Published In The Great North Arrow, October 15, 2022: Ghosts

- jim Young 20220803

“In Eastern culture, people see ghosts, people talk about ghosts… it’s just accepted. And in Western culture it’s just not.” — Jessica Alba

Oxford Definition of Ghost: 

For most people, the word “ghost” conjures up a wide variety of images, from the benign “Casper, The Friendly Ghost”, through the comedic “Slimer'' of “Ghostbusters'' to the evil and sinister spirits of, “Poltergeist”

Or if you’re more of a romantic person, perhaps you would prefer to fantasize sitting at a potter’s wheel, “hungering for the touch” of your deceased lover.

The Oxford dictionary defines a ghost as “An apparition of a dead person which is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image.” 

For many, the word “ghost” is synonymous with apparition, bogeyman, ghoul, haunting, illusion, phantom, poltergeist, specter, spirit, spook or anything supernatural and pretty much everything that “goes bump in the night”.

When it comes to “ghosts”, just like “god”, the entire world can be divided into two classes of people - those that don’t believe and those that do.

In the case of ghosts at least, I fall into the latter category and this is my ghostly story although it’s not really material for telling around a campfire. Little of it is really scary and each incident on its own isn’t even particularly compelling. All combined however, I think it is enough to make believers and non-believers alike at least go “hmmm”.

Celtic Background

As a bit of background 50% of the blood coursing through my veins is Celtic on my maternal grandparent’s side with just enough of the same from my paternal ancestors to be able to claim I am mostly Celt.

The Celts, as you may know, are very much in tune with the spiritual world. Many Celts will relate stories of encounters of spiritual visitors, very often deceased loved ones. My grandmother and my mother had many of these such encounters.

Perhaps, due to the impurities in my Celtic blood, I don’t have as strong a connection to the spiritual world as they did, but my encounters are sufficient to convince me there is more than can be explained by logic and science as we understand it.


Let me introduce you to Matthew. There is no significance to Matthew’s name in this story. It was just a name we affectionately picked one day for him. Or her. Or it. Or even them, for that matter. We have no idea if these unrelated incidents were perpetrated by one or more spiritual beings much less their sex - if ghosts even identify their sexuality, excluding incubi and succubi of course.

Matthew, whether he, she, it or a “haunt” of ghosts, seemed neither benign nor evil. Mischievous would perhaps be a better description although we cannot say for sure as we never definitively discovered any real purpose in Matthew’s visits. 

We were first introduced to Matthew’s mischief when we lived in Barrie and were surprised when Matthew appeared to follow us when we moved to our home in the Ottawa Valley near Eganville in 1992. I had understood ghosts were attached to a place - often where they had met their demise in our physical world. However, John Robert Colombo, Canada’s Mr. Mystery, (so known for his expertise on ghosts and the paranormal and having authored almost a dozen books on the subject) later suggested to me that perhaps we had a “personal” ghost in Matthew. Seemingly, for whatever reason, Matthew was anchored more to us than to any given location.

By the time of our move, we were somewhat accustomed to Matthew’s shenanigans that continued shortly after we were settled in our new home. I am presenting them here in no particular order as they didn’t seem to be connected.

The Praying Doll

My Shirley had a ceramic doll in the shape of a young girl, lying on her side, praying. Her mate had been broken by My Shirley’s abusive ex in her previous relationship. At first we thought that might have been of some significance, but if so, we were never able to make a connection. On two different occasions, when we returned home from shopping, the doll was turned 180° on the shelf. Our first thought was the doll had been accidentally turned by one of our pet ferrets during one of their daily runs out of their cage. This explanation was quickly dismissed, however, as anyone who has pet ferrets would tell you how unlikely this would have happened. Ferrets in their curious but clumsy investigations would not have been able to turn a single figurine a perfect 180° without also disturbing some of the many other figurines that also occupied the shelf.

My Shirley is a great believer in the theory that the less you move your figurines, the less you have to dust them. So the second time this occurred, we also noticed that the dust on this shelf had not been disturbed either on or beneath the praying doll and the outline of its original position remained intact. Definitely an impossible feat for a ferret. 

Because of the first occurrence, we were also now in the habit of checking the shelf for any out of place items each time the ferrets were let out for a run but it seemed this particular area of the house was of no real interest to them.

Scratches In The Jam

When moving into a new place it is often customary to add a fresh coat of paint where required. The back door jam was one of these areas that required painting. As it was summer, the inside door was left open during the day and closed only in the evenings. The outside door was a typical screen door that latched on the inside. On my way out one day, shortly after having painted the door jam, I noticed the freshly painted surface on the inner jam had been scratched - not with light surface scratches that our ferrets or even our small cocker spaniel dog Murphy might have and in fact had made. These were deep damaging scratches that would have been out of even Murphy’s reach. Neither Murphy nor our ferrets had the weight or strength to gouge the wood this deep. As the outside door was kept closed day and night, it was also not possible these had been made by a wild animal of some kind.

Return From The Grave

The only other pets we had at this time were two canaries who each lived in separate cages. Although they weren’t very old, one suddenly died with no apparent cause that we could determine. I buried him in a shallow grave in the backyard. We were further perplexed when our second canary passed away a few weeks later, again for no apparent reason.

I decided it would be appropriate to bury them together. As we lived in the country, surrounded by bush with the nearest neighbour about 500 meters away, I would not have been surprised that the grave of the first canary might have been disturbed by a wild animal. But the grave itself was not dug up or disturbed in any manner and yet the body of the first canary lay ON TOP of the grave, decaying but not mutilated as would be expected by an animal that might have been seeking food. Wouldn’t a wild animal have at least carried the body off?

A Penny For Your Thoughts

My OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) tendencies have mostly become amusing quirks that My Shirley has grown accustomed to. I like to arrange the canned goods in the cupboard and beer bottles in the fridge with all labels facing out. One morning I noticed all the loose change I had taken out of my pants pocket was carefully lined up on my dresser. What was unusual about this, was that the coins were lined up in neat rows of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters all side by side.

Anyone inflicted with OCD tendencies has their own and very strict rules about their obsessions. Personally, I would NEVER line my coins up in ROWS. That’s just silly and takes up too much space. Coins should be lined up in PILES of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Was Matthew trying to be helpful or was he making fun of my quirks?

In The Mood For Love

On the top shelf of our bedroom clothes closet we had a box of scented massage oils that I often used to give My Shirley back rubs and body massages, particularly during romantic interludes. One morning I noticed one of the bottles of massage oils sitting out on the dresser. Thinking it was My Shirley’s hint that it had been sometime since she had been treated to a massage, I confronted her. My Shirley, on the other hand, who did not place the massage oil on the dresser, thought it was me that was doing the hinting. I wondered again if Matthew was just trying to be helpful.

Whispering In My Ear

Our home was a 60’ mobile home - long and narrow with the master bedroom at the far end of the house. As I slept in one morning, I awoke to clearly hear my name being whispered in my ear. I was surprised because I knew My Shirley had gotten up much earlier. I got up and found My Shirley at the far end of the house. My Shirley assured me she had not been down the hall anywhere near the bedroom since she had gotten up.

Visual Sightings

It was around this time that I began to have my first visual sightings of Matthew in the form of small “wisps'' of white light floating across the room. Most often these sightings were out of the corner of my eye that disappeared as soon as I turned to look at them directly. One night, however, as I lay awake in bed, I got a good look at “Matthew” floating by our clothes closet. Our house was located in the country where it gets very dark on a moonless night. No cars were traveling down the road at the time nor was there any kind of light source, internal or external, that would have explained a reflection of light appearing in the room.

Matthew did not look like what I would have imagined a “ghost” should look like, based on what I had read on ghosts up to that time. Sometime later however, I watched a documentary on ghosts that included video footage. The ghosts in the documentary looked very much like Matthew except there were several of them together, they were all slightly larger than Matthew and they moved much more quickly than Matthew did.

Following The Scent

During this same time period I would often notice Murphy prancing around the room or up and down the narrow hallway of our trailer with his nose in the air as if following the scent of a small invisible bird. Was he perhaps following Matthew around our home? And if so, why was Matthew invisible to me on some occasions and not at other times?

Tugging On The Bed Sheets

My Shirley often felt a tugging at the bed covers from the bottom corner of our bed. Each time this happened the ferrets were locked away in their cage for the night and Murphy was either in the other room or snuggled in between us on the bed. Of course this is an occurrence that continued on even after we no longer had these pets.


As I mentioned in the beginning these are not great stories to tell around a campfire. And while they are unrelated incidents that don’t seem to have any real connection or meaning, together they suggest a story even if we don’t know what that story is.

We have had other similar encounters both before and after this time period that, combined with the experiences from my mother and grandmother have convinced me that if Matthew isn’t really a “ghost”, there is still something about him, her, it or them that is of a supernatural nature.

We don’t have as many ghostly encounters as we once did, but from time to time something will happen that can’t always be easily explained away. It is interesting to note however, that the longest period of time that we had NO ghostly visits was during the time we had our pet Boarder - a black cat.

- 30 -

These and other encounters with “Matthew” were featured in a chapter in John Robert Colombo’s book “Ghost Stories Of Ontario”.



Stuff others read

Published In The Great North Arrow, June 1, 2023: Do You Want Fries And Taxes With That?

Obituary: 173 Big Bay Point Road