Showing posts with label ghost stories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ghost stories. Show all posts

Thursday, July 27, 2017

#Folklorethursday Great Balls of Fire and the Goats of New Perlican

I recently scanned a booklet titled "Ghost Stories and Legends" that was produced by the Lower Trinity South Development Association. Because of our recent work on The Goats of New Perlican the following story peaked our interest:

Great Balls of Fire 

One evening as Mr. Ryan was returning home from New Perlican with a sac of flour for his mother, he stopped on Spicer's Lungers between Turk's Cove and New Perlican to allow his goats to take a drink. Out of the corner of their eye the goats noticed a small light, almost like a ball of fire, approach from out of nowhere. Leo soon realized what had caused the goats to become restless. He saw this light as it came closer and got smaller when it neared him. The fire ball crossed the road and suddenly disappeared out of sight. The two goats began to run and when they reached home they were shivering with fear. It has been said that this ball of fire is a spirit who watches over the people of the community. It is not known whether the spirit is good or bad. 


Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween - Ghost Stories and Urban Legends

In celebration of Halloween, today I've pulled together some audio clips recorded in the Newman Wine Vaults from the Young Folklorist Program in May 2011. The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador ran this program as a part of the enrichment program for Junior High students. The clips include an urban legend, a terrifying story of a Bell Island hag, and a story of a ghostly nun.
Recording of an urban legend told by Emma Burry, a Grade 9 student at Leary's Brook Junior High. Emma writes, "I heard this story from one of the counsellors at the summer camp I went to one year. It takes place at Sunshine Park in the summertime, approximately 20 years ago. It has to do with the actual camp I went to and one of the events that they do every year."

Photo of local craftperson Janet Peter's old hag dolls. 
Recording of a ghost story told by Nicole Doyle, a Grade 9 student at St. Michael's Regional High. Nicole writes, "This story takes place on Bell Island, Newfoundland. It is a very small island with very big mysteries. The island is a very woodsy area and it has been told that there are hags, fairies, witches and more in the woods. I never believed that i would be a victim of one of these ghostly encounters. Though, one night I wanted to walk home through the woods, and saw the scare of my life! I had witnesses, so I know that I wasn't just seeing things. I went back to make sure that it was not just an illusion. Well, it was definitely not an illusion!"

Recording of a ghost story told by Jordan Moss, a Grade 9 student at Leary's Brook Junior High. Jordan writes, "My mother told me this story about how she was on her way to work and a nun looked at her and she had no face or feet."

~Terra Barrett

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Ghost of the White Elephant, Makkovik. #ShareNunatsiavut

(photo: Dale Jarvis and Joan Andersen, standing on the White Elephant's famous staircase)

I'm currently fogged in, in Makkovik, where I just overheard a man at the hotel say, "Man, the fog is thicker than day-old pea soup!" He isn't wrong, but the fact I'm likely to be stuck here for a few more days is actually just fine! I'm here for the annual Nunatsiavut Heritage Forum, the first time I have been to the forum for several years. I always love it when I get a chance to come to Labrador, and I was delighted to be invited to come talk about intangible cultural heritage and oral history.

I was doubly delighted to come to Makkovik. I've been to a few places in Labrador over the past 21 years, but this was my first trip to Makkovik.  It is a town I've always wanted visit, and I got a great tour today of the White Elephant Museum, which has been a highlight of the trip for me so far.

The White Elephant is a building which was constructed by the Moravian Church in the early part of the twentieth century. The building was used for many purposes over the years. It served as a boarding school, nursing home, and as a clinic. In 1959, about 30 families were resettled in Makkovik from Hebron.

The carpenters involved in the resettlement project were Newfoundlanders, brought in to build new houses. They lodged in the White Elephant. The same year, it also served as the residence for the first full-time nurse. Since it was rarely used for its original purpose but still required maintenance, the building was often referred to as the "White Elephant." The name stuck, and remains to this day.

Back in December 2000, the White Elephant was officially designated a Registered Heritage Structure by the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the community began the work of restoring the building back to its original condition. Today it houses over 200 artifacts, including fishing and hunting gear, old photos, kitchen utensils, tools, family Bibles, traditional clothing, mission diaries, and much more. I was the registrar for historic places at the Heritage Foundation when the building was designated, an although I've known of the place for 16 years, today was the first day I got to step inside, with Joan Andersen as guide.

Joan is one of the Heritage Foundation of NL's board members, and has been one of the key people involved with the White Elephant Museum Committee for decades.  She is also the one who first told me about the building's resident ghost.  I went back through my files today, and dug up my old notes on the White Elephant's ghost story, and will share some of them here.

The ghost of the White Elephant is a somewhat shy creature, and has never actually been seen. The origins of the spook are also a bit of a mystery, but stories about the ghost have circulated for well over 30 years. In the 1960s the building served as a teachers’ residence, until a new teachers’ home was constructed in 1971. While no one is certain exactly when the ghost arrived, by that point the spirit was already a firm part of the local folklore.
Joan was one of the teachers who stayed in the building. Even though she lived there, she did not meet the ghost personally.  When I interviewed her years ago for an article on the ghost, she told me, “I used to live there when it was a teachers’ residence, and never blinked an eye. But other people who have lived in there said ‘oh yeah we could hear footsteps on the stairs’ and things like that.”

Teachers living in the building in the 1970s heard ghostly goings-on from time to time. They would be in the kitchen or living room, and hear someone come in and go up the stairs. They would go upstairs to see if there was anyone there, and there was never anyone to be seen. No one ever caught sight of the mysterious visitor. All that was heard was the sound of someone going up the stairs.

“I asked some of the older people and they said they think it was because the building was left dark, especially in the time when there were no street lights around, and it was empty a lot of the time,” Joan told me in that old interview.

“The people, especially kids, didn’t like to go by it. And you know how stories get told, and kids think it is haunted.”
There is one theory on where the ghost story may have come from. In the years before Confederation, the Moravian Church missionaries played the roles of ministers, traders, social workers, and medical personnel. “They would give you salves, give you the occasional needle, pull teeth and whatnot, deliver babies,” Joan told me.

In the 1930s or 1940s one of the missionaries attempted an emergency surgery. The operation failed and a teenage girl died in the building. Could this be the source of the rumour that the White Elephant is haunted?

In 2002 the museum started off their summer season with a student who quickly realized that she could not work in a haunted building. As Joan told me, “there was just one student working down there at a time, and I guess she just could not stand the quiet and stillness and the talk of ghosts that she had heard... and so she only lasted a week!” 

Today, I got to meet that same former employee, who was participating in the heritage forum. I met her in the museum, so she must have gotten over her initial fear of the ghost!

The White Elephant Museum is open to tourists from July to August, or by appointment. If you visit, listen carefully. If you hear the front door open, and the sounds of footsteps climbing the stairs, you might be in the presence of Makkovik’s famous ghost.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Living Heritage Podcast Ep025 Charis Cotter on Kids, Writing, and Local History

Charis Cotter is an award-winning children’s writer, actor, and storyteller who has worked extensively in schools telling Newfoundland ghost stories and encouraging students to collect local ghost stories from their communities. In 2013 she published The Ghosts of Baccalieu, a book of traditional ghost stories by students from Tricon Elementary in Bay de Verde. Her latest storytelling presentation, The Ghosts of Grates Cove, is an hour of ghost stories from one of the most haunted places in Newfoundland, Conception Bay North.

We discuss Charis’s work as an author, how she teaches children facts through games and fun, school programs, and ghost stories.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Campfire Tales at Lobster Cove Head

Come share your ghost and fairy stories or just sit at the fire and be spooked! Hosted at the Lobster Head light house shed party, by folklorist Lisa Wilson on behalf of the Registered Heritage District of Woody Point and Gros Morne Park Artist in Residence Michael Young

Stories start at Lobster Cove Head Sunday, August 10th at 8PM

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Finding Folklore in Foxtrap

Today the ICH office visited Queen Elizabeth Regional High School in Foxtrap to talk about local folklore and supernatural belief. Dale and I visited with Lori-Ann Ash and Darrell Sneyd's grade ten English classes to discuss local superstitions, charms, ghost stories, fairy stories and urban legends. We also explored oral tradition, the transmission of folk belief and offered advice about collecting oral histories. To help the students out, we developed a one-page questionnaire for them to take home and use while interviewing parents, family members, friends, or neighbours.

During our visit the students told us some great stories of the supernatural. The following is an urban legend recalled by a female student:
In grade three or four the older girls at school would tease the younger girls about a monster in the toilet. The legend is that one stall, identified with a mark of red spray paint, has a creature living in the toilet and if you flush it, a green slimy hand reaches up, grabs you and pull you down. When I got to grade six, I realized this was made up but by that time we used it to scare the younger girls too, and kept it going. My younger sister goes to that school and that urban legend is still told today.

Another young woman, whose mother is from Denmark, told a Danish folktale about a man who was plaqued and tormented by the nisse, which are elves. The story the student told is as follows:
An old man was out in his garden, smoking his pipe and tending to his horses, when the nisse began to torment him. The nisse stole his pipe and used it to fill his home with smoke. The old man,thinking his house was on fire, called for help. Firemen arrived to put out the fire but they couldn't find any flames. When the old man suggested it was the nisse and that 'the fire was in his mind', the firemen promptly dowsed the man's head with a bucket of water.
We were also very excited to receive a little narrative regarding fairy belief in the area. According to one student, "in the elementary schoolyard there is a fence and we were told that if we went near the fence while wearing green, the fairies would take you away."

We are heading back to Queen Elizabeth Regional High School tomorrow afternoon to see what the students collected and to help them write up their folklore findings.

Here are the questions the students are using:

  1. Is there a place in your community that people say is haunted? ....a haunted cemetery, a haunted walkway, a haunted cliff or rock, a house, or other building? What are the ghostly stories connected to these places?
  2. When you were growing up, were there any places you were told not to go because the fairies would get you? Where was this and what are the stories you were told?
  3. What are the local stories about shipwrecks? ...buried treasures? What about ghost or weather lights seen on the water?
  4. Are there any people who are believed to be witches in the community? Why do people think this? What kind of powers does this person have? 
  5. Have you ever had a visit from the Old Hag while you were sleeping? What happened and do you believe that this experience was real or just a dream?
  6. Do you know of any special charms, superstitions, cures or remedies that are used in your community?

Teachers, librarians or museums: you can download a pdf of these questions right here.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Stories and Superstitions of Bay Roberts

Throughout the month of October I spent a great deal of time working on our current collection project on the folk culture and beliefs of the Bay Roberts area. This involved traveling to and from Bay Roberts to visit and interview long-time community residents. During these visits I queried them on everything from what it was like to live there in the old days, the remedies they used when doctors were scarce, and some of the unusual or ghostly stories they were told as children. Needless to say, while the project is not yet complete, the people of Bay Roberts have been so enthusiastic and welcoming that our growing body of material is already richer than I could've expected.
Mr. Gerald French of Bay Roberts, in his home behind Cable Ave.
My most recent visit was with a man named Gerald French who was born and raised on a property just behind Cable Avenue (which is now a registered heritage district). His father was a caretaker for the Western Union Company, so Gerald had many memories to share about what life in and around the cable office was like. He is also a great storyteller and recalled a few ghostly tales he was told as a child. One of which took place on the dark streets of Bay Roberts, Barnes' Road to be exact, before the days of the street lamp. A man was out walking and it was very dark, so he cursed out-loud, wishing for a jack o'lantern to appear and light his path. All of a sudden, a large light appeared in front of him. It gave him such a fright, that he ran the rest of the way home. I've now heard many such stories, most taking place in the days before the street lamp came to town. As Wilbur Sparke's explained, "A man once said to me: 'I'll tell you about the ghosts. All the ghosts left when the electric lights came.' Now that's an interesting bit of psychology."

Despite the apparent demise of the ghost story telling tradition (due to the proliferation of the street lamp), a recent trip to Ascension High School offered us many a spooky tale. Indeed, of 35 students in Mrs. Welsh's grade 10 English class, most had a ghost story to share with us that they had heard from friends or family. Below is a story told by Jesse Rideout about a ghost-fisherman giving his friend a helping hand from a watery grave. 

I've also been interested in collecting superstitions from the people I visit. Mr. French offered this one, which he still believes in to this day: "You didn't like a black cat crossing in front of you. And the crows, even now if we're driving, we'll cross at the crows. Just put your finger like this..." He then took a finger and crossed the air in front of him. "Lots of time when we're out I'll say, 'They'll say we're nuts, b'y!' " His wife Eliza assured me that it's true. When he's driving in traffic he'll say to her, "Eliza, cross out that crow will you?" He says it every time, he doesn't miss a crow.

Another superstition that involves making a cross with your finger came from Greta Hussey's book "Our Life in Lear's Room, Labrador." Greta is another person that I interviewed for this project and her book is filled with old superstitions, remedies, and traditions. The one I found most fascinating is that in the Hussey family, when a hand or foot would fall asleep, they would make the sign of the cross on the bottom of the foot or the palm of the hand. I suppose it was meant as a cure for numb appendages.

A few other good luck/bad luck superstitions were offered by Olivia Bradbury from Ascension High. She said: "Cross your socks when you take them off before going to bed to prevent bad dreams."  And: "Exit through the same door you entered from on Fridays, or bad luck ensues." Olivia also reiterated Mr. French's belief that crows are indeed, very bad luck to see.

This project is going very well, and I hope to find more stories, cures, remedies and superstitions before the fall season is up. Please feel free to be in touch with your own, no matter where you are from in the province:


 Paula Roberts wrote in and said that she too crosses out single crows. It seems if just one crow crosses your path it's considered bad luck, but two or more have a whole different meaning. Here is a rhyme she learned as a child about crows and luck:
"One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a kiss,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a story that's never been told." 

Thanks Paula!