Mark Twain
by Graham Conway

For a period of twenty years we lived in an old (by Canadian standards) house, circa 1902. Everyone, including the family, said "it had character." That's a nice way of saying it was an expensive pain in the rear end! This house, located in Delta, BC was haunted, or so we were frequently told. I readily admit that some rather unusual things took place during the time that we lived there, but these happenings did not meet my personal criteria for that particular label. For myself, the house felt friendly. The incident that I am about to relate took place around 1980. I came across a record in the library of the school at which I was teaching. It was of an American actor named Hal Holbrook, impersonating, on stage, Mark Twain. Not only did he dress in the style of that period, but he recounted anecdotes in an identical manner. The record was very entertaining. In fact I enjoyed it so much I brought it home for my wife to share. The cover depicted Mr. Holbrook, dressed as Mark Twain, smoking a cigar.

Whilst we were listening to the record my young son came into the room. What were we listening to? Who is this guy Mark Twain? Not wanting to allow an educational opportunity to slip by, we provided a brief historical outline with the capable assistance of Funk & Wagnall. Afterwards he sat and completed the record with us then went to bed.

The time was now 11:45PM and dreamland was also calling us. My wife had some sewing to do before retiring, so I decided to make some hot chocolate for us both. Our kitchen was a large one, with a small cooking/preparation area adjacent to the more spacious eating area.

As I reached over the stove (out of sight of my wife) I was suddenly overwhelmed by the strong odour of fresh cigar smoke, seemingly alongside me! It was so strong it almost made my eyes run. Looking around for the source I was not able to find it. Puzzled I looked around the doorway to where my wife sat facing me at the table at the other end of the room, about fifteen feet away. To my surprise she had her head up in the air sniffing. "Don't tell me", I said, "you can smell cigar smoke?" She nodded before answering. "Yes, its so strong it almost makes me want to cough", she replied.

Now the room in which we were in had four doors off it, they were all closed. Our forced air heating system was in the basement/cellar, therefore, the only way such an aroma could enter this space was from downstairs.

We searched the whole house, our four children were asleep. We even went outside. Nowhere other than in the kitchen could we detect that very strong odor, it remained for a period of about twenty minutes.

Who knows, maybe Mark Twain called upon us that autumn evening.