The Ojibwe called them jiibyag — the ghosts. Their voices whisper inside the night mists that slide quietly over the dark waters of Canoe Lake.
On some nights, it is said, a dove grey canoe emerges from the mist below Hayhurst Point and slides southward, seemingly riding the mist itself and not the water. In it sits a man in a tan bush shirt and holding a paddle. He waves, then disappears.
A breeze tugs the mist toward the western shore, moving it reluctantly past a cluster of cabins. It pauses at the old site of Mowat Lodge where anglers, artists, and other fresh-air enthusiasts lounged on the posted veranda to talk and watch the lake. People sat there watching a real canoe and a real man disappear one Sunday afternoon in 1917.
Then it moves on again through Mowat, once a village of 700, then a ghost town, then nothing. All that exists now is a young forest anchored in the rotting remains of the mill yard, the sawmill, post office, hospital, employee shacks, and horse barns. And memories.
The mist is pushed up the hillside overlooking the lake where a tiny graveyard struggles for its own existence against a relentless Mother Nature. Decaying picket fences and two gravestones gnawed by 10 decades of weather mark the cemetery’s two only known occupants. One is a young man who died May 25, 1897, in a lumber mill accident. The other is a boy taken by a diphtheria epidemic at the lake.There also is an unknown occupant there. And therein lies a mystery. A mystery wrapped in mysteries that no one can ever explain completely. No one but the jiibyag.
Was it murder? You be the judge after reading the incredible story of Tom Thomson's mysterious death and bizarre exhumation at Algonquin Park in 1917.
Altitude Publishing (Canmore, Alberta) October 2003
Non-fiction 128 pages
Poling gives the reader an easy straightforward read. The facts and emotions surrounding Thomson’s death are related without sensationalism, no doubt reflecting the author’s newspaper background and his research. A list of books the reader can use to further explore the events around Thomson as well as his paintings are provided at the end of the book.
Poling is able to maintain the reader’s interest through his ability to convey complex ideas with simple and effective images . . . (CM Magazine, University of Manitoba)