Ray and I met in 1969 at St. Clair College in Windsor Ontario. We were both high school drop-outs and were finally getting our much-needed grade twelve education ; neither him or I had any plans beyond that.
So how we got to Foremost Alberta huddled in an abandon farmhouse bedroom searching for the ghost of a long time dead homesteader was a series of events and adventures that were actually quite ordinary for us.
After St. Clair Ray headed out west to reunite with a ranch he had been cowboying for. I went to work,slopping stalls and caring for 40 saddle horses at a local riding stable. We both worked hard,in all-weather, from morning till night for below minimum wage. A fine use of our newly begotten higher education.
A year later I would join up with Ray in Alberta only to find the cowboy jobs were gone because of lower demand for beef, at the time. We ended up working for the town of Foremost, in southern Alberta. Good paying jobs, with week-ends off. Plenty of time for Ray and I to get ourselves into one pickle or another.
One particular Friday night as we sat drinking cold draft beer at Max’s bar, the only watering hole for 60 miles or 100 kilometers, the discussion somehow turned to ghosts. Trapper Pete swore that the old abandon farm about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of town was haunted by a homesteader who died in the upstairs bedroom. When it was confirmed by Gerald, the towns biker gang, we were sold. Gerald wore leather and chains, a buck knife strapped to his hip, long hair and shaggy beard. He was also the only one in town who owned a motorcycle, so, hence, the towns biker gang.
I did try to reason with Ray that almost all homesteaders died at home and this was not a very solid basis for a haunting. Ray never flinched, there was a ghost and we were going to find it , case closed.
We crabbed a bag of beer to go at the bar (you could do that in Alberta) and bid the two smirking yahoos a good-bye.
Although nine p.m. it was still light when we pulled into the grassy lane of the wind worn aged homestead. It seems the wind rarely stops blowing on the prairie. Takes some time for a Ontarian to get used to that. The long days was another. People put there children to bed in the light of day as the sun could be still shining bright at 10 o’clock p.m.
The house was a two-story wood frame structure. The windows were without glass. Probably taken when the owners moved.
We checked to be sure we had all of our supplies. Beer, cigarettes, Rays bronson lighter, flashlight, double-check on the beer. Ok, it was a go. The front steps were unsurprisingly loose, the front door swung open easily, as did the inter screen door that was screenless and opened inward. Stepping in we could see the kitchen to our right, the living space to the left. The one flight of stairs was straight ahead about 10 or 12 paces. That was where the ghost was supposed to be so we started up , Ray in the lead.
At the top there was a small landing, Ray turned left to explore that bedroom while I went right to check out the other one. Ray was only in for a few seconds when he let out a yell that made the hair on my neck stand up. I headed for the stairs and was about half way down when Ray hollered at me. For some reason the owners left without taking a mirror that hung on the closet door. He had scared himself. He asked why I was on the way out and not rushing in to help him. I replied that while concerned, I thought it best to go for help.
Ray decided that the ghost would be in that room. He said ghosts like to appear in mirrors. When I asked how he came to know this information, what, pray tell, scientific periodical he read that divulged such important data. He said because ‘they just do’.
We brought up a narrow wooden box , most likely used for storing tools, that was on the front porch. Turned upside down it was a perfect seat for the both of us. Ray said we must darken the room; the fact that nightfall was almost upon us didn’t seem to matter. I found a burlap bag in a kitchen cupboard and a few rusty nails in a drawer. A rock picked up on the prairie out back would serve as a hammer. We tacked the top of the burlap to the window and held the bottom down with the rock. The wind picked up and the howling between the wall planks heightened the evilness. It was really getting spooky sitting there in the dark room, staring into the mirror seeing only the glow of our drawn cigarettes.
Ray was for ever saying we had to be absolutely quite, even though he never shut up. He talks a lot anyway but a hell of a lot more when he’s scared.
After our second beer, Ray was sure there was something in the mirror. “Look, look ,can you see it”?
I decided to add to the drama by telling Ray that either the spirit was in the mirror or he was standing behind us. I was actually scaring myself, and Ray was about to explode. The wind howled on, the burlap bag started to flutter as the Alberta wind pushed against it.
Then, as we stared , half-frozen in fear, at the real, or imaginary shadow, a loud thud, directly behind us shattered the night. Ray leapt up like he was shot out of a cannon. He headed for the stairs with me right on his heels. It was kind of shameful, and we never told anyone, until now, but we were screaming. We sounded like a high school girls basketball team. I never realized that two young men could reach those high-pitched notes, just shameful.
We descended those stairs and barely touched a one. When we hit the bottom, both at the same time, we rushed the door and instead ran into a solid wall. The screaming got louder and I’m sure, class shattering . We pushed and shoved one another , thinking the ghost had put a wall where the door should be. It took possibly seconds but felt like an eternity, until we discovered that we were behind the open door. It was a blur as we fought each other to squeeze out the door, both at the same time, it was every man for himself. Pitiful.
Once inside the Rambler we locked the doors and tried to settle down. Regrouping , we pretended to be men again. Then the other shoe dropped, in our hast we left the beer and Rays beloved bronson lighter. Neither of us cared a hoot about the flashlight.
He stated that since it was his car I should go back in. When that didn’t work he begged me, stating that his father had given him that lighter. It means everything to him , he said. I told him that I know his father was still alive and could give him another one.
Finally, we negotiated that I would go back but I get two of the remaining three beers and I could hold onto the bronson for two weeks. I also took the car keys with me. I know when Ray was left alone he might freak out and leave me. He turned on the headlights and eliminated the house sufficiently.
Believing that this was just silly, I bravely ventured in , confidently ascending the stairs. I quickly gathered the beer and lighter. I flicked on the flashlight and could clearly see that the thud we heard was the rock that was blown off the sill. Laughing I started down . The car lights gave me lots of courage, until the bastard turned them off and started beeping the horn as if he was in trouble.
I panicked and leapt down those rickety steps landing in a bunch at the bottom. This time I remembered that the door was off-center and sailed through it. I called Ray a son of a bitch, a pigs asshole and a ducks dick. ( I know, but I was peeved and that’s all I could come up with) I also said I’m drinking all the beer . Ray whined about that and after a few miles I softened and gave him one. I had to admit that I would have done the same thing to him. I did, however, keep the bronson for the whole two weeks.
Later, that fall, while hunting, Ray and I came across a semi wild herd of horses on the prairie and he dared me to climb on one. It was one terrifying ride. I’ll tell you all about that adventure on my next blog. Thanks for reading. Jack
Remember friends, keep the faith, it gets better, it always does.