In culture after culture, people believe that the soul lives on after death, that rituals can change the physical world and divine the truth, and that illness and misfortune are caused and alleviated by spirits, ghosts, saints ... and gods.

STEVEN PINKER, How the Mind Works

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ituna's Ghost of 1924

  "Ghosts, ah! ah! It is to shiver!

  Ituna, a small town on the Grand Trunk Railway, a hundred miles or so northest of Regina, is in the throes of a genuine mensation. For months the "ghost" of a woman has appeared near there.

 Residents of the town, district, and of adjoining places for miles around are thoroughly intriged - and thrilled. Hundreds have seen the mysterious figure both by night and day and the excited is divided into three categories - believers, half-believers and scoffers, ghost-hunting excursions. Ghost-hunting excursions have taken the place of dances, socials and concerts. Nearly every night, and often during the day, old and young make pilgrimages to watch the spot where the strange visitations occur. Some have camped on the scene for many hours at a stretch. Many have seen the ghost, or something which they are convinced is supernatural. Others have departed, disappointed and skeptical.

   One may question the sanest, most reliable people in Ituna and round-about and come to the reasonable conclusion that there is a real basis for becoming worked up over the question. The scien

tific mind might almost term the appearance of the [the image is missing of this part] female wraith, an "inexplicable phenomenon" At any rate it's decidely queer. Hundreds of theories have been propounded and none of them are very logical . In the meantime, people continue to see the nebulous creature in gauzy draperies, and more and more converts to the ranks of those who believe in the supernatual are made.

    Very appropriately the female wraith of Ituna haunts one particular spot; and still more appropiately the name of that spot is "Ghost Hill". The name was given years ago when the district was first settled, so long ago that residents have forgotten just why. It is an errie place, a bare, conical knob rising from the undulating bluffy country which lies between the Touchwood and Fire Hills Indian reservation.

   "Ghost Hill" is situated nine or ten miles west and a little north of the town of Ituna, half a mile from the Lunmville school. All around are sloughs and dense clups of bushes and small populars. Though there are farms on every side, the hill itself is in the centre of a section of wild land, the property of the provincial government.

    "Nothing ever happens in small town." Lot's of people believe this and thousands of residents in small centres throughout the country will repeat the phrase. But in the case of Ituna, the humdrum routine of rural life was rudely broken early in June when the first news of the haunted hill near the school was broadcast throughout the district

Nick Finuke, 22-year-old son of Mr. and Mrs. John Finuke, who live[s] less than three-quarters of a mile from the spot where the draped ghost walks, was apparently the first to see. It was high noon, he says. A figure in white garb appeared on the summit of the knoll, which stands out clearly against the sky-line from all sides. He thought it strange that a woman should be there and he walked closer. As he approached the hill, something strange about the figure rivited his attention. It seemed to grow larger and smaller before his gaze. It appeared to lack stability Finuke saw with surprise and fear that he could see through the figure. When he came closer it disappeared.

    This was the beginning then a munber of school children whose playground is within sight of the hill, saw the mysterious figure. From that distance - about half of a mile - they weren't sure if it were animal, bird or human being. They told their teacher Miss Ethel Clark. The latter a throughly practical Saskatchewan girl, put it down to childish imagination until one day she saw the ghost herself. That was on August 13.

 It was a punctual spirit. Each day, about the noon hour it would appear for a time and 

each night at midnight the intangible would again reveal itself for the edification of silent watchers. Children came to watch for the visitation and regarded its presence as almost commonplace, after the initial thrills had worn off. Farmers working at a considerable distance in their fields would observe a white shape wafted across the across the hill and they knew the ghost was walking. Then, as certainly of the fact that something enigmatic, something mysterious, was going on become established, the excursions and ghost-hunting trips commenced.

   The first week in July, and up to the middle of that month, saw the greatest interest on the part of people of the surrounding country in attempt to solve the riddle. Yorkton, Leslie, Jasmin, Herbert, Wynyard, Foam Lake, Hubbard and many other towns sent representatives as well as Ituna. Some came in a serious vein, prepared to be gentle or use violence with the wraith as occasion demaned. But the majority came in the holiday spirit. They drove in autos. The unspoiled environs of Ghost Hill resounded with raucious shouts. The landscape was embellished with empty cigaret packets, banana and orange skins, wrappings of chocolate bars and the grease paper which had done duty as coverings for lunches. One night, a party from Kelliher, brought a phonograph, and the ghost - if present - was regaled with such classics, "You've gotta see Mama ev-er-y night, or you can't see Mama at all".

    And then it became plan that the ghost disliked noise. When revelers were present, 

she remained invisible. At night, the display of lights also drove her into retirement. On many occasions between July 1 and the later part of August, the amateur investigators turned the headlights of their automobles upon the hill and small clump of populars on the northest side where from her ghostship was suppost to sally. Not once did she manifest herself.

    But to the silent, stalking type of ghost-hunter, came the success which the boisterous ones failed to secure. At midnight they would sneak up and secret themselves about the hill sometimes climbing to the summit and remaining perfectly still. Them so many of them asserted, they saw a white shape rise from the ground and grow to the height of a woman. They describe the spirit as like a vapor at first, afterward seeming to gain greater stability, yet retaining semitransparent qualities described by Nick Finuke.

    These noctural searchers after supernatural reported the spirit always to be in the same place. It would come, they day out of the [end of the front page; now quoting from page 3] clump of poplars, and stand facing the knoll between two small trees, the white trucks of which are plainly discernable, even at night. When matches would be lit for a close investigation; or when an electric torch was suddenly flashed on the spot, there was nothing there. The light was gone, the ghost would often reappear.

It was a silent, well-behaved spirit. It laid "cold hands" on no one. It made no noise, coming as quietly as the day and departing as quickly as the night comes in the tropics...

The investigators, comparing notes discovered several things in regard to the habits of the wraith. For example, in its nightly appearances it appeared to favor the time when the moon was at its full. This was particularly true of June and August. In the daylight, still, hot weather, without wind, seemed to lure the form into the sunshine. Cold, frosty nights within the past few days, are evidently too severe for thin and gauzy draperies, for watchers report no results.

Can it be that her ghostship - like the birds - will go south during the winter season?

Perhaps it is more likely that the noise; the encrouchment upon her privacy at Ghost Hill; the defacement of the landscape with the refuse from midnight picnics, and the tramping of the grass and breaking of the bushes has caused her to go elsewhere?

The first flush of excitement in Ituna over the ghost had subsided during the first week in September when a Morning Leader reporter paid a visit to the town and to Ghost Hill. H.G. Clark, well-known cattleman of the district; his daughters, Ethel and Golda, and the newspapermen squatted silently on the hill during the night of September 4 - and failed to get a glimse of her highness the ghost...

It was nearly 11 o'clock when The Leader reporter and Mr. Clark drove to Lunmville 

school on the night of September 4. Miss Ethel Clark who teaches at the school, and Miss Golda Clark - who will soon be old enough to impart pedagogal instruction, live near in a tiny, two roomed house near the seat of learning.

With the air of a humoring couple of sightly deranged people, the school ma'm and her young sister undertook to pilot the party over the intervening bluffs and through coulees and around sloughs to Ghost Hill. There was no stars and the light from the stars was scant. The moon - in its first quarter - was already below the rim of the horizon.

Though the pair of young Amazons didn't appear to have much difficulty, the reporter - and even Mr. Clark - would occasionally trip over something to the accompaniment of brief murmurs of pain or words signifying annoyance. Ghost Hill was finally reached an hour before midnight.

The spot at night, with all silent and expectant, is one which drips mystery. From the hill itself, the clump of poplars with dense undergrowth, loon black and uninviting. The slightest of slight night breezes ruffle the poplar leaves into a monotonous whisper. To the west, and behind the hill, is a big slough, banked on every side with tall reeds. The faint light reflected by its waters, is caught by the glazed poplar leaves and flickers in and out. Through the tree, lower down, come occasional glimpses of dried mud on the edge of the slough, showing gray.

Straining the four pair of eyes into the patchy blackness of the poplar grove Certainly it seemed as if between the two small poplars where the ghost was reported as having been seen many times, there was a misty shape. It was faint and formless, however, and close inspection invariably failed to get a more definite view. It was nearly one o'clock when the party - convinced that her ghostship would not walk that night - walked back to the residence by the school.

...There were no landmarks which could be seen in the now almost pitch black night: the big dipper constellation used for a guide at first, was found to be too far north and by the time the school was reached, the ghost hunters had waled at least three times the necessary distance.

Miss Ethel Clark, speaking of her sight of the ghost, said that she went out in the school yard to look after the Finuke children, Nick had come running to her with the story just after lunch, August 13. >From the distance, she was unable to tell very much about it. It seemed like a woman's figure, but the motion along the face of the hill was not like waling, rather a drifting, gliding means of progress. It disappeared a few moments after in the clump of poplars and she never saw it again.

The next day at noon, The Leader made a minute examination of the hill. It is honeycombed with rabbit and badgers burrows but of the badgers and rabbits there were none to be seen. A huge mound of earth thrown up near the poplar grove by one of the burrowing animals, had been styled a "grave" by one of the village ghost hunters.

The hill itself had nothing of the artificial about it. It seemed like many other smaller hills in the vicinity, to have been made in the course of nature's work. Glacial action and the errosion of centuries was very apparent. There was no sign of human dwelling about. In fact, there was nothing of the "manmade" look about anything in the neighborhood. The grove, though the underbrush had been torn, and initials cut deep into the young poplars by the amateur ghost-hunters, couldn't have sheltered a rabbit without a search disclosing the animal.

Fred Manchuk, attendance Inspector of the school... said very definitely that he had seen the ghost.

"At first it looked small, like a rabbit or a white dog," he asserted.

"Then, when I got closer, it seemed like a woman going along as smoothly as if she were skating. Yes, there's something funny there. Lots of people have seen it."

Mr. Clark said that one feature of the ghost hunts conducted during July and August was that some of the party would claim to see the woman and others, right beside them, couldn't see anything out of the oridinary at all. On one such occasion two men were sitting on the side of the fill diring the night, watching for the appearance of the apparition. Suddenly one exclaimed excitedly. "There it is." His companion strained his eyes into the darkness but could see nothing. "There, there," the other repeated, following with his finger the object which he saw moving along the edge of the grove. The other man caught up a stick and ran to the shadow beneath the trees, laying about with the improvised club.

"Am I hitting it?" he asked.

Yes, now it's on your left! Now it's behind you," said the other.

But the man with the stick though he flailed about, failed to see or touch anything unusual. Another case of similiar characteristics

is that of Mrs. John an aged lady of Ituna, and her son. They camped on the hill one night, and the old lady saw the ghost distinctly. Her son failed to get a view, though his mother was very positive and described the cold clammy sensation which came over her when the figure in feminine draperies appeared.

The movtive for the appearance of the wraith on Ghost Hill has been the talk of the whole country for may miles north of the Qu'Appelle Valley. One theory is that the visitation may have have something to do with a particularly revolting murder which occurred in the district a few years ago [... the author of the article goes into details of the murder, which I will omit here].

Another - and perhaps the most general belief among those who are convinced the ghost does frequent the spot - is that it may be "control" of some departed Indian.

The whole country on all sides was once famous as a hunting ground for Saskatchewan's original residents. Here was game in abundance; water aplenty and shelter from the elements in winder. Here were fought many of the little Indian wars.

Color to the Indian theory is lent by the fact that many years ago, a stone suppost to have been used by Indian sun-worshippers[1], was found not far from Ghost Hill.

According to T. G. Morrison, one of the earliest setlers in the district; the stone was about three feet square, with rough representation of the sun, with rays of light shown by deep scores in the rock. C. W. Hoddings, also of Ituna, one of those who, became interested when it was found, sent the stone in 1906 to Regina.

When the theorist discuss the stone, it is sometimes referred to as a gravestone and Ghost Hill referred to as a community burying place similar in character to the cemeteries of the earliest tribes of Britian before civilization came to her shore.[The rest of the article goes into various theories regarding the ghost and why they don't hold water] (above taken from the Leader  )

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