Today is the first in a 2-part Trivia Thursday!
I have always loved the mystery of the Baldoon Witch – I even wrote a paper on it in college. Given its mystery and its local history, I decided to use it as the basis for our Trivia Thursday. Usually when making our trivia posts, we come up with a list of trivia questions and then write a story to fit the answers ourselves. But as I discovered when writing that paper in college, all the sources related to the Baldoon Witch tell the exact same story in almost the exact same way. So this time, we took the existing lore and developed our questions from that.
As usual the trivia questions will be listed below, along with the first half of our story, which has the answers hidden within it. Some answers are obvious while others might be harder to figure out. The answers are posted within the comment section. Do you think you can find them all?
Please feel free to leave a comment and let us know how you did. And don’t forget to come back next week for Part Two!
Ready…. Set… Go!
- This country has a unicorn as their national animal
- Over the course of 300 years (from 1450 to 1750) approximately 50,000 people – mostly women – were executed for practicing this
- What is the first name of the Scottish national hero that our town in named for?
- The English _________ is the busiest shipping area in the world, accommodating more than 500 ships per day, even though it is only 34km wide in some spots.
- A place that people visit for pleasure and interest, usually while they are on holiday.
- This town, established in 1797 along the Detroit River, is now part of the city of Windsor.
- The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (or Spirit) is collectively referred to as what?
- This interior design style is defined by practicality and comfort, relying on readily available materials and colors and features wood elements and white tones.
- The type of speech given by the loser, usually in a political election setting.
- The most famous one of these was actually just a disfigured man best known for his singing voice and dropping a chandelier on a crowd of people.
The mystery centres around a poltergeist that haunted the family of John MacDonald for three years. John was the eldest son of Donald and Flora MacDonald, two of the original Baldoon pioneers who came from Scotland to Lord Selkirk’s planned settlement in 1804. John had been just six years old when the family emigrated from Kirkcudbrightshire; he grew to maturity on the Baldoon settlement, married a local girl, and in 1826 acquired a farm of his own in Lot A of the 4th Concession.. This lot was coveted by other people in the area, particularly one elderly woman by the name of Buchanan who offered many times to purchase the land from John. He refused her requests and built his large frame farmhouse upon the land
On 28 October 1829, a pole suddenly crashed down from the ceiling as the women of the family and some neighbour girls were preparing straw in the barn, (The barn was made of logs, having above its main floor a ceiling of poles that formed a loft open at the ends and floored with the poles.) Startled but unnerved, the women assumed it was no matter and resumed their work. Several minutes later, a second pole dropped. Finding this strange, they examined the ceiling but could see no reason as to why the two poles had fallen. They resumed their work and forgot about the fallen poles as they became engrossed in conversation. Suddenly, a third pole crashed into their midst – now terrified, the women dashed out of the barn and into the house.
Strange things continued to happen. Stones, seemingly thrown by a phantom, pelted the farmhouse until every window was shattered. When visitors and family members examined the stones, they found that they were smooth and damp, as though they had been flung from the bed of the river that ran right in front of the house. The roof leaked when it wasn’t raining. Mysterious little fires broke out all over the house. “I saw the house take fire upstairs in ten different places at once,” recalled William Fleury, who lived just up the road from the McDonald family. Once the earth moved the very foundations of the house – and only the McDonald house was shaken by this earthquake. Pots and pans inexplicably crashed from the counters and tables.
“At the time of this trouble,” reported local resident William Stewart, “I lived about three quarters of a mile from the place and was present and saw for myself many of these strange things. Mr. Alex Brown, with the others, took a number of lead balls that came in through the window, marked them, tied them in a bag, and dropped them in to the centre of the Channel Ecarte, in about 36 feet of water, and in a short time the ball came back through the window. I was present when the barn was burned and also when a man by the name of Harmon was preaching there. At this time a large stone came right through the door, breaking out one of the panels, and rolled in front of the minister. The stone apparently had come out of the water. A search was made about the house, but no person could be seen. I also saw a loaf of bread move off the table and dance around the room. The owner of the house, John T. McDonald, I know to be a very respectable man.”
As news of these occurrences spread, hundreds of curiosity seekers from the surrounding areas began to visit the house in hopes of witnessing poltergeist activity first-hand – even the Toronto Globe reported the events as they occurred. The McDonalds took advantage of the situation and profited as a tourist attraction until their safety was really threatened:
“I went with my father to see what was going on at Belledoon for I was very young at that time,” H. Drulard later recalled. “We saw a pot rise from a hearth and chase a dog outside and all around the yard. It could not get away from the pot, for it would hit the dog and he would yell and howl with all his might. I saw an old fashioned butcher knife pass through a crowd of fifty men and strike into the wall the whole length of a ten-inch blade. This happened in 1830.”
After a local Methodist preacher, Reverend McDorman, tried to exorcise the spirits, the poltergeist became more violent: healthy livestock suddenly began to die in the middle of the night. Horses dropped dead in their stalls; the ox died in the field while still connected to the plough. Hogs and chickens withered and passed away. The family would awaken in the middle of the night to the slow, steady tread of men marching in the kitchen. Robert Baker, a Michigan schoolmaster who had a great interest in the subject of witchcraft, tried next to exorcise the spirit by nailing a horseshoe above the front door of the farmhouse and invoking the Holy Trinity. Not only were his efforts in vain, but local authorities prosecuted him for attempting to perform witchcraft. Mr. Baker was convicted at trial in Sandwich and sentenced to a year in prison; the Lieutenant-Governor, however, heard his appeal and granted him a pardon on 6 May 1830. And still the hauntings continued, and they became more violent. The baby screamed as its cradle rocked of its own volition; it was said that two men had to hold the cradle for the mother to rescue the infant. Guns went off while no one was holding them. The fires broke out with increased frequency and became harder to put out. And then the entire home burned to the ground.
This version of the Baldoon Mystery by Windsor’s Scottish Heritage website.