EXCERPT: Great Canadian Ghost Stories by Barbara Smith


RURAL new Brunswick


Some people, and even some families, seem more likely to have a ghostly encounter than others. This was certainly the situation for a New Brunswick family we will call the Lawsons.

Bob Lawson recalled an especially stressful time for his family during World War II, the winter of 1942 to be exact. “My brother Gerry, a mechanic, was in the Air Force. He and another man were on mercy flights in the north with a bush pilot named Al. They were on a mission to deliver medicine to some northern people when their plane went down and they were lost for thirteen days.”

During this time of terrible worry, the family tried to keep going as best they could. Mrs. Lawson, for instance, kept up with her household responsibilities.

“My mother had waxed the floors, and it was snowing, so she put newspapers over them. One Saturday night about midnight, we heard the front door open. We could hear the squeaking of the frosted hinges, and then we heard someone stomp his feet on the floor, as if to bang the snow off his boots. Then we heard three heavy knocks at the door. My sister and my father went downstairs to see who had come in.

“There was absolutely nobody there, nor was there a drop of water on the newspapers. The two of them looked all through the house. They went out and looked on the front porch and there was about a foot of snow, but no footprints in the snow. I remember my mother saying, ‘That’s Gerry asking for prayers, probably dead and asking for prayers.’”

The following morning, the family received a phone call from the Air Force base telling them that the flight crew had survived the plane crash and that rescuers were on their way to bring the three men out.

The news wiped away the sorrow the family had felt after hearing the ghostly footsteps throughout that eerie snowy night. They decided to invite friends and relatives over to celebrate the good news. As the group toasted Gerry’s good fortune, there was a knock at the door. The parish priest stood in the doorway and asked if they were related to a particular man who had died on Saturday night.

Bob explained that the dead man had been a troubled soul whom his mother had tried to help many times. It took a while before the family was able to make sense of what had happened. The phantom footsteps that they’d attributed to Gerry’s soul passing by had, in fact, been those of the family friend.

The ironies of life—and of the afterlife—can be poignant.

Many years later, that same house was the scene of a very similar paranormal event. Bob’s daughter, Angie, was an adult by then. She 

recalled that she and her husband were living with her parents in rural New Brunswick when one night, well past midnight when everyone in the house was asleep, they heard someone walking on the porch.

Slowly and quietly, Angie’s brother went down the stairs to see who it was, but by the time he got there the sounds had stopped, and there was no sign that anyone had been near the house. Sensibly, the family decided to go back to bed, but their rest was short-lived because a few minutes later they heard the footsteps. Angie, her brother, and her husband all went downstairs this time, but again there was no one there.

“Again,” Angie recalled, “we all went back to bed.”

But their peace was disrupted for a third time.

The next morning at breakfast, they discussed the strange sounds from the night before and wondered what the source might be. Later that day, the family received a sad answer. “My husband, Chris, heard about an accident that happened about a thirty-minute drive from where we were. A man driving a small car in the early morning, approximately 1:30 a.m., crossed the centre line on the road and was hit head-on by an oncoming truck.”

It was later determined that the car’s driver died instantly.

Angie continued, “That man was a good friend of my husband’s family. They say the spirit tries to find someone close to them. In this case that ‘someone’ was my husband. Those footsteps we heard that night sounded like the way that man walked. A sluggish walk with heavy boots, which is exactly what it sounded like when he walked.”

They concluded that the spirit of her husband’s friend had passed close by them on his way to the great beyond.

*Excerpted from Great Canadian Ghost Stories by Barbara Smith, 201