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Pardon Me, What Did you Say?

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Royal Winnipeg Ballet auditions

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Unexplained events in Gisborne House

by Ivy Wigmore

A house like this oneThere was not so much the feeling of a presence in the apartment as an absence—a hollow, echoey feeling. Lonesome but also forbidding, like this misery did not want company. You felt it as soon as you stepped inside, as if you were entering a different emotional zone.

The house had been built in the 1840s as part of the Warblington Estate down by the river on the land below Belvedere Avenue. Also known as Gisborne House, it had been our grandparents’ home. In the 1960s, the building was moved up to North River Road from its spot on the shore because a co-op development was planned for the land.

My sister Linda and I were renting the basement apartment in what was then our family home with our two young boys. She was working early mornings at the Garden Nursing Home and I was working late nights that stretched into early mornings waiting on tables at Cedars. We were both often there alone.

Although the old house fit all the requirements for a haunting, the basement was new and you’d think exempt. Nevertheless, strange things started happening immediately. Lights left on would be turned off, and vice versa. Linda and I always left the porch light on for each other but we still always had to make our way around to the back of the house in the dark.

One night when I was alone in the apartment I was woken around 3 am by a tremendous crash in the kitchen. I went in to find a huge glass jar of honey smashed in the middle of the floor, a good five or six feet away from the cupboard where it had been. Another time, I’d just wiped down the kitchen counter after washing the dishes and went into the living room to see if Linda wanted a cup of tea. When I went back in to put on the kettle, I saw a line of curry powder from one end of the counter to the other, despite the fact that the container hadn’t been opened in weeks and was still closed in the cupboard.

There was the usual trick of items disappearing and then turning up somewhere odd or somewhere that had already been checked. But our entity had a few quirks of his own, too. I really liked Bruce Cockburn’s Inner City Front album and played it fairly often. Without fail, when Bruce started into “The Coldest Night of the Year,” the needle would lift and the arm would return to the rest. There was no visible flaw in the vinyl, and the turntable played albums that did have visible flaws just fine. The album also played without any issue on all other turntables that we tried it on. I think our spirit must have just found that song too bleak.

Eventually we decided the cheap rent was no bargain when we factored in our invisible, non-paying roommate and we found a duplex to rent, a nice old place with a welcoming atmosphere. By the time we had finished cleaning up and were ready to leave the apartment, it was dark. We were so spooked that we walked together turning off the lights in each room and, finally, the lamp illuminating the porch. Linda and I were almost giddy to be out of there. About to celebrate with a cigarette, however, we realized we’d left the pack back at the apartment, and we returned. As we approached the house not five minutes from when we’d left, we saw that every light in the place was ablaze.

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November 18
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Lennie Gallant takes Searching for Abegweit to Souris October 22
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