October 24, 2012

EMILY'S ATTIC: AN INQUIRY INTO A HAUNTED PUB


**Originally published by Insidious Reflections, summer of 2005 (edited for current relevance.)**

***All pictures in this article are owned by the author.***


         What better way to celebrate this spooky season than with a ghost story backed by true encounters?  This  investigative article is the first non-fiction piece I have ever published, thanks to the frightfully good folks at Insidious Reflections magazine (now defunct).  The article has been edited to help with the flow of the writing  and to include a slight update on the current situation of the pub, otherwise all facts that follow remain as they were when I first visited this historical haunted pub.  I hope you enjoy it.


The Phone Call
“Good afternoon, Fiddler’s Green.”

“Um, good morning, actually. Long day already, huh?”

“Doesn’t matter how long or short it is. No such thing as a good morning.”

With that, the key was turned and the doorway into the after world had been opened, delivered with a sharp wit by the pub’s general manager, Scott. Despite my early morning intrusion, Scott was actually quite receptive to my phone call. He was more than willing to share his knowledge of ghosts with me. I scrambled with pen and pad to keep up with him as my two minute call for a tour request quickly pub turned into an on the fly twenty minute phone interview. So forgive my lack of quotations if you will, folks, but this is what I got from that first phone call with Scott.

Being somewhat used to the curious media, Scott asked me what I wanted to know. Did I want to hear about the story of Emily or anything else in particular? Since I had already done my research, I didn’t need to spend Scott’s limited time having him repeat the building's history. I was more curious about the haunting and the strange, mostly unexplainable occurrences that went on over there. So I asked him the question: “Do you believe in ghosts?” It turned out he did.

Scott recounted a childhood memory about a night when his grandfather had visited him in his room even though he wasn’t accounted for in the house that night. A few days later, Scott’s grandfather passed away leaving Scott to believe that it was his grandfather’s spirit that had visited him that night, perhaps as a last farewell. Scott went on to say that in today’s world, with so many strange encounters being recorded all the time and with the pure fact that we can exist that it’s difficult not to believe in ghosts. Not only did I have to agree with him, but I was now more eager than ever to hear him tell of his experiences at the haunted pub.

Scott had been general manager of Fiddler’s Green Irish Pub in Cambridge, Ontario for just under a year and first heard of the ghost of Emily when researching for his position. Although relatively unfamiliar with the pub's long standing ghost story before the job, Scott became very well acquainted with the its true nature shortly after being brought on board.

Case in point? In one instance, Scott had left the kitchen momentarily and when he came back he found himself looking at a chef who’s face had gone stark white. When asked what was wrong, all the frightened chef could say was that he just saw Emily and claimed to have seen her float past in the kitchen while he was busy working.

Another time, new security cameras recorded the occurrence of a Tequila bottle that floated out from the bar and spun in mid air before careening across the room to smash into pieces against the wall.

Scott has seen loonies switch to toonies and then back to loonies again while the cash was being counted. (For all you non-Canucks, loonies are dollar coins and toonies are our two dollar coins. Seriously.)

A bartender once got hit in the back from a bottle that was thrown from the shelf while nobody was behind her. Another time during open hours one evening, a few of the bartenders heard a strange knocking from inside a beer fridge, as if someone was trapped inside trying to get out. When it was opened, there was nothing but the usual beer inside.


Scott recalled a particularly alarming thing while he was giving a tour to a couple of interested people. During the tour Scott received a call on his cell phone but, not wanting to interrupt the tour, he didn’t answer it. Later he checked his calls received but didn’t recognize the number that tried to reach him and so out of natural curiosity he called the number back. The voice that answered was that of an elderly lady. When Scott asked what number she had tried to dial she relayed Scott’s cell number back to him. Scott asked her if he could help her with something and the lady said that she was looking for her daughter. “Who is your daughter?” Scott asked and the lady answered, “Emily.”

I asked Scott if he had heard of anything strange about the building before it became Fiddlers Green. He told me the old post office was closed down for a number of years and was left abandoned before the place became the Time Club, and then as the Fiddlers Green Irish Pub. Any previous lore was unknown by Scott.
After hearing Scott tell me about all these incredible occurrences I did the only thing I could think of: I arranged for a tour with him that would lead me right into the heart of the legend of Emily’s ghost. I would see where she died and, if I was lucky, I would better understand why she could never leave.

TheHistory of a Ghost

The ghost - or rather, ghosts as I am later to discover - of Emily’s attic has certainly stood the test of time to say the least. The Fiddler’s Green Irish Pub was built in Cambridge, Ontario during 1885 to serve as the town’s post office. (Author’s note: Cambridge is actually comprised of three smaller towns, Galt, Preston, and Hespeler. The pub was built in the oldest part, which is called Galt.)

Little did the famous architect, Thomas Fuller, realize when he designed this ominous building that he was also in fact designing the eternal haunting grounds of Emily and her forever partner, William S. Turnbull, former post master from 1898 until his death in 1919.

Sometime near the end of his high ranking career as postmaster, a noble position for his time, William employed a woman who would eventually prove to be the death and damnation of him. As rumor has it, the two of them were caught up in a sordid love affair that they had kept well hidden from public eye. After all, the truth would most certainly have ruined William’s reputation and career.

Angry that she could never be part of William’s life the way she wanted to be, or just tired and weary from guilt and deception, Emily threatened to go public with news of their adulterous courtship. William’s mistress never got the chance as she was discovered hanging dead from the clock tower of the postal building. A few days later, William was found dead in his quarters from what was speculated as a broken heart. Or had Emily, lost and lonely in her after life, offer her earth bound lover an invitation to join her that he couldn’t refuse?

So did Emily hang herself out of guilt and shame or did William, afraid that she would ruin him by going public, murder her to make it look like suicide? Sadly, that remains a question that only the ghosts of Emily and William will ever be able to answer. It’s also worth noting that a séance was held at the pub in 1991 during which a psychic felt the presence of a third ghost, a small form assumed to be that of a baby. So does this tell us that Emily was pregnant with Williams baby when she was hung? One more question that can never be answered by the living.

Surveying the Landscape
Arriving downtown Galt, looking at the Irish pub from the opposite side of the street, I could hardly imagine this grand old building, lit up so magnificently by the morning’s warm sun, could be anything less than a welcome spot to enjoy some good conversation over a cold pint of brew. It looked like any other old building I’ve ever seen; impressive and strongly built it's a gift of memories from days long past. I stood on the sidewalk, taking digital pics and growing anxious of my ten o’clock meeting.

It was an unseasonably warm sunny day as I crossed the street to the front of the pub. Looking up at the clock tower, a cold shiver went down my spine as I lifted my camera to take a few shots. ‘This is where she hung,’ was what I thought.

I stood there a few moments and couldn’t help but think that this big round clock face was not unlike an unblinking eye. I half expected it to wink at any moment, a sign that she knew I was there watching her as she no doubt may have been watching me. It was time to push through the green entrance doors and find my gracious tour guide for the morning. Expecting nothing but the unexpected, I stepped inside with the hope of better understanding a ghost that is as shrouded in suspicion and intrigue today as it was over a century ago.


A Date With Emily

Spotting Scott by the bar I headed over and was greeted by a warm handshake and a quick prompt that he didn’t have much time, which was fine by me. We wasted no time as I followed Scott up the winding stairs of the pub.

On the third floor landing I was greeted by a grand mural of Emily, depicted as a sort of beautiful floating spirit that reminded all who passed by it who’s home this truly was and will always be. We rounded the landing and I reminisced over something that Scott had mentioned earlier on the phone. One of the security guys that worked here often felt as though he were being hugged while walking these very stairs during his rounds. Was Emily lonely for an earthbound companion or was she trying to tell the guard something, maybe even trying to warn him? No matter the reason, I couldn’t help but catch my own breath as we walked up the last of the stairs that would lead us into the rehearsal room for the bands that played downstairs.

William’s Quarters
        This naturally dimly lighted room, I was informed, was William S. Turnbull’s personal living quarters when he was postmaster. Looking around the A-frame structure everything was pretty much the way it would have been when William lived here, with the exception of some furniture and the amps and sound speakers, of course. Scott tells me that this is the oldest structure that still remains of contractor, M.A. Piggott’s work. (As a side note, this building was designed by Thomas fuller, man who designed the parliament buildings in Ottawa, Ontario.)

Stepping into the center of the large room, I looked out a pair of windows that sat close to the floor facing a similar pair of windows on the other side of the room. According to my host, these windows had a nasty habit of opening up without anyone’s consent or doing. Tired of always having to close them, the windows had screws drilled into them, but even this didn’t help. The windows still found themselves opened up by morning with the screws laying on the floor, and had to be screwed shut again every month or so. I asked Scott how long he thought these windows would stay shut like this and, after a slight pause, he simply shrugged his shoulders and replied, “No idea.”

If you happen to be a band member rehearsing up here before a show you’ll want to play nice or pay the consequences. Scott informs me of how Emily plays tricks on those that speak ill of her. Band members that have played there were always told the story of Emily, but not everyone paid the respect it deserves. Those that poked fun at the story weren’t welcomed by the mistress ghost. Guitar strings would quickly snap off as soon as they began to play, monitors would work for one band and then not the next and then would be fine again. It seems good advice to behave in the house of ghosts.

Surrounded by shadowy beams of light as we spoke, I continuously heard the soft creaks of old boards even though it wasn’t windy outside at all that morning and there were only a small handful of people about the pub, two floors down.

I diverted my attention to a corner behind me where some old furniture had been pushed up against the wall. Amid this furniture, resting on top of some thick cushions was a ladder that led to the attic above and to the heart of this ghost story.

Emily’s Attic 
Scott was kind enough to hold the ladder for and tells me not to mind the cord that’s hanging down from the attic's opening, leftover from some recent electrical work. I can’t help but think of the dangling cord as a small ode to Emily’s fate.

I climbed up high enough for my upper body to be inside the attic. Standing on top of the ladder, I snapped some few pics while I let my eyes adjust to the dusty dull light that came in through small stained glass windows. Deciding it was all or nothing, I hoisted myself the rest of the way so that I was completely inside of the attic. The first thing I noticed was how quiet and heavy the space up here truly was.

Didn't matter that the clock tower faced the front part of the building and it didn't matter that I could picture the traffic I knew to be roaring past the tower I was in. It was absolutely quiet and still in there. After a few moments my body began to feel quite heavy, too, as if something denser than the natural air around me weighed upon me. I definitely felt closed off from the rest of the word as I stood there on the thin floorboards looking around, taking pictures with as steady a hand as I could muster.

I kept talking with Scott, mostly asking him trivial things, such as questioning the strength of the floor boards, anything really to fill the attic space with life and sound, but mostly to make sure he was still there since I could barely hear my own breath and had to strain to hear him well.

I looked up to see an old and thick support beam running across the middle of the structure. According to Scott, this is likely the spot were Emily was found hanging over a century ago. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine her there, hanging still, then quickly decide that I’d rather not. Instead I looked at the floor at my feet to a spot directly beneath the beam and notice the clocks’ swinging pendulum that marked each year that passed with painful precision.

Looking at the big hands of the clock, I remembered researching tales of people who claimed to see shadows and even a face pass over this clock from outside. Looking at my own watch, I decide it was best to be on my way and as I lowered out of the attic I felt a wash of relief, but also sadness and a touch of reluctance as though I were leaving the home of a child I knew to be tormented. I tried not to think of Emily watching me as I reached the third floor.

As Scott locked up the door to the rehearsal room and led me back down the stairs, I asked him what he thought it was that Emily was trying to communicate with us. My guess was as good as anyone’s he told me, but his suggestion seemed as logical as any. Scott figured because Emily was dragged here and killed, this is where she is stuck. Since William died of a broken heart a few days after Emily was found, he too was stuck here, drawn to this place for eternity.

Back on the first floor, I thanked Scott again for his time and left him to his business. Stepping back out into the hot morning, I sucked at the fresh air and looked forward to returning so I might at the bar to enjoy the drink named in Emily’s honor.

In Memory Of
I began this article with the idea of writing an allegedly true ghost story. What I ended up with turned out to be much more than I had anticipated. I get my ghost story, sure, but what I also got was a better understanding of the ghost behind the story. Nobody will ever really know for sure if Emily was killed or if she had committed suicide in that clock tower over a hundred years ago. However, one fact does remain certain: She may forever be alone wherever she is, but as long as her story is kept alive she won't soon be forgotten by the patrons who come to visit her home.

Knowing what I know now, will I ever go back there? Absolutely, and for several reasons not excluding the hospitality of the pub’s management for letting me poke around and, of course, for the flow of assorted drinks to savor on three floors as the bands play. I know I’ll be back for other reasons too. I hope to again visit the heart of the story so that I might figure out why one of the pics I took in the attic is full of bright streaks when the lighting was exactly the same for every shot I took which all save for this one turned out just fine. I'd also like to know who's face that is staring back from that one picture, the one in the attic just to the right of the pendulum. Maybe you can look closer yourself, look really close, and tell me if I’m imagining things or if that’s just Emily up to her old tricks again.

**Author's note: Sadly, I never did get that drink as the pub has since gone out of business and the building now stands empty.  Well, almost...**