On a rural road near London, Ontario stood an eerie old farmhouse surrounded by fields of lavender. Don’t try to look for it now, as it no longer exists. Just try to picture its imposing frame against a February sky. The day is quiet and a darker grey is replacing a lighter shade as the sun recedes out of view over the horizon, all under the cover of dense cloud. ...Read More
A snow storm looms, and tomorrow will be the first of March. Fast approaching is the start of a new day; a new month begins, in fact. And the life of a tiny hamlet, once gripped by fear, begins anew as well, as the fields begin to seemingly spontaneously ignite from the four corners of the farm.
As the fires quickly approach the structure, it becomes clearer that the burn is controlled…and quite targeted. The house is quickly engulfed and the crop begins to rage wildly as tendrils of smoke twist and rise and vaporize into the darkening sky, excitedly escaping like souls tasting freedom after a long incarceration. The ghosts, some say, of the many who lay amongst the rows of lavender.
At first, nobody knew what to make of young Jessica Channer. The girl had moved back to Ontario from a 3 year stay in British Columbia, and she appeared to have a rose in her cheek and a positive outlook. She was pleasant and easy-going, and spent most of her time in long baking sessions, the spoils of which were readily shared with all. But her family was not particularly social and, as with all newcomers, the people in town were wary. And, as with all small towns, rumours began to circulate as to what the purpose may have been for her trip to the coast and what may have occurred in their previous hometown. Then the disappearances began.
Children have fantastic imaginations. So, suspicious though the town may have been of their new neighbours, they would never readily believe the tale that little Billy Tessio and Dennis LaChance would relate after their fishing trip down Back Hollow Road. It seems the town had been looking for two members of the community for some months (youngsters who went missing near the time that the Channer clan had moved onto the farm), and the boys’ mothers were reluctant to let them out of their sights. The two snuck away anyhow, fishing gear in hand, making their way along the country side-road, when what they claim to have spotted something…just unbelievable.
“We saw the Channer girl standing in the lavender,” Billy began. “She wasn’t lookin’ at nuthin’. Just staring…like…at the air.” “And there were folks in robes,” Added Dennis.
At that moment, they reported, Johnny Merill seemed to appear on the road out of nowhere, wandered trance-like into the field and appeared to be swallowed up by the soil beneath his feet. The boys claim that they were then caught by Jessica’s gaze, the look on her face now sinister and purposeful. They then said that they ran up the road back into town with cartoonish laughter following them the entire way home. Nobody believed them, of course. But when three days later Johnny had failed to turn up, questions began to circulate.
Nothing was ever found. Authorities were involved, but had to eventually abandon all leads, and the boys’ story was, naturally, dismissed out of hand. Meanwhile, the years passed, more disappeared, surrounding towns suffered multiple missing as well, the town increasingly lent cadence to the rumours about the Channer girl, and Jessica grew in a young adult.
It was around this time that young Channer developed a fascination with moving animation pictures, and her parents thought that sending her to Sheridan Arts Academy and to Beijing to unpack some of the mysteries surrounding the art would be wise, given the climate surrounding them and increasing tensions with the town’s folks. Upon her departure, all disappearances stopped. Upon every return visit, they would resume. Authorities had no choice but to take notice now, and drunken teenagers with an emboldened up sense of community pride (or often just on a dare) had begun to take it upon themselves on weekends to stake out the farmhouse. However, most would steer far clear, rendering the traffic on Back Hollow Road nearly non-existent. Fears reached an all-time high. Things were approaching a boiling point. Jessica, however, seemed gleefully unaware. Or perhaps decidedly so. Her parents were not, and sent her, along with her dog, her cat and her snake, Riddle, to the great city of York. And once again, the reports of the missing were no more.
News would come back from York about Jessica, and it would run quickly through the town. Some suggested that she had found employment at a bakery, while others believed that she had been seen hanging around those ‘tattoo people’, and even the cagey Khan J (a purveyor of the “colour”). Years had passed, and the people in town became convinced that the curse that appeared to follow the young woman had left with her, but they still kept their distance from the Back Hollow property. As eye-witness reports were circulated that she had suddenly been frequenting the Yonge and Eglinton area with reputed members of the Society, the towns people began to posit questions as to whether or not the secretive, and widely presumed nefarious, agency had been behind this all along.
But it seemed not to matter when Jessica’s parents finally abandoned the farm. The people of the town had since decided that the souls of the missing were somehow bound to the land, trapped under the soil, and only a proper cleansing of the lot would provide any chance for release. So on the final evening of the month of February, the ritual was executed.
The next morning, in the city of York, Dennis LaChance claims to have spotted Jessica Channer (the last sighting on report) darting into a doorway on Yonge St. (purportedly used to access the Society’s secret den) with one of the hooded characters he swears to have spotted in the lavender fields the night Johnny Merrill disappeared all those years ago.