Did the Right Honorable William Lyon Mackenzie King, the tenth prime minister of Canada, visit the Keyhole House? We are not sure. However, we know that he had his fortune told right around the corner. By 1919, former Keyhole House owner Robert Brodie had befriended Sir Wilfred Laurier and Mackenzie King. That same year, Robert Brodie seconded the motion to name Mackenzie King as Liberal leader, which led to King serving as Canada’s prime minister for more than two decades.
Mackenzie King was a rather eccentric man. He had numerous dogs, and they were all named Pat. He never married, but had several close female friends. King took a great interest in spiritualism while in office, and used mediums to communicate with the dead. For a long time, this was a well-kept secret, known only to his close friends and some members of his staff. However, upon his death, over 30,000 pages from his diaries became public.
The origin of King’s belief in spiritualism was his Christianity. He was a lifelong member of the Presbyterian Church. Through his faith, his beliefs in heaven and the afterlife deepened. Tragedy was another catalyst for King’s interest in spiritualism. His mother, father, sister, and brother all died between 1915 and 1922. In his diary, King indicated that he was certain that the departed members of his family continued to exist and remained with him in spirit, guiding him and encouraging him. His conviction was so strong that he believed it was possible to communicate with them.
King began consulting fortune tellers as early as 1896. He wrote in his diary that while in Toronto, a seer had told him “… some strange truths” and had successfully predicted that he would travel to Chicago in the fall. In 1920, he had his palm read by a Syrian fortune teller while in Calgary. By March 1925, King’s interest in fortune tellers had intensified. He began consulting Mrs. Rachel Bleaney of Kingston regularly. She claimed that she was able to see the spirits of his mother and his brother Max. In 1926, she correctly predicted King’s election victory.
In 1932, King met with Etta Wriedt, a medium from Detroit who had conducted séances for Arthur Conan Doyle. She led several séances for King in February 1932 at the Fulford mansion in Brockville. He was very pleased to have been able to communicate with numerous family members, as well as with Sir Wilfrid Laurier himself. King was convinced that his communications with the departed were genuine, and wrote: “There can be no doubt whatsoever that the persons I have been talking with were the loved ones and others I have known and who have passed away. It was the spirits of the departed.”
Several sources confirm that King visited Smiths Falls for fortune telling sessions. In Smiths Falls: A Social History of the Men and Women in a Rideau Canal Community, 1794-1994, author Glenn Lockwood wrote that in the 1930s, one could “have one’s fortune told by Frances Fitzgerald at 42 Aberdeen Avenue.” Lockwood added that “it was no secret in Ottawa that prime minister Mackenzie King came regularly to Smiths Falls to consult with Frances Fitzgerald.” Further research led me to Reading the Rocks: The Story of the Geological Survey of Canada, 1842-1972 and an interview with Eugene Poitevin, Chief, Mineralogy Division, 1922-56. Poitevin shares a story about a meeting he had with a woman who claimed to have a bag of diamonds:
“Madame, these are quartz crystals, they are not diamonds.” She replied, “I went to Smiths Falls, and there’s a woman that told me that.” I said, “This woman, what does she do?” She said, “She has a [crystal] ball and she looked at me, and she said, that I have in my purse something that will be worth more than all things.” “Well,” I said, “Surely you don’t believe what this woman would say?” “Well,” she says, “Well, little man, if Mackenzie King can go down there and believe her, why can’t I?”
Poitevin would later discover that this was an established fact. The Right Honorable William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s tenth prime minister of Canada, regularly visited the famed fortune teller Frances Fitzgerald in Smiths Falls.
Ted & Marion Outerbridge are currently restoring the Keyhole House, a Smiths Falls heritage home built in 1893. They are also being swept away by local history & mystery. You can follow them on Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok @thekeyholehouse or email firstname.lastname@example.org.