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Hauntings have long been a part of local lore

Enjoy these three spooky tales from the early days of The Porcupine

Halloween, the spookiest night of the year, is upon us.

Throughout the years, residents from the Timmins area have had their fair share of scary encounters, whether they have been imagined or simply unreal.

There have been a few creepy stories told in the Porcupine Camp. Whether they are believable or just tall tales, you be the judge.

These three stories were all published in the pages of The Porcupine Advance. All have a supernatural bent. Some were resolved, others remain a mystery.

Prospectors and bushmen were big travellers in the early days. This story appeared on Page 6 of the Nov. 26, 1931, edition. The headline read: Matachewan Said to Have Haunted Cabin.

“Matachewan has gold all right. That is admitted. Now, it is alleged that the new gold camp also has a ghost, or ghosts, or at least ghostly music,” the story read.

“In the township of Alma in the Matachewan area there is said to be a melody-haunted cabin on the shores of Baptiste Lake. Unseen hands play unearthly music on invisible instruments at unheard-of hours. If the music were unheard, that would be all right, perhaps, but it is claimed that many people have listened to the music in this cabin without being able to explain where it comes from or how it happens.”

Radio broadcasts were ruled out. The nearest radio was located many miles away from the cabin.

“William Forrest, a Cobalt mining man, is credited with telling the story first in regard to the weird music,” the story said. “He says that Frank Wilder, of New Liskeard, or Tom Powers, of Cobalt, can and will support his story. All these men, and others as well, according to the stories told by Mr. Forrest, have heard the ghostly music in the cabin.

“Strains of music, the origin which could not be traced, sometimes filled the cabin, the music swelling to great volume at times and at other times fading away to delicate tones that could be little more than heard.”

Legend has it that the music is from the spirit of an Indigenous chief, who had passed away 10 years earlier. He was known to play the harp in life.

The music always came after people staying in the cabin went to bed for the night.

The second tale was much closer to home. In fact, it was the talk of Timmins.

From the March 1, 1928, edition, a front-page headline proclaimed Timmins Now May Boast Regular Haunted House.

“The latest addition to the list of the attractions of Timmins is a house alleged to be haunted, and it certainly has been an attraction, attracting hundreds of people to the scene, including a number of newspaper representatives,” the story read.

“The house is 66 Middleton Avenue and weird stories are being told about the spooky doings at this house. The first word the authorities had that there was anything wrong was on Sunday evening when the owner of the house, Mr. Jos. Bellefeuille, reported to the police that when he returned home after being away, he found a strange man in the place.

“This man came down from upstairs holding a revolving in his hand, according to Mr. Bellefeuille.”

During the excitement, Bellefeuille’s wife fainted. Her husband quickly took her to a neighbour’s house. Before exiting, he locked the intruder inside.

“Mr. Bellefeuille … notified the police. Deputy Chief Orr and Officer McCord at once visited the house. The door had to be unlocked, but no sign was found of any intruder.”

The story didn’t end with the one incident. In fact, frequent activity led the couple to flee the house.

“The ringing of bells, the pelting around of stones and other strange phenomena are said to occur with alarming frequency. Heavy stones are reported to be thrown around with vigour and with regard for the safety of those in the house or nearby.”

Police were called several times. Crowds, sometimes more than a hundred people, would gather outside the house to get the latest scary scoop.

“All sorts of wild yarns have been in circulation regarding the peculiar situation at 66 Middleton,” the story read. “One boy told of peeping underneath the blind and seeing the one man, a merchant, walk through tables and chairs irrespective. The boy is also quoted as saying that a gramophone has now been invented that will play without a spring, the machine playing record after record, though no one was near the machine. The young lad also said that the playing continued, even after the spring in the motor had been broken.”

More than 10 years later, another report of a haunting came from nearby Wilson Avenue. On Page 3 of the Dec. 12, 1940, edition, the headline teased readers No Ghosts You Say — All Right Explain This One.

Over a period of weeks, local police were kept busy investigating mysterious noises coming from a house, which freaked out the family living inside.

“’Haunted my eye. Go on! You’re nuts,’ said a Timmins police officer of the day shift after a night shift man told him the story of a house at 73 Wilson Avenue,” the story read.

“’All right then,’ replied the night shift man. ‘Come on with me and examine the place. You can take my word and the word of two other men about the noise. Come on now, smart guy, and see if your discerning mind can find a solution to the mystery.’

“An hour later, the two officers walked back into the police station. The night shift man looked slightly triumphant and the day shifter more than a little perplexed.

“’I’m darned if I can see any reason for it,’ he admitted.”

For three weeks, police received two or three calls per day from the occupants of the Wilson Avenue house. Complaints included they couldn’t sleep because of unexplained noises in the house. There were no visible sources of the noises. This included a series of three bangs on a window. It sounded like someone was striking it with a fist. The banging would start after dark, about 8:30. It would continue periodically until 2:30 a.m. One night it even went until after 5 a.m.

Not wanting to believe in haunting, they investigated possible sources such as frost, steam pipes and natural building creaks. None of the possible solutions solved the mystery.

The complaints became more frequent, so an officer was dispatched to stay at the house for an hour or so.

“While the officer was on duty, he was telephoned by the sergeant on duty. ‘Yes,’ he replied to the obvious question,” the story continued. “The noises still continue at intervals and he had gone through the house from basement to attic and could find no cause. ‘How about sending another man or so down?’

“Well — two more men were sent. They did not walk boldly up to the house, however, but clambered over back fences and came on the building quietly from the rear, hoping to catch some intruder at his nefarious work.

“No one was seen and the men crawled up to the window in question, slowly and quietly. When they were about ten feet from it and looking right at it — ‘Bang — Bang — Bang.’

“There was no reason. They were the only persons in the vicinity of the window — their flashlights stabbing through the pitch darkness told them that. The officer inside the building said that he had been in the room out of which the window faced. He was alone in the room.

“Grimly the officers decided to carry out some tests. They placed men at vantage points covering the window from every possible angle and waited. Presently — ‘Bang — Bang — Bang.’”

Officers stayed at the scene until 7 a.m. and were unable to find the source of the noise.

“So, the mystery of 73 Wilson Avenue is still a mystery. The place may be ‘haunted’ although haunted houses have gone out of date lately — and again it may not be. There may be a perfectly simple explanation. If you can think it out, call the police and let them know.”

A front-page explanation for the noise (talk about a spoiler alert) was served up to readers with the headline Police Manage to Solve Mystery of the Haunted House.

“Today, after the original article was written, the solution to the mystery was learned,” the story reported.

“By devious methods and somewhat exhaustive investigation, police learned that a 15-year-old boy was the cause of the trouble. He could be lying in bed and flicking the loose end of the window frame with his toe, cause queer and noisy vibrations in the glass. For three weeks he has been having fun and the family has not been sleeping.”

Bet his parents and the police were not amused.

Happy Halloween!

This story was originally published on TimminsToday on Friday, Oct. 27, 2023.