By Robyn Doolittle and Jen Gerson
Mount Pleasant cemetery has an eerie silence.
Aside from the hundreds of squirrels, Jen and I were pretty much alone in the graveyard. Heavy cloud cover made it seem colder than it was and every now and then we’d feel a drop of rain.
We knew Egerton was buried somewhere in Plot G, but when we walked passed “F” and saw “H” we were feeling discouraged. “Let’s just ask someone,” sighed Jen. William Carlton was resting just off the trail.
We opened the game box to reveal the all-powerful Ouija board; something people believe has the ability to contact the spirit world. Jen munched on her popcorn while I refreshed my memory of the rules.
“Place the board upon the laps of two persons or on a hard surface with the board between you. Put the pointer table on the board and place your fingers lightly but firmly (without pressure) on the pointer,” read the instructions.
A caretaker cutting grass noticed us kneeling over Mr. Carlton, and abruptly veered his lawn mower our way. Jen quickly joined me crouching on the ground. “Hi, Mr. Carlton, sorry to bother you. We’re looking for Egerton Ryerson. Should we turn right up there?” I asked.
The black three-pronged pointer swiftly slid to YES. Jen and I didn’t know Mr. Carlton, and weren’t sure if we could trust him, but the caretaker confirmed his advice.
We were wrong to have doubted the dead.
After finally locating “G,” Jen and I now had the difficult task of finding Eggy. Egerton Ryerson was the founder of our Ontario education system and more importantly our university. He died in 1882. Jen and I finally spotted the tall grey marker behind some trees, near the north-west path that framed the plot. Once more we laid out the Ouija board. A few nosey squirrels eyed us suspiciously. Or maybe they eyed my bag of McDonald’s.
“The Ouija is without a doubt one of the most interesting and mysterious products of the century,” I read aloud from the directions. “Its operations are always interesting and frequently invaluable, often answering questions concerning the past, present, and future with marvellous accuracy.”
Bent over his grave with the game and fully exposed to passerby walking along the path, some would say what we were doing was tacky, but I promise, we tried our best to be respectful.
“I call upon the spirit of Egerton Ryerson,” Jen shouted in her most pyschic-like voice. “Egerton, Robyn and I have a few questions for you about the state of the school. Are you with us?”
The instructions warned it may take one to five minutes before making contact, but Egerton was happy to have visitors and immediately the indicator started to swirl in small arcs across the board.
“Egerton, how do you feel about losing the RAC Referendum?” Jen asked. The pointer stopped moving. We were barely touching the hunk of plastic when it slid to C, then moved to R, came back around to A and finally rested on P.
“David Dubois [the athletic director] will be happy to hear it,” I replied. “Egerton, how do you feel about our university right now?” Jen asked. H, then over to M, up to G, back down to S, sideways to M again, then over… “Egerton we don’t understand,” I said puzzled. The marker slid up to YES. We looked at each other doubtfully and decided to come back to that one.
“Egerton, if you could change one thing about our school, what would it be?” I questioned. The pointer hesitated, but then spelled K-E-R. We slowly looked up and in unison whispered, “Kerr Hall.”
The beautiful Toronto Normal School, once stood on the spot that Kerr Hall now sits. The entrance to the RAC and a small model in Ryerson’s archives are all that remain of that stunning building.
Jen and I had to agree with Egerton that Kerr is an eyesore.
Now the most important question of all: “Egerton, which campus paper is better? Go to the sun if it’s the Eyeopener, or the moon if it’s the Ryersonian,” we both said. The pointer almost flew out of our hands towards the sun. Egerton had confirmed what everyone had known all along.
As Jen and I huddled in the cold, two classes of schoolchildren on a nature walk passed by. We asked one of the teachers to take our picture. As we smiled for the camera, a funeral procession was driving pass. Inappropriate. Inappropriate.
“Do you support RyeSAC President Dave Maclean’s decision to defederate from the CFS?” I asked. To our surprise Egerton said YES. (Dave will be happy; an endorsement from the main man himself.)
“Egerton, how do you feel about Claude Lajeunnese?” Jen asked. The indicator glided over to M, then moved speedily over to E, then M, then back to E. What could this mean? “Do you mean Claude is the reincarnated spirit of you?!” Jen exclaimed in astonishment.
The marker didn’t move, only twitched slightly left and right.
“Who knew?” I thought. A few drops of rain splattered on the board, and we could see large clouds of our breath. “Egerton, thanks so much for speaking with us, we’re getting a little chilly, so we’re gonna take off. You have a good one,” we said. The marker slid to GOODBYE and then we packed up.