Elle Andra-Warner

Elle Andra-Warner is a veteran travel writer and has an abiding curiosity in all things unusual. Her monthly column Strange Tales covers everything from UFO sightings to historic oddities.

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Recent Articles by Elle Andra-Warner

The Journey from ‘Over There’ to ‘Here’
posted on Thursday, Dec 21, 2017
It is somewhat ironic—a strange twist of fate—that a country that forced my parents to flee their homeland of Estonia and that put the Iron Curtain around it for 47 years, gets credit (albeit begrudgingly) for my existence. Some background. During the Second World War, Estonia was first occupied by the Russians (Soviet Union) from 1940-41, then by the Germans 1941-44, and beginning in September 1944, Russians retook Estonia. My parents (Regina Andreus and Jüri Jürivee) had never met before each fled, separately, before the Russians marched back into the…

The Legend of the Christmas Tree Ship
posted on Wednesday, Dec 20, 2017
It must have been a surreal scene: an ice-crusted schooner loaded down with thousands of Christmas trees defying the gales of November to deliver her load to waterfront markets on Lake Michigan. In a span of about 50 years—between 1868 and the beginning of World War I in 1914—an estimated 60 ‘’tree’’ vessels made the risky late-season journey from northern Michigan and Wisconsin. The fabled schooner Rouse Simmons. | PUBLIC DOMAIN IMAGES One such ship, the three-masted, 123-foot schooner Rouse Simmons, captained by veteran mariner Herman E. Schuenemann, became mythologized…

The Strange Legend of the Christmas Pickle
posted on Monday, Nov 27, 2017
The quirky but fanciful legend of the glass-blown German Christmas Pickle (Die Weihnachtsgurke) tree ornament has received some serious scrutiny about its mysterious origin the last few years from major media such as New York Times, Martha Stewart Living and Vancouver Sun. Supposedly a German tradition, journalists and researchers have looked for the clues as to the real story behind the Christmas Pickle. As the legend goes, the Christmas Pickle is an old German custom that started with parents hiding a pickle-shaped green ornament deep in the boughs of the…

Christmas wonderland in downtown Thunder Bay
posted on Monday, Oct 30, 2017
Thunder Bay—Right in the middle of Thunder Bay’s south downtown is the magical “Christmas on the Second Floor” at Victoria’s Cupboard, open to the public from mid-October to December 24. It’s an enchanted place filled with hundreds of delightful Christmas displays, 60 beautifully decorated trees and thousands of Christmas items for unique gifts and home décor. Victoria’s Cupboard, first established by Marjorie Knutson in 1990 as a small storefront, moved in 2001 to its present location, a 5,000-square-foot two-story heritage-designated building built in 1900 and originally home to the Fort…

The Mayflower’s Connection to Northern Wilds
posted on Friday, Oct 27, 2017
So, what does the famous Mayflower ship that landed in America almost 400 years ago (November 1620) have to do with people today in our Northern Wilds? Well, for starters, two people here at Northern Wilds (NW) Magazine are direct descendants of Mayflower passengers. Managing editor Breana Roy is the 14th and 13th great-granddaughter respectively of Stephen Hopkins (a kind of a swashbuckling adventurer of the 1600s) and his daughter Constance Hopkins. Glenn Warner, NW’s distributor in Thunder Bay, is the 10th and 9th great-grandson respectively of James Chilton (at…

Legendary Ladies
posted on Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017
Lakehead divas palled around with Greta Garbo and John Wayne During the Golden Age of Hollywood, from roughly the 1930s through the ‘50s, four women from the Lakehead achieved international fame. (The Lakehead is the name used collectively for Port Arthur and Fort William, now called Thunder Bay.) Two became Hollywood divas. One became part of Europe’s wealthy elite, socializing with the likes of Winston Churchill and Sir Laurence Olivier. Another was hailed as one of the world’s most beautiful women. Today their achievements, tragedies and glories are largely forgotten. Here…

The “Lighthouse of Doom” and the Long-Lived Cat
posted on Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017
Imagine looking out the window of a Lake Superior lighthouse and seeing a giant lake freighter on course to slam right into you. It is just one of the many lighthouse tales that have become part of the Lake Superior folklore. Lake Superior’s first lighthouses appeared in 1849 at Whitefish Point and Copper Harbour. It wasn’t until 1865—the same year Minnesota became a state—that the first lighthouse was built on Superior’s western shores at Minnesota Point. The lighthouse was nicknamed “Old Standby” and marked the entrance to the Superior-Duluth harbour.…

Shifting Time
posted on Wednesday, Oct 25, 2017
Thunder Bay was first in world to implement daylight-saving time More than one billion people in over 70 countries now observe daylight-saving time (DST) by re-setting their clocks to ‘’Spring Forward, Fall Back.” To get an extra hour of evening light, we put our clocks forward one hour in the spring and then we turn them back an hour in the fall. While Benjamin Franklin was the first to write about wasted daylight while in Paris France in 1784 (he proposed everyone rise earlier to make use of morning sunlight…

Lighthouse Tales of Lake Superior
posted on Friday, Sep 22, 2017
Lighthouses have been around for thousands of years, the world’s first documented one being the Pharos Lighthouse built in the third century B.C. on a small island in the harbor by Alexandria, Egypt. In the U.S., the first lighthouse was the Boston Light, built in 1716 in Boston Harbor, Massachusetts. In Canada, it was the Louisbourg Light built in 1732 in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia. On Lake Superior, the first lighthouse to be lit was Whitefish Point Light in 1849, while Ontario’s first was St. Ignace Light on Talbot Island, lit…

The Lark of Duluth: Making Aviation History
posted on Monday, Aug 28, 2017
Did you know the inaugural flight of the world’s first regularly scheduled airline flight had a strong Duluth connection? Aviation history was made on January 1, 1914 when the Benoist XIV No. 43 biplane the Lark of Duluth, owned by Duluth’s wealthy grain merchant Julius Howland Barnes, flew the historic inaugural flight of the world’s first regularly scheduled airline, Florida’s St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. The biplane flew from St. Petersburg to Tampa with pioneering pilot Tony Jannus. In June of 1913, the biplane had been purchased by Barnes for $5,000…

Linking Ley Lines and Earth’s Energy with Ancient Sites
posted on Thursday, Aug 24, 2017
Are there powerful earth energy points – like in Sedona, Ariz. – right here in our Northern Wilds areas? Did the ancient peoples in Minnesota, Ontario and nearby areas have the knowledge of how to find those energy lines and use them to place their stone circles, burial mounds and sacred sites? And what are the ley lines that some researchers theorize can connect these sites? Does this ancient rock formation mark a mysterious ley line? | MN DNR My curiosity in the subject came about after a dinner conversation…

The Unsolved Mystery of the Northern Lights
posted on Wednesday, Aug 23, 2017
My first memory of northern lights—formally known as the aurora borealis—goes back about 40 years, when I was a youngster growing up on Munro Street in Port Arthur (now part of Thunder Bay). I still remember looking up one night and being mesmerized by the strange white and green lights moving silently across the black sky. Green is a common northern lights color. | TERRY PARKER/NWTT My mother said it was angels dancing in the heavens. At the time, I believed her. In world folklore, the roots of the northern…

The Legendary Buffalo Bill and His Connection to Duluth
posted on Wednesday, Aug 23, 2017
When Colonel William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody (born Feb. 26, 1846) and his famous Wild West show first came to Duluth on Sept. 12, 1896, thousands attended the popular entertainment spectacular at 28th Avenue West and Superior Street. The legendary Buffalo Bill. | SUBMITTED He was already a living American icon, celebrated for his bravery and skills as a wrangler, dispatch rider, frontiersman, militia man, and buffalo hunter (his nickname came from killing 4,280 buffalo in 17 months while working to feed buffalo to Kansas railroad construction crews in 1867);…

Standing on the Grounds of History
posted on Tuesday, Jul 25, 2017
The Mountain Portage trail at Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park is 1.25 km long on a hard-packed, easy-walking gravel trail. | ELLE ANDRA-WARNER People were making history here in our Northern Wilds well before there was England’s Stonehenge or Egypt’s Great Pyramids. For example, back more than about 9,000 years, mystery miners were digging for copper at Isle Royale. Around that same time on a glacial beach on Lake Superior near Thunder Bay, at what is now called the Lakehead Complex, circa 7,000 B.C., Paleoindians had quarry workshops and habitation sites.…

The Red Chairs of Lake Superior
posted on Monday, Jul 24, 2017
Red Chairs at the Battle Island Lighthouse. | PARKS CANADA Thunder Bay—The quest is on to find “Red Chairs” in Canada, including along Lake Superior’s North Shore. Travellers, hikers, paddlers and boaters have been seeking out sets of red Adirondack-style chairs (Ontarians call them Muskoka-style) placed by Parks Canada at unique locations throughout Canada, such as national parks, national historic sites, marine conservation areas, and other cultural and natural sites. It all started a few years ago after staff at Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador scattered 18…

Innovations from the Aboriginal Peoples
posted on Thursday, Jun 29, 2017
The Moccasin Game being played at a trading post in Onamia, Minnesota, sometime prior to 1950s. | POSTCARD COLLECTION Though the country of Canada came into existence 150 years ago on July 1, the land had already been inhabited for many thousands of years by the First Peoples of the Americas, and many of their ancient inventions and innovations are now part of modern society.   In the 2014 article “10 Native Inventions and Innovations That Changed the World” that appeared in the online magazine Indian Country Today, writer Vincent…

Alexander Henry is coming home to Thunder Bay
posted on Tuesday, Jun 27, 2017
The Alexander Henry when it was moored down in Picton after the Marine Museum of Great Lakes in Kingston had to move from their property and had no place to put the Henry. | PAUL MORRALEE Thunder Bay—Wondering what ever happened to bringing back to Thunder Bay the former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Alexander Henry, which was built in 1958 in Thunder Bay and in 1985 became a museum ship in Kingston, Ontario? Well, the good news update (as we go to press) is the Henry is now on her…

Trowbridge Island Lighthouse
posted on Wednesday, May 31, 2017
It’s a 90-minute sail on Sail Superior’s 40-foot Frodo to get to Trowbridge Island, which is located about 15 miles northeast of Thunder Bay. | ELLE ANDRA-WARNER Thunder Bay—This summer, one of Ontario’s prettiest lighthouses on Lake Superior—Trowbridge Island Lighthouse—is getting a fresh look, thanks to the volunteers of the Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior Inc. (CLLS), an umbrella organization formed to restore lighthouses along the North Shore. CLLS will be updating and reconditioning the dock, carrying out conservation work, fixing the floor in the lighthouse keepers’ semi-detached house, painting…

The History of Canada
posted on Tuesday, May 30, 2017
Camp at McVicars Creek by William Armstrong (Thunder Bay, Ontario; Red River Expedition, July 1870). |TORONTO PUBLIC LIBRARY Back on July 1, 1867, the country started with four provinces, population between 3 and 3.5 million, and Sir John Macdonald as its first Prime Minister of Canada. It was the British North America Act of 1867 that united three British colonies in North America—Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada (consisting of Canada West and Canada East)—into “one Dominion under the name of Canada.” Those three colonies became the founding…

Speaking Canadian, eh?
posted on Monday, May 01, 2017
Recently, an article “Look North for Real Canadian English” appeared in the National Post (one of Canada’s two national newspapers) quoting Toronto linguist Sali Tagliamonte as saying, “Northern Ontario shelters a brand of English not seen in Toronto since 1970s. It’s like linguistic time traveling.” Tagliamonte was referring to changes in language, giving the example of “I’ve got a cold” vs “I have a cold.” Apparently, the first one falls into the Northern Ontario time travel category, the second is today’s urban Toronto talk. Which words you use might tell…