more than one occasion. In Polish, the informant said:
“There was a lot of that at Wilno in the graves. They opened graves. They cut the heads off. When they die and were born vampires, and are not seen to, then they have to dig up the graves. First he carries off his relatives and then as far as the bell rings. It happened at Wilno. They have dug up many, but it was not told, revealed. They had to dig it up and cut off the head while he sat in the coffin.”
When Perkowski’s paper was published in 1972, there was considerable outrage in Wilno; many of the Kashubian Canadians maintained that their beliefs had been unfairly represented. According to a local priest:
“I was amazed that such a thing would be printed… They are like stories my grandmother would tell to scare us… It is possible that one or two nuts have those beliefs but the implication is that all of us do… We get a big laugh out of it, we know the people who have manufactured the story just by reading it… That nonsense of driving nails. My impression is that he probably stuck a microphone under their noses and to get rid of him they’d make up these tales.”
One of Perkowski’s informants told a reporter:
“This anthropologist, he was not a sincere man… He was not what he claimed. He sat here. Here, with me in my kitchen. I told him the old wives’ tales, things my grandmother told me, but we don’t believe these things anymore…”
A third Wilno resident, while speaking with a journalist, put his assessment of Perkowski’s work more bluntly:
It’s all crap… Just pure crap. And underline that I said ‘pure crap’.”
To this day, the extent to which the Kashubs of Ontario embrace the vampiric folklore of their ancestors is a subject of debate, although most Kashub-Canadians vehemently deny that they still adhere to this medieval remnant of the Fatherland. What’s less ambiguous is that fact that there are some Ontarians do believe in vampires… some say, with good reason.
The Vampire Bride of the Niagara Parkway
Skirting the western shores of the Niagara River is a road called the Niagara Parkway. The scenery along this riverside thoroughfare is so picturesque that former U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill is said to have described it as “the prettiest Sunday afternoon drive in the world”.
The Niagara Parkway is one of the oldest roads in Ontario. Centuries ago, it was a game trail used by members of the Neutral Confederacy, an agglomerate of First Nations which was wiped out by the warlike Iroquois in the 17th Century. In the late 1700s, the British Army turned this game trail into a public road connecting Fort Erie (a British military outpost on the shores of Lake Erie) with Fort George, the future headquarters of the British Army in Upper Canada, situated near the shores of Lake Ontario. Due to its strategic importance, the highway became one of the primary frontiers during the War of 1812, a conflict fought between British Canada and the United States.
If you drive up the Niagara Parkway twenty minutes north from Fort Erie Beach, on the northeastern shores of Lake Erie, you’ll come to a little café called the Lighthouse Restaurant on-the-Parkway. Immediately preceding this establishment is a bridge that crosses Black Creek, a tributary of the Niagara. According to local legend, this bridge is haunted by a ghostly woman in white who appears to travellers at night, usually between midnight and 3:00 A.M. This apparition is said to be clothed in a ragged white gown; to have long, flowing black hair; to have a deathly pale complexion; and to act as though she is looking for something along the creek bank. Such a sight would be alarming enough for the unsuspecting nighttime traveler. What makes this spectre truly terrifying, however, is the bright red blood that drips from her mouth to spatter the front of her gown. Doubtless inspired by the seductive female minions of Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula, locals have nicknamed this figure the “Vampire Bride”.
In his 2012 book Niagara’s Most Haunted: Legends and Myths, writer, radioman, and actor Dr. Peter Sacco includes an interesting theory regarding the nature of the Vampire Bride. This theory, which derives from a local ghost story, proposes that the “vampiress” is actually the ghost of a young mother whose husband served in the Canadian militia during the War of 1812.
According to this story, while the woman’s husband was away at war, an epidemic of tuberculosis swept through the Niagara Region. Tragically, the disease took the life of the woman’s newborn baby. In order to prevent further contagion, a well-meaning doctor plucked the baby’s tiny body from the arms of the grieving mother and promptly had it cremated.
When she learned what had become of her child’s corpse, the mother fell into a deep depression. Utterly distraught, and with no one to comfort her, her health began to deteriorate, and soon she contracted the same illness that had taken her baby’s life. For several long months, tuberculosis wracked her body. She developed a chronic fever, turned ghostly pale, and began to cough up blood. “Consumption”, as contemporary doctors termed the disease, ate away at her body, transforming her into a gaunt, hollow-eyed shadow of her former self. By the time her husband finally returned home on leave, the young woman was on her deathbed.
When the poor woman finally passed away, her husband wrapped her body in a white sheet and brought her on horseback to the bridge over Black Creek, one of the most beautiful spots on the riverside highway. There, not far from the Niagara River, he buried his wife.
According to this version of the legend, the ghost of the young mother appears from time to time in the vicinity of her final resting place, searching for the child that she lost. Her pale skin and the blood that stains her mouth and chest are not indications of vampirism, but rather the symptoms of the infectious disease that took her life and that of her child.
The Vampire Ghost of the Ottawa Jail Hostel
The last Ontario vampire we will cover in this article has its roots in the Ottawa Jail Hostel, a prison-turned-hotel where guests can stay overnight in cells once occupied by some of Ottawa’s most dangerous criminals.
One of the most storied sections of this historic building is the “Secret Staircase”, which connected the prison with the residence of the jail’s governor. It is said that a number of prisoners leapt to their deaths in this stairwell. According to one legend, a group of disgruntled prisoners threw their guard over the railings of this spiral staircase in 1910, sending him plummeting to the floor far below.
In 1972, the year that the facility ceased to function as a prison, the Secret Staircase was renovated. During this process, contractors discovered a cryptic inscription that had been written on the walls of the stairwell. This message read:
“I am a non-veridical Vampire who will vanquish you all. One by one I will ornate your odorous flesh with famished fangs. But Who? Are there 94 or 95 steps to the ninth floor? A book on the top shelf will lead you on the right path.”
(Incidentally, the ninth floor of the Ottawa Jail was used to house the wives and children of debtors who had failed to pay their dues)
This mysterious inscription is associated with a strange prison tale. In his 1998 book Haunted Ontario, author Terry Boyle quotes a tour guide named Carol Devine, who introduced him to this bizarre fragment of prison lore: the legend of the Ottawa Jail Vampire.
According to Devine, prisoners described this entity as a spirit which “tries to push your soul out of your body.”
“My grandfather had heard about this vampire,” Devine maintained. “They say it feeds on the sick. No one knows for sure whether this creature’s territory extends throughout the jail or not.”
According to Devine, there are two stories associated with the vampire ghost of the Secret Staircase. The first of these revolves around the eight-year-old son of a prison warden who moved into the governor’s mansion with his family. When the family first arrived at the jail, the warden’s son was an “active, loving, happy child… until one day, things switched.” The boy developed a mysterious illness which grew worse over time. His personality also began to change, and by the time the family left the mansion, the now-eleven-year-old boy had developed a crippling fear of the dark. Some prisoners believed that the boy had been preyed upon by the “non-veridical Vampire”, which fed not on blood, but rather on the health and energy of its hosts.
The second story regarding the Vampire of the Ottawa Jail Hostel took place in 1994, when two young men were staying overnight in the governor’s quarters. “One night,” Devine said, “one of the men retired early for the night. He awoke suddenly to see a shadow standing in the doorway. He turned the light on, but the bulb shattered. The shadow quickly skirted across the room and disappeared in the corner where a set of lockers stood. Workers later discovered a secret passage right where the shadow had vanished.”
Thanks for reading! If you know of any vampire stories from your neck of the woods, please feel free to share them in the Comments below.
The Vampires of Wilno, Ontario
Vampires, Dwarves, and Witches among the Ontario Kashubs (1972), by Jan L. Perkowski
Creating Kashubia: History, Memory, and Identity in Canada’s First Polish Community (2016), by Joshua C. Blank
The Vampire Bride of the Niagara Parkway
Niagara’s Most Haunted: Legends and Myths (2012), by Peter Sacco
Haunted Vampire Legend, published on TheParanormalProfilers.com
The Vampire Ghost of the Ottawa Jail Hostel
Haunted Ontario: Ghostly Inns, Hotels, and Other Eerie Places (1998), by Terry Boyle
Creepy Capital (2016), by Mark Leslie
Season 1, Episode 1 of the TV series Creepy Canada
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Vampires in Ontario? was last modified: October 23rd, 2018 by Hammerson Peters
This episode of The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down serves as a recap and analysis of The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 3, Episode 12: Voices From Below.
Charles Barkhouse and Drillhole C1
Host Matty Blake sits down on stage with Rick and Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, and Dan Blankenship. After playing footage of John Chatterton’s dive in Borehole 10-X, he asks the four men a number of related questions. The treasure hunters express their confidence in John Chatterton’s diving abilities, their regret in 10-X’s murkiness, and their cognisance of the fact that few things every go right the first time on Oak Island.
Later, we see a pre-recorded video of the drilling of C1, the hole prescribed by Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse, in which a 21-foot-tall cavity was encountered at the 171-foot level. Once the video is finished, Rick states that he believes Charles’ prescription was based on his extensive knowledge of the history of the Oak Island treasure hunt, the recent re-discovery of the Hedden shaft in Season 3, Episodes 3 and 4, and on intuition. The four treasure hunters agree that a more rigorous analysis of wood and metal discovered in C1 is needed before they can conclude with any certainty that the void is significant.
Executive Producer Kevin Burns
Next, Blake sits down with Rick and Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, and the execute producer of The Curse of Oak Island, Kevin Burns. Burns describes how he has observed three truths regarding the Oak Island treasure hunt: 1) If something can go wrong, it will; 2) Things take longer than expected; and 3) “There will be a surprise.” He also describes how the men of Oak Island Tours Inc. are very reluctant reality TV stars, and how it is a “miracle” The Curse of Oak Island ever got off the ground in the first place. He thanks the treasure hunters for the opportunity to produce the show, and the treasure hunters praise him for doing such a good job of it. Marty adds “You know, Kevin, you got one thing wrong when you were talking there. You said ‘if it can go wrong, it will go wrong on Oak Island.’ It’s actually: ‘Even if it can’t go wrong, it will go wrong on Oak Island.’”
The Oak Island Causeway
Following the interview with Kevin Burns, a pre-recorded video explains how geologist and Oak Island treasure hunter Robert Dunfield- notorious for his destructive, heavy-duty operation in the Money Pit in the late 1960’s- constructed the 656-foot-long causeway from Oak Island to the mainland, without which the current treasure hunt would not be possible.
The Death of Maynard Kaiser
Next, a video plays showing highlights of Rick Lagina’s meeting with 91-year-old Lynn Walsh, the granddaughter of former Oak Island treasure hunter Maynard Kaiser. Blake explains that Kaiser, who fell to his death in a pumping shaft in 1897, was the second man to die on Oak Island, and that his death might have given rise to the popular legend that seven men must die before the Oak Island treasure can be found. Rick briefly explains that he and the crew promised Walsh that they would look through archival records in order to try to determine where Kaiser’s body has been put to rest; the Oak Island Treasure Company, for whom Kaiser worked, did not record where Kaiser’s body was interred, or if they even recovered his body from the pit at all.
The next scene begins with a pre-recorded video in which Rick Lagina interviews veteran treasure hunter Dan Blankenship on his Oak Island experience. Before the interview, it is revealed that Dan and his son Dave, following the death of Dan’s wife Jane in 2011, made a vow to “find out what’s at the bottom of 10-X”. Dan talks to Rick about his wife Jane, about how he first became involved in the Oak Island treasure hunt, and about the history of Borehole 10-X. Rick states his desire to help Dan solve the 10-X mystery, saying “your life’s work needs to have a period at the end of it.” Dan says “I agree. Let’s make it happen,” and shakes Rick’s hand.
Back on stage, Dave Blankenship describes how his father, a veteran of World War II, was “shell shocked” in the line of duty and received no treatment for his condition. Following the war, Dan Blankenship self-medicated by “drinking and fighting” in bars. Dave, Marty, and Rick all agree that the two things that eased Dan out of his destructive lifestyle were old age and his wife Jane.
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The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down; S1E4 was last modified: October 22nd, 2018 by Hammerson Peters
This episode of The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down serves as a recap of The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 3, Episode 11: Sword Play.
Looking Back on the ‘Roman Sword’
Matty Blake sits down with Craig Tester to talk about the ‘Roman sword’ debunked in Season 3, Episode 11 of The Curse of Oak Island. Tester expresses his disappointment at the evidence showing that the sword is a relatively modern creation, and states that it will likely remain in the Oak Island museum as a reminder that “you’ve got to follow the clues.”
Executive Producer Joe Lessard
Next, Blake meets with the executive producer of The Curse of Oak Island, Joe Lessard, along with Rick and Marty Lagina. It is revealed that “Marty occasionally will take over as director of shoot” due to his frustration with the degree to which filming cuts into treasure hunting time. However, the Lagina brothers acknowledge that their treasure hunting crew and Lessard’s film crew are all part of the same team.
The Lagina Family
Next, a pre-recorded video shows several Lagina family home movies from the 1950’s and ‘60’s, when Rick and Marty were kids growing up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The video is overlaid with a narration by Rick and Marty’s older and younger sisters, respectively: Marianne Gardiner and Therese Fernetti. Marianne and Therese also talk about their feelings regarding Rick and Marty’s treasure hunt and The Curse of Oak Island. One fraternal anecdote the Lagina sisters relate involves an incident in which Rick and Marty were both asked by their parents to mow the lawn. According to Rick’s version of the event, Rick did all the mowing while Marty “would kinda lay down on his back and look at the clouds.” After the video has finished playing, Blake asks Marty whether his version of the event is congruent with Rick’s. Marty concedes that Rick’s account is indeed accurate, adding “I was a dreamer, and he was a doer, and that just hasn’t really changed, you know.” He also states “I’ve come his way, I suppose, and he’s come mine.”
In the next scene, Matty Blake reminds us that the Oak Island mystery has, over the years, captured the interest of a number of world-famous famous celebrities, including John Wayne, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Errol Flynn. He then reveals that Ross Valory, the bassist for the rock band Journey, is another such high-profile Oak Island fan. A pre-recorded video shows Valory, who appears to possess an impressive knowledge of treasure hunting and Oak Island history, touring the island with Rick and Marty Lagina and his friend Pasqua. In the War Room, he discloses that one of his brothers has an uncanny knack for dousing, the controversial process by which Dan Blankenship first discovered Borehole 10-X, and agrees to ask him to help with the treasure hunt. When Marty expresses his skepticism towards dousing due to the mystery surrounding its mechanism, Dan Blankenship says “not everything in this world has a plausible explanation, Marty. Period. There are some things you just have to believe in.”
Ask Rick and Marty, Featuring Dave: Round 3
Back on the stage, Blake asks Rick, Marty, and Dave Blankenship several questions put forth by fans of The Curse of Oak Island.
One fan asks “What is preventing the excavation of the swamp…?” Rick explains that, due to provincial law, they are unable to dig in the swamp until they have a very specific “hard target”, which they currently lack.
The next question, directed at Dave, is “Would you do anything different if you could go back in time on Oak Island?” Dave replies that, if he could go back in time, he would keep better records. Rick, lamenting that he and the current Oak Island crew are guilty of the same mistake, ads that Oak Island Tours Inc. ought to hire an archivist.
Peter Fornetti’s Skepticism
Next, a pre-recorded video plays highlights of British Columbian engineers Mike and Shaun Herold’s visit to Oak Island in Season 3, Episode 11, during which the two men presented the late Laverne Johnson’s Oak Island theory.
Another video reveals that, in order to access the ‘X-marks-the-spot’ prescribed by Johnson, Rick had to clear a patch of forest with a chainsaw.
Another pre-recorded video shows Rick and Marty Lagina and their nephew Peter Fornetti perusing the museum in the Oak Island Visitors’ Centre. Peter expresses doubt that his uncles will find treasure on the island, saying “at some point in time, there might have been something here. There was a lot done to this island. I don’t know if there’s anything here now.” However, after Rick and Marty show him some of the metal items discovered in 10-X by Dan Blankenship, he suggests that his uncles had better dig up something to add to the collection.
Eelgrass Carbon Dating
In a final pre-recorded video, Craig Tester makes an intriguing revelation. He states that a sample of eelgrass discovered beneath Smith’s Cove, believed to have been part of the Smith’s Cove filter, was carbon dated from 1470-1650 with a 95% probability.
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Drilling Down on Sword Play- The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down; S1E3 was last modified: October 18th, 2018 by Hammerson Peters
Season 1, Episode 2: Drilling Down on Silence in the Dark
Harvey Morash and Michael Gerhartz’s Dive
Host Matty Blake sits down with Rick and Marty Lagina to discuss Harvey Morash and Michael Gerhartz’s unsuccessful attempt to dive to the bottom of Borehole 10-X. Rick expresses his frustration at the number of failed diving attempts, while Marty acknowledges the technical difficulties inherent in 10-X dives.
The talk quickly turns to veteran Oak Island treasure hunters and bitter rivals Dan Blankenship and Fred Nolan, whom Rick has given the epithet “the lions of Oak Island.” Rick maintains that the two men are more alike than they are different, citing their similar interests and goals and their passion in the Oak Island treasure hunt.
The three men briefly talk about the alleged ‘Roman sword’ introduced in Season 3, Episode 10, before returning to Morash and Gerhartz’s diving attempt in 10-X. Behind-the-scenes footage reveals that Morash, unable to communicate with the men and women on the surface, inexplicably disappeared into 10-X for more than half an hour, much to the distress of the Lagina brothers waiting anxiously on the surface. Marty explains to Blake that protocol was broken during the dive, although he does not assign blame to anyone in particular.
The Blankenship-Nolan Rivalry
Next, Bake reminds viewers of the long-time rivalry between treasure hunters Fred Nolan and Dan Blankenship, and of the tentative peace pact brokered by the Lagina brothers in Season 3, Episode 7. A pre-recorded video shows a conversation between Fred Nolan and Rick Lagina regarding the former’s discovery of Nolan’s Cross and the so-called “Head Stone” located at its centre.
After the video has finished playing, Blake interviews Dan Blankenship’s son Dave, asking him about the rivalry between Nolan and his father. Dave states that the rivalry was already well established by the time he arrived on Oak Island in 1974, and that it has “just gotten worse over the years.” He states that Dan and Fred are both very alike in their stubbornness, intelligence, and competitiveness, and does not really understand their inability to work together. He also reveals that Dan once “took a rifle after” Fred, and subsequently had it confiscated by the local RCMP. Dave goes on to declare his support for Rick and Marty’s efforts to “bury the hatchet” between the two veteran treasure hunters, but suspects that his father is none “too appreciative of it”.
Ask Rick and Marty, Featuring Dave: Round 2
The next scene shows Matty Blake sitting down with the Lagina brothers and Dave Blankenship. The Lagina brothers follow up on Dave’s interview by stating that, while there is certainly an altruistic motivation behind their attempt to heal the Blankenship-Nolan rivalry, they also hope a reconciliation between the two treasure hunters will give them access to areas of interest on the island. Following that, the four men briefly discuss Fred Nolan’s so-called “Old Well”, which they explored via drilling in Season 3, Episode 8.
A brief video plays in which Oak Island historian Charles Barkhouse talks about the guided tours he and a handful of volunteers conduct on Oak Island each summer, and The Curse of Oak Island’s positive effect on visitor attendance. Afterwards, Dave Blankenship and the Lagina brothers discuss the various benefits and drawbacks of the show’s popularity.
Next, Blake asks the three men a series of questions from the show’s fans. Marty answers the first question, which inquires as to why the Lagina brothers took so long to start exploring Oak Island following their purchase of it in 2007, by explaining that Oak Island treasure hunters are required to purchase a Treasure Trove licence in order to keep 90% of whatever treasure they happen to find (the other 10% going to the government of Nova Scotia), and that it took some time for them to acquire that licence. The second question asks how fans of the show can help with the treasure hunt. All three men agree that the best way to do this is to email Oak Island Tours Inc. their theories, and put an ‘X’ on the map. The third and final question, directed specifically towards Dave Blankenship, asks whether or not it is hard to believe that pre-1795 treasure hunters managed to construct an elaborate underground tunnel system beneath Oak Island without the aid of modern technology. Blankenship maintains that the notion is, in no way, incredible, citing the existence of a 14th Century coal mine located five miles off the coast of England in the Atlantic Ocean as evidence of men accomplishing a similar feat with more primitive technology.
Discussing the ‘Roman Sword’
The next scene is a pre-recorded video showing members of the Oak Island team examining and discussing the ‘Roman sword’ introduced in Season 3, Episode 10. Charles Barkhouse states that the sword is “supposedly” a ceremonial gladius, or short sword, “presented by the Emperor Commodus in honour of the secutor gladiators” sometime in the 2nd or 3rd Century A.D.
After the video is finished playing, it is revealed the Craig Tester has joined Blake, Blankenship, and the Lagina brothers at the table, and that he has brought the ‘Roman sword’ with him. Marty tells Blake that, although he is skeptical of the sword’s authenticity, he wants to believe in it and a potential Roman connection to Oak Island, as he and Rick, with their paternal Italian ancestry and their Croatian pedigree on their mother’s side, have Roman blood. Before the show ends, Craig Tester points out a number of anomalies in the sword that hint at modern tampering.
Early Offshore Mining- Sir George Bruce of Carnock
In this episode of Drilling Down, Dave Blankenship states that it is not at all unbelievable for treasure depositors to have constructed an elaborate tunnel system beneath Oak Island with primitive technology, referencing a 14th Century English coal mine dug five miles out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Perhaps the best examples of early sub-thalassic mines are the undersea coal mines designed by Scottish engineer Sir George Bruce of Carnock in the 16th and early 17th Centuries. The first of these is the Castlehill shaft, which exploited a coal seam than ran beneath Scotland’s River Forth. In order to ventilate the underwater mine, Bruce built an artificial island in the middle of the river and sank a shaft through it. Bruce’s underwater mine garnered much attention, and in 1617, King James VI of Scotland (aka James I of England) asked for a tour. When the King emerged from the shaft on the artificial island, surrounded by water, he accused Bruce of treason and attempted regicide. Only after Bruce pointed out a nearby rowing boat were the king’s fears allayed.
Drilling Down on Silence in the Dark- The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down; S1E2 was last modified: October 13th, 2018 by Hammerson Peters
The Season 6 premiere of The Curse of Oak Island is scheduled to air on the History Channel on November 13, 2018. In preparation for this, I’ve decided to put together some plot summaries and analyses of the various episodes of the show’s appendant series, The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down. Enjoy!
The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down
Season 1, Episode 1: Drilling Down on Columbus Day
This episode of The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down serves as a recap and analysis of The Curse of Oak Island’s Season 3, particularly Season 3, Episode 9: Columbus Day. It also presents another Oak Island theory involving Freemasons and the Chambers of Enoch.
Diving in 10-X
An off-stage audience applauds as Rick and Marty Lagina sit down with host Matty Blake to discuss Season 3, Episode 9 of The Curse of Oak Island, entitled Columbus Day. After quizzing the brothers on their feelings regarding their roles as leaders of the Oak Island treasure hunt, Blake asks them a number of questions about Harvey Morash and Michael Gerhartz’s upcoming diving operation in Borehole 10-X. Rick expresses the fear and frustration he feels while spectating all 10-X dives due to his complete lack of control. He also reveals that a diver does make it to the bottom of 10-X later that season.
Dave Blankenship’s Near-Death Experience
Next, in a pre-recorded interview, Dave Blankenship relates a near-death experience he suffered on March 31, 1986, while working as a construction steelworker. That day, at Dave’s jobsite, a contractor was tasked with unloading a 5-ton air compressor from a tractor-trailer. As Dave stood nearby, the boom of the crane being used to move the load snapped off, causing the air compressor to tumble down a nearby hill and the crane cable to wildly whip about. The cable caught Blankenship behind the knees and hurled him into the cab of the crane, located 46 feet away. As Dave smashed through the cab’s windshield, the strap on his hardhat pinched off his carotid artery, causing him to suffer a massive stroke. Miraculously, without receiving any significant medical treatment, Blankenship survived, albeit initially in a comatose state. In the interview, he states that the doctors “told mom and dad that I was going to be a vegetable and never get out of bed again. They forgot to tell me!” Shortly after a nurse noticed Dave’s fingertip twitch, the 36-year-old steelworker was admitted to rehab. Although the accident had robbed him of his ability to walk, talk, and perform all manner of basic functions, Dave quickly regained most of his faculties. However, due to nerve damage, the left side of his body remains numb to this day. Another side effect Dave attributes to the accident is his lack of verbal filter. In his words, “I hardly ever swore. Now I swear like a f***ing sailor… If it comes in my mind, it comes out my mouth.”
At the end of the video, Dave joins Rick and Marty on stage. Blake asks the Lagina brothers what it’s like to work with Blankenship. Marty praises Dave’s “refreshing” forthrightness and indomitable grit, calling him “the epitome of perseverance.” Rick echoes his brother’s sentiment, calling Dave a “straight shooter”.
Ask Rick and Marty, Featuring Dave: Episode 1
Next, Blake asks the three treasure hunters a number of questions fielded by fans of The Curse of Oak Island. The first question asks whether the treasure hunters have ever considered enlisting the services of a “spiritualist or some kind of psychic”. Marty replies that they have, in spite of the skepticism he personally harbours towards spiritualism and parapsychology. He acknowledges, however, that Dave Blankenship, whom he respects for his no-nonsense realism, along with Dave’s father, Dan, and another man, once observed a mysterious “ball of fire” materialize in the water off Oak Island and glide towards the shore- perhaps a manifestation of a local ghost ship known as the Young Teazer. Blake adds that other Nova Scotians, throughout the years, have also reported seeing strange lights on Oak Island.
Next, Blake asks the men if it is possible to glean any more information from the mysterious piece of parchment discovered in the Money Pit by the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897. The Lagina brothers cryptically reveal that they have examined the parchment, and hope to conduct additional tests on it in the future.
Lastly, Blake asks, “What do you suppose you’ll be thinking about all this 30 years from now?” All three men answer that they would be thankful to be alive and “thinking” in 30 years, and agree that they hope to be celebrating a successful treasure hunt.
The FDR Connection
The next scene takes place in the Oak Island Visitors’ Centre Museum, where Charles Barkhouse lectures Jack Begley and Alex Lagina on former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Oak Island involvement. Barkhouse informs the men that FDR’s first treasure hunting endeavors took place in the Bay of Fundy, where his mother had a summer residence on Campobello Island. At the age of 14, he and a friend conducted a treasure hunting expedition on nearby Grand Manan Island, where, according to local legend, pirate Captain William Kidd buried treasure. Later, in 1909, Roosevelt invested in Harry Bowdoin’s Old Gold and Salvage Wrecking Company, an Oak Island treasure hunting syndicate, and retained an interest in the treasure hunt until his death in 1945.
FDR and the Enochian Chambers
Next, Blake interviews Rick, Marty, and William Henry, a Nashville-based writer who specializes in alternative history and esoteric mysteries. Henry, as it turns out, espouses the theory that the nine layers of oak logs reportedly discovered in the Money Pit represent the nine vaults of Enoch, an important figure in ancient Hebrew and Freemasonic lore (a variation of this theory was presented in Season 2, Episode 7).
Henry explains that, according to ancient Jewish scripture, Enoch was a “pre-Flood sage” who had a vision of the Deluge (the great flood described in the Book of Genesis), which would wipe out most of mankind. He also envisioned a series of nine underground vaults stacked upon one another in which he could inter some of mankind’s greatest treasures. In the lowest vault, he envisioned a triangular stone on which the ineffable Name of God was transcribed.
Henry goes on to tell of how a physicist, in the 1970’s, purportedly “contacted” Enoch through mediumistic channelling. Enoch revealed to this man that there were “twelve repositories spread around the planet”, each of them containing sacred artifacts. Oak Island’s Money Pit was once such repository, and Henry believes it contains the Holy Grail.
Upon being questioned by Marty, Henry explains that he believes Franklin D. Roosevelt discovered something of “immense significance” on Oak Island, “perhaps an insight, knowledge, maybe something tangible,” which fuelled his intense interested in the island and its treasure hunt. Henry also believes that whatever FDR found on the island prompted him to delve into mysticism and the occult, and to engage with leaders in these fields like Russian polymath Nicholas Roerich. Henry claims that Roosevelt convinced Roerich to undertake an expedition to Central Asia on his behalf, during which Roerich, perhaps, uncovered valuable information pertaining to Oak Island.
Stone Triangle Follow-Up
Next, Blake sits down with the Lagina brothers, Dave Blankenship, and Craig Tester. This time, he reminds the crew of Oak Island theorist Jeff Irving’s theory, introduced in Season 3, Episode 9, which holds that Oak Island’s treasure was interred by Italian navigator Christopher Columbus’ companion, Spanish Franciscan Friar Juan Perez, on the orders of Columbus. The four men briefly discuss Irving’s theory, the Spanish theory, the late Oak Island researcher Paul Wroclawski’s theory regarding a potential Portuguese/Oak Island connection, and historian Terry Deveau’s analysis of the Overton Stone, introduced in Season 3, Episode 3.
After the conversation, Blake brings up the underwater stone triangle examined in Season 3, Episode 9. Marty claims that, although the results of the sonar scan which initially brought the stone triangle to their attention was “fairly dramatic”, the stone appeared to be natural upon closer inspection, when he, his son Alex, and diver Tony Sampson dived on it. However, he states that Tony Sampson, on his own initiative, swam magnetic north of the stone triangle and discovered a larger stone triangle some distance away. These two triangles line up with the stone triangle which once stood on Oak Island’s South Shore Cove, and with the Money Pit beyond. Marty explains that the stones’ arrangement along a magnetic north-south line presents a problem, as magnetic north is constantly moving, and was almost certainly oriented in a different direction in the past, when the Oak Island treasure was buried. In other words, the stones’ collective alignment with magnetic north is likely no indication that they were placed there by man. However, Marty concedes that hiding a clue underwater would be a very clever way to conceal it.
William Henry’s Theory
William Henry is a Nashville-based author, investigative mythologist, and TV presenter who presents his own Oak Island theory in this episode of The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down, a theory which he elaborates upon in his 2000 book The A-tomic Christ: F.D.R.’s Search for the Secret Temple of the Christ Light.
Henry’s theory is based on an alternative history narrative. In order to contextualize it, we must come to a basic understanding of the accepted history he attempts to revise.
In their 2000 book American Dreamer: The Life and Times of Henry A. Wallace, politician John C. Culver and historian John Hyde briefly summarize the life of an eccentric Russian polymath named Nilolai Konstantinovich Rerikh, or Nicholas Roerich. Roerich was a painter, writer, archaeologist, explorer, peace politician, ballet costume designer, and philosopher who dabbled in hypnosis, Theosophy, and other Eastern spiritual practices. In 1918, following the Bolsheviks’ rise to power, Roerich left Russia and his immigrated to Finland. Shortly thereafter, he and his family immigrated to London, England, and after that to New York City.
In 1925, Roerich, his wife, his son, and six friends undertook what’s known as the ‘Roerich Asian Expedition’- a five-year trek through Central and South Asia. The goal of this expedition was to establish what Roerich called ‘The Sacred Union of the East’, a Buddhist Russian satellite state situated in the heart of Asia. Although Roerich’s expedition was ultimately unsuccessful, having failed to bring about the utopian ‘Sacred Union’ and resulting in the deaths of five crewmembers due to privation and exposure, Roerich’s remaining crew did end up trekking south to India, where they founded a research centre called the ‘Himalayan Research Institute.’
In 1929, Roerich returned to New York City, where he convinced a collection of patrons to build the 27-story Master Apartments. The first three floors of the Master Apartments, dubbed the Roerich Museum, the Master Institute of United Arts, and the Corona Mundi International Center of Art, respectively, served to house Roerich’s paintings, among other things.
That same year, future U.S. Vice President Henry A. Wallace met Roerich in the latter’s new museum. He was impressed by the man’s knowledge of Eastern mysticism, and immediately became his disciple. His subsequent correspondence with Roerich, in which the two men discussed a bizarre Roerichian breed of metaphysics, was, years later, derisively styled “The Guru Letters” by Wallace’s detractors.
In 1933, when Franklin D. Roosevelt started his first term as President of the United States, he appointed Henry A. Wallace as his Secretary of Agriculture. The following year- during the first of the three massive, dust-storm-induced droughts which characterized the so-called ‘Dirty Thirties’- Wallace set about organizing a U.S. Department of Agriculture expedition to Mongolia and northern China for the purpose of identifying and collecting grasses which prevent soil erosion. He tasked his “guru”, Nicholas Roerich, with leading the expedition.
Before the year was out, the U.S. Department of Agriculture mission was underway. While the expedition’s biologist and botanists went about their assigned work, however, Roerich, the expedition’s leader, spent his time searching for Shambhala, a mythical Tibetan kingdom alluded to in Hindu and Tibetan Buddhist texts.
In 1935, while Roerich and the U.S. Department of Agriculture team were still in China, a former discipline of Roerich’s approached Wallace and convinced him that his “guru” was a fraud. This revelation, coupled with Roerich’s politically embarrassing and diplomatically destructive antics, convinced Roerich and FDR to persuade the IRS to investigate the mystic’s taxes. The IRS found Roerich guilty of tax evasion and demanded that he return to the United States. Instead of returning to New York for prosecution, however, Roerich pursued a new life in India.
William Henry, the writer who appears in this episode of Drilling Down, has a different take on the story of Nicholas Roerich, Henry A. Wallace, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. In his book, he makes the case that Franklin D. Roosevent’s intense and enduring interest in the Oak Island treasure hunt stemmed from his belief that the island was somehow connected with the Holy Grail. In fact, Henry maintains, Oak Island was the repository of a collection of Grail-documents- “the secrets of the Holy Grail”- discovered by the Knights Templar in Jerusalem, in supposed tunnels located beneath the Al Aqsa Mosque (the site of the Order’s eponymous headquarters). He believes that the Templars brought these documents to Rosslyn, Scotland, following the disbandment of their Order in 1307. Later that century, the Scottish Sinclair family brought the documents across the Atlantic to Oak Island, where they buried them. Henry speculates that Roosevelt might have discovered some of these ancient documents on Oak Island, which steered him towards the “real location” of the Holy Grail: Shambhala.
Henry maintains that Nicholas Roerich was also interested in the Holy Grail, and that his first expedition to Asia in 1925 was actually a quest to find it. However, this ‘Holy Grail’, Henry maintains, was really the Chintamani Stone, a wish-fulfilling meteorite of Hindu and Buddhist mythology, considered by many to be the Eastern equivalent of the Philosopher’s Stone (a legendary alchemical substance said to turn base metals into gold, and to completely heal the body of whoever consumes a piece of it). Henry believes that Roerich discovered the Chintamani Stone in Shambhala during his first Asian expedition, and left it where it was.
When Roosevelt started his first term as U.S. President in 1933, his Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace, informed him of Roerich’s discovery of the ‘Holy Grail’. As Roerich’s findings regarding the Grail’s location were in accordance with his own, he tasked the Russian mystic with returning to Shambhala and retrieving the Chinamanti Stone for the military use of the United States. Roerich did as requested, travelling to Shambhala on the pretense of a U.S. Department of Agriculture mission, re-discovered the artifact, and brought it back to America, where it was instrumental in the creation of the atomic bomb… according to William Henry, at least.
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Drilling Down on Columbus Day- The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down; S1E1 was last modified: October 9th, 2018 by Hammerson Peters
Due to popular demand, and since the season is appropriate, I’ve decided to put together a third and final article on Canadian poltergeists (final for now, at least). If you’d like to read my first article on the Great Amherst Mystery or my latest piece on three Nova Scotian poltergeists, please check out the links in this sentence.
The Difference Between Ghosts and Poltergeists
The author of this article is painfully aware of the good-natured disdain with which a skeptic might read an essay purporting to explain the difference between ghosts and poltergeists- an exposition perhaps not dissimilar, in his or her mind, to an attempt by Winnie the Pooh to elucidate the difference between Heffalumps and Woozles. This author also hopes that such scorn might be tempered by the knowledge that the essay in question, which the next five paragraphs will comprise, is based not on some supposed insight into the nature of these alleged supernatural entities, but rather on the observation that ghost stories tend to fall into at least two different categories.
If you’ve ever read through a collection of regional ghost stories, you may have noticed certain trends that the stories generally tend to follow. For example, an unusual number of ghost stories take place in hotels, bars, and theatres. Tragic death is a common theme, and a setting with a long and colourful history is often a requisite.
The ghosts in most of these stories, of course, appear to be immaterial remnants of the dead. Often they only manifest as cold spots, “a presence”, or distinct scents. Other times, they will make audible footsteps, turn on the lights or the taps, or rearrange furniture. And every once in a while they will appear to people, either as reflections in glass or mirrors, etc., or as apparitions in various stages of detail and completeness.
Although they sometimes interact with the living, ghosts often do so in a manner suggesting that they are unaware that they are dead. They will go about their business as they did in life, giving people directions, lounging in their favourite chairs, and disappearing through doors that no longer exist. When they manifest, it is often to make some trivial remark, to ask someone to leave, or to simply make their presence known.
Poltergeists, on the other hand, are another matter entirely. Unlike ghost stories, which often take place in settings with old and turbulent histories, poltergeist stories are just as likely to take place in an 8-year-old condo as they are in an 800-year-old castle. Poltergeist stories typically consist of loud, obnoxious, and unexplainable noises coupled with the motion of inanimate objects absent of some discernable outside force, suggesting the actions of an invisible prankster bent on mischief and troublemaking. These stories almost always take place in residential settings, and one almost invariable concomitant to them is the presence of a young lady around whom the activity seems to concentrate.
To those of you who have read my previous articles on the subject and already know all of this, I apologize for the repetitiveness. Without further ado, here are a few more great Canadian poltergeist stories. Enjoy!
The Haunting of Barbe Hallay
Canada’s oldest recorded poltergeist activity took place in 1661 in Beauport, Quebec. Today, Beauport is a borough of Quebec City. Back in 1661, however, when Quebec City was a much smaller settlement of less than 3,000 souls, Beauport was a separate village located a short ride through the woods from what was then the capital of New France.
The story of this haunting begins in the year 1660, when a ship filled with French colonists pulled into the Port of Quebec. One of the passengers aboard this vessel was a miller named Daniel Vuil- a former Huguenot, or French Protestant, who apparently converted to Catholicism (the religion of majority in New France) during the voyage. Another passenger was a 15-year-old girl named Barbe Hallay.
During the voyage from France, Vuil had asked Hallay’s parents for permission to marry their daughter. Believing the former Huguenot to be morally destitute, however, the parents refused, much to Vuil’s irritation. In a contemporary letter to her son, Mother Marie Guyart (better known today as Saint Marie of the Incarnation; a widow-turned-Ursuline nun who headed the Ursuline Monastery of Quebec) wrote (in French):
“This appeared on the occasion of a gentleman who had passed from France at the same time as our lord Bishop, and to whom his excellency had caused the heresy to be abjured, because he was Huguenot. This man wanted to marry a girl who had passed with her father and mother in the same vessel, saying that she had been promised him; because he was a man of bad morals, he was never wanted to listen.”
When they reached Quebec, Daniel Vuil and Barbe Hallay went their separate ways, the former re-establishing himself as a miller in Beauport and the latter finding employment as a maid in the manor of a local lord named Giffart.
In 1661, strange things began to take place in the Giffart manor. Phantom flutes began to play to the beat of an invisible drum. Stones began to fall from the manor’s walls and fly about the place with incredible velocity, miraculously failing to injure anyone in the household. It soon became clear that this strange activity seemed to revolve around 16-year-old Barbe Hallay.
Instead of accusing the girl of witchcraft as their New English counterparts would later do to some of their own women in Salem, Massachusetts, the French colonists accused Daniel Vuil of sorcery. They claimed that the miller had cast spells on Miss Hallay in order to corrupt her so that she might be more inclined to accept his marriage proposal. This accusation was based solely upon Barbe Hallay’s allegation that, at night, she was often tormented by spirits that were only visible to her. These spirits appeared to her as men, women, children, animals, and hellish spectres, and would sometimes speak through her in a voice that was not her own. Foremost among these phantoms was a spirit bearing the likeness of Daniel Vuil.
In the year following his immigration to New France, Vuil had done a poor job of ingratiating himself with his fellow colonists. He had reverted back to his original Protestant faith, thereby committing a grave sin in the eyes of his Catholic compatriots. To make matters worse, he had been caught selling brandy to local Algonquin Indians in exchange for furs- at that time, a serious offence in New France. When Barbe Hallay accused him of sorcery, Francois de Laval, the Bishop of Quebec, ordered that Vuil be arrested and imprisoned in the capital. After a trial, the Huguenot was sentenced to death, and on October 7, 1661, Daniel Vuil was executed via arquebus- a matchlock musket common in the 17th Century. To this day, historians are divided on whether the miller was executed for his apostasy, for selling liquor to the natives, or for the crime of sorcery- none of which warranted the death penalty in New France at the time.
As for Barbe Hallay, she was locked in the Hotel-Dieu de Quebec, a hospital in Quebec City run by nuns. There, she was entrusted to the care of Mother Catherine de Saint-Augustine, a French nun venerated today by the Catholic Church. Mother Catherine knew a thing or two about hauntings; by the time of Hallay’s arrival at the Hotel-Dieu, the nun had purportedly been the victim of demon
attacks for nearly a decade.
Mother Catherine quickly diagnosed Barbe Hallay with a case of demonic possession. For two long years, she prayed for the girl. Hallay’s demons are said to have physically attacked the nun for this, leaving her with cuts and bruises. When their assaults failed to dissuade her from her task, the demons adopted other methods by which to put an end to her ministry. According to Jesuit missionary Paul Ragueneau, who wrote Mother Catherine’s biography in 1671:
“Those unhappy demons, unable to intimidate her with all their threats, tried to surprise [her] by changing themselves into angels of light, in order to delude her.
This ruse failed as well. Finally, through what Mother Catherine claimed to be the intercession of the spirit of Father Jean de Brebeuf (a French Jesuit missionary who was martyred on the shores of Georgian Bay by Iroquois warriors in 1649), Barbe Hallay was cured of her affliction.
In 1889, a simple farmer named George Henry Dagg lived with his family in a cottage on the Ottawa River about eleven kilometres from the town of Shawville, Quebec. His household consisted of his wife, Susan; his 5-year-old daughter, Mary; his 2-year-old son, Johnny; and his 11-year-old adopted daughter, Dinah Burden McLean.
Dinah McLean was a poor orphan from Glasgow, Scotland, whom the Dagg family had adopted through the Child Immigration Scheme, a program developed by philanthropist to address poverty in Great Britain. George and Susan Dagg had decided to welcome Dinah into their family not only out of charity, but also with the expectation that they would have a little extra help around the farm. As it turned out, they got more than they bargained for.
On September 15, 1889, George Dagg gave his wife a $5 bill and a $2 bill and asked her to tuck them away in a bedroom drawer. Susan did as her husband requested.
The following day, George was approached by an orphan boy named Dean, whom he had hired to do chores around the farm. Dean gave the farmer a $5 bill, which he claimed he had found on the kitchen floor. Upon close inspection, George determined that the bill was the same one he had given his wife the previous day.
Suspicious, Dagg checked the drawer in which his wife had secreted the bills. As he suspected, the $5 was missing. Even more disconcerting, however, was the fact that the $2 bill seemed to be missing as well. The 35-year-old farmer rounded on Dean and accused him of stealing the money. Indignant, the boy stoutly proclaimed his innocence. George Dagg was unconvinced. He stormed over to the children’s bedroom and threw back the quilt on Dean’s bed, revealing the tiny face of Frederick Hamilton-Templeton-Blackwood, Earl of Dufferin and Governor General of Canada, staring pensively into the distance, surmounted on a white banknote. Sure enough, it appeared that Dean had hidden the missing $2 bill between his bedsheets. After administering a harsh tongue-lashing to the suspected thief, George snatched up the bill and returned it to the drawer.
In the days following the incident, strange things began to take place on the Dagg farm. Milk buckets were emptied, butter disappeared from jars, and human waste from the outhouse began to appear in the house, smeared across the kitchen floor. George Dagg believed the pranks to be the work of young Dean, who was perhaps angry at having been caught stealing. Accordingly, he had the boy arrested, taken before the Shawville magistrate, and locked up in the local jail.
The malicious pranks continued to take place on the Dagg farm in Dean’s absence, proving the orphan’s innocence beyond a doubt. At George’s recommendation, Dean was released. Understandably, the boy did not return to the farm.
Following Dean’s release, George Dagg asked his parents, who lived on their own farm two miles away, to stay with his family for a few days while he went out to thresh his wheat from the harvest. The elderly couple agreed. No sooner had they settled in, however, than a rock came sailing through a window from outside, shattering the glass. John Dagg, George’s father, stole outside the farmhouse and hid behind a stump, determined to catch the culprit red-handed. As he watched and waited for any sign of movement, another window pane exploded. Try as he might, John Dagg could find no sign of the vandal.
The old farmer decided to change his position. He crept over to the barn, removed a wall board from inside, and peered out at the farmhouse through the gap. As he watched, more windows in the house began to explode, seemingly on their own.
“Father,” called Susan Dagg, “you may as well come in. The glass is still breaking.”
Over the next few days, more extraordinary occurrences began to take place. Fires began to break out spontaneously in the Dagg home. Dishes were mysteriously smashed and water buckets were emptied. On one occasion, the elusive tormentor splashed a pitcher of cold water into Susan’s face. Another time, 5-year-old Mary opened the front door, only to be struck square in the chest by a large flying stone which strangely failed to harm her.
Although every member of the Dagg family suffered from the mysterious manifestations, it soon became clear that 11-year-old Dinah McLean was the main object of the prankster’s amusement. One day, she screamed that somebody was pulling her hair. When Susan rushed to her aid, she found that Dinah’s braid had been almost completely severed, as if it had been sawn through with a knife.
On another occasion, while George’s mother, Mary Dagg, was cleaning the children’s bedroom, Dinah shrieked, “Oh, Grandmother, see the big black thing pulling off the bedclothes!” The old lady looked where Dinah was pointing and could see no such black thing. What she did see were the bedsheets floating in midair, as if held up by invisible hands.
“Where is it, Dinah?” the grandmother asked.
“Why, don’t you see him?” cried Dinah in a panic. “He is jumping over the bedstead.”
Old Mary Dagg pressed a bullwhip into Dinah’s hand. “Strike him, child,” she ordered. “Take courage, and strike him hard.”
With her grandmother urging her on, Dinah McLean swung at the shadow which only she could see. The commotion drew the attention of a neighbouring farmer named Arthur Smart who, upon witnessing the spectacle, added his own encouragement to that of old Mrs. Dagg. “Lay it on him, Dinah!” he hollered.
After one particularly vicious blow, everyone in the room, including a young boy who accompanied Smart, heard a strident squeal like that of a pig. Once the horrible sound died out, Dinah claimed that the black figure had vanished.
Despite the thrashing it received, or perhaps because of it, the mysterious entity began to pester the Dagg family with renewed vigour. Beds were torn apart by invisible hands. Rocking chairs oscillated with wild abandon. Harmonicas played by themselves. Visitors were pelted with potatoes. One day, a sheet of paper was found pinned to the wall bearing the message: “You gave me fifteen cuts”.
Eventually, the farmers decided to seek the services of a local clergyman named Reverend Horner. Horner paid a visit to the farmhouse and, in an effort to exercise the demon, opened up his prayer book and began to read passages from sacred scripture. While he read, the book from which he was reading vanished from his hand. A subsequent search found the book in the oven. Shaken to the core, the minister sank to his knees and prayed for half an hour that God might “life [His] heavy hand” from the house.
Despite Reverend Horner’s entreaties, the uncanny manifestations continued. Determined to put an end to the mischief, George Dagg made a 170-kilometre journey southeast into Ontario to consult a famous folk healer reputed to have the “Second Sight”; known locally as the Witch of Plum Hollow. After a long séance in her tiny cottage, the wizened old lady assured the farmer that his manifestations were the result of black magic practiced by a neighbouring widow and her two children. The object of their incantations was Dinah McLean.
The only neighbour fitting this description was a widow named Mrs. Wallace, who lived in her late husband’s farmhouse with her two children. George Dagg could see of no reason why the Wallace family would harbour ill will against Dinah. When he confronted her, Mrs. Wallace denied that she had ever dabbled in the dark arts and paid a visit to the Dagg home to prove that she had no grudge against the Scottish orphan.
By the end of October, the story of Dagg’s Demon, as it was popularly referred to, had piqued the interest of regional journalists. Reporters who made the long carriage ride out to the Dagg farm to interview the family and their neighbours learned that the manifestations were common knowledge to the people of Shawville, Quebec, and had been witnessed by many people. One local named James Quinn related his own strange experience at the Dagg house to a newspaperman, who quoted him as saying:
“I had a halter in my hand… and before going into the house I laid the halter on the doorstep. After chatting with the family a few minutes, I went outside and found that my halter was gone. I thought someone had hidden it for a joke, but after appealing to the people who were there and getting a declaration from them that they had not seen it, I gave my halter up for lost. As I was standing in front of the house discussing my loss with Mrs. John Dagg, Mrs. George Dagg, and Miss Mary Smart, we suddenly heard a slight noise in the air, and the halter fell down in our midst.”
In early October, 1889, the manifestations graduated to a new and terrifying level. One day, 5-year-old Mary claimed that she saw a man with hooves and the head of a bull standing in the front doorway. On another occasion, Mary caught this same Minotaur-like figure pouring sugar into the oven. “Want to come to Hell with me?” the creature asked her with a ghoulish grin. Dinah also claimed to have seen this frightening figure, as well as a giant black dog with red eyes which lurked outside the farmhouse.
Although the adults of the Dagg family were unable to see the unearthly apparitions, they were able to hear the entity, which spoke in the rough, gravelly voice of an old man. The language it used was rude and obscene, especially when directed at Dinah.
In November, an accomplished impressionist painter and sometime journalist named Percy Woodcock travelled from home in Brockville, Ontario, to the Dagg farm in the hopes of documenting the manifestations. He arrived at the farm on Saturday, November 14, 1889. Shortly after his arrival, he met with Dinah, who informed him that her family’s ethereal tormentor had just spoken to her near the shed. Woodcock accompanied Dinah to the place.
“Are you there, Mister?” Dinah called once they reached the shed. To Woodcock’s astonishment, a gruff male voice growled: “I am the Devil. I’ll have you in my clutches! Get out of here or I’ll break your neck.”
After recovering from his shock, Woodcock bravely admonished the voice, exhorting it against using such foul language in the presence of a child. In response, the voice issued a torrent of curses. At Woodcock’s insistence, the invisible entity picked up a pencil and scribbled on a piece of paper that the artist provided, spelling out more obscenities.
For five hours, Woodcock verbally tilted with the disembodied voice, shaming it for its vulgarity and imploring it to be more civil. Through hours of ruthless grilling, he and other members of the Dagg family who joined him managed to extract from the voice a confession that the principal purpose for its mischief was its own amusement. It claimed that it never intended to hurt any of the family members, and only lit fires in the daytime, when they could be easily discovered and extinguished. At one point, the voice also declared that it was actually the spirit of an 80-year-old man who had died twenty years prior. The voice whispered its name to both John and George Dagg, but swore them to secrecy on pain of horrible death. The father and son did not test the entity’s threat.
Sometime during the course of the conversation, it occurred to Percy Woodcock that the extraordinary phenomenon might be the result of some incredibly talented ventriloquism on Dinah’s part. In order to test this, he had Dinah fill her mouth with water. Despite this, the voice continued to mock him and curse at him as loudly and clearly as ever.
During this five-hour dialogue, much of which took place inside the Dagg’s farmhouse, the mysterious voice echoed the proclamation of the Witch of Plum Hollow, declaring that it had been summoned by Mrs. Wallace and her children. It further claimed that the Wallace children, on their mother’s orders, had buried a book of spells in a nearby swamp. When Mrs. Wallace heard of the accusations the voice had made against her and her children, she brought her family out to the Dagg farm and berated the voice for lying. Her fearless children similarly sassed the entity.
Eventually, in response to repeated entreaties by Percy Woodcock, the voice agreed to leave the Dagg family in peace after midnight the following day. Word of this announcement circulated throughout Shawville, and by Sunday evening, more than fifty locals had congregated at the Dagg farm.
One of the bystanders who had come to see Dagg’s Demon off was a Baptist minister named Reverend Bell. As soon as Bell arrived at the farm, the mysterious voice piped up, calling into question Bell’s fitness as a religious minister. Terrified, Bell began to read passages of scripture, which the voice recited along with him. When the Reverend began to pray aloud for protection against evil spirits, the voice became enraged, demanding to know on what authority the minister decreed it an evil spirit. With that, Reverend Bell fled the farm.
Following Bell’s departure, the voice claimed that it was actually an angel. In order to prove this to the bystanders, it revealed a secret which one man’s daughter had told him on her deathbed. That accomplished, it proceeded to sing a hymn in a sweet, angelic soprano completely different from the deep, coarse voice it had been using. Its new voice was purportedly so beautiful that it reduced many local women to tears.
Finally, at around 3:00 in the morning, the voice bid its audience farewell. Before it ceased, it promised to visit Dinah McLean and Mary and Johnny Dagg the following morning. Before the crowd dispersed, Percy Woodcock convinced seventeen gentlemen well respected in the community to sign an affidavit confirming all that they had witnessed.
The following morning, while Percy Woodcock was preparing to leave, Dinah McLean and the two littlest Dagg children ran to the farmhouse and told their parents that they had just seen a beautiful old man with long white hair clad in shining white garments. After saying kind words to Johnny, the man raised his arms and disappeared into the sky in a flash of fire.
In the wake of its departure, the nature of Dagg’s Demon was hotly contested not only locally, but also in major newspapers in both Canada and the United States. Many believed that Dagg’s Demon was a hoax perpetrated by Dinah McLean, whom they maintained must be an extraordinarily talented ventriloquist. Others, including many members of the Dagg family, believed that the manifestations were the work of the Devil. Whatever the case, the strange entity never returned to pester the Dagg family again.
And what of Dinah Maclean? Following the departure of their Demon, George and Susan Dagg shipped their adopted daughter off to the Fairknowe Orphan’s Home in Brockville, Ontario. The details of her life following her discharge from the orphanage remain a mystery.
The Poltergeist of Prince Edward Island
From late January to late February, 1910, newspapers across the eastern United States and the American Midwest published variations of an article detailing the strange case of Chinene, a 20-year-old woman who lived with her brothers on a farm in the tiny Acadian settlement of New Zealand, Prince Edward Island.
According to the article, these strange occurrences were precipitated by an announcement by Chinene’s eldest brother that he intended to marry a certain young woman in the neighbourhood. Chinene, who was not particularly fond of her brother’s new fiancé, burst into a fit of rage, declaring that she “would as soon have a devil in the family as that girl”.
That very night, after all in the household had gone to bed, strange noises sounded throughout the farmhouse. The sound was akin to the rolling of distant thunder. It rose in a steady crescendo until it resembled the sound of a boxer pounding away on a speed bag, before slowing dying out again. All of a sudden, Chinene started shrieking in her bedroom. Her brothers rushed to her assistance, afraid that she was being murdered.
When the brothers opened the door to their sister’s bedroom, they found Chinene floating in midair several feet above her bed, babbling almost incoherently and using words that she would never use in ordinary conversation. The brothers watched in astonishment as their sister slowly floated back into her bed and slipped into a deep slumber.
The following morning, the brothers asked Chinene about what had occurred the previous night. To their amazement, their sister remembered nothing of the incident. Afraid that they might be delusional, the brothers thenceforth kept the incident to themselves.
Night after night, more strange occurrences took place in the farmhouse. Word of the mysterious manifestations reached local farmers, and soon Chinene and her brothers found themselves hosting scores of locals who came to witness the strange phenomena.
Many people from New Zealand, Prince Edward Island, witnessed things at the farmhouse that they could not explain. Chinene would sometimes slip into traces in which she apparently developed clairvoyant powers. In this state, she could accurately guess the number of coins in people’s hands and recite the contents of letters folded up in people’s pockets.
Soon, mysterious fires began to break out in neighbouring barns. In addition to causing tremendous property damage, these infernos killed a large number of livestock. The victims of these arson attacks blamed the fires on Chinene, prompting her brothers to search desperately for a cure for their sister’s ailment.
First, Chinene’s brothers called in a local doctor. When the doctor’s ministrations proved ineffective, the brothers sought the assistance of a priest named Father Walker, who lived in the nearby village of Rollo Bay. Father Walker’s prayers similarly seemed to have little effect on Chinene’s condition.
Eventually, the brothers managed to convince a well-known Charlottetown physician named Dr. Peter Conroy, considered by many to be the foremost physician in the province, to examine their sister. When Dr. Conroy was unable to affect a cure, he theorized that Chinene, as a result of the jealousy she felt towards her prospective sister-in-law, had somehow unconsciously developed the ability to hypnotize those around her and impregnate their minds with delusions.
Following Dr. Conroy’s fruitless efforts to cure Chinene of her malady, the young woman was hauled away to the Falconer Insane Asylum in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Her fate remains a mystery to this day.
The Haunting of Barbe Hallay
Sorcery in New France, by Andre Pelchat, in the December 2015 issue of the magazine Canada’s History
Witchcraft in New France in the Seventeenth Century: The Social Aspect, by Jonathan L. Pearl in the Winter 1977 issue of the journal Historical Reflections
Le Meunier, La Domestique et L’Hospitaliere: Entre Magie, Possession, et Obsession en Nouvelle-France (2010), by Vincent Gregoire
Are You Sure There Are No Ghosts? by R.S. Lambert in the December 1, 1953 issue of McLean’s magazine
Ghostly Pranks Well Attested: Strange Persecution of a Canadian Family by a Thing Without Form or Name, in the January 12, 1890 issue of the New York Herald, courtesy of American Fortean researcher Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra
Dagg’s Demon, by Paul Cropper and Tony Healy, in the September 2016 issue of Fortean Times
The Poltergeist of Prince Edward Island
Possessed by a Devil: Remarkable Case of Young Woman in Prince Edward Island, in the February 20, 1910 issue of the Washington Post, courtesy of American Fortean researcher Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra
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Poltergeists in Canada: Part III was last modified: October 3rd, 2018 by Hammerson Peters
Last Friday, I published an article on the Great Amherst Mystery– the story of Canada’s most famous poltergeist. As I mentioned in that article, poltergeist activity, according to spiritualists, is characterized by loud, inexplicable knocking sounds; the motion of household objects absent of some discernible force; and the presence of a person- usually a teenage girl- around which these activities seem to revolve.
The mystery of Amherst, Nova Scotia, is but one among dozens of cases of alleged Canadian poltergeist activity. From Vancouver to St. John’s, and from the 17th Century up to the present day, households all over the country have played host to this mysterious activity, attributable to boisterous ghosts, teenage pranksters, or accidental adolescent telekinesis, depending on who you talk to. Such stories are sufficiently numerous to fill a book, and maybe one day, if this author feels up to the task, such a tome will grace the shelves of our bookshop. For now, however, here are a few more Nova Scotian poltergeist stories, each of which curiously take places in the month of December. Enjoy!
The Fire Spook of Caledonia Mills
In 2010, American horror novelist Stephen King wrote Full Dark, No Stars, an anthology comprised of four novellas. One of these novellas, entitled “1922”, tells the fictional story of a Nebraska farmer who experienced paranormal activity on his family farm in the year 1922.
It has been said that truth is stranger fiction. This idiom rings true when one compares the eerie plot of 1922 with an even more chilling real-life case of supposed paranormal activity which took place that same year on a remote Nova Scotian homestead far from the arid plains of Nebraska. This farm was owned by an elderly couple named Alexander and Janet MacDonald, who lived there with their 15-year-old adopted daughter, Mary Ellen. The MacDonald homestead was located near Caledonia Mills, a rural community comprised almost entirely of Catholic Highland Scots, situated in northeastern Nova Scotia about 20 minutes southeast of the town of Antigonish. In 1922, this otherwise unremarkable farmhouse was the site of alleged poltergeist activity which made headlines all over Canada and the United States.
The activity began in December 1921. One cold winter morning, old Alex MacDonald, while tending to his animals, found that someone had set his horses and cattle loose from their stalls sometime in the night. Mere minutes after he guided the last horse back into its stall, all the animals inexplicably escaped again.
Several days later, MacDonald awoke to learn that the horses and cattle had switched places. On another occasion, he discovered that some nocturnal agent had bobbed his horses’ tails, or twisted the horsehairs into elaborate braids.
Alexander MacDonald quickly grew weary of the pranks. Eventually, he asked some of his neighbours to assist him in catching the culprit red-handed. Unfortunately, these well-meaning Nova Scotian farmers fared little better than McDonald, although they did witness a number of mysterious manifestations. One farmer saw a strange blue light emanating from MacDonald’s barn one night. Another noticed that household objects seemed to vanish before reappearing in other sections of the estate. Two neighbours even claimed to have observed a hand waving a white cloth from the second-story window of MacDonald’s farmhouse at a time when no residents were in that part of the house. It quickly became clear to Alex and his neighbours that something very strange was going on at the MacDonald farm.
Soon, Macdonald’s mysterious tormentor began lighting fires on his property. This arsonous activity intensified until, on January 6, 1922, Alex MacDonald and six of his neighbours spent the day combatting both a ferocious blizzard and a whopping thirty eight fires which erupted mysteriously in and around his farmhouse. Fearing for his family’s safety, Alex asked his neighbour, Leo McGillivray, if he and his wife and adopted daughter might stay at his farmhouse until the mystery was solved- a request which McGillivray happily granted. In the ensuing weeks, the elderly Alex slogged over three miles of snow-covered dirt road twice a day to feed his livestock.
News travels fast in small towns, and soon the story of the poltergeist of Caledonia Mills reached the ears of regional newspapermen. On January 16, 1922, a reporter named Harold B. Whidden, who worked for the Halifax Herald, was dispatched to the MacDonald farm and charged with writing a few pieces on the activity. Whidden dutifully interviewed Alexander, Janet, and Mary Ellen, as well as several neighbours, and included their startling testimonies in a number of articles. He also visited the abandoned MacDonald farmhouse and saw that it indeed bore evidence of many fires.
Shortly after the conclusion of his first visit, Harold Whidden made a second trip out to the MacDonald farm, this time intending to stay in the farmhouse for three nights. He was accompanied on this outing by Alexander MacDonald and Detective P.O. “Peachy” Carroll- a county policeman from the nearby town of Pictou, Nova Scotia.
The men’s first day of investigation was uneventful. On their second night, however, both Whidden and Carroll heard strange noises unlike anything they had ever heard before which seemed to emanate from the upper floor of the farmhouse. As Whidden listened to the sounds, his eyes glued to the ceiling, he felt a hard slap on his arm, noticeable through several layers of thick clothing.
“Did you just slap me?” he asked Carroll.
The policeman shook his head and claimed that he, too, had similarly felt a pressure on his arm.
Immediately, the two men had the distinct impression that someone else was in the room with them. After twenty hair-raising minutes, the strange presence left the house. Bewildered, Whidden and Carroll roused Alex MacDonald, who was dozing nearby. As it turned out, MacDonald had slept through the whole ordeal and hadn’t heard or felt a thing.
Following that incident, Whidden decided to cut his investigation short and book a hotel room in Antigonish, where he documented his experience in number of pieces for the Halifax Herald. His articles stirred the fires of public curiosity, and soon various authorities on the supernatural, including celebrated Scottish writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, were invited to assess the situation for themselves.
The only authority to accept the challenge was Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, an esteemed parapsychologist from New York City. In March 1922, Prince, accompanied by Harold Whidden, Leo McGillivray, and a Haligonian (i.e. a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia) named Dan MacRitchie, paid a visit to the MacDonald estate and began to conduct his own investigation into the alleged poltergeist activity. Many of the local Nova Scotians who encountered Prince during his visit perceived him as an arrogant and egotistical Yankee; their low opinion of him is reflected in a number of contemporary newspaper articles.
Prince began his inspection by recording the nature and location of various items in the farmhouse, examining the scorch marks on the walls, and interviewing the MacDonalds and their neighbours. Early on in the investigation, the parapsychologist, on a whim, asked Whidden and MacRitchie to take part in an experiment. He placed a sheet of paper before each of them, provided both of them with a pencil, and asked them to hold the pencils in their hands passively over the paper. Then, Prince invited any spirit in the house to use these pencils to communicate with them if they so desired. In accordance with the expectations (or lack thereof) of all three of the men, nothing happened.
On Friday, March 10, Whidden was called away to Antigonish. Before he left the farmhouse, some strange urging prompted him to ask Prince to perform the pencil experiment with him again. The parapsychologist obliged. This time, something incredible happened. Some mysterious force seemed to take possession of Whidden’s writing hand and began to scribble on the page, producing what is known to parapsychologists as “automatic writing”. As Whidden put it in a later reminiscence:
“Suddenly, I felt a prickly sensation in the end of some of the fingers of my right hand, which increased. The hand then became numb. Before I realized what was happening, the pencil began to move slowly, without any effort or intention on my part.”
For two hours, Whidden scribbled in this manner, going through many sheets of paper which Prince provided. At first, he produced nothing but circles and slanted lines. Then his scribblings began to take on a more intelligent shape, and in no time he was spelling out messages in a handwriting that was not his own. Although the exact content of these message has never been released to the public, Whidden later claimed that the scribblings asserted that the acts of arson and other mischief at the MacDonald farm were committed by spirits. Whidden also claimed that there were other, more profound messages as well, regarding which he wrote:
“Most of the written statements were of the utmost significance and not a few of them were of an entirely personal character. For that reason the greater part of the contents of the strange manuscript will probably never be divulged.
“In one place, for example, it seemed as if my sister, who passed away on August 13th, 1912, was sending me a message.
“One sentence in the writing which followed was:
“‘People must realize that those who have passed beyond are ever present. God is merciful. God is good. He is just.’
“And later: ‘Spirits do visit the Earth after death.’
“The whole message was fully of kindly expression and sympathy. There was no sign of malice or enmity in it. It wrote that it would trouble the Macdonalds [sic] no more, and that it would never appear to them.”
Later on, Whidden wrote:
“This may all seem incredible to some people, but every word of it is true. In fact, I have merely given the readers the skim of it: for the very best of reasons, the cream will never be written. I still have every sheet of paper upon which the message was written and will preserve them as the most valuable documents in my possession.”
To the best of this author’s knowledge, the whereabouts of these documents are currently unknown.
After six days on the farm, Walter Prince wrapped up his investigation and published his findings in the 1922 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. Many false reports regarding the nature of his conclusions were published in newspapers all over North America, pulling their information from interviews with him and members of the MacDonald family which Prince claimed never took place. A read through Prince’s original report, however, reveals that the parapsychologist believed that 15-year-old Mary Ellen was responsible for the fires in the MacDonald farmhouse, and that she had set these fires in a dissociated state, under the influence of some supernatural entity which thrived off her energy. He claimed that Mary Ellen was unaware of her actions and thus was not culpable for them.
Prince further theorized that the same entity which directed the actions of Mary Ellen was also responsible for many other strange activities which took place around the farmhouse, including the phenomena which Harold Whidden and Detective Carroll experienced during their own independent investigation. Regarding Whidden’s automatic writing incident (the existence of which, some newspapers erroneously reported, Prince denied entirely), Prince admitted that he was uncertain whether Whidden’s hand was guided by the same aforementioned entity or his own subconscious mind.
Three months after Prince’s investigation, the MacDonald family moved back into their farmhouse. To their relief, they enjoyed a pleasant summer devoid of any strange activity. Then, in October, mysterious fires began to appear on the property once again. This time, regional authorities blamed Mary Ellen for the activity and hauled her off to the Nova Scotia Home for the Insane, an asylum in Dartmouth. Following her release, Mary Ellen married and moved to Ontario, where she lived to a ripe old age.
Not long after Mary Ellen was institutionalized, Alexander and Janet MacDonald abandoned their farm, unwilling to live on it any long and unable to sell it. With no one to maintain it, the farmhouse slowly fell into disrepair.
Today, there is little to distinguish the old MacDonald estate from any other patch of land in the county of Antigonish. Local legend has it that the land is cursed, and that anyone who removes anything from the area, be it a fragment of shingle or a pebble, invites the “Fire Spook” of Caledonia Mills into their own home. Indeed, one woman who defied the curse in the spring of 1971, retrieving an egg cup from the ruins of the MacDonald farmhouse, lost her own farmhouse to a mysterious inferno which consumed the place while she was away in her city home in Antigonish.
The House on Bible Hill
Across the Salmon River from Truro, Nova Scotia, sits a little village called Bible Hill. Inhabited since the mid-18th Century, Bible Hill is certainly old enough to warrant a ghost or two. If the village had any supernatural residents in the past, however, they were inconspicuous houseguests… that is, until December, 1941.
That fateful month, something inexplicable happened in the home of Mrs. Lucy Langille and Mrs. Rachel Hull- sisters who lived with Lucy’s 16-year-old son, Arnold; and Rachel’s 12-year-old daughter, June; in a house on Bible Hill’s Farnham Road. As Lucy explained in a later interview:
“We were just sitting there when the closet door opened and a pair of shoes walked out across the floor… with no feet in them.”
In the weeks following that bizarre incident, strange things began to take place in the Langille home. Stove lids rattled on their own. Cutlery leaped across rooms. Clocks floated through the air. And on one occasion, a visiting neighbour was inhospitably assailed with a flying fireplace poker hurled by some invisible javelineer.
At that time, Lucy and Rachel’s husbands, like many other Nova Scotian men of fighting age, were across the Atlantic, assisting the British Army in the defence of the United Kingdom. With no one else to turn to, the two ladies confided in their neighbours. Good, hard-headed Nova Scotians that they were, the Langille’s friends refused to believe the ladies’ incredible story without proof. Accordingly, Lucy and Rachel invited them into their home so that they could see for themselves the sort of trouble they had to put up with on a daily basis.
One evening in the spring of 1942, a handful of Bible Hill residents, including a few skeptical reporters, accepted the sisters’ invitation and gathered in the Langille home. The lights were turned off, since ghosts, in the words of one contemporary newspaper article, “like termites and burglars, can’t stand light.” Equipped with flashlights, the neighbours placed themselves in strategic positions throughout the house, determined to expose any monkey business.
All of a sudden, a creaking sound broke the silence.
“What’s that?” one neighbour asked.
“It’s the ghost, rocking in the other room,” Lucy replied.
Snapping their flashlights on, the neighbours rushed into the room. Sure enough, the rocking chair was oscillating vigorously, as if its occupant had abandoned it in a hurry. The room was empty, however, and there were no routes by which a potential trickster might have escaped unnoticed.
“I know what happened,” said one of the neighbours. “Somebody made it rock by pulling a black thread or horsehairs tied together, from a hole in the wall. Look for a thread.” A subsequent investigation failed to turn up any such item.
Another neighbour suggested that the chair might have been moved by a magnet in the floor, provided it had iron attached to its rockers. A subsequent examination proved that the wooden chair was absent of any metal.
Still, the neighbours were unconvinced. They dared the ghost to rock the chair again, in their presence. Sure enough, the chair began to rock.
At a loss, the neighbours decided to reconvene in the kitchen, where they asked the ghost to join them. All of a sudden, they heard a scraping noise on a shelf. Immediately, flashlights concentrated on the sound, which proved to have come from a milk bottle which slid from one end of the shelf to the other.
Before the neighbours had a chance to investigate the incident, a window blind suddenly rolled up on its own. Immediately after that, a table flipped over with a loud crash. Then a kitchen drawer opened and silverware began to levitate. When the neighbours shone their flashlights on the drawer, the spoons, knives, and forks fell to the floor. No sooner had quiet returned to the house than a tin lunchbox leapt from a hook on the wall to clatter on the floor ten feet away.
The neighbours returned to their own homes convinced that something strange indeed had taken up residence in the house on Farnham Road.
Several evenings later, two photographers named George H. Hanebury and Earl Talbot- along with John Murphy, the editor of the Truro Daily News– paid a visit to the house and asked the sisters if they might conduct an investigation of their own. The sisters obliged.
That night, the photographers set up several cameras in the Langille kitchen. During the subsequent investigation, the visitors were bombarded with flying cutlery which stuck into the walls, one of the knives quivering a short distance from a newsman’s head. Unfortunately, the photographers were not quick enough to capture the culprit on camera.
Sometime later, a clothes iron on top of the stove began to rattle. The three men whipped their heads around just in time to see 12-year-old June Hull backing away from the stove, as if in terror. This time, the photographers were prepared. Bulbs flashed and shutters clicked. It seemed that the newsmen had caught the poltergeist of Bible Hill in the act.
Sure enough, when they developed the photos in the darkroom later that night, the photographers found themselves staring at the image of a human hand reaching for the iron. Some took this as clear evidence that little June Hull was behind the strange activity, and had deliberately and successfully pulled the wool over the eyes of her family members and neighbours. Others opined that the hand in the photo belonged to an adult, and couldn’t possibly have been June’s. Whatever the case, the iron rattling was the last trick the poltergeist of Bible Hill ever pulled.
The Christmas Ghost of Eastern Passage
In the Western mind, Christmas Eve has a strong association with mystery, magic, and miracles. According to the Gospel of Luke, for example, angels appeared to Syrian shepherds on the very first Christmas Eve to announce the coming of the Messiah. There is an ancient European folk legend which holds that animals gain the ability to speak at the stroke of midnight on this sacred evening so as to celebrate the birth of Christ. And, of course, there is the story of St. Nick and his eight flying reindeer.
From Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”, most stories involving supernatural activity on Christmas Eve are tales of hope and joy. For one Nova Scotian family, however, their own Yuletide ghost story turned out to be the stuff of nightmares.
‘Twas the night before Christmas, 1943, and something indeed was stirring in the home of Louis and Ethel Hilchie, who lived with their children in a cottage in Eastern Passage, a peaceful suburb of Halifax. That night, the Hilchie home resounded with three deep, hollow, and completely unexpected knocks which shattered the evening’s tranquility. To the children’s disappointment, a thorough investigation conducted by Mr. Hilchie proved that the mysterious sounds were neither the result of reindeer landing on the roof nor evidence of a certain jolly gentleman’s attempt to invade their home by way of the chimney. Try as he might, Louis Hilchie was unable to ascertain the source of the knocks.
Following that fateful evening, strange things began to take place in the Hilchie house. In addition to loud knocks occurring at random, household objects began to move as if on their own accord. One day, the family washing machine walked its way across the floor. On another occasion, the table at which Ethel Hilchie sat with three of her children overturned seemingly on its own. Once, a pillow hurled itself down the stairs. Another time, Louis and Ethel’s teenage daughter, Catherine, while heating a frying pan over the stove, watched an egg jump into the skillet as though propelled by unseen hands.
By New Years’ Eve, Mrs. Hilchie was at her wit’s end. In early 1944, she called both the Halifax Regional Police and the Mail-Star, a local newspaper (a precursor to Halifax’s Chronicle Herald), and implored them to assist in getting to the bottom of the mystery. Although the police were no more successful in their attempt to identify the elusive culprit than Louis had been, the Mail-Star reporters witnessed some eerie manifestations of their own. One journalist gazed, mouth agape, as a pair of scissors lying on a shelf trembled, shook, opened, and closed on their own. Another reporter, while interviewing Ethel, watched a kettle of boiling water intended for the teapot pick itself off the stove and crash to the floor. These same newspapermen, during their visit, saw a steaming bowl of soup levitate and tip into Catherine’s lap; watched a box of soap flakes fly down a flight of stairs; and witnessed an alarm clock take flight from a dresser.
The violence of these manifestations seemed to increase with time. The poltergeist graduated from tossing pillows to hurling hammers down the stairs. One evening, Ethel Hilchie descended these same stairs when something grasped the heel of her slipper and wrenched it off. Several days later, the same thing happened. This time, however, Ethel fell down the stairs, fracturing one of her ankle bones in the process.
Interestingly, animals seemed to sense the strange power that lurked within the Hilchie home. For several weeks, a stray dog took to sitting at the Hilchie’s front step and howling at the door.
In the spring of 1944, a researcher named Dr. Thomas L. Garrett, president and founder of the Garrett Foundation for Psychological Research, paid a visit to the Hilchie home at the behest of the American Weekly Magazine, a supplement to the San Francisco Examiner. Garrett was the veteran of many a paranormal investigation, and had revealed many hoaxes in the past.
During his visit, Garrett interviewed Louis, Ethel, and the children at length, pausing once when a teapot flew off a hook in the kitchen to whiz by the head of the Hilchies’ eldest girl, 21-year-old Gladys. Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that the strange activity was not fraudulent, and seemed to revolve around teenaged Catherine (incidentally, a day prior to his arrival, Catherine claimed to have seen the face of a strange-looking man with bushy hair peering at her through a window). As Garrett put it in an article for the aforementioned magazine:
“Investigation revealed that all the mysterious manifestations appeared to have taken place in the presence, and the unknown-to-herself cooperation, of Catherine.”
Regarding his comment on Catherine’s unwitting complicity in the manifestations, Garrett flirted with the notion that Catherine, along with other adolescents around whom poltergeist activity revolves, projected invisible, “‘psychic’, semi-flexible rods” from her body which, “being struck sharply on floor, table, chair, or other body, cause the raps or knocks.” Later on in his article, Garrett admitted that “the theory of the psychic rods, accepted as it is by many psychic investigators, requires further substantiation.”
The Fire Spook of Caledonia Mills
Ghost Stories of Canada (2000), by John Robert Colombo and Jillian Hulme Gilliland
Fire Spook of Caledonia Mills, in the December 9, 2013 issue of PhantomsAndMonsters.com
The ‘Poltergeist Case’ Investigated by Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, in the June 3, 1922 issue of Light: A Journal of Spiritual Progress & Psychical Research
My Experiences as the MacDonald Homestead (1922), by H. B. Whidden
An Investigation of Poltergeist and Other Phenomena Near Antigonish, by Walter F. Prince, in the 1922 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research
The House on Bible Hill
The Haunting of the Langille House, in the March 18, 1942 issue of the Winnipeg Evening Tribune
News Cameramen Catch ‘Ghost’ Flatiron-Handed, in the March 20, 1942 issue of the Winnipeg Evening Tribune
An article in the Mary 31, 1942 issue of the American Weekly Magazine, courtesy of American Fortean researcher Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra
Parade: The Grin and Bare It Section of the May 1, 1942 issue of Maclean’s magazine
The Christmas Ghost of Eastern Passage
An article in the March 5, 1944 issue of the American Weekly Magazine, by Dr. Thomas L. Garrett, courtesy of American Fortean researcher Mr. Gary S. Mangiacopra
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More Canadian Poltergeists was last modified: October 3rd, 2018 by Hammerson Peters