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On moving to Toronto in 1968, Nickell (above in an undated photo) renewed his childhood interest in magic and began his career as a magic pitchman in a carnival.

His father was an amateur magician and taught him some of the tricks that he knew Nickell often performed magic tricks and sold magic kits in toy stores, as seen in these undated photos at Simpson's department store in Toronto.

He became an amateur sleuth at the age of eight when his parents bought him a professional fingerprinting kit and he turned a room in his house into a crime lab.As a child, Nickell dreamed of becoming a magician, later an investigator.In the case of lake monsters, for instance, a few otters swimming in a line can create the illusion of one large creature, he said.Otters exist everywhere in the world except Australia, which could explain the variations on the monster, he added.He's held his own séance since 1996Nickell points toward scientifically explainable reasons for why people may think they’ve seen the supernatural.

A ghost could be the result of sleep paralysis, the traumatic grief of losing a loved one and the power of suggestion.

This was the case for the Mackenzie House in Toronto, where footfalls were heard on the stairs for decades until, in the early 1970s, he investigated and found that they were coming from a late-night cleaning crew in the building next door.

At various haunted inns, many apparitions have turned out to be due to the person experiencing a common 'waking dream'.

Nickell 'caught' the 'ghost' of Mackenzie House (pictured) in Toronto during the early 1970s when his investigation discovered the haunted footfalls on the staircase were being caused by nothing more than a late-night cleaning crew in the building next door Questioning the supernatural is important, he said.

This maxim speaks to his lifelong obsession with unraveling secrets.

He dreamed of becoming a lot of things and, at 72, has become most of them.