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Ghost Stories

Ghost Stories

When you think of October, you can’t help but think of Hallowe’en and ghost stories. There are all kinds of stories around and some of them can make us question our sanity. There are scary tales told the world over, including Val d’Or. Allow me to tell you a few of our own…

Oscar the Ghost in Hammond Place

Hammond Place has a long history. It was the head office for the Siscoe Mine in the early thirties when it was divided in three and moved to Bourlamaque, where it became the town hall in 1954. The post office and police department were also housed there. The prison ended up in the same building, in the basement, and is still there to this day, although the space has been converted into a storage vault for documents and archives. Various ministries and organizations have offices in the building. Currently, Hammond Place is the headquarters for the Regional County Municipality (RCM) of La Vallée-de-l’Or.

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For a number of years, employees working in the building have noticed disturbing noises and eerie shadows. Numerous unusual visions over the years led them to the conclusion that ‘someone’ has been living there for a long time.  Apparently, his name is Oscar. Long ago, Oscar was a prisoner in the basement of Hammond Place and ended up hanging himself in his cell. One might conclude that his ghost would be a scary one, but aside from scaring a few people here and there, he’s never hurt anyone.

 

About 25 years ago, an employee named Denise saw Oscar one morning when she’d gone into work very early. She was the only one in the office at the time. No sooner had she sat down at her desk than she noticed someone sneaking past her door and duck into the neighbouring office. She hurried into the hall to see what could possibly be going on and no one was there. She was still alone in the office. Was this just a product of her sleepy imagination? Or was Oscar indeed the visitor she spied that morning?

 

There was another similar occurrence, on December 9, 2005, to be exact. It was at the annual office Christmas party. The employees and their spouses were all gathered in the basement in the RCM boardroom. Later in the evening, they began to play board games. Everyone was busy enjoying themselves and, all of a sudden, they heard the sound of running in the staircase.  They all stopped in their tracks and immediately looked around the room to see whether everyone was there. Indeed, all were present and accounted for. Someone or something else was making all the din. The guests went upstairs to have a look around and check the doors to make sure none were unlocked, and that no one else had entered the building.  Everything seemed fine. They found no intruder, and nothing had fallen. It had snowed that evening and there was a covering of new snow outside, so had someone entered the building there would have been footprints to prove it. There were no fresh tracks in the snow. Perhaps Oscar felt envious as he watched the party-goers having such a good time…

Lake of the Evil Spirit

Do you know the legend of Lake Matchi-Manitou?

The lake is in the town of Senneterre, in the Regional County Municipality (RCM) of La Vallée-de-l’Or. Its name means ‘evil spirit’. According to indigenous legend, a great moose hunter was hunting around the lake. He was really the best: he took down the largest animals and his hunting grounds were vast. The more moose he killed, the more he sold. As the cold months approached, everyone relied on the meat he sold. He was unstoppable. He tracked and killed moose around the lake, hunting more out of pleasure than need. His ego began to swell – he became reluctant to sell the meat and even wasteful on occasion.

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One quiet, chilly fall evening, the hunter was cutting up a carcass on the other side of the lake. It was getting dark, so he quickly loaded the pieces into his canoe to get them back to his camp. As he began to paddle, the wind came up. It gathered strength, whipping up huge waves on the lake’s surface. The hunter began to panic. The boat started taking on water. It began to pour rain. Buffeted mercilessly by the waves, the hunter decided to turf the animal carcass into the water. As he did this, the canoe became top-heavy and capsized.

 

The next day, all the people he had turned against him found a birchbark canoe floating upside down on the lake and felt that justice had been done. Perhaps he’d been punished for his ego-centric ways and attracted the evil spirit that claimed his life. And so the lake got its name.

An Icy Death

Photo, Société d'histoire et de généalogie de Val-d'Or Fonds Gilbert Tardif

Stanley Siscoe
Société d’histoire et de généalogie de Val-d’Or-Fonds Gilbert Tardif

It’s probably not news to you that Stanley Siscoe, who founded the Siscoe Mine in Sullivan, froze to death on this same lake.

 

Stanley Siscoe, originally called Stanlaw Siskwo, emigrated to Canada from his native Poland. He changed his name when he got here to make it easier to pronounce. He is known as the man who established the Siscoe Mine in 1912. The mine was in operation from 1929 to 1949. The mine is situated on Siscoe Island, an area inhabited by First Nations people when he arrived. They were chased off their land by development of the mine and its related infrastructure.

Photo, Société d'histoire et de généalogie de Val-d'Or, Fonds Herby Goyette

The photo of Stanley Siscoe dead frozen on Lake Matchi-Manitou.
Société d’histoire et de généalogie de Val-d’Or-Fonds Gilbert Tardif

Unfortunately, Mr. Siscoe did not live long enough to see the mine in full operation. In March 1935, he was on his way back to Montréal by air. There was a vicious storm raging at the time, with high winds and glacial temperatures. The atrocious weather forced the pilot to make an emergency landing on a frozen lake near Senneterre, Lake  Matchi-Manitou. The plane became lodged in the ice and they waited for help for two long days. Stanley Siscoe, starving and chilled to the bone, decided to walk south. His frozen body was discovered lying in the snow the next day. Of the photos taken at the time, two different ones made the rounds. One depicting a man lying on his back and another, quite similar, with bank notes strewn around his body. Was it photo enhancement? Was it robbery? Did he throw his money into the air in one final desperate gesture, as though to say that his massive fortune could not save his life? There are those who like to think that the evil spirit came to get him as punishment for expelling the First Nations from their land to build the Siscoe Mine. The evil spirit is unforgiving…

 

 

Paul-Antoine Martel, a local history buff, says that Val d’Or is fertile ground for ghost stories and mysterious rumours.

 

 

Photo de couverture | Jack Cain sur Unsplash

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