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The Phenomenon of Lost Time in Canada

The Phenomenon of Lost Time in Canada

I was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, in the summer of 1992, and spent my first four years growing up in the so-called “Rain City”. In those days, many American movie and TV production companies shot their films in Vancouver and Toronto instead of Los Angeles or New York City, apparently in an effort to take advantage of the lowly Canadian loonie.

One project which began filming in Vancouver and nearby Squamish, British Columbia, when I was fresh out of the incubator was a TV show called The X-Files. This science fiction drama revolves around two FBI special agents named Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who investigate unsolved cases which invariably involve monsters, aliens, supernatural entities, or some other variety of unexplained phenomena.

About a year ago, my dad informed me that he made an unauthorized (and regrettably invisible) cameo ‘appearance’ in The X-Files’ Season 1, Episode 21, entitled “Tooms”. In that episode, the titular Eugene Tooms- a mutant cannibal who subsists on human liver- murdered his psychologist in the house next to my parents’. My dad, while standing in the shadows of his property, watched as Mulder and Scully raced towards the house, guns drawn, in a vain attempt to save the hapless clinician from his unenviable fate.

My dad’s confession sparked my own interest in The X-Files– an excellent program about which I had previously known next to nothing- and prompted me to binge-watch more episodes than I care to admit. While watching the very first X-Files episode, I was introduced to the phenomenon of ‘missing time’ as an accompaniment to UFO encounters.

In The X-Files’ pilot episode, while driving on a quiet Oregon highway just outside a town haunted by a series of mysterious deaths, Mulder and Scully are beset by a blinding white light. Their car shuts down and rolls to a stop, whereupon Mulder, who had been looking at his watch when the incident occurred, observes that nine minutes inexplicably elapsed since the flash despite that it seemed to have taken place mere moments before. He then explains to the bewildered Scully that unexplained time loss is frequently reported by UFO abductees.

Barney and Betty Hill’s Close Encounter

Indeed, the phenomenon of missing time features in one of the most famous alleged UFO abductions, which took place on the U.S. Route 3 south of Lancaster, New Hampshire, on the night of September 19, 1961. While driving back to their home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, from a vacation in Niagara Falls and Montreal, couple Barney and Betty Hill claimed to have been approached by a flying pancake-like craft. The strange object followed the couple through Franconia Notch, a pass through the White Mountains, before descending upon them. The Hills heard a series of beeping sounds near the trunk of their car before falling unconscious. Another series of beeping sounds restored the couple to consciousness, whereupon they found that they had travelled 35 miles south down the highway without any memory of the drive. They later learned that they arrived at their home seven hours after their departure from Colebrook, New Hampshire, from which they had begun the final leg of their return journey; the drive from Colebrook to Portsmouth typically takes about three and a half hours.

Tormented by disturbing dreams, the Hills decided to undergo regression hypnosis in order to determine what exactly took place that night on the highway. During their hypnosis sessions, both Barney and Betty recalled being approached by short, grey-skinned humanoids who compelled them to enter their pancake-like craft. The creatures escorted the Hills to separate rooms and told them to lie on rectangular tables before subjecting them to a series of medical tests. When the tests were complete, the creatures returned the Hills to their vehicles and departed into the night sky.

Although Dr. Benjamin Simon of Boston, Massachusetts- the psychiatrist who orchestrated the Hills’ hypnosis sessions- concluded that the Hills’ recollections were fantasies inspired by some of Betty’s dreams, many UFOlogists believe the Hills’ testimonies constitute proof that Barney and Betty Hill were abducted by extraterrestrial astronauts.

Ever since the Hills’ strange experience, many people have reported similar abductions by the otherworldly occupants of flying saucers. Most of these abduction stories are remarkably similar, one major commonality being the phenomenon of missing time.

The UFO of Verdun, Quebec

About a year ago, my friend and fellow researcher Mr. Gary Mangiacopra introduced me to a UFO sighting published in the October 1952 issue of the magazine Fate. The event described, which took place exactly one decade before the Hills’ landmark encounter, is remarkable in that constitutes what might be the first reported incident of lost time in association with UFO sightings.

This brief report was submitted by one A.V. Haslett of Verdun, Quebec, a borough of Montreal situated on the banks of the St. Lawrence River.

“One Sunday afternoon in September 1951,” Haslett began, “I was fortunate to sight two very bright objects traveling in a southerly direction of the St. Lawrence River, Verdum, Quebec. The first one seemed to be very large and appeared to me like a huge yo-yo with a red band around the middle of it.”

Haslett continued:

“I looked at my watch to verify the time in case someone else reported the sighting. The time was 3:42 p.m., and I scanned the sky in case others appeared. Suddenly, another appeared in the same part of the sky and headed in the same direction. This one was either flying higher, or further away, and was the same shape as the first one. I again looked at my watch and was surprised to note that the time was 4:42, exactly an hour after the previous object.”

Unless this author has misinterpreted the narrative, Haslett appears to have claimed that an entire hour elapsed between his two UFO sightings in the space of what, in his mind, seemed the blink of an eye. If this is truly the case, then Haslett’s story, to the best of this author’s knowledge, may be the earliest report of missing time in association with a UFO sighting or alleged alien abductions, Canadian or otherwise.

If you know of an earlier account of missing time or would like to share your own thoughts on the phenomenon, please feel to drop us a line in the Comments section below.

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The Traverspine Gorilla- A Wildman From Labrador

The Traverspine Gorilla- A Wildman From Labrador

There is an old tradition among the various Inuit tribes of Alaska, Northern Canada, and Greenland which holds that the North American Arctic was once home to a race of primitive giants called Toonijuk. Physically, these people were said to be immensely powerful, and could easily carry full-grown seals on their backs. They did not live in tents or igloos, like the Inuit, but rather in circular stone pit-houses roofed with whale ribs and animal skins.

Legend has it that, in ancient times, the Inuit began to hunt down the Toonijuk and greatly reduced their number. The giants who survived these predations fled to the mountains of the interior where, some say, their descendants still linger to this very day.

One area that has long been associated with the legend of the Toonijuk is the Torngat Mountain Range- a lonely, barren sierra in the tundra of the Labrador Peninsula characterized by deep fjords and sheer rock faces. “Torngat” derives from an Inuktitut word meaning “place of spirits” which likely has etymological ties with the name denoting the ancient, primitive giants of Inuit lore.

Another Labradorean locale connected with strange tales of wild giants is Happy Valley-Goose Bay, a Royal Canadian Air Force town located about 700 kilometres southeast of the Torngat Mountains, on the shores of Lake Melville and Grand River. In around 1913, a tiny settlement called Traverspine, located on the outskirts of this town, was the setting of several encounters with a mysterious creature which has come to be known as the Traverspine Gorilla.

The tale of the Traverspine Gorilla first appeared in print in American writer Elliot Merrick’s 1933 book True North: A Journey Into Unexplored Wilderness. “Ghost stories are very real in this land of scattered, lonely homes and primitive fears,” Merrick began.

According to Merrick, one autumn afternoon in around 1913, a little girl by the name of Michelin was playing alone in a meadow near Traverspine, not far from her parents’ cabin, when she saw a strange manlike creature emerge from the woods. The thing was about seven feet tall, was covered in hair, and had long dangling arms, while its head was topped with a white mane that ran across the crown like the helmet crest of a Roman centurion. The creature grinned at the little girl, baring its white teeth, and beckoned for her to come closer. Miss Michelin screamed and raced for the safety of the house.

 

The creature left tracks all around the cabin and surrounding area. “It is a strange-looking foot,” wrote Merrick, “about twelve inches long, narrow at the heel and forking at the front into two broad, round-ended toes. Sometimes its print was so deep it looked to weigh five hundred pounds.”

Following Miss Michelin’s terrifying encounter, local lumberjacks began to search for the creature. They set bear traps, of which the wily wildman steered clear, and lay in wait for it all night with their rifles at hand, to no avail. Although none were able to catch the creature, many observed its strange tracks in the dirt and snow. Others came across evidence indicating that the creature ripped bark off trees and uprooted huge logs as if in search of insects.

The wildman hung around the outskirts of Traverspine for two winters. It would often harass dogs, which barked and growled at it in the night, and would sometimes drive its canine contenders into the Traverspine River.

One afternoon, the creature made a second appearance at the Michelin home. One of the Michelin children noticed the creature peering into the cabin through a window and hollered for her mother. Mrs. Michelin stormed out of the house, shotgun in hand, just in time to see a white mane disappear into a clump of willows. She fired a shot at the underbrush and heard a meaty thud which told her that her lead had found its mark.

According to Bruce S. Wright, one-time director of the Northeastern Wildlife Station of Fredericton’s University of New Brunswick, who investigated the tale of the Traverspine Gorilla in June 1947, Mrs. Michelin said of her brush with the creature:

“It was no bear. I have killed twelve myself and I know their tracks well, and I saw enough of this thing to be sure of that. I fired a shotgun at it and heard the shot hit. My little girl was playing behind the house and she came running in saying it was chasing her. I grabbed the shotgun and went outside just in time to get a glimpse of it disappearing in the bush.”

Wright, who documented the findings of his investigation in a letter to Canadian folklorist Philip Godsell, concluded his letter with the suggestion that the Traverspine Gorilla might be a barren ground grizzly, a rare subspecies of grizzly bear which roams the barrenlands of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. He remarked that when he suggested this possibility to his Labradorean informants, “they all laughed at that as they were all very familiar with bear tracks.”

Dr. C. Hogarth Forsyth, an English-American physician who operated a 20-bed hospital in the easterly community of Cartwright, Labrador, under the auspices of a charity called the Grenfell Association, shed some light on the strange footprints found in the Labrador wilderness from time to time in a newspaper interview conducted about six months prior to Wright’s investigation. Forsyth described the tracks as “barefoot” and “ape-like”, and claimed that they sometimes “led to nests under trees… Whatever made them climbed easily over stumps and other obstructions where ordinary man would have gone around.” He stated that the tracks were certainly not bear tracks, as they were discovered and interpreted “by trappers whose living depends on their knowledge of tracks.”

 

Sources

  • True North: A Journey Into Unexplored Wilderness, by Elliot Merrick (1933)
  • “The Camp-Fire” in the June 1949 issue of the magazine Adventure; courtesy of American researcher Gary S. Mangiacopra
  • “Snowman’s Land” in the November 1947 issue of the magazine Adventure; courtesy of American researcher Gary S. Mangiacopra
  • “Canada’s ‘Ape-Men’ of Labrador: Pre-1946 Accounts of Possible Primitive Surviving Hominoid Encounters as Related by the Native Inhabitants of the Labrador Region of the North American Continent”; by Dr. Dwight C. Smith and Gary S. Mangiacopra in the March 2005 issue of the North American BioFortean Review

 

 

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 15- Dye Harder

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 15- Dye Harder

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 15 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

The Oak Island crew meets with Danny Smith of ROC equipment at the Money Pit area, where a huge sinkhole has developed overnight in the vicinity of the H8 caisson. Smith explains that his boss, Vanessa Lucido, is currently discussing the situation with Mark Monahan of Irving Equipment Ltd. and that the two contractors are working on a solution to this new setback.

Later, Rick Lagina and Craig Tester meet with Lucido and Monahan in an on-site trailer. Lucido explains that they will be monitoring the ground in the entire Money Pit area in an effort to anticipate any further collapses before they occur. Monahan suggests that they shake the H8 caisson using a piece of a equipment called a vibro hammer; in all goes as planned, the vibration will cause the earth surrounding the caisson to settle. Monahan’s suggestion is adopted. A vibro hammer is attached to the H8 caisson and begins to shake, causing the sinkhole surrounding the caisson to widen, as anticipated.

While the vibro hammer operation is underway, Marty Lagina, Dave Blankenship, Gary Drayton, Jack Begley, Terry Matheson, and Billy Gerhardt meet at Smith’s Cove, where they proceed to hunt for the convergence point of the supposed box drains with a backhoe. They begin by excavating a trench fronting one of the mysterious wooden walls, which Gary Drayton then examines with his metal detector. Drayton quickly discovers a large metal bucket buried in the mud. The team digs a little deeper, finally hitting the C horizon (a rockier layer of earth) without finding any evidence of the box drains.

The next morning, the Oak Island crew meets in the War Room. It is revealed that the crew intends to conduct a dye test (similar to those conducted by the Oak Island Treasure Company in 1897, Erwin Hamilton in 1941, and Triton Alliance in 1988) in order to locate the entrance to the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. We are reminded that Oak Island Tours Inc. conducted a similar test back in Season 2, Episode 6, in which they pumped non-toxic green dye into Borehole 10-X. They had suspected that the shaft intersected the supposed flood tunnels believed to feed the Money Pit, and hoped that the dye would show up on Oak Island’s shores. Unfortunately, the green dye failed to appear anywhere outside of Borehole 10-X.

Marty Lagina presents the team with red dye that he has acquired, which he hopes will be more visible than the green dye they used in the previous dye test. It is also revealed that the team will watch for the dye using  boats and drones, the latter replacing the helicopter which was used during the previous dye test.

Later that day, Marty and Alex Lagina, Jack Begley, and Peter Fornetti drive to the town of Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia, just east of Halifax. There, they visit the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS), where they meet with the team who conducted the underwater LIDAR scan in the previous episode. The COGS crew presents the crew with a 3D model of the seafloor off the South Shore Cove and points out two anomalies which appear to be “possible vent locations”. One of the anomalies appears to be triangular, and the shadow it casts points in a north-south line which, Marty remarks, “would be pointing, more or less, at the Money Pit”.

Later, the Oak Island crew prepares to inject red dye into Borehole C1– a shaft in the Money Pit area which they hope intersects the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel. They begin the operation by attempting to pump water into C1. As the hose fills with water, it becomes clear that a section of the hose is twisted up and will not allow water to pass through. They kill the pump, bleed off the pressure, untwist the hose, and carry on with the operation.

As soon as Dan Henskee and Terry Matheson pour red dye into the shaft, three flying drones equipped with high definition cameras are sent to monitor the island’s coastline. The Lagina brothers and Jack Begley observe the cameras’ live feed on a screen at Smith’s Cove. Meanwhile, Charles Barkhouse and diver Tony Sampson travel around the island’s coast by boat, scanning the shore with binoculars for any sign of the red dye.

After some time, Jack Begley, while monitoring the screen at Smith’s Cove, notices an anomaly in the water off the Bald Spot- an enclave in the Oak Island forest strangely devoid of trees, located just uphill from the Boulderless Beach on Oak Island’s northeast shore. Tony Sampson and Charles Barkhouse proceed to investigate the anomaly by boat, but find nothing of interest.

While the operation is underway, Marty Lagina and Jack Begley are visited by Dan Blankenship, who arrives in a golf cart. Shortly thereafter, Gary Drayton, while strolling around Smith’s Cove, notices red dye trickling from beneath a rock. Suspecting that they have finally discovered the entrance to the legendary flood tunnel, Drayton excitedly calls the crew over. Marty, crestfallen, observes that the substance is rust coloured rather than red, implying that it may not be the dye after all, whereupon Drayton suggests that the difference in colour might be attributable to the mediums through which the dye passed on its way to Smith’s Cove. Jack Begley collects some of the substance using a water bottle so that the crew members can determine its chemical makeup and confirm whether or not it is indeed the same dye that they pumped into C1.

Later, Jack Begley and Paul Troutman meet at the Oak Island Research Centre, where they use a fluorometer to compare the fluorescence of the substance that Begley collected at Smith’s Cove with that of red dye fresh from the bottle. The readings are comparable, indicating that the substance found at Smith’s Cove might indeed be the same dye pumped into C1. The treasure hunters phone up Rick Lagina and inform him of the good news.

Analysis

The New Dye Test

In this episode, the Oak Island boys conducted a dye test similar to those conducted by several of their predecessors. They pumped red dye into Borehole C1 and later discovered the same dye at Smith’s Cove. This discovery, similar to those made by the Oak Island Treasure Company and Erwin Hamilton before them, indicates that the water which fills shafts sunk in the Money Pit area is connected with Smith’s Cove via some sort of subterranean channel. Whether this channel is natural or artificial has yet to be determined.

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 14- Voyage to the Bottom of the Cenote

The Curse of Oak Island: Season 6, Episode 14- Voyage to the Bottom of the Cenote

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 6, Episode 14 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

Rick and Marty Lagina meet with Terry Matheson and Laird Niven at Smith’s Cove, where the concrete wall discovered in Season 6, Episode 12 has been fully uncovered. It is revealed that the treasure hunters attempted to locate the end of the supposed box drain discovered in Season 6, Episode 10, but met without success. Marty Lagina puzzles over the many strange structures discovered in Smith’s Cove this season and concludes, “Well, one thing’s extremely consistent: nothing makes sense”.

Meanwhile, Craig Tester and Jack Begley meet with Troy Greene and Brian Pyke of the Centre of Geographic Sciences (COGS) at the marina in the nearby town of Western Shore, Nova Scotia. Green and Pyke have a boat equipped with a LIDAR scanner with which they plan to search for the termini of the supposed South Shore Cove box drains.

The four men meet up with a larger COGS team, pile into the boat, and head for Oak Island. While they prepare to conduct their LIDAR scan, the narrator explains that the team will “scan along a total of some 30 lines arranged five metres apart in a systematic grid pattern which will allow them to totally encompass the island’s coastal area.”

While scanning in the waters off the South Shore Cove, the COGS team discovers a depression in the vicinity of the ice holes observed by Dan Blankenship in February 1980. Shortly thereafter, the scanner picks up an anchor lying on the sea floor.

The next day, the Oak Island crew meets in the War Room, where they call up Dr. Christa Brosseau of Halifax’s St. Mary’s University. Brosseau, who has analyzed some recent artifacts brought up from the Money Pit, identifies the supposed bone discovered in H8 at the end of Season 6, Episode 13, as “iron, rich in sulphur”, and suggests that it is likely slag- the by-product of smelted ore. Borsseau then identifies leather-like material recently extracted from H8 to be “definitely plant material”, likely tree bark. Finally, Brosseau identifies both pieces of paper-like material discovered in Season 6, Episode 13, as “rag paper”, or paper made from cotton fibres. She suggests that the crew have the paper analyzed by an expert in historical documents.

Later, Marty Lagina, Craig Tester, Jack Begley, Gary Drayton, and Dan Henskee gather at the Money Pit, where more material is being extracted from H8. While sifting through the spoils, Craig Tester discovers a large fragment of pottery. Dan Henskee comes across a piece of what appears to be wood from a searcher tunnel, while Jack Begley finds a fragment of what he suggests might be leather. Gary Drayton then finds an old iron nail with a square shaft which he says resembles a decking nail from a ship.

Meanwhile, Alex Lagina and Doug Crowell travel to the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design in Halifax. There, they meet with bookbinding expert Joe Landry, to whom they show the fragments of cotton paper brought up from H8. Landry remarks that the paper bearing the yellow and red paint or ink appears to be folded, and proposes that he attempt to wet it and unfold it to see whether there might be any writing on the inside. The treasure hunters acquiesce, and Landry, assisted by his apprentice, Katherine Taylor, wets both of the paper pieces and attempts to unfold them. The larger, blacker piece of paper refuses to unfold, suggesting that some adhesive has been applied to it- an indication that the paper was once part of a book. Landry observes that the papers are very even, suggesting that they constitute pieces of wove paper- an invention made in around 1737- or thin cloth. He ultimately suggests that they ought to examine the papers by microscope if they hope to learn more about them.

Later, while the excavation of H8 is underway, the oscillator seizes up. Caisson operator Danny Smith investigates the problem and concludes that the ground is caving in.

While the crew attempts to sort out the cave-in issue at the Money Pit, Marty Lagina and Doug Crowell meet with Joe Landry and lab technician Fergus Tweedale at St. Mary’s University in Halifax. Tweedale places the paper fragment from H8 bearing red and yellow markings under a polarized light microscope. The red marking on the paper has a crystalline surface, which Landry says is indicative of medieval and Renaissance inks. He then suggests that the pigment used in the red ink might be cinnabar, or vermillion- a brilliant scarlet pigment made from powdered mercury sulfide. Upon being prompted by Marty, Landry estimates that the paper constitutes a fragment of a manuscript created anywhere from the 13th Century to the 1600s.

Back at the Money Pit, the contractors conclude that they can no longer oscillate the H8 caisson but can continue to excavate via hammergrab.

Later that night, Rick Lagina rushes to the Money Pit, summoned by an urgent phone call from Charles Barkhouse. It appears that the cave-in around H8 has graduated into a more substantial sinkhole. Rick puts on a harness and proceeds to inspect the sinkhole, which proves to be a water-filled, roughly 10-foot-deep depression beside the H8 caisson. After several large pieces of surface debris fall away into the chasm, Rick decides to head back to safety.

The following morning, the Lagina brothers, Craig Tester, and Dave Blankenship head to the Money Pit to assess the damage. “This is not good,” Marty remarks, before reminding the treasure hunters that there are voids beneath the Money Pit area, and that the entire are could potentially collapse at any moment. The treasure hunters agree that safety is of paramount importance, and that they cannot proceed before an outside safety engineer evaluates the situation.

 

Analysis

The H8 Collapse

In this episode, a circular area roughly 6 feet in diameter beside Borehole H8 spontaneously gives way and sinks into the earth, presumably resultant of some subterranean collapse. This setback evokes the previous Money Pit collapses, which occurred in 1850 and 1861 due to the formation of searcher tunnels which undermined the structural integrity of the area. The incident is also reminiscent of the discovery of the Cave-In Pit- a mysterious filled-in shaft located between the Money Pit and Smith’s Cove, supposed by some to be an air shaft built to supply oxygen to the labourers who constructed the Smith’s Cove flood tunnel- which was discovered in 1875, when the ox team of Oak Island resident Sophia Sellers disappeared into a 10-foot-deep, 7-foot-in-diameter pit which opened up beneath them.

The Oak Island crew members agree that, for safety purposes, they must suspend work in the area until the sinkhole has been inspected by an outside engineer.

The Giant River Snake of Southeast Alberta

The Giant River Snake of Southeast Alberta

The city of Medicine Hat, nestled in the southeast corner of Alberta not far from the Saskatchewan border, has many claims to fame. Hockey fans know it as the home of the Medicine Hat Tigers, a ferocious junior hockey team which has produced NHL legends like Trevor Linden and Lanny McDonald. Road-trippers may associate Medicine Hat with its iconic Saamis Teepee- an enormous steel skeleton of a Plains Indian lodge which sits atop an old buffalo jump beside the Trans-Canada Highway. Of all its distinctive features, however, Medicine Hat is perhaps best known for its unusual name, which has its roots in a mysterious tangle of local native legends.

Medicine Hat was founded in 1883, when the Canadian Pacific Railway was built across the South Saskatchewan River. In the early 1900s, huge deposits of natural gas were discovered in the earth beneath it, prompting English writer Rudyard Kipling to famously remark that it boasted “all Hell for a basement”. Its surfeit of natural gas, coupled with an abundance of red clay which lies along the banks of the South Saskatchewan River, transformed Medicine Hat into a major brick and ceramics manufacturing centre which once stood to compete with northwesterly Calgary for the distinction of being Alberta’s most important city.

Despite a failed movement in the early 1900s to change its name to “Gasville” in an attempt to attract industry, Medicine Hat has retained its strange name since its founding. Its first citizens named the town after the old Indian name for the place, which, for a century prior to the town’s founding, had served as a sort of boundary between the territories the Blackfoot Confederacy and that of their hereditary enemies, the easterly Plains Cree and Assiniboine.

There are a great number of old Blackfoot and Cree legends which purport to explain the origin of the name ‘Medicine Hat’, most of which local historian Marcel M.C. Dirk diligently documented in his 1993 book But Names Will Never Hurt Me. The majority of these legends are based on either a battle between the Blackfoot and the Cree, a love story involving human sacrifice, a landmark that looks like an Indian headdress, or some combination thereof. In spite of their differences, every single legend has something in common, namely the inclusion of a medicine man’s headdress, or ‘medicine hat’.

James Sanderson’s Story

In 1894, a Scots-Cree frontiersman-turned-rancher named James Sanderson, who was one of Medicine Hat’s earliest citizens, documented one of these legends in a series of articles for the Medicine Hat News entitled Indian Tales of the Canadian Prairies. Sanderson’s tale is especially interesting as it constitutes one of the only recordings of an all-but-forgotten creature of Plains Indian oral tradition- an enormous supernatural river snake associated with the Great Spirit.

Sanderson begins his tale by describing a certain setting on the South Saskatchewan River which is almost certainly the area between what is now Police Point Park and Strathcona Island Park, the former being opposite the river from the latter. At this particular point, the river bends substantially, resulting in a significant current which prevents the formation of ice “even during the most severe winters”. At the centre of the bend is an island, and to the east of the island are tall sandstone cutbanks, or cliffs, which fall into the river.

“This opening in the river is regarded with great interest by the Indians,” Sanderson wrote, “as it is believed to be the breathing place of the Great Spirit who lives in the river and who, when he shows himself, assumes the form of a serpent…”

Sanderson then described the legend:

“Far back in Indian tradition, it is said that one of a hunting party of Blood Indians was sent forward to reconnoitre the country and see if the buffalo were to be met with any numbers. He was accompanied by his newly-married wife and a favourite dog, the latter bearing the travois- a crosspole arrangement to which the dog was harnessed- for the purpose of carrying some share of the travelling outfit.

“One evening, the Indian was camped by the river side and, as he was walking along near the opening in the river referred to, the serpent appeared to him and told him that if he would throw the flesh of his wife into the opening, he would become a great warrior and medicine man. The Indian returned to his tepee and repeated to his wife the words of the serpent. His wife at once expressed her willingness to die for the good of the tribe and in obedience to the call of the Great Spirit. Her husband, however, was reluctant and instead of his wife killed the dog. Carrying its carcass to the opening, he threw it in with the request that the Spirit might be pleased to accept from him his dog as a substitute for his wife. The Spirit refused to accept, and declared that, unless the Indian would sacrifice the wife he could do nothing for him. The man returned and informed his wife accordingly, and she again expressed her willingness to comply with the demand.

“Finally, she was sacrificed and her flesh given to the Spirit, who then directed the man to stay all night on the island near by, to rise early next morning, and, as the sun rose, to proceed towards the cutbanks lying to the east. At the base of one of the cutbanks he would find a bag containing medicines and a hat trimmed with ermine. He was instructed to bring back the medicine bag and the hat with him to the Spirit who would explain the purpose of the hat and the efficacy of the medicines. The hat, he was told, was to be worn only in war, and would ensure victory to the wearer. The tradition has it that the Indian became famous as a medicine man and warrior.”

How Seven Persons Got Its Name

Following the tale of the medicine hat, Sanderson documented another Indian legend featuring the Great Spirit in the form of a huge water serpent. This story takes place on Seven Persons Creek, a tributary of the South Saskatchewan which enters the river immediately adjacent to the island mentioned in the previous story. The tale purports to explain how the creek acquired its own strange name.

Before the coming of the North-West Mounted Police in 1874, the area of South Saskatchewan River and its tributaries in the vicinity of present-day Medicine Hat was a dangerous place frequented by raiding parties in search of trouble, and skirmishes and battles between Blackfoot and Cree warriors were common there. In 1872, a renowned war chief named Calf Shirt led a war party of Blood Blackfoot along Seven Persons Creek in search of enemies. Sanderson’s tale describes an old Indian legend born of this particular excursion.

While crossing the creek a short distance above its confluence with the South Saskatchewan, the war party came across:

“… the dead bodies of seven men, lying just as if they had been suddenly struck down when following each other in Indian file. Although it was evident that they had been dead for some time, there was not a single indication of decay about them, unless the absence of any vestige of hair upon their heads might be regarded as such. They were not scalped; the hair had simply been removed without any indication being left of the manner of its removal. There was no wound visible on the bodies, nor could the Blackfoot tell whence they had come, or to what tribe they belonged.

“Being unable to explain this most mysterious find, the braves made up their minds to watch the bodies, to see whether anyone would come to claim them or give them burial. They waited patiently for five days in the neighbourhood and watched the corpses closely, but there was no sign of any such party appearing and the bodies continued in the same condition of non-decay.

 

“As they discussed various theories to account for the death of the men, someone suggested that they had died of starvation, but a close examination of their equipment proved that they had not been short of provisions. The final conclusion of the Blackfoot was that the seven persons had, in some way, offended the Great Spirit who breathed through the unfreezing opening in the South Saskatchewan, and that he had punished then by striking them dead.”

The natives reverently covered the bodies with stones which, for many years, remained undisturbed by prairie wolves and other scavengers. Ever since, the waterway on which the bodies were discovered has been called Seven Persons Creek.

Earl Willows’ Story

Intriguingly, Sanderson’s tales are not the only documented Plains Indian legends involving giant supernatural water serpents. Blackfoot storyteller Earl Willows, for example, in 2009 online article “Earl Willows Tells the Story of the Warrior that Ate the Horned Snake”, recounted a traditional Blackfoot tale in which two warriors, on their way home from a raid, accidentally set up camp over top of a snake den. In the morning, they discovered an enormous snake nearby and burned it alive. Heedless of his companion’s warning, one of the warriors, named Weasel Calf, ate some of the snake’s cooked meat.

The following morning, the other warrior, named Flint Knife, found that his companion had transformed into a massive horned snake. Weasel Calf asked his friend to bring his belongings back to his family, and urged him to maintain a healthy distance from him during their travels for his own safety. The two continued on until they came to a large river. Weasel Calf declared that this would be his new home, and asked Flint Knife to ask his family to come and visit him there.

Sometime later, the family of the metamorphosed brave visited the river and were greeted by the huge serpent who explained how his transformation came about. The snake then asked his family to leave, as he was afraid he would be unable to control his strange urge to harm them. The Blackfoot left the river and never returned.

The Horned Serpent

The Blackfoot and Cree legends of massive river snakes appear to be part of a much larger pan-American tradition of supernatural horned water serpents. From the Haida of the Pacific Northwest to the Mi’kmaq of the Maritimes, First Nations and Native American tribes across the continent all tell similar stories of powerful, often-horned water serpents imbued with supernatural abilities. For some reason, which this author hopes to investigate in another article, these creatures are almost invariably considered the archenemies of Thunderbirds– legendary giant eagles which also enjoy a prominent place in indigenous folklore across North America.

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Famous Black Canadians: 10/10: George Bonga

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George Bonga

For many people, the word “voyageur” may conjure up images of a rugged-looking French-Canadian, with a red cap on his head and a colourful sash around his waist, hauling a birch bark canoe over some portage trail through the forest. Others may picture a glarled Scotsman clad in buckskins and woolen tartan pulling the oar of a York boat on some wild river. Very few would associate the word with a genteel-looking black man wearing a top hat and a three-piece suit, yet that is the just the sort of image you’ll come across if you look up George Bonga, a famous black Canadian who was as much a voyageur as any Scotsman, French-Canadian, or Metis to paddle the waterways of Rupert’s Land.

Born in around 1802 in Duluth, Minnesota, George Bonga was a third generation frontiersman. His grandfather, Jean Bonga, had been the indentured servant of a British Army officer stationed at Fort Mackinac (situated on an island in Lake Huron). His father, Pierre Bonga, was a fur trader who served as the guide of Alexander Henry the Younger- a great Canadian fur trader and explorer- while his mother was an Ojibwa Indian whose people had inhabited the wilderness of North America for millennia. When he was eighteen years old, George Bonga- a powerful man who stood 6’6”- followed in his forefathers’ footsteps and found employment with the American Fur Company in Northern Minnesota.

George Bonga was a humorous, good-natured voyageur who quickly earned himself an excellent reputation among the Company men. He was strong and hard-working, and was said to carry a much heavier load on the portage trail than most of his contemporaries. He had spent his childhood in Montreal, Quebec, where he had received a good classical education, and thus was just as comfortable among the Company’s learned clerks as he was among their rugged engages. Due to his education and his mother’s influence, he was fluent in French and Ojibwa in addition to his native English.

Bonga’s reputation attracted the attention of Lewis Cass, the Governor of the Territory of Michigan (present-day Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, and parts of North and South Dakota), who hired him as a guide during his 1820 expedition into the Great Lakes region of what is now northern Minnesota. The purpose of the expedition was to locate the source of the Mississippi River, which Cass erroneously determined was what was a body of water which was later dubbed ‘Cass Lake’ in his honour. Lewis Cass would later hire Bonga as a translator for treaty negotiations with the Ojibwa of Fond du Lac (Wisconsin), which resulted in the treaty of 1826.

In the winter of 1837, an Ojibwa man named Chegawaskung was arrested for the murder of fur trader Alfred Aitkin at Cass Lake. The native escaped from his cell and fled into the wilderness. George Bonga was tasked with his capture. For five days and six nights, the veteran voyageur tracked his quarry through the Minnesota wilds. Eventually, he caught up to the native, subdued him, and brought him to Fort Snelling (a U.S. Army fort situated at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers) for trial. Although Chegawaskung was ultimately acquitted, Bonga’s hand in his arrest made him unpopular with the local Ojibwa.

 

In the 1840s, George Bonga left the fur trade. In the 1850s, he, his Ojibwa wife, and their four children built a lodge at Leech Lake, Minnesota, which they rented to outdoor sportsmen.

In later life, George Bonga became a great advocate for the ethical treatment of Native Americans. He wrote several letters to government officials in which he remonstrated the conduct of certain Indian Agents whom he believed treated their native charges unfairly.

George Bonga died in 1874 when he was about 72 years old. Reverend Henry Whipple, Minnesota’s first Episcopal bishop, wrote of the man:

“No word could be better trusted than that of George Bonga.”

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Famous Black Canadians: 9/10: Rev. Addie Aylestock

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Reverend Addie Aylestock

Mabel Adeline “Addie” Aylestock was born on September 8, 1909, in the village of Glen Allan, Ontario, located about 40 minutes northwest of Kitchener. She was descended from black immigrant farmers who, in the 19th Century, settled what was known as the ‘Queen’s Bush’- a wilderness area stretching from Waterloo County (the vicinity of Kitchener) to the westerly Lake Huron- and was imbued with the pioneering spirit of her forefathers.

Addie Aylestock was the eldest of eight children. As her parents were of little means, she left home at a young age and travelled to Toronto. There, she found employment as a housemaid- an occupation which earned her a salary of $15 per month.

Although the black farmers of the Queen’s Bush had, for decades, rubbed shoulders with the Mennonite settlers who named the Conestogo River- the waterway around which much of the Queen’s Bush Settlement revolved- Addie and her family were staunch members of the British Methodist Episcopal Church, a Canadian offshoot of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (the first independent Protestant denomination founded by African-Americans). Addie, being especially devout, resolved to become a missionary and work in Liberia, on the west coast of Africa. In order to quality for service overseas, she studied at the Toronto Bible College and became a deaconess in 1944.

Man proposes, but God disposes, and Addie found herself compelled to lay aside her desire for foreign missionary work in order to minister to fellow black Canadians. She began to preach in Africville- a suburb of Halifax, Nova Scotia, where Portia White, another famous black Canadian, taught black schoolchildren in the 1930s. The British Methodist Episcopal Church later transferred Addie to Montreal, then to Toronto, and finally to Owen Sound, located about an hour west of Collingwood.

By the early 1950s, Addie Aylestock had assumed so many responsibilities that she was now doing as much work as regular British Methodist Episcopal ministers. The church decided to amend their regulations and allow for the ordination of women, and thus, in 1951, Addie Aylestock became the first female minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the first black female minister in Canada.

Reverend Addie Aylestock went on to head British Methodist Episcopal churches in Fort Erie, Guelph, Niagara Falls, North Buxton, and St. Catharines, Ontario, as well as in Montreal, Quebec, and Halifax, Nova Scotia. From 1958-1982, she served as the general secretary of the British Methodist Episcopal Conference.

Rev. Addie Aylestock passed away in 1998, at the age of 88.

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The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down; Season 4, Episode 3- The Truth Behind the Curse

The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down; Season 4, Episode 3- The Truth Behind the Curse

The following is a Plot Summary and Analysis of Season 4, Episode 3 of the History Channel’s TV series The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down.

 

 

[SPOILER ALERT!]

 

 

Plot Summary

The episode begins at the Oak Island Interpretive Centre, where Matty Blake (host of the show’s accessory series The Curse of Oak Island: Drilling Down) meets with the Lagina brothers. The three men discuss the interesting discoveries made over the past two seasons, including the bones, parchment, and leather brought up from H8, as well as the lead cross found at Smith’s Cove. Marty remarks that, prior to these discoveries, the most important Oak Island artifacts in his mind were the Spanish-American scissors discovered on Smith’s Cove in 1970 and Dan Blankenship’s old photos of the U-shaped structure.

In the next scene, Matty Blake reminds us of the legend of the curse of Oak Island, which holds that seven men must die in search of treasure there before the island will reveal her secrets. D’Arcy O’Connor, the author of The Secret Treasure of Oak Island, then appears in an interview to talk about the various legends that revolved around Oak Island before the discovery of the Money Pit in 1795. “People talked about seeing spooky lights there at night,” he said, “and, of course, people figured the island was cursed.” Matty Blake then reminds us that, according to some versions of the discovery legend, Daniel McGinnis, John Smith, and Anthony Vaughan were investigating strange lights on the island when they stumbled upon the Money Pit.

Next, folklorist Clary Croft appears in an interview. Croft states that legends of curses often accompany tales of buried treasure, and proposes that these legends derive from a desire to either inflate the value of the supposed treasure or deter people from seeking it.

Next, Matty Blake meets with Rick and Marty Lagina in the War Room. Rick suggests that the legend of the curse “is an amalgamation of 200 years of search”, before reminding Blake of the story that, many years prior to the discovery of the Money Pit, two fishermen rowed out to Oak Island to investigate strange lights and were never seen again.

Nanette Corbett, the daughter of former Oak Island treasure hunter James Troutman, then appears in an interview. Corbett remarks that Oak Island has an eerie feel to it, which may be partly attributable to the fog that often hangs over it.

Deena Chappell, the granddaughter of former treasure hunter Mel Chappell, then appears in an interview. Deena remarks that she was seventeen years old at the time of the Restall tragedy of August 17, 1965, when treasure hunters Robert and Bobby Restall and two other men drowned at the bottom of an Oak Island shaft, having succumbed to hydrogen sulfide fumes.

Back in the War Room, Marty Lagina claims that, although he does not believe in the supernatural, he gets scared every once in a while on Oak Island. He proceeds to relate a ghost story of his own, which began as a brotherly dare. On Rick’s suggestion, the Lagina brothers drove out to Borehole 10-X one night. After stepping out of the car, Marty heard “the nastiest scream you ever heard in your life- I mean a blood-curdling scream.” Frightened, Marty jumped back in the car and tore off, nearly running over Rick on his way back. Marty does not attempt to explain the noise he heard that night.

Marty then cites the unusual number of equipment malfunctions on the island as evidence that one might use in an attempt to prove that Oak Island is cursed. After that, Rick remarks that Fred Nolan never spent a single night on Oak Island, and believed that the crows that populate it are the reincarnated spirits of the slaves who constructed the Money Pit. Marty concludes the meeting by suggesting that Blake meet with Dave Blankenship, who went “from being a complete non-believer in anything sort of paranormal to [being] pretty much convinced” that Oak Island is haunted.

Matty Blake then pays a visit to Dave Blankenship, who tells him that he, his wife, and several others have seen a formless black cloud floating through the woods on Oak Island, especially near Borehole 10-X. Although he cannot explain the phenomenon, Dave tells Blake that he believes in neither the paranormal nor the Oak Island curse.

Matty Blake then informs us that, though the origin of the ‘7 must die’ legend is a bit of a mystery, it may have been popularized by an article in the January 1967 issue of the magazine True, in which the author claimed to have heard the legend from “a pretty woman intimately related to the [Restall tragedy]”.

Next, Dave Blankenship relates an incident in which he and his father witnessed a ball of fire approach the Triton Shaft from Mahone Bay before vanishing into thin air. Dave does not offer an opinion as to what the fireball might have been.

After bringing Matty to the site at which the fireball approached the island, Dave states that, a short distance away, Dan Henskee suffered a terrifying experience in 1973 in which he felt as if he were temporarily possessed by the spirit of a Spanish priest who had his throat slit. In an earlier interview, Henskee concedes that he is unsure whether his experience was real or imaginary.

Later, in an interview, D’Arcy O’Connor explains that there are stories which purport that Oak Island is haunted by a huge black dog with glowing red eyes. After that, Blake relates the story of Peggy Adams, the daughter of Oak Island caretaker Jack Adams, who claimed to have seen the ghosts of 18th Century British soldiers on Smith’s Cove when she was four years old.

After reminding us of the death of Maynard Kaiser, Matty Blake introduces us to the tale of Jimmy Kaizer, a local Mi’kmaq who worked as a labourer for Robert Restall (and retrieved his body, along with those of Bobby Restall, Cyril Hiltz and Carl Graeser, following the Restall tragedy) and a night watchman for Robert Dunfield. In late 1965, while sleeping in the Restalls’ old cabin, Jim awoke to the sound of the cabin rattling violently. He experienced the sensation of a heavy weight on his chest, and looked up to see a pair of red eyes staring down at him. A voice told him to leave the island and never come back. The following morning, Jim found that he was covered in bruises, one pattern resembling four fingers and a thumb.

Next, Matty Blake reminds us of the paranormal investigation which took place in Season 1, Episode 3, in which members of the Chester Area Paranormal Society conducted an investigation near the Oak Island swamp at night. During the investigation, the Society’s K-II electromagnetic field meter began to beep, which Society member Jenn Morror interpreted as “an indication that something [in the swamp] was trying to communicate” with them.

Matty Blake then meets with parapsychologist Brian J. Cano at the Oak Island Visitors’ Centre. The two men head to the Oak Island swamp, where Cano produces a Mel Meter- a device which records both temperature and electromagnetic radiation. When the Mel Meter fails to pick up anything of interest, Cano begins recording audio in the hope of picking up ghostly sounds inaudible to the human ear. Matty asks a few questions aloud, to which he and Brian hear no response.

After that, Blake and Cano proceed to Borehole 10-X, where they repeat the procedures they conducted in the swamp. This time, apparently in response to Matty’s request for the spirit to make noise, some sounds erupt from the nearby woods.

Next, Blake takes Cano to the Money Pit area, where he reminds the ghost hunter that human bones were recovered from Borehole H8. The men open the lid to H8, lean over the shaft, and ask begin asking questions, their audio recorder at the ready. After Blake asks, “What do you want us to do?” he is answered by a single metallic knock from below, as if someone had rapped on the side of the caisson. A shaken Matty Blake confesses, “That scared the blank out of me!”

“You’ve been officially initiated into the world of paranormal investigating,” replies Brian Cano, shaking his hand. “You have arrived.”

That night, at the Oak Island Research Centre, Blake and Cano listen through the recordings they made that day. After Matty had asked “What is your name?” at Borehole 10-X, the recorder picked up a faint vocalization which neither of the men heard at the time the recording was made. Although the sound is muffled, Cano suggests that it constitutes the words “chain them”.

The next day, Matty Blake meets with the Lagina brothers in the War Room. There, he shows Rick and Marty the evidence that he and Brian Cano collected the previous day. Both of the Lagina brothers believe that the sound in response to the question “What is your name?” resembles the name “Jason”. Marty says that he doesn’t know what to make of the audio clip, but claims that he would be willing to submit it to an audiologist for analysis. When Matty Blake asks the brothers to give their final thoughts on the curse, Marty Lagina states: “The only thing I see here [suggestive of a curse] is what [Oak Island] has done to lives in the past 225 years. So, call that a curse if you want. Maybe there’s something to that.” Rick replies that Oak Island has not only destroyed lives, but also stimulated “in young minds an interest in science, archaeology, [and] mathematics… [which is] a real positive. Be there a curse or not… there’s certainly a chance here to do positive things, and that’s a good thing.”

“I certainly agree with that,” responds Marty.

 

Analysis

Wrought Iron Scissors

In the summer of 1970, Dan Blankenship discovered a pair of wrought iron scissors beneath one of the Smith’s Cove box drains. Experts who analyzed the artifact determined that it was forged in the 17th or 18th Century and that it was of Spanish-Mexican design. This finding strongly supports the theory that Oak Island’s original underground workings were constructed by subjects of the Spanish Empire.

The Young Teazer

The ball of fire that Dave Blankenship watched approach Smith’s Cove from Mahone Bay evokes the so-called ‘Teazer Light’- a fiery phantom ship said to appear on the waters of the Mahone Bay from time to time.

The story of the Teazer Light begins in June 26, 1813, during the War of 1812, which pitted British Canada against the fledgling United States. At that time, Great Britain stationed war ships off the coast of New England in order to prevent the Americans from trading with Napoleon’s France. In order to combat this blockade, the New English states issued letters of marque to American sailors who wished to engage in privateering, or licenced piracy, against the British.

One American ship whose crew had received such a commission was the Young Teazer, a five-gun schooner captained by a man named William D. Dobson. In the spring and early summer of 1813, the Young Teazer captured a number of British vessels in Nova Scotian waters, prompting British warships to sail in search of her.

In early June, 1813, a 74-gun British ship-of-the-line called the Hogue spotted the Young Teazer off Halifax Harbour and chased her down the coast. On June 26, after evading a succession of British warships, the Young Teazer found herself trapped by the Hogue in Mahone Bay, bounded by Mason Island and Rafuse Island, both of these located southeast of Oak Island.

The crew of the Hogue, hoping to board the cornered schooner, piled into five smaller boats and began to row towards her. While Captain Dobson and his crew prepared to defend their ship, a young American lieutenant named Frederick Johnson declared that he would not allow himself to be hanged before dashing towards the hold of the Young Teazer, where the privateers stored their gunpowder. A tremendous explosion ensued, transforming the Young Teazer into a flaming wreck and killing 30 members of her crew of 38.

According to legend, the fiery phantom of the Young Teazer appears in the water of Mahone Bay from time to time, her ghostly crew standing amidst the flames that envelop her. Nova Scotian folklorist Helen Creighton, who included the tale of the Young Teazer in her 1957 book Bluenose Ghosts, suggested that such sightings might be attributable to an optical illusion produced by a full moon shining through the fog. Others have surmised that St. Elmo’s fire- a phenomenon by which static electricity produces the appearance of flames on ships’ masts and rigging- might be the culprit. Many who claim to have witnessed the Teazer Light, however, whether while standing on the shore or on the decks of their own ships, are certain that the phenomenon is nothing less than the frightening spectre of that American privateer that burned that fateful day in the summer of 1813.

The Black Shuck

Legend has it that Oak Island is haunted by the huge black dog with glowing red eyes. A number of adventurers who have spent time on the island claimed to have seen the creature at night. Some theorists have even worked the mysterious mutt into their hypotheses.

Stygian hellhounds with fiery red eyes are staples of British folklore. Legend has it that these frightening entities haunt crossroads, ancient trails, and places of execution. They are often considered omens of death, and are associated with the underworld.\

Oak Island is not the only locale in the Canadian Maritimes to boast legends of a hellish black dog. In the town of Torbay, just north of St. John’s, Newfoundland, is a place called Watson’s Cove, said to be haunted by a big black dog with glowing red eyes. According to legend, long ago, a band of pirates buried a hoard of ill-gotten treasure somewhere on Watson’s Cove. They slit the throat of their cabin boy and buried his corpse with the treasure chest so that his ghost would guard the loot. The boy had a dog who fought valiantly to defend his master, and so the pirates killed and buried the dog as well. It is the spectre of this dog, the legend says, that people see on Watson’s Cove, guarding the bones of its master.

Peggy Adams’ Ghost Story

One of the most intriguing ghost story to come out of Oak Island is the tale of Peggy Adams, daughter of caretakers Jack and Charlotte Adams who worked for Hedden and Hamilton in the 1930’s and ‘40’s. One cold day in the winter of 1940, four-year-old Peggy ran to her mother crying, saying that she had seen a crowd of strange men at Smith’s Cove wearing “pretty red jackets” and pants with “big yellow stripes” down the side. Among the crowd were “three big men,” the first of whom Peggy likened to the character Luthor from the Mandrake the Magician newspaper comic strip, a huge, muscular African bodyguard. According to Peggy, the second of these big men wore “funny-looking clothes,” while the third bore an eye-patch. When Peggy’s father Jack went down to Smith’s Cove to investigate, however, he found the fresh layer of snow that covered the beach to be unblemished; there were no footprints in sight. Years later, Peggy’s mother Charlotte paid a visit to the Citadel Museum in Halifax with her son-in-law. There, upon seeing the red coats and striped pants that made up the uniform of the 18th Century British militiaman, Charlotte surmised with a thrill of superstitious terror that her daughter might have seen the ghosts of British soldiers that day in 1940.

If this particular story is to be believed, it appears as if one of the men Peggy saw that day in the winter of 1940 was an African- American man in a British militiaman’s uniform. Interestingly, one of the most prominent characters in the story of Oak Island’s legendary 1795 discovery is landowner Samuel Ball, a black ex-slave from South Carolina who served in the Loyalist Militia during the Revolutionary War.

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New 2019 Book- Mysteries of Canada: Volume I

Mysteries Of Canada: Volume I

I’m very pleased to announce that my latest book, MysteriesOfCanada: Volume I, is now out and available for purchase on Amazon.

This book is essentially a collection of articles that I submitted to the website MysteriesOfCanada.com in 2018, which I have altered slightly for the sake of fluidity. Most of these stories are of a historical nature and every one of them, with the notable exception of “How Canada Saved the Buffalo”, contains some element of the mysterious, the supernatural, or the unexplained.

I have divided the stories in this book into seven thematic categories:

In Clairvoyance, we’ll look at stories of ‘Second Sight’, in which certain gifted individuals are said to have made accurate predictions based on information that they received through visions and dreams. All of these stories take place in the wilderness or rural areas of Western Canada.

In Ghost Stories, we’ll explore several assorted tales of the supernatural. One of these takes place in Ashcroft, British Columbia, the site of Canada’s only true desert, while the other two are set in Ontario, said to be Canada’s most haunted province.

In Poltergeists, we’ll delve into a number of strange cases from Eastern Canada in which teenage girls found themselves harassed by what seemed to be invisible entities hell-bent on wreaking mischief and mayhem.

In Miscellaneous Mysteries, we’ll look a number of stories which fail to fit into any of the other categories. One of these is the legend of a pirate treasure said to be buried on a river island in Newfoundland. Another, set in an abandoned mining town in Ontario, is a startling tale of UFOs and visitors from a distant planet… with a twist.

In Superstitions, we’ll explore some exotic customs and beliefs held by members of certain Canadian subcultures, including the supposed vampire folklore of the Ontario Kashubs and a long-held First Nations tradition which cautions against whistling at night.

In Haunted Hotels in Ontario, we’ll tour ten Ontario stopping places said to house guests from the Great Beyond, all of which you can stay in tonight… if you dare!

Last, but certainly not least, we’ll delve into stories of forest-dwelling giants and winged monstrosities in the final section of our book, Cryptids.

Where to Find It?

For Americans

You can find the paperback version here, and the Kindle version here.

For Canadians

You can find the paperback version here, and the Kindle version here.

For Britons

You can find the paperback version here, and the Kindle version here.

 

 

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The Ouija Board of Cobden, Ontario

The Ouija Board of Cobden, Ontario

Since at least the late 1800s, Western spiritualists have attempted to communicate with the spirits of the dead through so-called ‘talking boards’. These devices originally consisted of wooden boards on which were painted the letters of the alphabet, along with an essential accessory called a ‘planchette’- a heart-shaped piece of wood with three wheels or felt sliders attached to its underside. During Victorian-era séances, occult practitioners would dim the lights, sit around the talking board, and invite any spirits present to communicate with them. That accomplished, the practitioners would lightly place their fingers on top of the planchette, which would proceed to glide across the surface of the talking board, seemingly of its own accord. Ideally, the planchette would point to a succession of letters which spelled out a coherent message ostensibly attributable to some otherworldly entity.

In the 1890s, four American businessman patented a particular style of talking board which displayed the alphabet, the numbers 0 through 9, and the words ‘YES’, ‘NO’, and ‘GOOD BYE’. The businessman dubbed their innovation the ‘Ouija board’, and went on to found the Kenneth Novelty Company, through which they produced and sold these devices on a massive scale. Due to their marketing efforts, the Ouija board quickly metamorphosed from a relatively obscure spiritualist tool into an innocent and extremely popular parlour game. This perception endured until 1973, when the horror film The Exorcist hit American theatres, transforming the talking board once again into a sinister apparatus of the occult.

Although most post-1973 accounts of Ouija board use are either tales of scoffing skepticism or dire dissuasion, there are a few pre-Exorcist anecdotes involving positive outcomes resultant of Ouija board consultation. One of these appeared in the February 1955 issue of the magazine Fate.

Violet Bender of Ottawa, Ontario, the lady who submitted the story, claimed that sometime in the 1880s, her aunt . had come into the possession of a talking board. Although Mrs. Bender was not explicit in her description of the apparatus, it seems possible that this particular talking board’s planchette was equipped with a pencil.

Violet’s aunt used the apparatus to help her compose music. In 1902, her aunt died, and the board was bequeathed to her mother, the wife of an Anglican clergyman.

Violet’s eldest sister, Winnifred, who was eighteen years old at the time, quickly discovered that the board would write for her. “It provided her with many hours of amusement,” Violet wrote. “Her girl friends came to ask about their beaux. It replied equally well to mental questions- that is, to unspoken questions in a person’s mind. Whoever had the strongest will or the greatest power of concentration got the reply to his or her question.”

At that time, Violet and her family lived in the village of Cobden, Ontario, situated on an old and well-used portage route circumventing a set of rapids on the Ottawa River. Word quickly spread throughout Cobden, as it so often does in small communities, that Winnifred could locate lost or stolen articles using her Ouija board.

Early one morning, Violet and her family awoke to the frantic ringing of the rectory bell; someone, it seemed, desperately wanted to see the minister. Violet’s father threw open the rectory window and stuck out his head. “Who is there?” he called. “What do you want?”

“We want to ask that board of your daughter’s a question,” came the reply.

“Well,” the minister said with some reproach, “four o’clock in the morning is a queer time to come to ask a question.”

The visitor replied that his little girl was lost in the woods, and that a search party had been hunting for her all night, but to no avail.

Violet’s father told the man that he would do what he could. He roused Winnifred, informed her of the situation, and asked her to use her talking board to determine the girl’s location. Afraid of what the answer might be, Winnifred asked the question and put her hands on the planchette. The board gave the following reply:

“THE CHILD IS SAFE IN A HOUSE NEAR THE TRACK”

Winnifred’s father relayed the information to the desperate father, who tore off in the direction of the railroad.

Later that day, the father found his little girl safe and sound in a log cabin near the railway. She had wandered away from her family’s farm with some cows, and the family living in the cabin had taken her in.

Thirty years later, Violet Bender was happily married to a clergyman and living not far from Cobden. One evening, she got a call from another clergyman who asked whether she had the talking board and planchette that her family once owned. Violet informed the minister that her eldest sister, Winnifred, had the board, and that she was now married and living in Australia.

 

“The clergyman,” Violet wrote, “then explained that a child was lost in that district, and the people, remembering how over 30 years ago another lost child had been found, wanted to consult the planchette again.”

Rather than end on this note, the author of this piece feels obliged to remind you, dear reader, that this particular anecdote, with its semi-happy ending, is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to Ouija board stories. Today, popular culture is riddled with cautionary tales expounding the dangers of Ouija board séances, most of them warning that improper use of the device can leave the practitioner vulnerable to attacks by evil spirits or demons. These exhortations are based on the tenets of various Judeo-Christian religious denominations which condemn any attempt to contact the spirit world. Perhaps the most well-known religious denunciation of Ouija board use is that of the Roman Catholic Church, which expounds its position in paragraph 2,116 of the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future.”

The section outlining this doctrine cites two verses from sacred scripture. The first of these is Chapter 18, Verse 10 of the Book of Deuteronomy (the fifth book of the Hebrew Torah, detailing the divine laws revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai), which denounces child sacrifice, fortune telling, soothsaying, divining, spell-casting, consulting ghosts and spirits, or seeking “oracles from the dead”. The second passage cited is Chapter 29, Verse 8, of the Book of Jeremiah, which warns against false prophets and diviners who lie and deceive in God’s name.

Whether you consider the Ouija board a useful tool, a harmless toy, or a dangerous door to another world, perhaps the wisest policy is to treat it with caution.

Source

“The Lost Child”, by Violet Bender of Ottawa, Ontario, in the February 1955 issue of the magazine Fate, courtesy of American Fortean researcher Gary S. Mangiacopra

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