The Ghost That Left The Cemetery
During the time of our relocation, the town of Portage La Prairie was in the process of laying pipe for waterworks. Dad was one of many men hired to dig ditches for the network of pipes that carried water to the residents. The town center and several blocks surrounding the business area had waterworks and electricity but parts of the outer area in the west end of town lacked the utilities.
In the summer months, digging ditches was hot and sweaty work. In winter, the ground was frozen solid and the work was just as hard and just as frigid as ice fishing. As a fisherman, Dad had eaten and rested in the warmth of the hut between hauling in the nets but other than lunch there was hardly a break from using the pickaxe in below zero temperatures.
In the coldest winter weather, I felt a deep sense of sympathy when I saw my dad labor hard with a pick and shovel. I could barely imagine how bitterly cold it was for him during the long day and how dreary and weary and hard the labor must have been. I knew the town paid my father an hourly minimum wage. Dad had earned so much more ice fishing in Delta. He had been his own boss and free to come and go as he pleased. I don’t believe he worked as hard ice fishing as he did digging through frozen earth for the town waterworks department.
Still, he had quit ice fishing and decided to move to Portage La Prairie. For better and for worse, the change that came about in all our lives had been my dad’s decision.
A few years passed but the day came when my father dug ditches in the winter and during the spring and summer, the town hired him to mow the grounds and dig graves at the Portage La Prairie cemetery.
One afternoon when I took my dad his lunch that he forgot at home, Dad told me that old wooden markers, pine caskets and bodies more or less disintegrated with time. On one occasion, he had inadvertently dug a grave in an occupied plot. Six feet down, he had unearthed a diamond engagement ring. Dad had picked up the ring, examined it then tossed it back into the excavation without a second thought.
I thought it was a waste to throw a valuable ring away. He could have sold it. My mother could have worn it. I wished he gave it to me.
"Why did you throw the diamond ring back into the hole?" I asked with a frown.
"That ring belonged to a woman, my girl. If she wanted someone to have it, she would not have been buried with it." He was serious and looked me straight in the eye. "You never take what belongs to the dead," he cautioned.
I was satisfied with the answer my father gave me. I believed him when he told me, "You never take what belongs to the dead." His answer made perfect sense. The ring had been buried with the woman in the grave because it had a special meaning to her when she was alive.
Mike K. was my dad’s boss and superintendent of the cemetery. He was a tall man with brown hair and fair eyes. Mike worked in the office and took care of business. I had met him on several occasions when I walked to the graveyard to bring my dad his lunch when he forgot it at home. Out of childish curiosity, I asked Mike if he had ever seen a ghost. In my opinion and according to my school friends, a graveyard was a logical place for a ghost to haunt.
"I don’t believe in ghosts," Mike chuckled. "Whoever says they saw a ghost is either lying or trying to put a scare into anyone who would believe nonsense like that. No sir," he said with conviction, "there’s no such thing as a ghost."
Mike’s answer was a disappointment. I wanted to believe ghosts haunted a cemetery. The idea was interesting and scary. Taking turns playing the part of a ghost and chasing each other in the dark of night was great fun for my friends and me.
The next summer Dad came home from work one day and told my mother that Mike had up and quit his job.
"Why quit now, Mike? What about your pension?" my father had asked him.
Mike told him, "Strange things have been going on in my house, Louie. I can’t sleep. I hear dishes and pots being moved around in the kitchen and furniture moves about in the living room. When I get up to see what’s wrong, nothing is out of place. It’s been going on for weeks. Last night, I heard what sounded like chains being dragged across the floor. That really frightened me. I never said a word to anyone but a few weeks ago when I finished work and got into the cab of my truck, a ghost got in with me. I could not see it but I knew it was there. I left for home that day, Louie, and the ghost left the cemetery with me. I swear it’s the truth."
Later on, I heard my dad tell my mom that Mike had a loose screw in his head from working at the cemetery for twenty years but after the conversation I had had with Mike at the cemetery that day, I believed Mike told my dad the truth. After all, Mike was the man who chuckled in amusement when he told me he did not believe in ghosts.
The eerie mist I had seen emerging from the seam of the trap door may have been a ghost. That incident gave me good reason to trust the character and word of Mike when he told my father about a ghost that left the cemetery and haunted him. It must have been a true story. According to my father, he gave up his pension because of it.
In the mid eighties, one summer evening, five friends and I were seated on chairs on the balcony. As usual the conversation was topical to our lifestyle. Talking about my experiences with paranormal phenomena, extrasensory perceptions and the supernatural was never a topic of conversation. The reason for my reticence was still locked securely in my super-conscious mind. But that evening, I surprised myself when I unexpectedly changed the subject and asked my friends if they had ever seen a ghost. No one had seen one but each woman had a story to relate about an incident they could only ponder but never truly explain.
Charlene P. told us a ghostly story that occurred one night when she was alone in the house.
She had been seated in the living room when the rocking chair suddenly began to rock back and forth, back and forth, as though someone was seated on it. Charlene stated with conviction there was no breeze that could have rocked the chair into motion. It would have taken a strong wind to rock the heavy wooden chair.
She had checked the door and windows to make sure they were properly closed. When the house was found to be secure and without any sign of a breeze, Charlene believed something ghostly had occurred.
Most of the women had an opinion on what could have set the rocker in motion. One thought the floor was slanted. Another decided it could have been an air current wafting across the room. The discussions were rampant. Compared to the women gathered on the porch that night, I had read a great deal on the subject of ghosts but I did not discus the strange misty substance or any other incident that occurred during my life.
From the countless books I have read over the years, I learned there are all sorts of people from all parts of the world that have had a ghostly encounter of one kind or another. I suppose I could have suggested the rocker had been set into motion by a mischievous poltergeist but I smartly decided to keep my opinions to myself. Eventually, the group decided a ghost had sat in the rocking chair and rocked it back and forth.
Ghostly haunts occur in many places, but two of the more common places believed to be haunted are burial grounds and structures where a person died. A true believer in ghosts would consider it highly unusual for a ghost to leave their eternal resting place where they were buried. Most people would consider it frightfully disturbing and very strange indeed for a ghost to follow them home like the ghost that left the cemetery with Mike Kowalachuk, the man who had been the superintendent of the cemetery for nearly twenty years and gave up his pension because of it.