The Ghost Chronicler
By Justin Allec
“There is more to our existence than what we know,” local historian and teacher Carroll Merritt tells me. “Some things can be explained, and some things just cause your mouth to drop open in complete awe.” We’re discussing Merritt’s latest project, as she’s collecting local ghost stories with the intention of producing a book, and very quickly we’re into spooky territory. The words she’s using—paranormal, supernatural, residual energy—are well-defined, but they take on their true meaning during our conversation because Merritt is tying them to familiar places through people’s experiences. She decided to focus on Thunder Bay because it’s her hometown, and “that connection to the city and area that makes the stories behind the hauntings even more fascinating.” It’s the locations, but it’s also knowing about the people involved and their fates that makes for a compelling, and frightening, story.
Merritt’s at ease talking about the paranormal because she’s had unexplainable experiences her whole life. As she reached out to others with similar reported experiences, she has found that she’s entered a curious space of acceptance and disbelief: “I’ve discovered that people look at you funny when you start saying you believe in ghosts or hauntings, but I’ve also found that everyone has a ghost story to tell.” Merritt points out how pre-Enlightenment (or pre-18th century) most unexplainable phenomena were attributed to divine or otherworldly forces. While modern science has largely answered many of those questions, many people still struggle between the accepted cultural deniability of the supernatural and their own personal beliefs and experiences. A question like “Is this place haunted?” isn’t the right one to ask, Merritt says, because every place has its own ghosts. A better question would be, “How did this place become haunted, and what does that mean for us?” We may sense some ghostly presence, but that doesn’t mean we should interpret it as an attempt to communicate with the living.
The encounters Merritt has had and writes about are varied, so she’s careful in her stories not to ascribe too much meaning to events. While we usually think of ghosts as malevolent (and Merritt has had some experiences of this sort), there’s other stories where unusual occurrences are simply the result of “residual energy.” “Every action we do releases energy, and that energy cannot be destroyed—it just changes,” she says. And sometimes that energy changes into something uncanny in a specific place. For example, many people report bizarre occurrences around the Trowbridge Falls area, such as strange noises in the woods, tapping on car windows, sightings of strange beings, and sensations of being chased or menaced. The many stories about Trowbridge Falls earn it a place in Merritt’s book, even if the origins of the activity remain unknown.
Once daylight fades, it’s much easier to accept that there’s more than suspected in the woods surrounding our city. If you’ve had a ghostly or unexplainable encounter you wish to share with Carroll Merritt, you can reach her through her Facebook page Ghost Stories of Thunder Bay or email her directly at email@example.com.