Tuesday, August 03, 2010
thestar - Steve Genier sat in a wooden chair at the parlour tea table, steps away from where nearly 80 years ago Henry Breckon’s body lay prepped for burial.
The air was still and hot. The house was silent, the room dark. Genier waited, alone, for something to happen.
Then he felt it. A tug — an unmistakable playful pull — on his left shoulder.
He jumped out of his chair and looked around. The room was empty.
His mind calculated. “Was it the wind? Maybe I moved slightly,” he thought.
“But none of it made sense,” he says. “Because I was just sitting there, not moving at all.”
No one knows who or what haunts Spruce Lane Farmhouse, a sprawling Victorian home nestled in a thick of century-old maple trees in Oakville’s Bronte Provincial Park. But that’s where Genier comes in. He’s investigating the house’s haunted status with his team at the Southern Ontario Paranormal Society.
Genier is one of a slew of investigators the park has brought in over the past year to collect evidence of paranormal activity for their summer ghost tour. The television show Ghost Trackers even recorded an episode at the farm.
Built in 1899, the Spruce Lane Farmhouse was home to the Breckon family — Henry, his wife Margaret, and their children Christine, Alice and Gordon — until the 1950s.
Some think the haunting presence is Henry, who died in 1931. Nothing is known about his death except that his body was laid out in the front parlour for a days-long wake.
But those who know the house best believe it’s haunted by a friendly presence; perhaps, Andrew Cirtwill suggests, the energy left behind by guests who lived at the farmhouse or visited when it was rented throughout the 50s and 60s.
“I feel safer here than most places,” says Cirtwill, who is costumed in a fake mustache and full Victorian suit he made himself.
Cirtwill is the park’s natural heritage education leader and summer ghost-tour guide. As he leads Star reporters through the house, he points out rooms and items of ghostly interest.
There’s the smoking room door people say opens and closes on its own. Some visitors, on separate occasions, have felt like a servant was following them around. Whispered words, footsteps and children’s laughter has been heard in various parts of the house.
Many people say they’ve felt an energy or presence they just can’t explain.
Cirtwill, 28, remembers experiencing an overwhelming sense of guilt when he returned to the house one day after having taken apart the dining room table to prepare for a special event.
“It was like someone or something was really mad,” he says. “Once the table was back together and looking like before, it was almost like it was appreciated.”
Since then, Cirtwill says he talks to the house. He says hello when he enters and quietly lets the house know if he’s doing anything unusual.
“I came in today and said ‘look pretty, because we’re going to have some pictures taken,’” Cirtwill says, laughing.
His fellow tour guides — Victoria Cirtwill, his wife, and Cathy Entwistle —grin and nod in agreement. They speak to the house, too.
Non-believers might scowl at such behaviour. And many would claim Genier’s shoulder-tug story is the result of an overactive imagination.
But Genier prides himself on being a skeptic because he says it’s a job requirement in the ghost-hunting business.
“I think it’s healthy to be skeptical because if you’re not you’ll think everything is a ghost,” he says.
“Ninety per cent of claims that people have are easily explainable,” he says.
Genier, 41, works for an independent film company when he’s not tracking ghosts. When he’s called to investigate a house he learns everything he can about the stories attached to it and then visits the house to conduct an investigation. His team observes, records video and tries to collect Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) — recordings of voices and sounds that can’t usually be heard by the human hear.
Believers say EVP is how spirits try to communicate with us. Non-believers say it’s just a trick of the mind or electronic interference.
At the Spruce Lane farm, Genier’s team collected EVPs of what they say sounds like children laughing and people murmuring and speaking — those recordings will be played throughout the park’s summer ghost tours.
Genier says Spruce Lane was a landmark in his ghost career. He had never been physically touched during an investigation before. Genier isn’t saying there is no explanation for it — he’s just saying he doesn’t have one.
“You sit there and you go to yourself what could that be?” he says. “It just makes you think: Is there something going on?
“And that’s what I want to know.”
Click for video
Paranormal Evidence Gathered at Historic Ontario Farm