From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:
It is hard to capture an emotion, especially one that you felt in your youth. Do you remember how you felt when you drove or even walked past an eerie graveyard at night? Your heart most likely beat a little harder, your hands got stickier, and a shiver may have made its way up your spine.
What makes graveyards so eerie has to do with their obvious association with those that have been laid to rest, sometimes unpleasantly. One of the inactive graveyards in Wawa, Ontario, is no different, as it hosts many workers from the gold mines nearby.
In the 1920s, the area had a substantial bushfire that left it in a rather dilapidated condition, which added to its spookiness.
The graveyard was located “…in the midst of a burnt plain and the rugged range of hills that mark the course of the ‘Wa Wa Canyon’ casting its shadows over it” (Sault Star, February 17, 1930, pg. 2).
Given its dilapidated condition, it is no wonder why many choose not to travel past this ghostly graveyard and the shadows cast upon it. Despite the region’s ability to send shivers up your spine, there have been a few misadventures documented from those who tested their bravery.
One such misadventure involved two miners who unknowingly awoke a ghostly figure from its slumber.
The two miners, in search of better libations, passed the ‘Wa Wa’ graveyard, and “began to argue over ghosts…and to attest their ability to battle the whole world, ghosts included” (Sault Star, 02/17/1930).
The two proceeded to yell and holler toward the graveyard to provide proof of their bravery and strength.
When unsuspectingly a “…white splotched, groaning figure, arose from the grave, they took to their heels and did not stop running until they landed in the ‘Wa Wa’ hotel” (Sault Star, 02/17/1930, pg.2).
The two distraught miners heading north from The Mission hotel after their experience told tales of a ghost that rose from the grave upon arrival at the Wawa Hotel.
That same evening another miner, who was enjoying refreshments at the Wawa Hotel decided to take a walk to the Mission Hotel to finish his night.
When this solitary miner arrived in the area of the Wawa graveyard "[he] began to feel very sleepy [and] chose a nice, convenient headstone to shelter him from the night air, and dropped off to sleep” (Sault Star, 02/17/1930, pg. 2).
After being awoken from a slumber, especially one that in on the cold ground of a graveyard, grogginess is to be expected. The solitary miner, Mike Rowan, subsequently arrived back at his original hotel “still cursing the inconsiderate people of this world who would not let a man sleep in peace” (Sault Star, 02/17/1930, pg. 2).
It is clear to those that heard the story of the ghost that arose from the grave groaning groggily, was in fact a living being trying to sleep off the effects of the libations consumed earlier in the evening; the aforementioned Mike Rowan.
Another haunting tale of ghosts that stemmed from the Wawa Canyon hills turned out to be more of a prank.
A group of men, after they enjoyed refreshments were walking past the eerie graveyard at dusk, making a lot of noise. This noise included not only songs but taunts to the ghosts to “come out and let us see you” (Sault Star, 02/17,1930).
Little did they know, a resident of Wawa heard them and planned to give the merry men a scare. The man hid from sight under the cover of the large headstone, and when he heard the taunt, started laughing maniacally. To the prankster’s delight, the group screamed uncontrollably and left in a hurry.
Similarly, a prankster amongst a group of road developers in Batchewana, took delight in creeping out people, in this case, his coworkers. The scamp took advantage of the superstitious nature of his colleagues and the spooky graveyard nearby to commit a trio of pranks to creep them out - one of which involved a switcheroo of axes.
In the February 20, 1931 article in the Sault Daily Star it states that “while one Frenchman was grinding an axe. Something diverted his attention…when the Saxon pinched it and replaced it with another”.
The next morning, the prankster then waited for an opportune time to replace the sharpened axe with the dull one he swapped out with the coworker’s attention diverted. To the victim’s surprise, the axe that was clearly his appeared as dull as before he sharpened it.
The prankster prodded the ‘Frenchman’ as he “advised him that the old fellows out in the graveyard resented the intrusion of a road through their country…” as stated in the February 20, 1931, Sault Star article.
The scamp's demise seemed to be drawn from a nostalgic cartoon, which portrayed four mystery-solving teens and their seemingly ravenous Great Dane.
While the prankster committed one of his pranks, it was “noticed that the coat of the ‘ghost’ did not come to his feet” (Sault Star, 02/20/1931). It was noticed that the feet of the ghost were ‘substantial’, which led the victims to charge the ‘Saxon’ as the culprit. Although the pranks required some calculation, the association that graveyards have with the eerie, especially at night, made them possible.
Anyone for a midnight stroll past a graveyard? Zoinks!
Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.