“Ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night”… that’s what Halloween is all about.
And for James Lemire, the managing partner of 17 Mile House Pub, it’s also the time of year when folks drop by in the hopes of catching a glimpse of Ma Wilson, the long departed former owner of the roadhouse.
“Our reputation as being haunted doesn’t hurt business this time of year, that’s for sure,” laughed Lemire as he looked around the spookily decorated pub.
“People drop by and they are always asking about our ghosts; it’s all in good fun.”
But when asked whether 17 Mile House is actually haunted, Lemire’s attitude changes.
“There are certainly some strange things that happen here; things I can’t explain. We tend to blame the ghost and leave it at that,” said Lemire, adding that many of the “creepy feelings” people have in the building, particularly late at night after the pub has closed may have more terrestrial explanations.
“There’s some pretty old glass in the windows and when the headlights from passing cars hit them, it can send all kinds of crazy shadows across the walls. You kind of get used to it,” he explained.
Some occurrences, though, are not as easily explained.
Lemire cites one example of the day he was changing one of the light bulbs over the stage. It was late at night and he was the last person in the building. He was up on a ladder, and when he replaced the bulb, every light in the building sparked out at the same moment.
“The electricity didn’t go out. Everything else was still working, but every light in the place just went out at the same time. We had it checked and there was no reason for it,” he recalled.
And then there was the time that the partners installed a new dishwasher. They locked up the building that night, and when they returned the next day the dishwasher was open and dozens of glasses had been smashed inside it. Even more curious was the fact that their reservation book had been shredded and thrown into the dishwasher for good measure.
No one had been in the building between the time they’d left and returned to see the damage.
“Whoever is haunting this place doesn’t like change, it seems,” said Lemire. “When we change something, it seems to spike the activity. We’ll change something and then I’ve had glasses fly off the shelves and fly 12 feet through the air to smash against the wall as I pass. I guess they’re sending a message.”
Most of the activity, said Lemire, is not that violent.
“We have the old accountant’s’s office upstairs that is mostly kept locked. Once, a while ago, the TV in that locked room turned itself on and was blaring at full volume for some reason. Or, another example, we have a chair in this room that keeps pulling itself out when no one is looking. The staff don’t bother pushing it in any longer.”
The story of the chair is linked to Ma Wilson, the irascible former owner of the pub. She was known to keep a shotgun under the bar “just in case” during the days when the roadhouse served a rougher clientele. It’s said that Wilson died in the offending chair and that she stills occupies her favourite seat in the bar, on the lookout for any unruly customers.
Lemire took a furtive glance at the offending chair as he spoke about the supposed haunting.
“I don’t know if it’s Ma Wilson, or someone else who is in this building, but I’m pretty sure that something is going on. And it’s not just Halloween. We live with this year-round. But we’ve gotten used to it,” said Lemire.
“I just try not to be alone in the building late at night. Or if I am, and something happens, I lock up and get out of here.”