By Darren Lum
Published Nov. 14, 2017
Whatever you believe in there is no denying the intrigue around a good ghost story.
Courtesy of freelance writer Andrew Hind, the Haliburton Highlands Museum and its related ghost stories are being included in his latest book Haunted Museums and Galleries of Canada.
The chapter “Child’s play at the Haliburton Highland’s Museum” features the museum’s Reid House, built in the late-1800s, and highlights other oddities such as the gouger – a type of wild goat often the subject of tall tales – and the story of the disappearance of lumber company owner’s son John Laking and Lee Lindsay, who set off in a canoe on Drag Lake in 1917 to deliver payroll to the company’s logging camp, but were never seen again.
Hind calls himself an historian and believes ghost stories are a great vehicle to educate people.
“People who won’t read a history book will actually pick up a ghost book and not realize that they’re reading history. The foundation of a good ghost story is a person’s life who lived, right? So that’s really important to me,” he said. “You get a lot about the idea of the tapestry of a region, their culture, what they value. What they value through things like ghost stories and folklore.”
The museum is located off of Highway 118 via Bayshore Road on Museum Road, a few kilometres from the village.
Haliburton moves at a slower pace than some other places in Ontario. As a result, oral stories are passed on with greater frequency, he said. It was far easier to learn about stories in Haliburton than in neighbouring Muskoka due in part to the latter’s transient population.
“There seems to be a really strong connection to folklore and oral history in Haliburton,” he said.
He adds this aspect makes the museum’s director Kate Butler, who has an academic background in folklore, the ideal person to lead it. Hind points out there has only ever been two times that there was even a remote possibility of a ghostly interaction. He has often rationalized such interactions.
Hind has loved Haliburton since he first came to the Highlands for freelance travel work and stayed at the Bonnie View Inn five years ago. With regular work for a periodical in the area, he has spent more time here recently.
The museum became a point of interest for Hind when he was looking into a travel article and started to learn more about the ghost stories from Butler.
“It was a perfect excuse for me. I wanted to go there anyway. One of the joys of being a freelance writer: you get to go where your interests lie. This was the perfect excuse. They had a ghost and I wanted to go there anyways,” he said from his home in Bradford.
The book is published by Quagmire Press and has 248 pages, including black and white photos. It can be ordered locally through Master’s Bookstore in Haliburton. There are close to a dozen museums and galleries showcased in his book. Hind admits there were far more that could have been included.
The author with a passion for history and travel believes Haliburton has the potential for its own book, which could be completed within a year or two. In addition to a ghost story he heard related to the Bonnie View Inn, there were four other stories about areas outside Haliburton he learned about. He welcomes help from anyone to learn about more stories. (Contact Hind at email@example.com or 905-778-0981.)
Butler assisted Hind in his research and was surprised by what she learned in reading the chapter.
“It was a learning process for us as well,” Butler said. “Andrew dug up some stuff that we weren’t even aware of so that was really neat and it was fun to work with him as well.”
Specifically, she refers to the story about the unidentified woman referred to as “Tasha,” who recounts a close encounter she had several decades ago while on a school trip to the Reid House with a “freckle-faced and aged about five” boy, missing two front teeth. The boy would later appear at the foot of her bed in her house and then disappear.
The common thread with the “identifiable experiences” that fall under the mysterious category at the Reid House have been often related to a young boy.
“If one believes in ghosts, the whole question is who is that child, so it’s still a bit of a mystery,” she said.
There are two unaccounted for years when the Reid family lived south of Haliburton and rented out their home.
Butler believes there were two families that rented the house. Possibly the answer of who the boy is in all these stories could be learned from the two families, she adds.
Another theory related to the Reid House haunting, she said, (if you believe in haunting) is it could be the house or even the land upon which the building stands is haunted, since it was moved from its original location.
Butler also welcomes input about how the ghost stories might intersect.
“If anyone out there has any brain waves about how it all fits together I’d love to hear it,” she said.
She said this exposure is welcomed and hopes more people visit the museum as a result.
Possibly sharing their story or confirming an incident already told.
“I would love to hear from those people because it’s a whole part of the story of these buildings. It’s a part of the story of this community. And it’s interesting to everyone so if anyone else has any stories out there, please, we would love for them to share it with us,” she said.