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Ghosts in Orillia

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#1 Vampchick21


    Looks Irish, loves Italian food, lives in Canada....must be lost

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Posted 30 October 2006 - 01:14 PM

From the Toronto Star Online

Divine ghost stories
Spooky tales of shadowy figures, creaking doors, and an organ that plays by itself plague a church near Orillia
Oct. 30, 2006. 05:43 AM

It doesn't have to be Halloween to bring out the spooks at St. Columbkille Church near Orillia. Strange stories have circulated around the place for more than 100 years and have evolved to the extent that the church is deemed haunted by local residents.

Reports of ghost sightings, shadowy figures that appear out of nowhere, creaking doors and an organ that plays by itself have created a rich folklore of the supernatural in the otherwise quiet country parish.

Long-time parishioner Susan Wallis was a young girl on a fateful day at the Catholic church in 1964.

"There were five of us," she recalls. "Myself, two of my sisters, my mother and another lady. We were cleaning the church for the Easter services. As we were cleaning the altar, we heard the doors at the back of the church moving. We all turned and looked and in the upper choir loft there was a figure in black clothes. He had a top hat on and a white face and he started playing the organ.

"My sister, mom and the lady ran up to the choir loft where he was. He disappeared through the doors into the belfry. They tried to open the door and couldn't at first. When they did get the door open, there was no one there and the belfry, a room with no windows and no means of escape, was empty."

Many have claimed to have seen this black-figured ghost, thought by some to be a former organ tuner, despite efforts by the priest of that time to dismiss the occurrence as a prank.

Fact or fiction depends on one's point of view, as well as one's sense of fun.

Founded in 1855, St. Columbkille had as its first parishioners Irish and Scottish immigrants fleeing religious persecution and famine. Today, Father Edwin Galea presides over a country parish of around 169 Catholic families. The church is isolated, with an old cemetery located on the north and west sides, and cows grazing in the farmlands beyond. Original settlers are buried there as well as several priests and veterans of the two world wars. There are also a number of unknown graves.

The rectory, which stands beside the church, has not been lived in since the 1990s. A vault with the capacity to hold 20 bodies has been known to creak and blow open on cold, windy days.

The church itself is beautiful, with antique stained glass windows and pews that are 100 years old. The shamrock motif is engraved in much of the woodwork of the church,

Some present-day parishioners are not happy with the church's haunted reputation and say the Irish are great storytellers who wanted to create their own legend.

Nevertheless, the ghost stories continue.

On a hot night this past August, Dave Bartlett was parked on the roadway between the rectory and the church waiting to pick up his wife from evening mass.

"It was about 7:45, just getting dark," he says. "There was no one else around. They were all in the church. I heard all this loud music and beating of drums and pipes like a marching band. It was so loud I could hear it over my car radio. I thought, `What the heck,' so I opened my windows and turned off the radio. The music was coming from the church. I thought, `They must be having some kind of celebration.' The music was uplifting church music. Finally it subsided and the people started to leave. When my wife got in the car, I asked her what had been going on in there. She said there had been no music at all that night, not even the choir."

Unusual shadows on the walls are another strange phenomenon at St. Columbkille. Janice Royston recalls a night last winter when a shadow resembling the outline of a man appeared on the wall.

"I guess you could say it's my imagination," she laughs. "We had just been talking about the ghosts at dinner the day before. But I wasn't the only one who saw it. It seemed to move around the wall during the service.

"Then it came time to leave and everyone was walking out. I wanted to get out of there quick. By now the shadow was at the corner near the door of the church. When I walked through that door, I felt a cold chill and I shivered. It was really eerie."

In the spirit of good fun, parishioners have included several ghost stories in their recently published history, which celebrates their 150th jubilee.

Some people make reference to "the ghost" as the friendly resident who likes to drop in once in awhile. They remember the humour of Father Voorwerk, a pastor during the 1960s, who played a tape of scary noises every Halloween to the delight of children. Voorwerk also took people on tours to quell rumours that a coffin was kept in the basement of the rectory.

Whether the stories are real or the work of over-active imaginations, there is no doubt that the ghost of St. Columbkille adds character and uniqueness to this quaint country church.

Krafted with luv

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