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The first website I remember visiting is Snopes.com.
When I was a kid, there were some people in my life who liked to forward chain emails about all sorts of conspiracy theories and urban legends. Their critical thinking skills were rather weak at times, so I eventually began looking up everything they sent me on Snopes and replying to them with links to that site that disproved rumours like the one about strangers giving out poisoned Halloween candy or the one about people being drugged by strangers and having their kidneys stolen.
Sometimes that link was all I replied with if the conspiracy theory or urban legend was a bigoted and/or ridiculous one. I’m a patient person in general, but I draw a firm line at stuff that is used to harm people or that is so obviously untrue even a child should be immediately suspicious of it.
Eventually, they stopped forwarding any of those sorts of emails to me at all.
Adult Lydia would have been a bit more tactful when sharing links to disprove yet another wacky email, but I still think that people should research the information they share online before insisting that Scary Internet Story #567 is 100% true and that everyone should panic about things that a) are so vague no one has found proof of them really happening, b) are medically or scientifically impossible, and/or c) have been recklessly misinterpreted in the worst possible light while leaving out information that is critical to understanding the truth. Mixing what is at best a teaspoon of fractured facts into a frothy gallon of pure nonsense helps no one except scam artists.
Now I’m wondering if I should start reading Snopes again. I only have a couple of people still left in my life who believe in conspiracy theories and urban legends, so I don’t know too much about the current crop of them.
If you have a favourite lighthearted urban legend or conspiracy theory, tell me about it. I’m personally intrigued by the Area 51 lore and what the U.S. government might really be doing there.
Title: Curse of the Nain Rouge: The Legend of Detroit’s Red Devil
Author: Michelle Nunley
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Length: 5 pages
Source: I received a free copy from the author.
Rating: 3 Stars
There are many urban legends of hauntings throughout Michigan. Some tell of an ominous white ghost, others of mysterious dog-headed creatures. But none is quite as haunting as that of the curse placed on the city of Detroit by a small red devilish-looking creature . . . The Nain Rouge.
A short 1200 word story that tells the tale of Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, founder of Detroit, and a curse placed on the city by a small red, sharp toothed devilish looking creature. Detroiter’s call him the Nain Rouge. Based on encounters and sightings throughout history, it is said the creature appears before every disaster throughout the city’s history and long list of misfortunes.
Some curses exist for good reasons.
I was surprised in a good way by fact that Antoine was such an unlikeable protagonist. There’s something interesting about seeing how such a selfish, egotistical man reacted to a threat to his city that he didn’t believe in or think should be taken seriously. We all have our own blind spots, of course, but Antoine’s blind spots much bigger and more dangerous than most.
This story could have used a little more character development. I had trouble empathizing with Antoine because nearly everything I learned about him was negative. Yes, he was a villain, and arguably even more so than the Nain Rouge itself, but even the worst person in the world is bound to have some good in him or herself. While I understand that this isn’t the strong suite of most folktales, there was definitely room here to humanize him a tad before he met up with his nemesis.
My favorite part of this tale was the ending. It tied up the most important plot strings but also explained why this legend continues to be shared three hundred years after it was said to begin. I couldn’t help but the turn the unresolved portions of the storyline over and over in my mind to see if I could think of a good way to resolve them. There’s something to be said for a legend that could still yet have more chapters added to it!
Curse of the Nain Rouge was a thought-provoking tale that I enjoyed reading.
Since most of the people who read this site don’t live in Toronto and Halloween is my favourite holiday of the year by far, this seemed like the perfect time to share some of our spooky local urban legends.
The Lady in Red
Lower Bay subway station was built in 1966 and shut down six months later because the Toronto Transit Commission realized that any delays at that stop would shut down our entire subway system.
A new subway station was built on top of it, and the original one is only rarely available for public viewing.
Legend has it that a woman wearing a red dress wanders around Lower Bay station, but no one knows who she is
. There are no records of accidents that might explain why this spirit spooks TTC employees and the occasional film crew that wander around down there.
We do know that this patch of land was once a Potter’s Field whose coffins were partially cleared out when the city wanted space for public transit, so she might be the ghost of someone who either had no next of kin when she died or who was abandoned by them.
The Underwater UFO Base in Lake Ontario
Multiple people have reported seeing lights shimmering over, plunging into, or leaping out of Lake Ontario. These sightings have given rise to the legend that there is an underwater UFO base located in the bottom of this lake.
Perhaps the aliens come from an aquatic planet and wouldn’t do well out here on dry land?
The Seneca First Nations tribe were the first people to record sightings of our own sea monster. As early as the 1850s, white settlers claimed to see something much bigger than the average fish swimming around in Lake Ontario as well. They described it as a blue-grey serpent that was about 50 feet long.
A Haunting at Old Finch Road
There are many different versions of this tale. They all tend agree that a girl was murdered on Old Finch Road, possibly near a bridge.
Many versions say she died on her birthday and will appear to you if you sing Happy Birthday to her because the person who murdered her wrote “Happy Birthday, Susie” on a nearby rock after killing her. (Although the victim’s name changes quite a bit depending on which version of the story you hear).
Some people have also claimed to hear screams and moans when travelling along this road.
Gibraltar Point Lighthouse on Toronto Island
Mr. John Paul Rademuller was the first lighthouse keeper on this little island back when it was still a peninsula. In order to make some extra money, he was a brewer and bootlegger as well.
Legend has it that two drunken sailors came to visit him one day to buy some of his beer. When Rademuller refused to sell it to them, they killed him, dismembered his body, and buried pieces of it around the island.
In some versions of this tale, it is said that parts of him were eventually found but that his head was never recovered at all. Other versions say his ghost still continues to wander the island because his killers were never punished for their crime and not because parts of his skeleton might still be waiting to be found.
Allegedly, there were some bones found near the lighthouse in 1893, but investigators didn’t yet have the scientific tools to tell if they belonged to Mr. Rademuller or not.
Mrs. Jemima Howard’s Last Days
The unique thing about Mrs. Howard is that we have many historical records that document her life. She was the wife of John G. Howard, and they both gave the land that would later become High Park to the city of Toronto after their deaths.
Mr. and Mrs. Howard lived happily in Colborne Lodge for many years. They never had children, but they doted on their nieces and nephews who temporarily came to live with them while finishing their educations.
Sadly, Jemima Howard was diagnosed with breast cancer long before we had any treatments for it other than morphine and laudanum for her pain. She died at home in her own bed surrounded by loved ones. If she looked out her window, she could see the spot where she (and later her husband) would be buried.
Their headstone is the only one allowed in High Park, and it’s a beautiful, peaceful spot a short distance from their home.
Some visitors to Colborne Lodge have reported seeing a woman peering out of the second story bedroom where Jemima spent her last days. Others have reported cold spots and poltergeist activity.
Maybe Jemima never left home after all.
What is your favourite urban legend from your city, town, or community?