There are few phenomena more intriguing than the amazing insights of clairvoyants, both past and present. Perth County had its own such seer - Vera McNichol of Millbank - who, though totally benign, was eery in her predictions, most famously through her success in helping find the body in a local murder case in the '70s.
More than a century ago, when the psychic arts were even more appreciated (and feared) than today, the Ottawa area had it own powerful clairvoyant in "Mother Barnes", known widely in the late 1800s at the Witch of Plum Hollow.
Abandoned by her husband and with a large family to raise, Jane Barnes turned her gift for seeing into a living for her family, charging 25 cents a reading. She was such an intriguing character that interest in her remains high, though she departed this world 116 years ago.
Stratford-area writer Patti Miller, who lived and worked in the Ottawa area for years, has tapped into that interest with her recently self-published Collected History. The 86-page, softcover book is well illustrated and designed and includes some fascinating tales taken from period documents and newspaper accounts. There is an especially poignant tale at the beginning of the book about a young American man who is tried and executed for the murder of his cousin. Like Vera McNichol more than a century later, Mother Barnes helped find a body, solve a murder.
Miller's treatment of the Barnes' story is unconventional in that tales are told through a collection of primary sources. She produces no narrative to tie it all together.
Yet, the material here whets the appetite and it's appropriate that Mother Barnes' old log cabin has been restored and Miller deserves credit for keeping her memory alive. See www.cyg.net/~miller for more.