Even at 43, Mark Leslie is still afraid of the dark and the monsters under his bed — it's a childhood fear he never quite overcame.
It's not entirely a bad thing either, the Levack native said. If it wasn't for these longtime fears, he may never have been inspired to write horror and science-fiction books. Without those books, his career as an author would likely be non-existent.
Since leaving the small northern town, Leslie has found himself in Hamilton. The city, which he said is reminiscent of Sudbury in many ways, was the subject of his most recent writing project. Haunted Hamilton is a collection of short stories, recapping ghostly tales from the blue-collar mining town.
“I have found people tend to be more responsive to 'true' ghost stories than of the horror or science fiction genre,” Leslie said. “There tends to be a desire in most people to speculate about the fact that, to paraphrase Hamlet, there are more things in heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in our philosophies.
“There are so many unexplainable phenomena and people tend to enjoy a shiver, a quick thrill.”
The Tivoli Theatre, McMaster University and the Hamilton Armouries are just some of the places his haunted writings explore.
The author said his northern upbringing is still a big part of his inspiration. He still remembers vividly daring friends and classmates to run through the basement hallway at Levack Public School, where a ghost was said to key a tune on the piano stored in the depths of the school.
“I never made it more than halfway down before hearing some noise, or imagining I saw something, and turning tail and running back out, my face as white as a ghost,” Leslie recalled.
While he has never actually witnessed a ghost, UFO or other paranormal entity, “that doesn't stop me from believing.”
“After all, there are more things out there than I can ever truly understand or comprehend,” he said. “Why limit myself only to my own experiences (and) my own perceptions of the world?”
Leslie said he would like to eventually piece together a book of ghostly tales from his own hometown.
“I still think there must be some sort of Bigfoot-type creature wandering around in the rolling hills of the Sudbury area,” he said. “We just haven't seen him yet. But ever since writing this book about Hamilton's haunted past, it makes me more curious to explore ghosts in the Sudbury area.”
Anyone who has a real-life ghost story from Greater Sudbury is welcome to share it with Leslie by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
On top of his interest in tackling a real-life horror in Greater Sudbury, he's also in the midst of publishing a fiction anthology with pieces from Sudbury's own Sean Costello and Scott Overton. Tesseracts Sixteen: Parnassus Unbound is expected out soon.
For more information on the hometown author or his work, visit www.markleslie.ca.