The Elman W. Campbell Museum in Newmarket takes Halloween seriously.
And why wouldn’t it? The Elman Campbell is one of the haunted museums highlighted in Andrew Hind’s new book, Haunted Museums and Galleries of Canada.
According to Hind’s research, before the building at 134 Main St. S. became a museum in 1996, it was the North York Registry Office. Built in 1884, it fulfilled that roll until 1980 — and apparently one former employee of the registry office, described as a male wearing a grey suit, continues to occupy the space.
Since 2013, his shadow has been seen, swiftly following a route from the former reception desk of the registry office to the washroom.
And just before Halloween in 2015, when a museum volunteer donated a life-sized automated witch mannequin that was activated by motion sensors, there were several times that witch’s eyes glowed and her cackle could be heard, despite no one walking past to activate the sensors.
No living person, that is. No explanation was found.
Hind was at the museum on Saturday, signing copies of his books, Haunted Museums and Galleries, and Canadian Monsters and Mythical Creatures. The latter investigates Canada’s contributions to cryptozoology, the study of mythological creatures.
Not every cryptozoid turns out to be myth. Think of the coelacanth, a fish believed to have been extinct for millions of years until it turned up in a fisherman’s net in 1938.
Asked which of the mythological creatures highlighted in his book he feels is most believable, Hind has no doubt: “Bigfoot. I’ve seen enough science to see it’s possible. The thing that impresses me is that there are very good descriptions that predate the Patterson film (shot by Bob Gimlin and Roger Patterson in 1967, purporting to be the first film footage of Bigfoot) — but I’m obviously still on the fence.”
What he doesn’t think is real is Kempenfelt Kelly, a monster reported from Lake Simcoe.
“That one doesn’t make any sense. I have trouble with monsters in inland lakes,” said Hind. “Now sea monsters are quite possible!”
Hind’s fascination with cryptozoology is explained by his love of mystery.
“The world is so small nowadays. You can travel any place in hours, we have satellite imagery — there are not too many mysteries left. Wanting to discover an unknown species, there’s a kind of appeal to that,” he said.
While "cryptozoology is a real science," accepted by many established organizations, Hind noted that ghost-hunting just doesn't get the same respect - although everyone is fascinated by ghost stories.
In researching his book on Haunted Museums and Galleries and a series of books on ghosts with co-author Maria da Silva, Hind spoke with many respected individuals, who shared their experiences.
And even though he personally never saw a ghostly vision, Hind said, " I think in every case where you’re speaking to educated, respectable individuals, I have to take their word for it. Obviously, I have to respect their experience... I certainly didn’t experience anything. I definitely want to.”
Then Hind paused, and said there was one experience he couldn't explain. While researching The Ghosts of Niagara-on-the-Lake with co-author Da Silva, he joked, "A ghost would have to come and hit me, for me to believe."
Later, at the reportedly-haunted restaurant they were investigating, he was suddenly hit by a candy that flew through the air.
“It came from a direction where there weren’t any people,” he said.
Hind autographed copies of his book at the Elman W. Campbell Museum on Saturday, during the museum’s Boo-seum event for kids. Visitors could tour the museum, with its special Halloween displays, enjoy and Halloween activities.
Hind suggested that most ghostly experiences have a logical explanation, and at least some of the reported visitations at museums and galleries across Canada may just be a result of atmosphere and “your expectation.”
But even this BradfordToday’s reporter was surprised when sorting through the photos taken at the Elman W. Campbell Museum that day, including a photo of museum volunteers Sandra Pedretti and Janet Charpentier, dressed in costume, with an unexplained square of light in the corner.
Both Canadian Monsters and Mythical Creatures, and Haunted Museums and Galleries of Canada are published by Quagmire Press, and they are available at Indigo.ca.