Some hauntings are really hard to categorize, and can really take a turn into the truly bizarre. In 1889, farmer George Henry Dagg and his family, wife Susan, his own children Mary, 4, John 2, as well as an adopted daughter, 11-year-old Dinah McLean, were leading a simple, quiet life on their placid rural property in Clarendon, near the town of Shawville, Quebec, in Canada. They were a perfectly normal farming family, living peacefully and going about their normal lives, and there was nothing particularly remarkable about them, but this would change in September of that year, when a sequence of bizarre paranormal events began to unfold at their secluded property that would steadily gain momentum and intensity until it would become one of the most shocking and frightening hauntings in Canadian history.
It all started innocuously enough. One day George gave his wife some money in two bills, which she put into the drawer in their room, but the next day, one of the bills was found on the floor of the kitchen. When George checked the drawer, both bills were missing, and Susan claimed that she had not touched them. In the coming days, other objects turned up in strange places or went missing altogether, and at first George assumed that a young farmhand named Dean had stolen the money and was pulling pranks, but the boy adamantly denied having anything to do with it. The missing and misplaced items continued, with his own children also insisting they had had nothing to do with it. Things began to appear from outside as well, such as rocks and sticks, and one day Susan went about the home doing chores and came into the living room to find a pile of pig’s feces smeared all over the floor. George at this point had had enough and, still convinced that it was Dean playing some sort of practical joke, sent the boy on his way. However, the strange missing and misplaced items would continue. At this point it was more annoying than anything truly spooky, but this would soon change.
Things began to increase in intensity when the family began hearing odd thumping and banging on the walls at all hours of night. They would go out and look around to find no explanation for it, no wild animals, no trespassers, yet as soon as they went back to their room to try and get some sleep the cacophony would start right back up again. After this, objects were seen to move on their own, including a rocking chair kept in one of the rooms that would start to creak back and forth on its own, and this would graduate to items and furniture being thrown about with great force by unseen hands. On several occasions windows were broken by rocks hurtling through them, but no matter what George did he could find no one responsible, even having a window break as he was hiding waiting to catch the perpetrator.
In addition to all of this, dishes would be found smashed, milk jugs with their contents splashed all over the place found crushed, furniture defaced, and there was an organ in the house that would start playing on its own. Even more frightening still were fires that began to spontaneously erupt around the house. Although they were always able to put these out, the fires were extremely persistent, with eight once occurring in a single day. This got more menacing still when the thrown objects that had been tormenting them started targeting them directly, with rocks smacking into them and water jugs splashed onto them. There were also occasions when an unseen force would pull hair or push people. Then there were the sinister voices.
Family members began to be harassed by a gruff voice like that of an old man coming from the shadows that would berate them and make strange, threatening statements. On one occasion is growled to one of the children “Would you like to go to hell with me?” and on another it spat out “I am the devil and I’ll have you in my clutches.” The voice would follow them around taunting them and mocking their attempts to find an explanation for the phenomena, laughing at them when they made mistakes, breaking their concentration at the most inopportune times, and generally making a nuisance of itself. The voice also answered questions directed at it, but its answers often made little sense. When asked what it was, it would give different answers at different times, including that it was the spirit of a man who had died in the house, that he was the Devil or a force conjured by black magic, and later on even claiming that he was an angel. The voice also had the strange habit of changing in tone and timber, alternating between an almost childish, impish voice to other times where it was little more than an animalistic snarl. This mysterious voice became very persistent, and there were numerous neighbors and visitors to the house who heard it for themselves.
As if this all weren’t enough, there also began to appear spooky apparitions. It began when Dinah woke her parents screaming that there was a “big black thing pulling off the bedclothes.” When her parents arrived, they could not see it, but they did see the bedsheets levitating in the air, and Dinah insisted the entity was there “jumping over the bedstead.” Dinah was then given a bullwhip and told to strike it, which elicited a squeal like a pig as the entity vanished. On another occasion, the children were playing in the yard when they claimed to have seen “a tall man with a cow’s head, cloven feet and horns,” with this entity appearing in the house as well, and there was also a large black dog with glowing red eyes was also seen lurking about. These ominous apparitions were only ever seen by the children, but their parents at this point had no doubts that they were telling the truth.
By now they were coming to the conclusion that the entity, whatever it was, seemed to gravitate towards Dinah. It seemed that the paranormal activity only ever seemed to happen when she was around, and that she was the main target of many of the ghostly attacks. The terrified family decided to call a clergyman called Reverend Horner to come and try to bless the house and exorcize whatever it was, but this backfired. Not only did the voice laugh and mock the exorcist’s efforts, but the prayer book from which he was reading vanished from his hand to appear in the oven. Another clergyman, a Baptist minister named Reverend Bell, also took a crack at it and was immediately verbally accosted by the entity, which mocked his faith and wondered out loud who had given him the authority to call it an “evil spirit.” A few violently thrown objects later and Bell fled in terror. The voice then changed into a more benevolent tone and claimed that it was an angel, before launching into a beautifully sung hymn in front of many witnesses.
After this, the residence was visited by a local reporter and psychical researcher by the name of Percy Woodcock, who talked to the family, interviewed Dinah, and came to the conclusion that she was channeling a spirit that she claimed lived in an old shed on the property. With her help, Woodstock would make contact with it at the shed, and ended up having a long conversation and debate with the entity. Things did not start off on the right foot, when the voice immediately snarled at Woodcock, “Get out of here or I’ll break your neck,” before launching into a torrent of curses and obscenities and even picking up a pencil to scrawl profanity onto a sheet of paper. Woodcock patiently waited for the verbal assault to finish, after which he admonished it for saying such things in front of children. From there, for the next five hours Woodcock verbally sparred with the entity, asking what it wanted and telling it to leave the family alone all while it attacked Dinah and spewed venomous words. Greg Graham, a local playwright and amateur historian, has said of the harrowing ordeal:
With witnesses gathered, Woodcock argued for the soul of Dinah or asking this ghost — or whatever it was — to leave her alone. They began debating about philosophy, theology, the nature of God, and right and wrong. And when he made the ghost mad, Dinah would react as if she was slapped, kicked, hit, punched or scratched. It got very violent against Dinah and he’d have to back off.
During this grueling conversation, the sinister entity made many claims. It said that it had not meant to hurt the family and had been doing everything merely for its own amusement. It also once again alternately claimed to be The Devil, an angel, and the spirit of an 80-year-old man who had died on the property 20 years prior. Amazingly, after much negotiation the voice eventually was worn down and agreed to leave the family in peace the following day. The next morning, the Dagg children would then claim to see a tall old man in flowing white gowns walking nearby, before he bid them farewell, raised his arms, and disappeared “in a burst of streaking flame.” The whole 3-month-long ordeal had been well-witnessed, with seventeen respected members of the community including politicians, police, and clergymen signing an affidavit that it was all true. It would seem that this would be the end of the disturbances for the Dagg family, but rather curiously there have been reports of something strange going on at the property in more recent times. In 2014, Chris Lackner with the Ottawa Citizen investigated the scene and met with Charlene Labombard, the current owner of the Dagg house, whose family have had some odd experiences there. Lackner writes about his conversation with Charlene:
She recalled hearing, as a teenager, someone climb the creaky old stairs and stop outside her door. Thinking it was a sibling prank, she flung the door open — only to find herself alone. And terrified. Her siblings claim an upstairs door also had a habit of opening-and-closing of its own volition. “I don’t have a superstitious mind,” Charlene explained. Some of her children claim to have seen what appears to be a little girl in a white gown or dress come down the stairs in the original part of the hold farmhouse, and cross down the hall through the kitchen door. Charlene’s late husband swore he saw the apparition once, too. Pointedly, some Dagg family stories indicate that a young daughter, Eliza Jane, died at the farm under mysterious circumstances, scalded by a pot of boiling water. Though most lore places that event after the famous haunting, the tragedy has been linked in spirit. The only other oddity noted by the Labombards, a strange sound of crawling and scratching in the attic, solely focused above the original house, and not the extension. If the world’s chattiest ghost is still hanging around, he’s taken a vow of silence. Are the odd happenings reported by the current residents some strange remnant of the Dagg haunting? What really happened 125 years ago?
What happened there, indeed. Over a hundred years later, the Dagg haunting is still discussed and talked about, very much a part of the local lore that has never really gone away. Those who believe something paranormal was going on have had various theories as to what it could have been. Everything from poltergeists or ghosts, to demons, to the Devil himself has been thrown about, but there is no clear answer and it is hard to really clearly categorize. It was certainly weird, whatever it was. Local historian Venetia Crawford has said of the entity:
He wanted to upset everybody there and he did a good job of it, so whatever he could think of that was unusual that day, he did. He had a very unique personality … he was such a strange ghost. I don’t think he was either good or bad. I think he was whatever he wanted to be in the moment.
What was going on with this family? Was this just some hoax, misidentification, or misunderstanding, or was it something else? How can we explain so many witnesses having experienced the phenomena for themselves? If this was a mysterious supernatural force, then what was it and what did it want? Why did it act so bizarrely and why did it orbit the adopted daughter Dinah? Why did it take so many forms, why was it so vocal, and where did it go? We will never have the answers to any of these questions, and it remains one of the weirdest Canadian hauntings there is.