Haunted Manitoba: Ghost Stories from the Prairies is a fascinating but sometimes frustrating read.
Written by Matthew Komus as an informal sequel to his previous work Haunted Winnipeg: Ghost Stories from the Heart of the Continent published in 2014, Haunted Manitoba tracks various local legends, reports and paranormal events that can be found throughout our province, expanding the province’s haunted literary catalogue to include a variety of Indigenous hauntings.
When diving into this short read, check your expectations. This is not a nail-biting horror novel where you are terrified to turn each page. Instead, this is a catalogue of the creepy places, unfortunate accidents and disturbing events found in Manitoba’s history.
The book is not terrifying, at least not until you start thinking about the places mentioned — some of which you may be well acquainted with.
In this context, Haunted Manitoba is an excellent book of Manitoban history.
Komus is simply fantastic at combining historical facts and social trends into a tension-building narrative throughout the book by weaving the sometimes textbook-like narratives with eye-witness reports.
From an asylum in Brandon to old colonial lodges and various museums where students keep hearing voices that aren’t there, there is enough creepiness to remain engaging between historical anecdotes.
Though, the author seems to be more interested in the history of our province than offering genuine scares.
Structurally, the chapters are separated based on geography. Winnipeg, the Interlake and Northern Manitoba all have their time to shine, with their topographic and historical information put in context before Komus dives into the terrors specific to each region.
The book also recognizes Manitoba’s colonial history. Terrible things have happened throughout our history, and some of those events have led to very specific legends and seemingly impossible reports in the book. Indigenous ghosts ask settlers to take care of their family graves, trappers see ghostly dog-sled teams and the legend of the White Horse details the story of a spectral white steed that still walks the Prairies carrying the soul of its slain Assiniboine princess rider. These stories remain a piece of our history, and Komus offers a unique window into the past.
While perhaps better tailored for those interested in local history, Haunted Manitoba can be a useful guide for Halloween plans.
Even a cursory read can lead the reader to their own local hauntings, which may literally be just down their street.
A recitation won’t scare anyone around the campfire, but the power of suggestion and human imagination could very well haunt readers for years to come if they stumble through the right local sight one quiet night.
Haunted Manitoba is currently available at major retailers and the official book launch is Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Grant Park location of McNally Robinson Booksellers.