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Tyler Batten, Spoke
Mon Nov 4 2013
On a cold and rainy Saturday night I pulled up to a heritage home in the historic Kitchener district known as Lower Doon, just two kilometres north of Conestoga College, tucked into the Schneider Creek valley. A psychic soiree of sorts was set to begin at the purportedly haunted Homer Watson House. Many people were quietly ushered into the dimly lit vestibule of the fabled artist’s home. I stayed in my truck a little longer, watching the autumnal leaves blow across the street and through the beams of reddened tungsten, which cascade over the building’s period brick façade, animating it.
Inside the doorway were a number of hostesses greeting paranormal enthusiasts as they entered. I was ushered into Watson’s studio room where a story was told to me about Phoebe Amelia Watson who regularly visits the gallery, despite her death over 60 years ago.
“Phoebe” visits so often that employees have settled on using her first name. They believe she just wants to be a part of the daily upkeep of the gallery.
“I was upstairs fiddling around late one night,” said Laura Mabee, co-ordinator of research and archives, “when I heard strange noises coming from the house and so decided to head home. I turned off allthe lights and headed for my car. When I got outside all of the upstairs lights turned on by themselves.” A story was later told about a strange, old man sitting in the back garden of the old, two-acre property who, when approached, said he was there to meet someone — “to usher someone through.”
The property is known as a portal to paranormal investigators throughout the region, Mabee said.
Many of Homer Watson’s paintings contain a lone man walking through Cressman’s bush, now Homer Watson’s Park, and these types of sightings have been reported too — a lone man, wandering through the surrounding forests and nearby pioneer cemetery who disappears without notice.
In 1918, when Watson was feeling especially low, he reportedly said his late wife appeared to him in his studio as an amber light and slowly transformed into the lifelike shape of his sweetheart, reminding him to not despair.
But, of course, Homer Watson was known to be alittle eccentric himself, and to keep the company of eccentric friends too.
William Lyon McKenzie King was the longest serving prime minister in Canadian history and was a professional academic who attained five degrees in his life—a man of high status and decree. His many academic achievementsincluded a Doctor of Law, two graduate degrees and a PhD from Harvard. He is the one and only prime minister to have attained a doctorate of philosophy.
The pair regularly held séances together, Mabee said. Spiritual passages from the recently released diaries of William Lyon McKenzie King have helped to turn rumour into fact when it comes to the personal practices of this great prime minister. “There can be no doubt whatsoever that the persons I have been talking with were the loved ones and others I have known and who have passed away. It was the spirits of the departed,” reads King’s diary from June 30, 1932. Afraid to let information about his spiritual beliefs get out to the public forum and potentially wreak havoc on his professional life, King kept these beliefs very private.
One of King’s mediums named Mrs. Wriedt was a direct voice medium and used a small collapsible acoustic amplifier which looked like a horn to channel the ghosts King requested to speak with. After one session, King remarked in his June 30, 1932 diary that “the conversations in many cases have been so loud, so clear etc. that I have felt great embarrassment at the servants in other parts of the house, hearing what was said, as I am sure they have.”
When offered the chance to slip downstairs, “where the most activity is,” I instinctively jumped at the opportunity and was already well into what I imagined would be a candlelit dungeon before Mabee turned the lights on,
revealing what looked like a modernized child’s arts and craft daycare centre. No Ms. Watson, no demons, no dungeon. My heart rate stabilized.
There was, however, a photography dark room. These being so uncommon in today’s age, I wanted to look in. I reminded myself that there may be unexposed negatives present so I pried open the old door just a crack and peeked into that wall of darkness then hurriedly shut it and power walked back toward the stairs. Again, my heart rate stabilized.
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, any heritage home full of paranormal believers and interpreters under a cold and rainy mid-autumn moon can be a very scary place—creaking floors, windblown shutters and flickering light sand candles are able to create the perfect setting for a horror story of the paranormal kind. For some people, these horrors can be very real.