SUBMITTED BY HERMINE STEINBERG
We’ve all heard that Niagara-on-the-Lake is considered one of the most haunted places in Canada but there are many more spirits here that no one ever talks about.
I met Irma, Maggie, Ellen and Beth at my Thursday afternoon yoga class. We hit it off almost immediately. Whenever we got together, time just flew by. It first started with us going to coffee after yoga.
Coffee then turned to dinner and soon we went out together regularly, sometimes with our husbands but mostly enjoying our own company. Among the many things we found we had in common was our love of dogs and started meeting Friday afternoons to walk them together.
We fell into a weekly ritual in which one of us would pick up coffees for the group – large cups not filled to the top in order to make room for the Bailey’s. We normally made our way along the trail in The Commons to the ancient boreal forest where after drinking most of our cups, we proceeded to sing and dance. It was our secret weekly revelry, which ended with us raising our cups to the setting sun, throwing back what was left of our drinks, and then quietly going home to our unsuspecting husbands.
On this particular Friday afternoon, it was exceptionally cold and damp, with a bitter wind blowing off the lake. Maggie arrived with our usual tray of coffees but after taking my first sip, I realized there was far more Bailey’s than coffee in my cup. She told us that she thought we needed the extra punch to endure the winter chill.
We knew we would be sheltered from the wind once we reached the forest so walked quickly down the tree-lined dirt path. The weather must have frightened all the other dog walkers away. There was no one else in sight. Halfway to the entrance to the forest we noticed a strange mist rising from the ground. Ellen laughed nervously as she reminded us that this is how most horror movies begin. It didn’t help that the dogs seemed more excited than usual, running around the trees and barking, even howling at one point at something they seemed to have spotted in the fields surrounding us.
The closer we got to the woods, the less solid the ground felt under our feet, turning mucky as we passed the commemorative teepee at the end of the path. The thought struck me that I was sinking into the earth, merging with the history of this ancient place.
Once out of the wind and with a belly filled with liquor, we slowed down to enjoy the beauty of the forest. The previous night we had our first snow fall of the season and the trees sparkled. We stumbled through the woods, stepping over branches of fallen trees. Beth began singing. “Do you believe in magic in a young girl’s heart.”
It was an old song by the Lovin’ Spoonful we belted out often. Ellen was the first to join Beth.
“How the music can free her whenever it starts,”
And then we all jumped in. “And it’s magic …”
We began running around the trees, the dogs chasing after us and barking. The cold air pinched our cheeks and mist now rising from the forest floor rolled over us. We felt young and free and far away from the outside world.
We then came upon an enormous oak tree, appearing to reflect an intense white light behind the veil of mist. We impulsively joined hands and danced around it, continuing to sing.
“I’ll tell you about the magic, and it’ll free your soul…”
We then heard a strange sound … like a door creaking. I stopped in my tracks and looked over to Irma who was quieting her dogs. “Did you hear that?”
“I heard something but I’m not sure what that was,” she responded.
Beth and Maggie were still holding hands, looking around and appearing to be waiting to see if the sound would repeat.
“Horror movie. I told you guys.” Ellen giggled until she heard her dog’s fearful whine from behind the giant oak.
My shepherd was already by my side, sitting in protective mode, staring straight ahead at the tree.
Large double doors suddenly materialized on the trunk of the tree. They swung open to reveal a tall, strangely thin woman with long wild red hair and shimmering green eyes.
She stepped forward and floated down to the ground. Her skin was pale and glowing. She wore a long translucent gown that flowed behind her.
The woman looked at each of us in turn. We were silent. Even the dogs were now quiet. The forest was so still I could hear flakes of snow dropping to the ground. I wondered if I was drunk or had been drugged. It felt like time had stopped.
To be continued …