In which we meet the Dancing Stove Lids of Ontario. The "Windsor Star," January 14, 1935:
Strange tales began to reach Perth yesterday of ghostly happenings in Burgess Township. At the little farm home of John Quinn, on the shores of Black Lake, about 16 miles south of Perth, inanimate objects had been suddenly imbued with life, James Kinloch, of Perth, writes in a signed article in the Mail and Empire.
Stones thrown by no human hands, the stories said, had been breaking windows. Pieces of firewood had been leaping out of the kitchen woodbox. The tea kettle wouldn't stay on the stove. A mirror had been shattered by some unseen force. A foot-long beef bone repeatedly flew through one of the windows and would not stay outside the house.
By evening the "ghost of Burgess" was the one topic of discussion in Perth. In shops, on the streets, in the post office, and in every home John Quinn's uncanny visitor had supplanted all the news. Skeptics had gone to Black Lake and Joined the crowd of 60 or 70 persons milling about the Quinn's home. They had heard window panes breaking and had seen the stones which had shattered them, but had no explanation.
With others this reporter spent all last night at the allegedly haunted house but has no uncanny personal experience to report. He arrived at the Quinn home at 9 o'clock. It is a story and a half log structure. No lights showed because every window blind was down and the gaping panes were stuffed with bags and blankets. There were 10 windows in the house and every pane in every window was broken. Inside were Mr. and Mrs. Quinn and their two small sons, Michael and Stanley, and about a dozen men.
The room was lighted by a kerosene lamp. The men were in small groups, all talking in low voices as at a funeral. Provincial Police Inspector Sidney Oliver of Perth was also there because the whole countryside was alarmed at the stories of "goblins and ghosties and things that go bump in the night." Nothing had gone bump that evening, however. The last manifestation had been at 5 o'clock when a piece of firewood came from no one knew where, and with a thump was there in the middle of the kitchen floor.
Mr. Quinn, who came to Burgess two and one-half years ago from Detroit, told me that he could offer no explanation for the things which have disrupted his home life. Things started to go wrong a couple of weeks ago. he said. Pieces of beef which had been cut up and placed in a closed barrel had been found strewn around the barn floor. Then last Wednesday night about 11 o'clock a window pane had gone with a crash. He had got up and looked all around the house but had seen no one. He had not thought it particularly unusual, however, until the incident was repeated on Thursday night. Then on Friday things had "started slinging around."
Andrew Burke, a neighboring farmer, said he had seen the windows break and the stones drop with a queer thud as if there were no human force behind them, just inside the window sill. He said dishes had jumped, and a bone, thrown out of the house time and time again, had each time returned to the house in some mysterious manner. Apparently no one had been near the objects affected, he said.
William Cordick. another neighbor, came into the house later in the evening. He said he had been there when three flatirons had come down the staircase one step at a time. Just like someone walking. Mr. Cordick was considerably perturbed.
Throughout the evening people came and went. Men and women huddled around the stoves in the two downstairs rooms. Between 10 and 12 o'clock there were never less than 25 persons in the house, all talking in whispers and looking at broken crockery and the scattered mirror and the broken monkey wrench which had reputedly spun around on a nail on the wall propelled by unseen hands.
Rev. Father Whelan of Stanleyville, whose parish includes the Quinn home, came in during the evening. He said he had been there earlier in the day when lie had heard a window shatter and had seen one of the stones. From what he had been told by his parishioners. Father Whelan said, he had no explanation to offer. None of the stones was available. Souvenir hunters had picked them up. It was generally agreed that they were common field stones. Some had been dry, others had had ice on them.
As the hands of the clock standing beside a mysteriously broken jug on the kitchen bureau crept towards midnight, the small crowd grew a little tense, and sat or stood around saying little, waiting for they knew not what. Nothing happened, and shortly after 12 o'clock Mrs. Quinn and her two sons went to bed. At one several others left the house. At two only a dozen were left. Mr. Quinn went to bed. Finally Inspector Oliver and this reporter were the only ones left in one of the downstairs rooms. Two neighbors of the Quinn family kept watch in the other. Outside the house the mercury slipped below zero, and the little house with the broken windows was very cold. Still nothing happened and in the morning we returned to Perth.
Today literally hundreds of people motored over the rough township roads through a snow storm to the Quinn home. They came from Perth, Smiths Falls and the countryside for miles around. No inexplicable occurrences were reported today, but the goings-on in Burgess remain the paramount interest of the whole district.
The "Brooklyn Eagle," January 23, 1935. Note that this article gives the farmer's name as "Joseph," which appears to be incorrect.
Stanleyville, Ontario, Jan. 22.--One of the most baffling mysteries ever to confront the Canadian police is under investigation at Black Lake, three miles from here, where detectives are attempting to discover the cause of the flying stones, walking flatirons, falling pictures and jumping teapots that have disturbed the farmhouse of Joseph Quinn.
The house, a four-room log cabin affair on a windswept hill, has been the Mecca of sightseers for the past two weeks, ever since it came into the public eye with its strange tale of events that can seemingly be caused by no human hand.
The first hint of mystery came Jan. 9 when Farmer Quinn, his wife and two sons, Michael, 11, and Stanley, 13, were aroused by a heavy stone falling on the roof. Upon investigation, Quinn was unable to find any reason for the noise.
On Jan. 11 events even more strange occurred. At breakfast a cup and saucer left the table side by side and sailed through the window. Every so often Quinn and his family were sent ducking by the arrival through the shattered glass of a well-aimed stone. And when they went to bed they were beset by sticks and debris that made a complete ruin of the 10 windows in the cabin. Besides this, the occupants were on the verge of a bad case of jitters as the result of pictures dropping with a terrific clatter in the midst of a meal or while the farmer and his family sat reading.
A representative of The Eagle visited the Quinn home today and found the house in a deplorable condition. Pillows were jammed into the broken panes to keep out the biting northern blasts and the land around the house was tracked and crushed from the hundreds of feet that have prowled and gaped around it during the period since the mysterious happenings began.
William Cordick, who spent the weekend of the noises in the Quinn home, acted as guide. He told of the first Saturday, when he sat in the Quinn kitchen and saw the lids from the stove rise from their sockets and go out the window.
"As I approached the house," he said, "I heard the noise of flying stones and sticks, things I never saw or believed In before. When I entered the house and was getting warmed near the stove, the lids jumped off somehow and spun around on the floor, finally sailing out. Several stones came through the windows, shattering the panes. While I was in the kitchen with Mrs. Quinn, we heard a noise in the adjoining room and when we got there, the globe from a large lamp lay in pieces on the floor, where it had been hurled by some uncanny force."
The story of the walking flatirons is even more bizarre. While Cordick and Mrs. Quinn sat in the kitchen, they heard a noise on the stairway, caused as they found by three flatirons.
"They were hopping down the stairway just as though they were walking," explained Cordick in the manner of a man who cares not whether the world believes him he knows, for he has seen with his own eyes.
"About this time," he went on, "I decided to go home. I'd seen enough!"
The Quinn home has two rooms downstairs and two upstairs. The stones and sticks that caused the trouble are gone, taken by a souvenir-mad throng that has jammed around the little hill in the hope of seeing more of the phenomena.
Many of the visitors were not disappointed. A stick from the wood box jumped out in the midst of a crowd a week ago, clattered around a bit, and finally came to rest. It held no clue.
No explanation has been discovered for the startling series of events. The police have been hampered by the fact that every stone or stick that has figured in the mystery has been sequestered by the mob as a souvenir, and the tracked, muddy ground offers no possible chance, of divulging the secret be hind the puzzle. In the meantime the noises and stone - throwing have ceased as mysteriously as they began, leaving the Quinns wondering If they have been the victims of practical jokers or the humorous twist of some playful pixie.
Two months later, a "solution" was offered for the mystery when the police rounded up one of the usual suspects. The Saskatoon "Star-Phoenix," March 20:
The ghost of Burgess Township, who last January was responsible for mysteriously breaking windows, walking flatirons and bouncing crockery in the home of John Quinn on the shore of Black Lake, was in the custody of Ontario Provincial Police tonight. Stripped of his nether-world shroud, the ghost turned out to be a 13-year-old Burgess boy who is held also on a charge of arson in connection with the fire which destroyed a barn on the farm of Michael McFarland, a neighbor of bis parents.So that was that. Or was it?
Investigations by Provincial Constable Robert Wanncll, following the fire, led to the arrest of the boy today. He was taken to headquarters here and questioned by Inspector Sidney Oliver. He is said to have admitted setting fire to the barn, and also to have told of being responsible for the mysterious goings on at the Black Lake farmhouse, which drew hundreds of curious visitors to the plane, and baffled police and newspaper reporters. Police turned the boy over to the superintendent of Lanark County Children's Aid Society until Friday, when he will be arraigned in Juvenile Court.
Presuming that the mayhem at the Quinn farm was described accurately, this boy had a stellar career as a magician ahead of him.