'I'm coming to see Wheelie': Haunted P.E.I. toy delights and terrifies people around the world

A 19th century toy found hidden in the walls of the Yeo House in Charlottetown has managed to both charm and terrify audiences around the world in equal measure. 

'Wheelie seems to have touched a nerve'

P.E.I.'s haunted toy Wheelie is believed to be about 150 years old and is rumoured to be haunted. (Submitted by Matthew McRae)

A 19th century toy found hidden in the walls of the historic Yeo House in Port Hill, P.E.I., has managed to both charm and terrify audiences around the world in equal measure.

The toy, which has been described as a disfigured stuffed dog on wheels, is estimated to be about 150 years old and has affectionately been called Wheelie. It's also rumoured to be haunted and have the ability to move independently. 

"We've got the Yorkshire Museum to thank," said Matthew McRae, curator for the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation.

"With the lockdown for museums around the world, they decided to reach out to people and provide some entertainment. They started to hold curator battles." 

Every week the Yorkshire Museum announces a new theme and invites curators from around the world to share their artifacts on Twitter, McRae said, and last week's theme centred on the world's creepiest objects. 

"My God, there were a lot of creepy objects," he said. "The stuff of nightmares." 

Wheelie was just one artifact among many, submitted from around the world, ranging from plague masks, to a lucky charm made from a dead man's finger, to a disturbing example of a Victorian-era taxidermied 'mermaid'. 

"What was super interesting with this was with all this stiff, amazing competition from museums around the world, people seemed to just fall in love or become completely terrified by Wheelie," McRae said. 

McRae said Wheelie even landed coverage in international outlets like The Guardian, CNN and The Washington Post. 

Since last week, the Yorkshire Museum's tweet on its creepiest object curator battle has garnered thousands of likes and re-tweets from people around the globe.

The P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation's Matthew McRae says local ghost stories are a great entry point for those looking to learn more about Island history. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

"People have asked if they can buy Wheelie T-shirts. One person said, 'Forget Anne, I'm coming to see Wheelie," said McRae. That's in addition to artwork and micro fan fiction that have emerged in response to the cursed Island toy.

"Wheelie seems to have touched a nerve," he said. 

The international attention is unprecedented, McRae said. "It's really exciting because I think it's going to allow us to share a lot more stories." 

There have been a lot of asks already to have a piece of Wheelie in some shape or form.— Matthew McRae, curator with the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation

In the last week, he said the foundation has received about 300 new followers, which is in stark contrast to the typical 25 to 50 new followers they receive in a period of a month.

McRae said the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation hopes to capitalize on Wheelie's newly-found international fame, which has made the idea of Wheelie merchandise a distinct possibility for the future. 

"There have been a lot of asks already to have a piece of Wheelie in some shape or form." 

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More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Mainstreet


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