This is a true story ghost story that happened to me when I first moved to Winnipeg in August of 1999. I had just moved into my first Winnipeg apartment located on Assiniboine Avenue at Edmonton Street, near what I now know to be McFayden Playground. I had just relocated from Ottawa to work on getting the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network up and running for its initial broadcast to begin broadcasting for September 1st of that year. So, with the move and the upstart of the network, things were getting a bit hectic. Luckily though, I had the assistance of my then girlfriend to help me get set up prior to her going off to California for a stint of work. Well, with an apartment secured, I found myself with no furniture, because I had opted to put all my belongings in storage in Ottawa until I was a bit more settled. As it happened then, I was moving into a virtually empty apartment save for a few essentials I had brought with me. This situation was not new to me though, as I had moved numerous times prior to this around both Canada and the States for work. Having had been becoming accustomed to this, I was able to draw upon my survival and resource instincts. My plan was to, as did so many times, was to seek out furniture at various garage sales. So it was, that my ghost story adventure was set to begin.
It was a beautiful sunny Saturday morning. I got up early and set upon my mission for the day. It was about 6:30 am and my first thought was to go open the patio doors of my fourth floor apartment to let in the fresh willowy air that was wafting up from the nearby Assiniboine River. The birds were chirping happily and everything was as normal as normal could be. Just another day. By this time, Jackie, who I now jokingly refer to as my practice wife, had gotten up and was stirring about in the kitchen getting a breakfast ready for the both of us as we set to go about our business for the day. Poached eggs on toast, with orange juice and coffee was the order of the day as I recall. Noting she had taking up on the cooking duties on this fine morning, I suggested to her that I go out to find a newspaper box to get the paper such that we could peruse it while having our early morning meal. I hurried out the door, a little excited too, in anticipation of finding new goods. Something to this day still excites me about garage sales. Perhaps its a latent and ancient foraging instinct that is awakened? In any event, I successfully retrieved both the Winnipeg Sun and Winnipeg Free Press. Both were exceptionally thick on this Saturday morning, holding promise of many garage sales I suspected. I walked back into the apartment and breakfast was set out there in on a plastic milk crate that served as a table in the middle of my yet empty apartment. Happily I dug into breakfast. Whilst mopping up the broken yoke of my poached eggs with my toast, I scattered the sections of the newspapers and sought out the classified sections which contained the sales section. Having found them, I flipped through the sales section until – there it was – in large bold fonts “Garage Sales”. Then, still in an excited state that resembled euphoria, I delegated the work for us to select which locations held the most promise. I took the Sun, Jackie took the Free Press. In the space of about an hour, we sorted through and discussed which ones we most wanted to “hit”. Jackie, being the more organized of us two, took detailed notes in regards to locations and times that would best strategically make the best use of our time. The course was set, or so we thought. It was then that Jackie, noted another advertisement calling out to her attention. “How about this Clare?” she asked. “ What’s that?” I replied. “An Estate Sale” she announced, as she brought the paper closer to me for me to look. “Yeah, I heard of them. That’s when family members sell the belongings of a recently deceased family member isn’t it?” I asked. “ Never been to one though” I added. “Neither have I” Jackie replied, adding “ I think we oughta go.” She didn’t need my approval, with her neon yellow highlighter pen in hand she was already marking up the paper and noted to me. “It’s at 10:30 and that’s just up near Wolseley and Arlington. We can squeeze that in before we go to Osbourne Village area.” she declared. “ Yeah, I guess” I shrugged in agreement. So we set out for a what would be a fun-filled morning of adventure in our new city.
Not being too familiar with Winnipeg, we were certain to have our map of the city readily available. I had been there only a couple of months before Jackie’s arrival to the city and I was only familiar with a few landmarks along Portage from downtown to Home Street off Portage, where I initially took up residence at a friend’s place. One landmark for sure I had noted, as any good Canadian would, was the location of my nearest Tim Hortons coffee shop. With that, we headed to the nearest drive-thru and we each got our large “Double Double” along with a half-dozen of our favorite doughy treats. Crullers! Yum! Contented, we set out to each successive garage sale on our agenda. Every imaginable nick nack, decorative stuff, books, cassettes and furniture was to be had. Being both music lovers and book people we picked up more than our share. Being somewhat of a history buff, I was keen on finding a few books about the history of the province of Manitoba and the city itself. One of which, I found curious to me was “Ghost Stories of Manitoba”. Apparently, the city of Winnipeg, it seemed, was especially haunted. Interesting, I noted, as we went on about our mission. Inside of a couple of hours, we happily haggled and dropped a small fortune in a bid to have the “empty apartment” become full and decorative. The decorative part I can attribute to Jackie, because I would have overlooked a lot of nifty candle holders and art paintings in favor of someones homemade wine bottle candle holder, nostalgic Charlie’s Angels posters and Scoobie Doo lunchbuckets. Gotta hand it to her, we secured a lot of things I hadn’t surmised that I “needed”. By this time it was getting on about 10:30 and we were on schedule to get to the Estate Sale on time that was purported to start at exactly the advertised time. “NO Earlybirds” the Estate Sales advert taker outers had made clear, indicated by the bold capitalized letters. However, we gave ourselves a few minutes to be parked in close proximity of the address. Having arrived, we noted many other veteran “garage salers” were parked along the boulevard nearby. Many with there windows rolled up in their air-conditioned car, sipping on their Timmie’s or Starbuck’s concoction. Others, were standing outside their cars, conversing with other “garage salers” discussing their finds of the morning. As for Jackie and I, we spent the time rummaging through our findings. We dug up a Billy Falcon CD we had found. The one with Power Windows on it. We threw it in the player and reclined our seats to enjoy a brief and much earned interlude prior to going to our first ever Estate Sale.
Louis drives a beat up ’69 Dart.
Swears it’s the statue of Mary that keeps the car from falling apart.
With Gracie right beside him sittin’ closer than a smile.
She’s got her head on his shoulder.
He loves to drive and hold her.
He got no power windows. Got no power brakes.
He ain’t got no power nothin’ but he got what it takes.
He’s got Gracie’s arm around him and a smile on his face.
He’s got the power of love.
I guess more than a few minutes and tunes had went by, because as we opened our eyes it was obvious people were beginning to stir and readying themselves to join in the much-anticipated parade toward the “house”. The house was very old and Victorian looking with a large Elm tree in front of it. Something about the house gave off a spooky aura. In retrospect, in my mind, the house was typical of most haunted houses that are seen depicted in scary movies. Suddenly, the race was on! Despite, everyone being of the same mind-set, and looking for that most excellent find, there exists a strictly adhered to unwritten code that garage saler uphold. No pushing! With the doors now open, garage saler after garage saler filed into the Estate Sale. Each greeting the host, which is also a custom. The greeter, pointed out where everything was located. Seems the entire house and all its contents were up for negotiation. It was now mine and Jackie’s turn. We indicated to the host our priority was a table and chairs. She pointed us in the direction of the dining room. Upon arrival, we could already see others looking over the table there. We were a bit disappointed. Not because of the others being there, but because the table there was much too big. It seemed solid oak and very prestigious looking. Yes, much too solid and hefty for the apartment, and my pocketbook to be sure! With that, we wonder around a bit more. Like I mentioned before, the house did seem to have that lived in aura about the place. There was even a suggestion of a ghost lingering there too perhaps? I’m no ghost whisperer, but I do think I possess a ghost radar, and the radar was registering. As we shuffled about, we were suddenly alerted by others in the place that the patio area outside was up for grabs too! Excited again of the prospects, we went outside to look around. Immediately upon our arrival, Jackie gravitated toward a pair of large Wicker chairs. “Clare!” she yelped out excitedly “ Perfect for the patio!” I looked them over, and approved in a manner congruent to her excitement. I nodded approvingly all the while whilst inspecting them. I hummed and hahed out loud, all the while thinking to myself. “ Great, more wicker. I’m already wickered out up to my ying yang. Wicker baskets, wicker shelves, wicker wicker wicker…” Now in a my most well rehearsed excited and animated manner I replied “ This is great! I wonder what they want?” I paused a brief dramatic pause and announced. ” I don’t care. I am most definitely getting these!” Jackie gleamed in proud manner of her find and gave me a big hug. We then went on to haggle with the lady and managed to get the chairs for 30 bucks. Pretty good price methinks.
Garage Sale Aftermath
We were now back at the apartment with all our various finds of the morning. We were pretty proud of ourselves, realizing all that we had accomplished. The apartment was going to look great. We even scored a nice window treatment. Wasn’t even on my radar, but we got one! In my estimation, I had thought the Kmart blinds were fine, but now I would have window treatments. Yeah! In any event, after parking at the apartment, Jackie suggested she go up and finish the morning dishes. With that, she set off up to the apartment with what she could carry. Various nick nacks, books and shoes seemed to be priority items. With that, I was left to make a few journeys up and down the freight elevator and back and forth to the car and apartment. Finally, with everything now in the apartment, I made myself some tea and decided to relax and look over and inspect our finds. With tea in hand and some left over Crullers, I settled into one of them big comfy wicker chairs I had secured at the Estate Sale. I thought to chose to leave them in the living room area for the time being before I set them out on the patio. Jackie continued to wash the dishes in the sink just a short distance away with her back toward me. All the while, she was talking of some of the folks we had met at garage sales and made an observation how everyone in Winnipeg did indeed seem “Friendly” as it promotes on the Manitoba car licence plate. I had to agree. “ There’s a lot of history in this province too!” I pronounced. “ I think I’ll like it here Clare.” she proclaimed as she continued to wash the dishes. Then our conversation fell silent for a spell. By this time, I had sunk deeply into my newly acquired wicker chair. As mentioned before, being the history buff I am, I chose to select a history book and started to engage myself in reading about the rise and fall of the great early political Metis leader Lois Riel. Hell I thought, “I’m in Manitoba and I best learn of the history of this province. My new home.” I had just opened the book and was glancing through the chapters. I was flipping through and stopped to read something that I found intriguing about Louis. It was then I got “that feeling”. You know the one, where someone is reading over your shoulder. I thought, well its only Jackie, so I didn’t bother to turn and look. Right then, however, I heard a voice that asked of me“ Where did you get that?” “Yikes!” I exclaimed in my thoughts. To me, that was NOT Jackie’s voice. To me, it seemed to sound more like a young girl. Maybe twelve or so? The voice, I might add, felt only a couple of inches from my ear, so it was most definitely distinct as could be. Also, being that close, there should have been a breath felt I thought. However, nothing! So it was at this point, I thought to glance over my shoulder. No one was there. No young girl. No Jackie. So I now glanced to where Jackie was standing at the sink in the kitchen. At precisely the same moment I looked toward Jackie, and Jackie looked toward me. In unison we asked of each other. “ You heard that too!”
P.S. I still get chills every time I tell or writer of this story. Just did again! There is no explanation to this day. We tried to rationalize then, but to no avail. The walls were thick brick and sound proof. We were four stories above the sidewalk. We were the only two there. Or, were we? Could it have been a ghost that followed us from the Estate Sale? Could it have been a ghost with some association with Louis Riel? Thinking about that day, I can’t say precisely which house we got the book from. Could the ghost had followed us from there, riding along in the back all the while? Or, maybe, the ghost was always at the apartment or wandered the area, and perhaps, still wonders the area to this day? Incidentally, the apartment is a stones throw to the Louis Riel statue behind the Manitoba Legislature building. In any event, the book in question, is packed away in a box in my basement. I have never read it nor dug it out since that day. Perhaps today, I’m thinking, I will dig it out and scan it for your viewing. However, maybe upon viewing, you too will be visited by that young girl? Watch this space….
P.S.S. FYI. The Practice wife and I separated and moved on. I now live back in Ontario. However, thanks for the memories Jackie. Thanks for the memories Manitoba.
Wickerless and Candle deprived in Northwestern Ontario