Speaker Startled by Sparkling Sphere

Crystal ball was among artifacts at former prime minister’s summer home.
Written by Mick Gzowski Posted May 7, 2024

When Greg Fergus became the thirty-eighth Speaker of the House of Commons in October 2023, he received a few perks, including a $274,500 annual salary, a tiny apartment in Parliament for sleepovers when sessions run late — and a crystal ball. 

The latter actually came with the official Speaker’s residence, the Farm at Kingsmere, Quebec, in the Gatineau Hills. 

The Farm is the former home of William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canada’s longest-serving prime minister. He led the country through both the Great Depression and the Second World War. 

King was a lifelong bachelor with a fondness for spiritualism, fortune-telling, and professional mediums, which he wrote about in his voluminous diaries. On the Fergus family’s first visit to the Farm, the Speaker spotted some historical artifacts, including King’s cane and riding boots in a display case and the crystal ball. The sparkling orb made Fergus a little nervous. 

“Because I have two grandkids, five and three years old, we thought it would be best for them to remove the crystal ball,” Fergus said. “I would hate to be that Speaker whose grandkids knocked over the crystal ball, turning one crystal ball into a thousand pieces.” 

The National Capital Commission, which manages all official residences, has since removed it from the premises. It has not confirmed whether the object actually belonged to King. 

A better-known crystal ball associated with King is located at his other home, Laurier House National Historic Site. Site manager Juan Sanchez said King employed professional mediums to gaze into the sphere to contact the deceased in the afterlife. They included his mother, his siblings, and his mentor and prime-ministerial predecessor Wilfrid Laurier, among others. 

“Within the period of 1916 to 1922, he lost all his family: mother, father, brother, sister,” said Sanchez, describing King’s spiritualism as a salve for loneliness. 

“There are excerpts in the diary that talk to more than one crystal ball,” he said. “We just don’t have proof of where they are.”

The glass ball at Laurier House was originally kept in the “dark room” next to the library, where seances took place. The artifact is these days kept in the library, near a small shrine to King’s mother that includes a silver box containing a lock of her hair and her wedding ring. 

Laurier House served as King’s main residence, while the Farm, purchased by him in 1927 and bequeathed to the government of Canada after his death in 1950, was his year-round country retreat. 

After King’s retirement in 1948, he spent most of his time at the Farm. In fact, he died in the bed of the Farm’s master bedroom. Fergus says he and his wife, Julie, sometimes joke about King’s ghost haunting the home. 

But so far they haven’t held a seance to summon his spirit. 

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This article originally appeared in the June-July 2024 issue of Canada’s History.

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