________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 4 . . . . October 12, 2007


Strange But True: Canadian Stories of Horror and Terror.

John Robert Columbo.
Toronto, ON: The Dundurn Group, 2007.
240 pp., pbk., $22.99.
ISBN 978-1-55002-735-8.

Subject Headings:
Curiosities and wonders-Canada.
Ghost stories, Canadian.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Ron Hore.

*** /4


About three o’clock in the afternoon, I was alone, busy finishing up a project, and was intent on my work when I heard footsteps coming from the back of the house. I looked up in surprise because the back door of the building had been tightly locked for years and was never used. I saw a man coming towards me, carrying a small child.

I smiled at the man but he did not seem to notice me. I noted that the child had his head leaning on the man’s shoulder with his face pressed into his neck. I could not see his face but I was amazed to see that the boy (for somehow I knew he was a male child) had an old-fashioned brace on his leg.

Now I became very curious and took a good look at the man. I noticed he had on a Harris Tweed jacket. There were leather patches on the sleeves at the elbows. As he neared me, I realized that he was going to turn and go into a room with no exit where we kept supplies. To exit the building, he would have to turn the other way and go out the front door. I said, “Sir, the door out is to your right.”

He never looked at me but continued on into the supply room. After a few moments, when he failed to reappear, I got up from my desk and went in to the room to see what he was doing. To my horror the room was empty!”


Strange But True is a collection of 48 stories, the majority of which are told as true happenings by the actual individuals involved in the event. These have been emailed or sent to the author and are told mainly in their own words. The author takes the correspondence, may make minor changes to the writing or punctuation, and returns the new copy to the submitter for approval. As a result, most of the stories are told in the first person.

     In addition to fairly recent “ghost” or “paranormal” tales, there are a few old-timers or stories outside this box. For example, the first story in the book is one from 1896 about a fearsome Windigo. The second tale is a newspaper report in 1891 of Ignatius Donnelly lecturing in Winnipeg on the Lost Atlantis. The first eight stories all take place prior to 1968.

     This book, with a total of 240 pages, includes a seven page preface giving the author’s thoughts, and one page of acknowledgments. There are no pictures or illustrations. The stories in this volume are wide-ranging and are all set in, or connected with, Canada. While most deal with personal paranormal experiences: others look at UFOs, a vanished village, a Nazi film, practical theosophy, childhood monsters, a war story, a lost valley, and other strange beasts. The stories vary widely in length, from a single page to one tale of 15 pages. In many cases, the names of the people involved are included as part of the introduction to a particular story as well as the date submitted and even the author’s subsequent comments or questions back. This helps to give the events a feeling of authenticity. The participants involved in these events range in age from adults recalling their experiences as children many years ago, to those writing about things that happened recently.

     I would recommend this soft cover book to those interested in the paranormal and who approach these stories with an open mind. This volume is easy reading, written in a straightforward style, sometimes amusing, that should make the reader think about any alternative explanations to what is being presented. The stories are told as true.


Ron Hore, involved with writer’s groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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