Kenhte:ke Paranormal Society explores the unexplained

Don’t Whistle at Night

What: Paranormal believers investigate the legend and lore of purported hauntings and beyond in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory

Podcast: Don’t Whistle at Night’s debut episode happens wherever podcasts stream on Halloween night at 8 p.m.

Who: The Kenhte:ke Paranormal Society.

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q42vh9Kzz-U

TYENDINAGA MOHAWK TERRITORY — If you’re not a believer in the unexplained, then this column isn’t for you. And neither is Don’t Whistle at Night, a podcast debuting on Halloween night exploring a series of spooky phenomena researched by the Kenhte:ke Paranormal Society across many allegedly haunted locations throughout Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

“The paranormal society came together because people are interested in the history and they’re interested in creepy things,” Andrew Brant, a member of the society, said as we walked through the Reserve’s so-called Grove, which is located behind one of Canada’s oldest and most storied churches, the Christ Church, a designated historic site.

The weather is cold, the skies dark grey and the wind whips on this day, as Brant takes us to some of the haunted sites he and his crew visited and studied as part of their podcast, debuting on all major platforms on Halloween night at 8 p.m.

Brant’s relationship with the paranormal dates back to his youth, he said, recalling more than one occasion where the hairs on his neck got a workout.

“My first experience that scared the crap out of me I guess, came when I was 12 years old,” he said as we walked toward the one of Canada’s oldest cemeteries, recounting an evening in his basement bedroom he’ll not soon forget. “My bedroom (had a) window so you could see outside and I could see something going past the window every so often.”

Frightened, Brant said, he shut his door and pulled up his covers. Suddenly, he said, he felt that he wasn’t alone. (Note to readers, the hairs on this writer’s neck just stood up as I wrote that line).

“I felt (something) beside me … this really, really creepy, creepy presence and all my hairs just stood up. I pulled at the blankets. I felt the covers on my bed kind of shift down the bed.”

Frozen and shaking, Brant said he remembered telling himself it wasn’t real and to calm himself down. He did. He rolled over on his side, convincing himself everything was fine.

“I rolled over and then I felt this thing push down at the bottom of my bed like somebody sitting down,” he recounted. That was it. Brant bolted from his bed and spent the night sleeping upstairs in the family’s office.

That experience was just the beginning of many the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory resident says he’s experienced in his life. From a bald, pale man wearing a long coat who stared at him from the street who left no footprints to a possible Wendigo at the cemetery at Christ Church, you can count Brant among the believers in the paranormal.

“Ever since (that first encounter), I've noticed different things and strange things in the dark … different shadows,” he said. “Once you're aware of it, when something happens to you, then you're like, ‘OK, yeah, this is really real.’ ”

The Kenhte:ke Paranormal Society is comprised of Brant (investigator, research, technology), Cassey Dowell (research), Tyson Shwager (investigator, research), Hunter Tastard (investigator, technology), Nick LaMarsh, investigator, and a medium.

Their research includes paranormal investigation, eyewitness testimony, historical documentation, and the help of a medium. The investigations centre around tales of a hooved fiddle player, a flying head and evil spirits, along with witchcraft and other occult activity. When it comes to the podcast, discretion is advised as the program deals with mature subject matter such as blood sacrifice and demonic worship.

The leaves rustle as we head down the trail that leads between the backside of the cemetery and the nearby Elders Lodge.

“We’re just passed the Elders’ Lodge, here,” Brant advises as we walk, the only two people in the area on this day.

“We have accounts of witchcraft that are documented,” Brant said, adding that he is in possession of paperwork from Joseph Brant Jr., son of Chief Joseph Thayendanegea Brant, who he said was bewitched.

“There was actually an actual questioning about witches here in the 1850s,” Andrew Brant said. “And this was actually the location that they would use out here in the Grove because it was covered, it was in a secret.”

The former St. George’s Church, which twice burned down, was located behind what is now the Elders Lodge. The current Christ Church, and its cemetery, sit perched on a hill not far from where St. George’s sat. Headstones dating back to the 1700s sit in varying states of derelict. The area surrounding everything is heavily wooded. Crows number in the many, squaking loudly at visitors from their perches on trees marked for removal due to insect infestation. In other words, it certainly isn’t a stretch to imagine that if an area were to experience the paranormal, this one fits the bill.

Brant describes human sacrifices purported to have taken place at the site.

“There's actually still stories (told) of bodies being (found) in the woods,” Brant said. “Seven children, actually. This is where different altar sites have been found,” he said.

Brant and company visited the area to record the sights and sounds and investigate the legends and lore for themselves. What they found, which will be revealed as part of the podcast, is enough to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight up.

“On the top of the hill,” he said pointing “we just left our recorder or camcorder going (while we investigated in the area). When I went back to listen to the footage, I turned everything up 500% to see if I could hear anything and I heard children laughing. This is at 1:30 in the morning in a graveyard.

“Another time, we had Hunter (Tastard) out. He was getting his reader ready and before he turned it on, the sound that it makes when he turns it on came out of a spirit box about 20 feet away where Nick was.”

For the inquiring minds, a spirit box is a device that runs through radio frequencies at about 100 per second, which means if any voices or interactions are heard, they’re less likely to be human and more likely to be spirit.

“Before he turned it on, Nick heard it go through that box,” Brant said. Tastard also reported to Brant that he felt like something touched him while he was setting up. “When I went back to listen to the audio, when I turned it up, I heard ‘I touched you’ in a child’s voice. It had to have been about 2:30 in the morning.”

At the back of the cemetery behind Christ Church, legend has it that a medicine man and Rev. John Stuart, a pioneer Anglican clergyman, encountered a demon.

“We were actually standing at this side of the church, about 3:00 o'clock in the morning, and we could hear some kind of like banging around inside the church,” Brant said as the nearby crows cawed in the background. “And then we could hear stuff calling ‘Hey, hey!’ in a really deep voice.”

On one of the first nights the group investigated the site, they tried to communicate with spirits. “We actually got the name John Stuart come through (the spirit box),” Brant said. “We have that recording on audio too, so on Halloween actually people will be able to watch that on YouTube.”

A nearby bench sits empty, save for a hat oddly discarded or left behind. The hat reads Curry Hill Truck Stop, which is some 265 km from the site, another unexplainable mystery in a place Brant says is shrouded in it. All of it will be addressed in Don’t Whistle at Night.

“We have stories of the hooved fiddle player,” Brant said. “There was an old bar at the corner of Bayshore Road, where the (Skyway Bridge) is. There was a little bar there. There were two people sitting at the bar and they watched him come in, sit down and have a drink. He got up and he left. When he left, they looked down and he had hooves for feet. That night, those guys went missing. Never seen again.

“There is an old bottle tree on the Reserve, inaccessible to the public, between North and South Elis Lane,” Brant said. “For people who don't actually know what a bottle tree is, it was used all the way down into the southern states to get rid of witches, or what they would call boo hags and hags.”

The bottles were filled with coloured water to repel evil spirits.

“There’s also the flying head,” Brant said. “It’s a screaming head, usually on fire. Some people actually have witnessed a flying ball of fire. That was near Wyman Road. That's actually one of the more common stories.” The flying head is purported to target young or unborn children.

“You know, paranormal doesn't mean just seeing things,” Brant said. ”Paranormal also include supernatural things, like prayer. Don't Whistle at Night. Is going to be the full story about everything that happened here,” he added.

“Here,” Brant said as we stood among the grave sites in the cemetery as the crows screamed louder at us, “we heard what sounded like a Wendigo. There's a whole recording at the end of the first episode. We were standing over here, wrapping everything up and we hear somebody calling, ‘Hey! Hey!’ It was coming from literally over here and over here,” he said, pointing in two directions. “Over here, then over here. The same voice. We're like, wait, I don't think that's human. So we stopped a minute and it called again. Then we heard growls, then we heard ‘Better run!’ ”

For those of you who do believe, or even those who need some convincing, Brant encourages you to tune in Halloween night to listen for yourself.

Better yet, do as I did, go check it out for yourself. I recommend daylight.

Jan Murphy is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Belleville Intelligencer. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada

Jan Murphy, Local Journalism Initiative, Belleville Intelligencer