The Red River Ox Cart Ghost of Manitoba

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As Retold by Bekah Ferguson

(3 min read)

“Ghost Scene at the Fort: Nightly Vigils of the Sentries Made Hideous by an Apparition” was the title of a newspaper article in the August 29, 1903, issue of the Morning Telegram. In the 19th century, the Red River Trails in Winnipeg, Manitoba, were a trade route of ox cart roads that connected the Red River Colony and Fort Garry in British North America all the way to the Mississippi River in the United States. In those days the area was inhabited by Scottish settlers and the Métis—who at the time, were disparagingly referred to as “half-breeds” due to their French and Indigenous heritage.

The land was not shared mutually between the two groups, and thus, regarding the haunting at Fort Garry, the newspaper speculated that “the first owners of the Red River Valley [were] resenting the intrusion of the North-West Mounted Rifles upon the grounds sacred to their dead and making their displeasure severely felt.”

One ominous summer evening, in the wee hours of the night, a lone soldier standing guard outside the Lower Fort Garry saw something dark and looming approaching in the mist. Next came the rhythmic clip-clopping of hooves. An ox cart appeared from the gloom, driven by a Métis man and woman. Though puzzled by the out-dated look of the lot, the soldier shrugged it off and said nothing as the cart slowly lumbered by.

A few minutes later, however, another dark form appeared in the distant mist and what seemed to be the very same ox cart travelled by again. The third time it appeared the soldier began to tremble; palms damp and sweat on his brow. He ordered the cart to halt but no sooner had his authoritative words rung out when the entire apparition vanished like smoke in the wind. Seconds later it reappeared in the distance and disappeared again when he hysterically cried out for it to stop. By now he was in a full-blown panic and threw his rifle to the ground, running away. Back at the fort his fellow soldiers laughed off his story; but the next night, another soldier on duty had the same experience. One by one it happened to them all until there was no left who could mock.

Sources:

Canada Post

Cision

WinnipegREALTORS

Image by Ron Porter from Pixabay, adapted to be a nighttime scene by Robbie Ferguson.

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The Tunnel Monster of Cabbagetown, Ontario

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As retold by Bekah Ferguson

(3 min read)

In the early 19th century days of Toronto there were many rivers, streams and creeks branching across the land like veins and arteries. Endless trees towered above the developing city rather than skyscrapers. And down in the riverbeds of these yet rural wilds lived a race of water spirits known in Algonquian mythology as Memegwesi. These elusive humanoid creatures were elfish, small and hairy, with voices said to be like the high-pitched drone of a dragonfly. When city builders rerouted these waterways into solid underground tunnels that merged with the sewer system, it is thought that some Memegwesi were unknowingly buried with them.

By the early 20th century, Torontonians had long forgotten the existence of these vast tunnels—that is, until one summer’s day in 1978 in an area of the city known as Cabbagetown. A man named Ernest stumbled upon a secret entrance to the tunnels while searching for a lost kitten. Certain he had heard distressed mewling down in the alley beside his Parliament Street apartment the night before, he decided to army-crawl into the culvert about ten feet, flashlight in hand.

The tunnel gradually widened, its black depths like an abyss. Something skittered ahead and he steadied the flashlight beam, hoping to see his kitten. But it was no cat caught in the beam. A pair of slanted red eyes bulged at him above the gaping, large-toothed mouth of a hairy, grey, bipedeled creature about three feet long. “Go away, go away!” it screeched, then ran off into a side tunnel. Terrified, Ernest shimmied backward out of the tunnel and waited a full year before admitting to the Toronto Sun newspaper what he’d seen. However, when they went in search of the tunnel’s entrance, they found it collapsed in upon itself, and no one has ever admitted to such a sighting again.

Sources:

The 13th Floor

Fandom

Little People (Mythology)

Memegwesi

Image via the archives of the Toronto Sun newspaper.

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The Poltergeist of Baldoon, Ontario

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As retold by Bekah Ferguson

(3 min read)

In 1829, in the Scottish settlement of Baldoon, Ontario, the John MacDonald family purchased a two-storey farmhouse and soon found themselves terrorised by a violent poltergeist. For reasons unknown, there was a land dispute over the sale; in particular, by an old woman who was very much opposed. Her threats and misgivings were left unheeded, however, and the MacDonalds moved in.

The hauntings began straight away: The lid of the kettle flying off as the kettle flung itself to the floor, the poker and broom in the hearth jangling in an unfelt gust of wind. Stones smashing through windows with no culprits in sight, and an Indigenous knife lifted from its mount and thrown at the window; piercing the casement firmly. Once John marked one of the stones with paint and threw it into a nearby stream, only to find it back on the floor of his house a few hours later. But the worst was yet to come. One day the house randomly caught on fire and burned to the ground. The family escaped unscathed, and after briefly living elsewhere, returned to the property to live in a tent, perhaps planning to rebuild.

At this time, a country witch doctor came along and spoke to them. He claimed that the Ojibwe who lived in the same Great Lakes area believed that it was not a poltergeist tormenting the family at all, but rather forest faeries. The house had been built on a faerie path and they were simply in the way: the hauntings were intended to scare them off. But as later recounted by John MacDonald’s son Neil, a local teenage girl with second sight had different advice for the family altogether. She told them to fashion some silver bullets and go in search of any unusual geese in the area.

John found a white goose with a black head near the river and proceeded to shoot at it. His aim was bad and he nicked only the wing; breaking it. So he chased after the wounded goose through the hillsides and forests until he lost track of it. It was then he discovered a cabin in the woods–the house of the old woman who had contested his purchase of the land. And there she sat in a rocking chair on her porch, muttering curses, and cradling a broken arm.

Sources:

Skeptoid

Mysteries of Canada

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

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Howard Reed’s Brain

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A short story by Bekah Ferguson.

(41 min read)

Howard Reed submitted the signed paperwork promising he’d donate his brain to science, and died six years later.

At the hospital where he passed away late one night, a Brain Bank employee arrived to collect and transport the organ to a nearby laboratory. But unbeknownst to family, it never arrived there. Instead, during transit, his brain was deliberately swapped with a John Doe’s. Thus, as far as everyone was concerned, Reed’s brain had gone just where it was supposed to go and where it would be sliced in half: one side to be frozen, and the other to be set in formaline for the purpose of autopsy. The identity of the donor would forever remain anonymous to the researchers who would only receive such tissue after their protocols were first approved by a Research Ethics Board. But Reed’s brain was not to be divided after all; nor was it anonymous. At least, not to the two scientists who bided their time awaiting his death, and had deliberately stolen it.

Inside their undercover laboratory—housed in the back corner of a private, sequestered hanger—they set to work. The equipment had long been prepped for the expected arrival and after a few switches were flipped here and a few keys punched there, machines and pumps were roused from their slumber. Industrial lighting flooded the corner area with artificial sunlight, above which black tarps had been draped to the floor in a tent-like fashion; blotting out the light. Any rare vehicle that might happen to drive by on the dirt road out front would see only the moonlit sketching of an abandoned building.

Cradled by latex-gloved hands, the brain was removed from its temperature-controlled traveling case and set down within a round glass container, not unlike an astronaut’s helmet. The body of the man had indeed perished but his brain was still very much alive. Micro-circulation was restored to the blood vessels with absolute precision from bags of artificial blood, and electrodes were inserted all over the organ. Attached tubing trailed away from both the brain and the container: down over the side of the lab counter, straight across the floor, and up into the sides of a tubular liquid-filled vat.

Through the oval windows of the vat a two hundred and eighty pound Sus domesticus pig floated in the greenish water; a myriad of internal cables gathering together where they’d been attached around the sides of the animal’s skull, connecting to the memory center of its brain. More measures were taken, a lid sealed into place encapsulating the human brain in its preservation chamber, and levels were checked on the various computer screens. Then the meticulously-planned upload commenced.

With the next few moments, the deceased Howard Reed awoke to find himself fully conscious inside the mind and body of a piglet.

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Mother’s Angel

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A short story by Bekah Ferguson.

(32 min read)

“Ghosts are the superstitious nonsense of heathens, son,” Pa used to say, but I’d been haunted by one in the forest behind our homestead through much of my childhood.

I was about five years old the first time I saw it. A white entity moving deep within the trees at dusk. Then again one grey afternoon a couple of years later when I was mucking out the stable, and heard a crackle of movement on dead leaves. Gripping my shovel in front of me like a protective spear, I peered into the nearby treeline from whence the sound had come.

We lived in a forest in Upper Canada, trees furrowed and thick, undergrowth prolific and tangled. In some directions you could trail-blaze for days without encountering a single trading post or homestead. Yet there it was some fifty feet within and as tall as a man: a flash of white appearing for a second between tree trunks, disappearing behind others, and reappearing again as it seemed to float along. However, though I strained to see its contours, I could not piece together its form; and as soon as it was there, it was gone.

These apparitions occurred only once or twice a year and always in the same manner: at dusk or predawn, and only when I was working quietly by myself. The times when I helped my father chop wood and gather kindle from the forest, I always kept an eye out for it, but whether due to the reverberating splitting sounds, or the trampling of twigs beneath our boots, it never showed itself when I was with him.

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I See You

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A short story by Bekah Ferguson.

(16 min read)

The morning after Maggie and Evan moved into their clapboard home in the woods, they unpackaged a new 55 inch flatscreen TV and set it up on the stand in the livingroom. The house, formerly a rental, had been sitting on the market empty for ten years. Some kind of misfortune took place, the real estate agent said, a missing child or such, and no one wanted to live there, least of all the bereaved mother. But Maggie didn’t believe in ghosts and thus hadn’t minded. Instead, she and her husband jumped on the chance to buy their first home for a fraction of its worth.

After successfully connecting the TV to the Internet through a device she’d bought online, a little black box, Maggie went about unpacking books and figurines while Evan went upstairs to work; the occasional sound of his footsteps shuffling above reminding her of his presence. A faint blue light blinked in and out on the device—Bluetooth she supposed—though she hadn’t connected it to anything besides the TV.

After a few minutes a screensaver switched on, presumably from the device, and an image filled the screen, drawing her attention: A grainy photograph of a girl doll sitting in a green wheelbarrow, a cluster of wildflowers at its side, and overgrown shrubs in the background.

How quaint, she thought. And sucky quality too.

Retrieving the remote, Maggie fiddled around until she found the screensaver settings and picked out something else—a crisp, high quality mountain scene. She shut off the TV.

But seeing a wheelbarrow had reminded her of something.

“Evan,” she called up to her husband from the base of the staircase. “I forgot to ask, did the lawyer give you a key for the back shed?”

“No,” he called down, “didn’t have one. We’re going to have to break the lock.”

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An Open Casket

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A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

(10 min read)

My red-brick elementary school sat nestled against a forest on the edge of town, with a road in front and a soccer field on either side. Though we had swing sets and jungle gyms, many of the kids preferred playing in the woods, and we were allowed to do so as long as we kept the schoolyard in sight. But last Thursday night an accident took place on school property when no adults were around, and one of the students had gotten killed.

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The Appendage

An excerpt from “The Attic” by Bekah Ferguson & Rachel Xu.

A mist swirled around the trio and a swamp stretched out ahead of them. Dead trees reached upward from the murk at odd angles, casting spindly shadows over the oily surface. Floating weeds shifted positions as gaseous bubbles rose to the surface and burst around them.

Ian turned toward Varkis, who stood with hairy gray arms crossed over his chest and feet spread wide. “What do you think?” The last thing he wanted to do was enter the swamp, but Kurik had given him no other choice.

“I’m thinking it wasn’t a smart idea to come with you guys after all,” the dog-man replied.

“Come on. Seriously.”

“Who said I wasn’t being serious?”

Lily stood nearby, one hand on her hip as she squinted up at the dusky sky.

Ian ran a hand down his face and took a deep breath, nearly choking on the stench of the water. “Well, . . . let’s get this over with then.” He stepped into the cold goop, weed-muck sucking at his foot. Another step forward and he sunk down, slimy vegetation and dank water swirling about his knees. “Come on guys,” he glanced over his shoulder. “We have to get to the Jubaka Tree and out of this swamp before nightfall or we won’t live to see morning.”

Varkis harrumphed. “This swamp gets deep fast, you do realize. We’re going to have to swim a lot of the way and it’s going to be freezing.”

“I know.” He met eyes with Lily in an apologetic glance. She looked frightened now. “We’ll take breaks as needed and warm up afterwards.”

“Does anything, uh, dangerous, live in this swamp?” she asked.

“Not that I know of.”

It was a lie.

There was something lurking in the swamp; something that had started out quite small but had been growing for many years since.

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Y2K

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

(7 min read)

~1999~

Y2K was coming right after Christmas and either nothing was gonna happen or everything was gonna happen. At the strike of midnight, December 31st, computers and security systems might just instantly shut off causing airplanes to crash into one another, mass burglaries, blackouts, and car crashes, and in general, the wreaking of havoc.

As a nine year old, I wasn’t sure what “wreaking” meant, or havoc for that matter, and for many years I actually thought the expression was “reeking” havoc: something smelly. But when I came to realize that the spelling was different, I figured “havoc” must be the mess or damage the wreaking caused; something very bad. I’d also heard the grown-ups talking about the pandemonium that would follow. I didn’t know what that was either but since it sounded like pantomime, I pictured a clown with black and white paint on his face as he tip-toed around, splaying his fingers and grinning with blood red lips.

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I Was a Stranger

A blindsided young man can suddenly see the Other.

A Short Story by Bekah Ferguson.

(4 min read)

He knelt down next to the fireplace, stoking the coals and adding another piece of wood to the pile. A Christmas tree twinkled beside a wingback chair, and in the adjoining room, pillar candles burned atop the dining table. Two plates were set with a cloth napkin, Christmas cracker, and crystal glasses. The trimmings sat ready on the stovetop, the turkey nearly done.

But she wasn’t going to be there—she was never going to be there again.

“I wanted to tell you this in person,” she explained over voicemail, “but I just can’t bear to look into your eyes when I say it.”

He’d missed her call earlier while out walking the dog. There was a pause in the recording here and goosebumps rose on his skin as though the blizzard outside was still swirling around him.

“The thing is, Emerson,” she went on, “I can’t marry you. I wish I didn’t have to hurt you like this but I canceled my flight this morning and I’m not going to be moving to your province. I’ve unpacked all my bags.”

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