The Mystery of Dagg’s Demon
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In 1899, the Dagg family lived in a small cottage about eleven kilometers from Shawville, Quebec. The family consisted of George Henry Dagg, his wife Susan, their 5-year-old daughter, Mary, their 2-year-old son, Johnny, and their 11-year-old adopted daughter, Dinah Burden McLean. Dinah was originally from Glasgow, Scotland, and was adopted through the Home Children program.
The story of what the Dagg's experienced is famous in the region, and has made headlines in both 1889's The Ottawa Journal, 1957's The Ottawa Citizen, and 2014's The Ottawa Citizen. Because of this, there are a lot of sources to pull from, and the story somewhat varies. However, all agree that the first occurrence of something strange happening was recorded on September 15, 1889.
One day prior, George gave Susan a $2 and a $5 bill. Adjusted for inflation, that's around $72 and $181 respectively. He asked her to put the two bills in their bedroom drawer for safety. Susan did as she was asked.
The next day George was approached by Dean, an orphan boy who lived with the Daggs. Dean handed George a $5 bill and said he had found it on the kitchen floor. George looked at the bill and determined it was the same bill he had given his wife a day earlier. The two went to the bedroom, opened the drawer, and noticed the money was missing. George then accused Dean of taking the money, and Dean denied it. George then went to Dean's bed, threw his quilt off the bed, and the $2 bill came fluttering out of the sheets. Once again, George accused Dean of stealing the money, and the boy denied it. George would then give Dean a "tongue lashing".
Following that incident, more events began unfolding around the farm. Milk buckets would be emptied on their own, butter disappeared from jars, and somebody smeared waste from the outhouse on the kitchen floor. Dean was the immediate suspect, and George had him locked up in the local jail. However, even though he was incarcerated, other troubles started afflicting the family. When it was clear that Dean had nothing to do with the affiliations, he was released and chose not to return to the farm.
As time passed, small fires would start popping up around the house. Sometimes these fires would be one or two at a time, but sometimes there would be many. One day there were eight fires that started suddenly, with six inside the hour and two outside the house. The Daggs would even lose a pair of curtains to fire when they couldn't catch it in time. This story is similar to The Baloon Mystery in which small fires would break out in their house too, but they lost their house to one of these fires. There will be more than one similarity between that story and this one.
Rocks would also often pelt the side of the house, sometimes even breaking windows. George ran outside after one of the windows smashed to see if he could find the culprit, but nobody was there. He then tried hiding behind a stump, and later the barn, and witnessed the windows seemingly break spontaneously. Nobody was around to break them.
Whatever was causing these disturbances seemingly had an issue with Dinah, the adopted daughter from Scotland. At one point an invisible figure yanked at her ponytail, causing her to scream. When her parents rushed to see what was the matter, they found her hair had been cut, seemingly with a blade.
According to Mysteries of Canada, on one occasion, Dinah and her grandmother were cleaning the children's bedroom. When the grandmother had her back turned, Dinah shrieked and "Oh, Grandmother, see the big black thing pulling off the bedclothes!" The grandmother turned, and saw no black thing, but instead the bed sheet floating in midair.
Although the grandmother could not see the black entity, she handed Dinah a bullwhip and said: “Strike him, child. Take courage, and strike him hard.”
Dinah began whipping at the entity, and other family members came to see what was going on. After one vicious crack of the whip, the entire family -- including the neighbour named Arthur Smart -- heard a squeal of a pig, even though there was no pig there. After that, Dinah said, the black shadow vanished.
From that point on, the spirit began terrorizing the household more. It would tear apart beds, rock empty rocking chairs, and play the harmonica. It also left a note for Dinah on a piece of paper that was stuck to the wall. It said, "You gave me fifteen cuts".
The entity also began speaking to the family. It had an old man's scratchy voice and seemed to speak from the shadows. It would often curse at them, and say things that were censored in the 1899 and 1957 articles, referred to only as "barnyard language".
In the 1957 article by The Ottawa Citizen, Charlie Harris, who was then 85, but was 15 years old at the time of the event, once heard the entity speak and poked his head into the room to try and see it. Instantly a potato came flying at him and knocked him in the head. He then heard the entity say, "Get out of there Charlie Harris, you sneak you!"
According to Mysteries of Canada, a local clergyman named Reverend Horner came to the house to bless it. As he was reading from the Bible, the book mysteriously disappeared and reappeared inside the oven. Reverend Horner then prayed for a half hour inside the house and left. As he left, the entity could be heard laughing from the shadows.
George Dagg would then seek out a folk healer in Ontario, named The Witch of Plumb Hollow. He told the witch of his problems, and after a seance, she informed George that the manifestations were the result of black magic practiced by a neighbouring widow and her two children. The purpose of the manifestations was to terrorize their adopted daughter, Dinah.
When George returned back to the farm, he told Susan what he had learned from the witch. They determined the only person who fit that description was Mrs. Wallace, a widow next door who lived with her two children. They approached Mrs. Wallace about this, and she denied having any issues with the family or Dinah. Mrs. Wallace even dined with them, to prove she had no malice.
However, according to the 1957 article, Charlie Harris joked: "Mrs. Dagg told me somebody had told her if she killed a black lamb and boiled the blood on the stove with needles it would bring out the witch.
"She said Mrs. Wallace came over to the fence but [Mrs. Dagg] had to take the pot off the stove because the minister came in."
At several points during the haunting, the children claim to have seen the entity. In the 1889 article, it states "Mary and Johnnie [saw] him under different forms at different times, one time as a tall thin man with a cow's head, horns, tail and cloven foot, and another time as a big black dog". Mysteries of Canada and the 2014 article also reference the appearance of the entity as a big, black minotaur. Dinah saw it standing in the kitchen, pouring salt into the oven. It turned to her and asked her, "Would you like to go to Hell with me?"
On November 14, 1899, a painter and journalist named Percy Woodcock heard of the story and made his way to the farm. Many people were going to the farm to see evidence of the spirit, and he was no different. The Daggs were happy he was there, but asked him to return tomorrow, as Dinah was at a friend's house for the day.
On the second day with the Daggs, Woodcock asked Dinah if she had encountered the spirit at all that day. She said she had, and that it was in the shed in the yard. Woodcock went to the shed and asked "Are you there, mister?"
A voice growled replied back from the shed. Although Woodcock couldn't see anybody, it sounded like they were less than five feet from him. Woodcock asked who they were, and the voice said, "I am the Devil; I'll have you in my clutches; Get out of this or I'll break your neck!"
(In the Mysteries of Canada article, it says the spirit said "I am the Devil. I’ll have you in my clutches! Get out of here or I’ll break your neck.", and in the 2014 article, the spirit says "I am the devil and I’ll have you in my clutches". I chose to stick with the original 1899 quote.)
The spirit then proceeded to use "further expressions of enmity". Woodcock said that such language might scare children, but not him, and told the spirit it ought to be ashamed for using such filthy language. The spirit responded by calling him names.
Woodcock continued to speak to the spirit and learned a bit more about it. The spirit was happy to chat and eventually agreed to stop using profanity. According to the spirit, the Dagg's had done him no wrong and was simply a spirit of mischief and having fun. The spirit said he had no ill will against anybody at the farm except for Dinah and, as of recently, Woodcock.
As they conversed, Woodcock tried to figure out where the voice was coming from and wondered if it was actually coming from Dinah and that she might be a ventriloquist. They had Dinah put water in her mouth and then asked the spirit some questions. The spirit answered them without any problem, even though Dinah's mouth was full of water. This cleared Dinah of making the voice, but it still left Woodcock with a lot of questions. Eventually, Woodcock had another idea. He asked the spirit to write something on a piece of paper. He placed both the paper and a pencil in the shed and watched as the pencil lifted up and wrote on the paper. Woodcock then reached for the paper, read it, and put the paper down.
"I asked you to write something decent."
The spirit roared and said "I'll steal your lead pencil!" and the pencil floated up and flew across the shed.
Woodcock then walked back to the house, and the spirit met him there. They continued their conversation, and it went on for over five hours, with plenty of witnesses. Woodcock then asked the spirit why it was persecuting the Dagg family. The spirit said that Mrs. Wallace sent him. Woodcock asked why, and the spirit responded, "Won't tell you. Shut up; you meddle with the Black Art. I will break your neck, for I'm the Devil, son the Blessed!" Cockwell responded by saying "No you won't", in which case the spirit said something so profane that the 1899 article wrote, "(The reply to this was so obscene as to be unfit for publication)". Later, the spirit would say that Mrs. Wallace and her children buried a book of spells in the nearby swamp and that conjured him. Mrs. Wallace was then summoned to talk to the spirit and berated it for lying about her family.
The conversation carried on for some time. The spirit would say he was the spirit of a man who died on the property twenty years prior. Cockwell and George Dagg asked the spirit for its name, but the spirit said if they told anybody, he would kill them both. They agreed and heard the name of the spirit that was haunting them. They would never share that name.
After several hours of talking, the spirit agreed to stop bothering the family. However, they said they would stop tomorrow. When asked why tomorrow and not today, the spirit said he wanted a crowd there to witness it. With that, the spirit vanished until the next day.
The next day several important things happened. First, Cockwell was able to get seventeen people to sign a letter as a witness to the spirit and what it had done. Cockwell said he could have gotten over fifty signatures but felt seventeen was enough.
Next, when the spirit reappeared, it spoke to several people. One of the guests noticed that the spirit had stopped swearing, and the spirit said "I am not the person who used the dirty language, I am an angel from Heaven, sent from God to drive away that fellow."
The spirit then requested three people to come to the house, three unbelievers, two of which were priests and one was the editor of the local newspaper. None could attend on such short notice. Instead, Reverend Bell arrived at the house. The moment Bell walked in, the spirit called his name. Bell ignored the spirit, so the spirit called it again. Bell said he would have nothing to do with evil spirits, and began reading the scripture. The spirit read along with him, claiming they (the spirit) were more of a preacher than Bell. The spirit then mocked the preacher and told him to go back to photography because he was better at that. Bell would then leave the house.
Once Bell left, the spirit turned back to the crowd of people. The spirit said it was going to speak in its normal voice, the voice of an angel, instead of the fake voice it was using. When asked why it didn't speak in that voice before, it said that people would think it was Dinah's voice. It then changed voices and began to sing a heavenly tune.
The angel's voice was so sweet and the song was so beautiful that people began to cry and weep, and begged the angel to stay past the time it was set to depart. It stayed for two more hours, singing sweet songs from heaven. It then bid farewell, except to Dinah and the kids, as it would say one final goodbye to them tomorrow morning instead.
The next morning, Woodcock arrived to talk to George and Arthur Smart. As they were talking in the kitchen, the three kids rushed in from outside. They said they had just seen the spirit one last time. This time they described him as a beautiful man dressed in white, with ribbons and "pretty things" all over his clothes. It had a lovely face and long, white hair, and told the children sweet things, like that they were good kids. It then said goodbye, lifted its arms, and floated away into the sky.
The 1899 article ends with "Whether this visitation had ceased for good remains to be seen but on re-appearance Mr. Dagg agreed to at once notify Mr. Woodcock when the little girl Dinah would be brought here (Brockville) and taken to Mr. Woodcock's family. So far no word has reached here of any further disturbances."
That's where the 1899 article story ends, but further articles pick up later. In the 1957 article, Thomas Dagg (son of George, who was not yet born when the story took place) said that Dinah was sent to visit her uncle in Portage-du-Fort. One day a man appeared at the uncle's with a letter signed by George that he had to get Dinah. Dinah went with him and was never seen again.
Another story emerged that the curse was lifted when Lisa Jane, another child of the Dagg's that didn't exist when the story took place, died when he clothes caught fire near a pot of soap (not soup) was boiling.
In 1957, The Ottawa Citizen interviewed the Yach family that lives in the house now. They said they have had no paranormal encounters. However, in 2014, The Ottawa Citizen interviewed the Labombards, who have lived there since 1984. Their daughters claim to have seen the spirit of a girl in a white dress walking up and down the stairs, or through the kitchen and have heard ghostly footsteps on the stairs, as well as aggressive scratching from the attic. They didn't hear any voices or profanity, however.
Was Dagg's Demon a demon, or an angel? Was it the ghost of a man, or a spawn of a witch? Did it end that day in 1899, or does it still haunt the house to this day? Whatever happened in 1899 to the Dagg family is a mystery and one that refuses to die, even all these years later.
If you enjoyed this story, we will be discussing it in detail and going over some potential theories in a Patreon Exclusive episode on Unsolved Canadian Mysteries.
What did you think of this story? I'd love to hear your theories in the comments below.
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Categories: Canada, Dark Tourism, Paranormal, Quebec