Smoking Guns: #2 – Dreams behind the store

Posted on April 13, 2012


[This is the account of my second “smoking gun.” It is as accurate as I can make it, a process that has included repeated interviews with the principles involved, always following Gibbs Rule Number One: Never question suspects together. Conversations are left out except when the exact words can be confirmed, or the comment was short enough that a memory approximation is reliable. Also, I’ve kept the descriptions as free of sensationalism as possible, in order to let the facts speak for themselves. For more information on this Smoking Gun series, please see Smoking Guns: Introduction.]

The events discussed in the previous post (Smoking Guns: #1 – The Night Fog) are barely a smoking gun. If it weren’t for the testimony of my mother, I would consider it as nothing more than an interesting case of folie à deux (and that includes the reactions of Roseann, who, after all, was in the room with us at one point and could conceivably have been influenced in some way by our behaviour.)

This is not true, however, of the next example, even though it only involves two people.

Val and I were still living in Welland, but we had discovered that the salary of a once-a-week columnist for a small town paper was surprisingly insufficient to live on. — especially with the arrival of twin babies. It was important to me, however, that I find a supplementary source of income with enough dignity that it would not interfere with my new status as a writer. It may seem shallow, but you have to remember that writing for a newspaper had been a dream of mine, and going back to the blue collar work I’d been doing in Toronto just wasn’t appealing. I had certain standards, and I’m not ashamed to admit to them — in fact, I think more people should do the same.

So anyhow, I started work as a night janitor at Zeller’s in a shopping plaza in Port Colborne. (I had my standards, but I also had a family to support, and we were all addicted to food.)

It’s a Canadian Tire now, but back in the ’70s, this was a Zeller’s. (Image from Google Street View.)

In many ways, the job was actually a good fit. I was locked into the store at 10:00, and let out at 8:00 in the morning, so I had ten hours for a four or five hour job. I could take out books from the library during the day, and do my research at night. Then when I got home I could type up my notes, and have my column ready for Friday.

Of course, there was the small matter of not getting much sleep, but I was young, and it took several months before that caught up to me.

I think there is little doubt this guy could have escaped from the Zeller’s store, even with all the doors locked.

There was one thing I didn’t like: when I say I got “locked into the store,” I mean that I literally got locked into the store. Not only were the front doors locked, but because of thefts that had been committed by some night janitors before me, the back doors were locked and chained shut. If there had been a fire, I would have been forced to throw something heavy through the large front windows, like The Chief did in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

So. A locked-in night janitor.

I mentioned in “The Night Fog” that on the second floor of the building in which we lived there were two upstairs apartments. One was ours, of course, and the other was occupied by a young couple about our age. We became friends, of a sort, and one weekend we all decided it would be fun to go to Niagara Falls. So we packed into our Pontiac Parisienne, which was roomier than their VW bug.

It was fun, but fairly uneventful.

Pontiac Parisienne — roughly the same year and model that we had. Ours was blue. I don’t remember any more than that.

A few weeks later I had a dream. It must have been the weekend, because it was actually night time (during the week I grabbed whatever sack time I could get during the day), and Val and I were both asleep. In my dream, the couple next door asked if we wanted to go to Niagara Falls, but it was getting close to the time I should be going to work. So we agreed that Val should go with them. (In the dream, the babies didn’t make an appearance.) So Val and the couple got into their Volkswagen, and offered to drive me to work. They said they would come and pick me up when it was time for me to come home. (So — right. They were going to spend all night at Niagara Falls? All I can say is that it was a dream.) They drove me to work, and the rest of my dream consisted of me doing work-related stuff. Shortly before it was time to leave, I grabbed a batch of boxes that had to be stacked up behind the store outside, and just as I was finishing, Val and our friends drove up to take me home.

As dreams went, it was strangely pedestrian and unremarkable.

In fact, the only thing worthy of note was the fact that I’d somehow dreamed that at the end of my shift, my duties included stacking boxes outside the store in the back.

It was just at the point that I saw the VW rounding the corner of the store in my dream that I woke up.

At the same moment, Val woke up beside me.

“I just had the strangest dream,” she said.

“So did I,” I said. “I dreamt that you went to Niagara Falls.”

“So did I!” she said, getting more excited. “What happened in your dream?”

At that point, in order not to contaminate any evidence, I refused to tell her another thing until she’d recounted her dream.

And this is what she told me: Our friends next door decided to go to Niagara Falls and invited us, but it was too close to the time I had to go to work…etc.

In short — exactly the same dream. The only difference was that while I was dreaming about the stuff I did at work, she was dreaming about the stuff they’d done in Niagara Falls. And at the end of her dream, she said that when they got to Zeller’s to pick me up, they drove around to the back where I was stacking boxes.

I’d been feeling progressively confident about the value of this experience as she spoke, but still thinking there could be a fairly normal explanation for it. After all, we had recently gone to Niagara Falls with our friends. It might be odd that in this case we’d dreamed that I’d had to work instead of going with them, but it was nothing that couldn’t be chalked up to coincidence. Wild coincidence, perhaps, but still coincidence.

But when she got to the end where they drove around to the back of the store to pick me up, and found me stacking boxes, I knew I had a smoking gun. Trying to explain this away with words like “coincidence” or “subconscious signals” would not be showing a commitment to rationality — it would be showing a commitment to a  deep-seated prejudice. In fact, it seemed almost like it was present solely to dispel any doubt concerning the “paranormal” aspect of the dreams.

And that’s all there is to that one. Only two witnesses, but the important thing (to me) is that I was one of them, and the events could not be explained away by any conventional means.

Next up is the third, and final smoking gun. This one is unquestionably the most dramatic of the series and involves death, and a host of witnesses — Smoking Gun #3: Death Comes Calling.