In eastern Canadian folklore terms, a forerunner is the appearance of a ghostly figure or intangible set of events that serves as an omen or warning of tragedy to come for an individual or an entire family. Though they can be protective and positive, in a majority of the cases forerunners tell of a warning of a death or ill that will soon be visited upon a family.
If you look throughout history you can find a multitude of examples in literature of forerunners including, Shakespeare and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. However, today I am going to tell you a tale that was handed to me by a family that has its roots on the east coast of Canada. Not as prolific as Shakespeare perhaps, but still quite telling, heartbreaking and eerie nevertheless. As our storyteller approaches 80 years old, she recounted this tale that happened to her in her 17th year in 1955. (I have written the story below as close to the account as possible, but in a way that flows as a narrative)
“1955 had been quite a hard year for our family. We had just lost my brother Percy to a drowning earlier and his body had never been recovered. Our mother had passed away when we were both young and as Percy was only a baby, he was adopted out to my aunt Helen to raise. I had spent his entire life pretending, by order of the family, that he wasn’t my brother, even though he was suspicious and questioned me many times. It was something that stuck with me all my life, that I could never tell him the truth. My father, whom we nicknamed Brick, had spent the last year since my brother’s drowning navigating the shorelines of the Bay Of Fundy searching in vain for the body of his biological son, whom he had to also pretend wasn’t his son for Percy’s entire life.
On one particular day, I was visiting my aunt Helen, who was renowned as the family matriarch, a teller of cards and very much held onto folkloric beliefs we would consider of “olden” times today. She was showing me how to read cards as we had tea while sitting in her sunroom when suddenly she gazed off out of the window into the distance. In the midst of gazing out of the window, my aunt Helen informed me that she saw my father walking down the street towards her house and I became aware of his heavy footsteps outside coming closer towards the front door. We both heard the footsteps stop and then heard a loud knock on the door, to which I assumed was my father oddly asking for permission to enter. I got up, perplexed that he hadn’t just walked in as usual and went to open the door for him. As I opened the door this awful feeling I would describe as “a hundred people walking over my grave” blew over my skin, but the entire space was empty. Nothing. Not my father. Not a soul there.
I returned to my seat and explained to my aunt what had just happened. Aunt Helen then began to tell me about the term “forerunner” and that I had just experienced one for the family. My aunt was adamant that the family would be experiencing more tragedy to come very soon and according to her, she had omens presented to her before Percy had drowned which warned her of it’s coming. We had no idea what would befall us, but it was disturbing that it was my father we saw walking up the street and to the house knocking, for he was quite alive and well. He was certainly not a ghost or a wailing banshee. As far as we could surmise he was in a completely different part of the city and had not been anywhere near the house at the time of our experience.
Two days later I was at home and my father had come in from the pub, not entirely sober, but he decided he was good enough to deal with our little mare. Watching him made me a little nervous because I could tell his coordination had been compromised by the drinks, but I let him continue on. The mare started to swing her head to the left and my father backed up to miss the strike, but when she counter swung to the right she caught him in the head and gave him a right hard smack. It hadn’t knocked him off of his footing and all seemed well enough. He simply continued his chores with the mare and went on with his day. There was nothing thought of at all about the situation.
Five days later we found him unconscious in the outhouse and rushed him to our local hospital, where he was diagnosed as having a broken vein from the horse strike. The blood was slowly leaking out and creating massive pressure in his head. The doctors tried to reduce the pressure and swelling by draining out the excess blood; however, technology wasn’t the same in the 1950’s and two days later my father was dead. He died on the exact same day my brother Percy had gone missing on his boating trip and been presumed dead the year before.”
As you may have already guessed, recounting this story had the effect of re-living that traumatic year for my storyteller, so it was not an easy task to do. The devastating effects of her brother’s and father’s tragic deaths within the same year was a dark burden for the entire family to bare.
Below is a video on Canadian East Coast Folklore, specifically Ghostly Forerunners
To this day our lady believes that she experienced her own father as a ghostly figure of his own forerunner, tragically letting the family know that someone was indeed going to be leaving the family soon. It could potentially be seen as coincidence; however, that is not my area to judge or prove. This tale was not only dealing with foreboding omens but a tremendous synchronicity as well, in that her father perished on the same day as his son did the year before. Not only this but our source always felt a special connection to her father as they both shared the same birthday.
The presence of forerunners is not entirely uncommon on the east coast of Canada. Many of the occupants in that era were descendants of English or Irish immigrants who brought over with them many cultural beliefs, which included warnings of bad omens to come. I have included in this article links to some east coast references on forerunners and to that of Mark Norman’s work on black dogs.
Do you have an interesting tale to tell of a fore-warning figure or event? If so you can leave them in the comments. Feel free to message me if you have an interesting tale to tell that comes from your family history.
Below is a list of references for extra reading on different types of forerunners in history.
All images on this blog post are ownership of Curious Fortean and we do not give permission to reuse out of respect of the individual interviewed for this story.