Your location: Rideau Canal Home Page > Tales of the Rideau > The Ghosts of Kilmarnock

The Ghosts of Kilmarnock

The first tale is a very slightly edited version of the tale in the Parks Canada Edukit. That, in turn, is an embelished version of the original tale told by Thadius Leavitt in "A History of Leeds & Grenville", which I've reprinted verbatim, following the Edukit version -kww.


In the mid 1800s, near the village of Kilmarnock, lived a man named Isaiah Croutch. Isaiah had a gift, but it was a gift he did not want and did not enjoy. It was the gift of foresight. The people around him did not understand him and thought that he could simply predict the future. They often tried to persuade him to use his gift for profit by predicting the results of a horse race or a game of chance. Isaiah's gift only allowed him to predict who was going to die. Sometimes, he knew only a few minutes before the news would arrive and he would speak up. Other times, he knew many days in advance and would be in mental agony knowing that he could not say anything.

Isaiah also had a brother, but he was the black sheep of the family and had much less integrity than Isaiah. In fact, Isaiah's brother was basically a liar and a cheat who was constantly encouraging Isaiah to take advantage of his gift. He was constantly nagging Isaiah to tell him if his girlfriend s father was about to die. His girlfriend s father was a widower and by far the richest man in the village, so naturally, his daughter stood to inherit a great deal if he should pass away. Now Isaiah's brother would marry the girl if he knew her father was about to pass away, since he too would inherit the money. Her father had been ill for many years, but continued to cling greedily to life as well as his money.

One night when Isaiah's brother was visiting, Isaiah awoke from a very restless sleep and felt compelled to leave the house as he often did when he was soon going to know of another imminent death. Isaiah's brother watched as he went down the stairs, out the door, walked down to the river, paddled across in a canoe, and stood in the field. In a trance, he paddled back and returned to bed. In the morning, Isaiah's brother questioned him optimistically about his vision. He wanted to know if Isaiah had seen a vision of his girlfriend. For the first time, Isaiah could not tell who would die, he could only see a funeral procession.

The next night, Isaiah's brother again saw him rise from a restless sleep, go down the stairs and walk to the river. This time, when Isaiah paddled across the river, his brother followed him in the rowboat. He watched Isaiah stand in the field receiving his vision. Isaiah's brother then followed him back across the river. The next morning, Isaiah was again aggressively questioned about his vision. He would only say that he saw a funeral procession. Isaiah's brother was persistent, though, and insisted that if it was his girlfriend's father, he would marry her that very day. Isaiah told him once again that he did not know. His brother did not believe him. Once again that night, Isaiah's brother saw Isaiah rise from a restless sleep, go down the stairs and walk to the river. This time, however, he forced Isaiah to paddle him across the river. He stood in the field with Isaiah and demanded to know what he was seeing. Isaiah told him he was seeing a funeral procession with two coffins, but he didn't know whose they were. His brother was suddenly ecstatic, convinced that it was his girlfriend and her father and that he must marry her right away. Isaiah was very upset and argued with his brother... The next morning, Isaiah Croutch's house was empty. A while later two bodies were pulled from the river. They were the bodies of Isaiah and his brother. They had argued in the canoe, fell overboard and drowned. Isaiah had seen his own funeral.
The End

From: “Edukit”, Rideau Canal Office, Parks Canada, 2000

Thadius Leavitt's original version:

At an early date there lived in the vicinity of Kilmarnock, on the north side of the Rideau River, a man by the name of Croutch, who claimed to have the gift of foresight. Many old and respected settlers believed implicitly that he received warnings of the approaching death of any person who resided in the settlement. According to the testimony of his wife, who bore the reputation of being a Christian woman, Croutch would frequently retire to bed, where in vain would he seek slumber; restless and uneasy, he would toss from side to side, at times groaning and muttering names of the departed. Do what he would to shake off the mysterious spell, in the end he was compelled to submit.

Rising, he would quickly dress himself, take his canoe and paddle across the river, where he declared he always found waiting a specteral funeral procession, which he would follow to the grave yard, where all the rites and ceremonies would be performed. Croutch having watched the ghostly mourners fade away would then return home, retire to rest and sink into a profound slumber.

It was always with the greatest difficulty that Mrs. Croutch could ever elicit from her husband the name of the party, whose death had been heralded. It is related of the late Samuel Rose that upon one occasion he was in the company of Croutch, in crossing a common both saw a light. Croutch exclaimed, Did you hear that cry ? No, replied Mr. Rose. Oh, said the fatalist, it was the cry of a child, the name of which he gave. In a few days the child breathed its last.

Upon another occasion he predicted the death of a man named Mclntyre. Colonel Hurd, of Burritt's Rapids, informs us that he knew Croutch and that far and wide he was regarded with terror by the children, who had learned from their parents his supposed power of communing with the spirits of the departed.

The End

From “History of Leeds & Grenville” by Thad. W.H. Leavitt, Recorder Press, Brockville, 1879, page 88

Comments: send me email: Ken Watson

©1996- Ken W. Watson