The origins of a toy named Wheelie have dogged historians at Prince Edward Island’s Yeo House since its discovery in the Gothic Revival home’s walls.
And right from the beginning of the province’s possession of the home, there have been stories shared about bizarre goings-on within the property’s provenance.
Matthew McRae, executive director of the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation, beams proudly when talking about the “beautiful site.”
The Yeo House is a timeless beacon of Prince Edward Island’s booming shipbuilding industry during the 1800s. Situated in Green Park, the mid-19th century mansion was built by the son of a shipbuilding magnate, James Yeo, Jr.
“The Yeo family were some of the most successful shipbuilders on the island,” McRae said, during a September phone conversation. “Back in the 1800s, the shipbuilders were the island’s financial and commercial elite.
When you venture up the stairs and look out the window, you can see James Yeo Sr.’s shipyard in the distance.
“At that point in time Green Park was a hive of activity, dozens of ships were built there,” he said. “His home was actually featured as a piece of artwork in the 1880 Meacham’s Atlas of Prince Edward Island.”
The Maritimes were a boon to industry in Canada, but as engineering demands changed, so too did the need for lumber. As a result, wooden shipbuilding was not a major concern heading into the 20th century, and as a result, the ship-building empires on the island declined.
At Green Park, many who were employed in the industry were forced to leave to find other work. The Yeos, however, remained for many years, and eventually, in the late 20th century, Green Park became a provincial historic park, as did the Yeo House.
McRae’s employer, the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation, restored the home and maintains the site.
“There’s still no power to it,” he admitted. “It’s exactly as it was in the 1800s. When you walk through, you can get that feel, and it’s very isolated.”
As mentioned before, the Yeo House’s more ethereal residents are not shy when addressing the living.
McRae mentioned that staff have complained about very odd things happening inside the home.
“Over the years, the Yeo House has developed a reputation as a haunted space,” he said, adding that a small, wheeled dog was found in the house, and given the name “Wheelie” by staff.
“Our records are pretty scant. Wheelie’s origins are a bit of a mystery,” McRae added. “Going back many, many years is that he was found in the walls, which is even creepier.”
Wheelie is a rough-looking toy that has lost one wheel, his fur is matted and his nose has been ripped off. McRae added they weren’t quite certain if it was a dog or a sheep.
But further investigation revealed that it could very well be an old Pomeranian dog made by a German company, Steiff. That would also mean that the toy is 120 years old.
“We don’t know why it was left on the ground, possibly in the walls,” he admitted. “The story goes that the contractors found it in the walls while they were doing renovation work.”
Once the artifact was accepted into the collection, he was placed in the toy room.
That’s where the story gets interesting. When staff close up the building for the night and come back in the morning, Wheelie will be found in another location.
“There is no power in the house. It’s in an isolated area,” McRae said. “The house is alarmed, so it’s not likely someone is going to sneak in, move Wheelie around, and sneak back out.”
It’s happened more than once, and it does creep the staff out. It’s another toy that can be placed in the collection of haunted dolls, similar to Florida’s possessed sailor, Robert.
“This particular toy certainly has a reputation for being haunted and/or cursed,” he added. “Maybe he’s not as vindictive as Robert, but it does still keep that creepy vibe.”
Wheelie rose to fame during the pandemic, and the Yorkshire Museum started to hold weekly curator battles on Twitter. Each week they would announce a theme. One week in April, the theme was the creepiest object.
McRae submitted Wheelie and the toy won, wheels down.
“I knew that Wheelie was creepy, but I didn’t think it Wheelie would be such a hit,” he admitted.
The pandemic has shut down most museums across the country, but that doesn’t mean the paranormal activity has. Wheelie is safely locked in a case while the Yeo House awaits post-pandemic visitors, so the other strange events have occurred.
“Something has continued even though Wheelie is in a case,” he said.
Inexplicable events that have been experienced in the house include weird sounds, footsteps, voices, and on one occasion in the past, a tour group was startled by a “hair-raising shriek” from the upstairs.
On another occasion, a local contractor heard a conversation in the kitchen. Thinking it was the staff who arrived for their shifts he went to investigate. Once he rounded the corner, the voices stopped.
“I try to visit the site to see how things are going, and I paid a visit a couple of weeks ago, and that morning, they came in and a soap dish, with a bar of soap, was found on the floor, with the bar perfectly placed in it.
Tee Sock of Mi’kmaq Paranormal (established in 2016) has been eyeing an investigation of the Yeo House for quite some time.
For the 48-year-old, who grew up in Tyne Valley, it’s more about explaining an experience she had on the property when she was 12 years old, rather than pure curiosity.
“I remember hearing screams, but when you’re a kid like that, you don’t really put it into perspective, you know?” she said, during a midday phone conversation. “The house was always a dare. It was an abandoned thing.”
The house always seemed abandoned to her, as kids would often challenge each other to walk around the home in the dead of night.
“We used to go up there and hear screams,” she said, adding she spoke with fellow co-founders Sheri Bernard and Julie Pellissier-Lush of Mi’kmaq Paranormal about what they remembered about Yeo.
Most commonly, the scream would be that of a terrified person. That’s how Sock would describe it.
“It’s almost like you were in a big house and someone completely on the other side, and you hear it, but it’s faint. It’s muffled,” she recalled. “But you can tell there’s a certain urgency to it.”
When it happened to Sock, she walked around the house to see if she could find anything. But nothing was amiss.
For Sock, the supernatural is a part of her heritage as Abegweit First Nation. And it’s helped shape the way she structures investigations.
Especially given that she shared her vision of ghost investigation with her mother, Catherine Archer, a First Nations elder.
“This is like a part of every indigenous person’s oral teachings,” she said. “It was never unusual to sit down and hear elders talking about spirits or forerunners or the afterlife.
“They certainly believe there’s life after death and sometimes spirits hang around.”
Another paranormal investigation group, the Soul Patrol, has dived deep into the Yeo House’s history. Team medium and administrator Amanda Trainor said they had the opportunity to do a deep dive into the Yeo House, but the mosquitos kept them away from an on-site investigation.
Yeo has drawn the team in for an investigation out of notoriety. The Yeo House, through their records, ranks No. 2 in a list of Top 5 most haunted locations on the Garden of the Gulf.
That Top 5 list also includes Holland Cove, West Point Lighthouse, Scotch Fort Cemetery, and the Northumberland Straight ghost ship.
The Soul Patrol started in 2011, and the team researched all the locations over a period of the year. Four years later, they realized there were hotbeds on the island than just those five, such as the King’s Playhouse in Georgetown, P.E.I. and Yankee Hill Cemetery in Souris.
The team got its origins from Trainor’s own personal experiences in her Cornwall, P.E.I home, with husband Craig.
“We were painting before we actually moved in, and my back was to the hall, and I thought I was talking to my husband because someone was answering me back,” she recalled. “But my husband was actually out on the back deck smoking a cigarette.”
Thereafter, they reached out to a mother-daughter duo known as the Island Paranormal Research Group. An EVP was recorded while the home was under investigation, and it was a little boy’s voice saying, “I am Scott.”
Trainor’s interest was piqued and caught the investigation group. Trainor agreed that the supernatural is ingrained in the culture of the island, but added there are skeptics.
“It’s quite a thing here, and we have a lot of people who don’t believe it, and that’s fine,” she admitted. “You don’t need to believe. We do.”
“(Yeo House) is not our only site that’s alleged to be haunted in the provincial museum system,” McRae said, with subtle enthusiasm.
Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation run seven sites.
On top of the Yeo House, the Beaconsfield Historic House, which McRae was speaking from during the interview, and Orwell Corner Historic Village in Vernon Bridge have their own ghost stories.
“P.E.I. has got a huge tradition of folklore and storytelling, and it’s very strong even now in the province,” McRae said. “I think partly that’s because of this strong sense of community and provincial identity that keeps these stories alive that might not be as alive in a larger community where there’s a lot more movement and action.
“These stories kind of stick around and become a part of the family and even community traditions, and I think that Wheelie is a reflection of that.”