“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.
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.
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 Indian 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.