Thursday 27 August 2015

Ghost story writing program for youth! Sept 25, St. John's

Calling all aspiring young writers! Hone your writing skills for this year's St John's Public Libraries Ghost Story Writing Contest with our friend, author Charis Cotter.

Charis has toured Canada from coast to coast, entertaining and educating children with her lively, engaging book presentations. Her latest novel, The Swallow: A Ghost Story, won the IODE Violet Downey Book Award and was named an Honour Book of 2015 by the Canadian Library Association.

Program suitable for children and youth ages 9-17.
Friday September 25 @ 3:30pm

For more information about this event, call (709) 737-3020

Thursday 9 July 2015

Ghosts of Signal Hill returns with new actors Brad Stone & Chris Bishop

Daring escapes, murdered pirates, ghost ships, buried treasure, tragic drownings, and headless phantoms: it is all in a night’s work at Signal Hill National Historic Site!

Ghosts of Signal Hill is back in full swing, running every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm for all of July and August. Tickets are limited for each show, and available in advance (cash sale only) from the Signal Hill Visitor Centre.

The show returns this year with two new actors taking on the role of the dashing Lieutenant Ranslaer Schuyler: Brad Stone and Chris Bishop.  Brad takes to the stage for the first time this summer on Friday; Chris takes over for Saturday night's show. Show creator Dale Jarvis will also fill the role select nights in August.

Despite being a busy realtor and a father of two, or perhaps because of it, Brad Stone has spent over twenty years on, off, and near the stage. Recently he has performed in the Twilight Zone episodes Escape Clause as Walter Bedeker and To Serve Man as Michael Chambers. He has also played Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey, The King of France in King Lear, Lennox in Macbeth, Mortimer Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace, Tranio in Taming of the Shrew, Oedipus in In Your Dreams Freud, and more. Despite the fact that this is certainly not his first show on the hill, he still hasn’t gotten used to the cold.

Chris Bishop is a native of St. John’s and is graced with a wonderful and supportive fiancĂ©e, Sabrina Roberts, of whom he is eternally grateful. Chris would also like to extend a thank you to Ghost Conservationist, Dale Jarvis. Chris recently performed in the St. John’s Players’ production of VIMY which traveled to the NL Drama Festival in Gander, where Chris took home the award for Best Actor. When not on stage Chris enjoys working to help families as a Child Management Specialist.

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Haunted Hike news for the week of Canada Day

Happy Canada Day from all of us here at the St. John's Haunted Hike!

And yes, we will be running our regular "Ghosties and Ghoulies" Tour tonight, Wednesday, July 1st, and Thursday, July 2nd.

Also, starting this week, is our "Ghosts of Signal Hill" program. We open this Friday and Saturday, at 8pm.  Tickets are limited, and are available in advance from the Signal Hill Visitor Centre on Signal Hill Road. Tickets are $15, cash sale only. Then we are back downtown on Sunday with our "Sinners and Spirits" Tour!

Full details on all our programs available at

Tuesday 28 April 2015

What I've learned in cultural tourism: Seven storytelling tips.

I’ve been running the St. John’s Haunted Hike ghost tour and working as a professional storyteller since 1997, and along the way, I have trained many other storytellers, guides, museum workers and interpreters, volunteers, and docents about telling stories in museums, historic sites, and parks. I was recently asked for a list of things I have learning in a cultural tourism context.

So, in no particular order, here are seven of my tips for anyone in the cultural tourism sector. We are all storytellers, in one way or another!

1. People want to hear good stories, well told. Take the time to find and invest in good, engaging storytellers. These might be local experts or tradition bearers who know more than anyone about their particular topic. Or they might be professional storytellers, cultural interpreters, or actors. Find and use the best!

2. Tourists want to feel like they are in on something local, or something secret. I have had many people say “I would never have gone down that alleyway by myself.” Even locals have told me, “I’ve lived here all my life, and I never knew that place existed.” People love to explore and discover things and places that are new to them. Be their guide into a new realm!

3.  Tell real stories about real people. Don’t fake a story, or make up a lie about a place, when there are so many real historical stories, or honest expressions of local folklore, begging to be told. These can be stories from archival accounts, from newspaper clippings, or from interviews conducted with living residents. Local tall tales and legends are great, too, if they are part of a living oral tradition. Stories need to be true, even when they aren’t!

4.  Tell a story you love, and your audience will love it too. We have all been stuck on that tour (you know the one) with a guide who has memorized information they care nothing about, and who are almost as bored as you are in the telling of it. Find the story that speaks to you, one that you are passionate about, and share your love!

5.  Don’t be afraid of difficult stories. They need to be told, and people want to hear them. When people come to Newfoundland, as an example, they want to know about the collapse of the cod fishery from people who have lived it, they want to know about the seal hunt. Sometimes painful stories need and deserve to be told, just as much as the fun stories.

6.  Stories are a living thing. Stories need to be told in order to be stories! Dances need to be danced, songs need to be sung. Stories can not just live in a book, or on a signboard or museum panel. They are meant to be told in person, in the words of an old Scottish proverb, “eye to eye, mind to mind, heart to heart.” Storytelling is a participatory art, and people love to feel like they are involved in the telling.

7.  Be mindful of whose stories you are telling, and whose stories are not being told. Certain stories are sacred, and you should be careful about expropriating someone else’s voice. At the same time, all voices and experiences need to be heard. Pay attention to which stories are silent, and find ways to help share them.

Got a question? Or want a workshop? Email me at

Monday 27 April 2015

The Devil at the Dance: a contemporary legend from Spaniard's Bay

Last week, friends over at DanceNL asked if I'd tell a story for International Dance Day. I had just the story!  Here is the video they recorded of me telling a story from Spaniard's Bay, about a girl who danced with the Devil Himself.

If you want a print copy, I wrote the story up a while back for the Telegram.

Monday 13 April 2015

Announcing the themes for World Storytelling Day 2016 and 2017!

World Storytelling Day is a global celebration of the art of oral storytelling. It is celebrated every year on the spring equinox in the northern hemisphere, the first day of autumn equinox in the southern. On World Storytelling Day, as many people as possible tell and listen to stories in as many languages and at as many places as possible, during the same day and night.

The annual theme for World Storytelling Day is identified by and agreed upon by storytellers from around the world using the WSD listserve, website and facebook page.

The discussion this year produced a large number of suggestions, everything from Adventure and Battle, to Wonder and Youth. The suggestions were collected, and then everyone was allowed to pick for their favourites. There were some strong contenders, such as "Around the World in 80 Stories" and "Crossing Borders" but two themes won out in the end. The top pick will be the theme for 2016, the second pick will be the theme for 2017. And here they are, chosen by 443 storytellers from every part of the globe:

2016 - Strong Women

2017 - Transformation

Thanks to all the contributors, volunteers, storytellers, and story lovers who have been participating!

- Dale Jarvis, WSD webmaster.

World Storytelling Day logo by Mats Rehnman.

Wednesday 28 January 2015

The White Woman of Arnold's Cove

Placentia Bay has a fine tradition of ghostly legends, and one of the most poetic comes from the community of Arnold's Cove. It incorporates three well-known, recurring themes in ghostlore; that of the lost lover, that of the lady in white, and that of the anniversary type of haunting where an event happens every year on the same date.

Sometime in the late 1800s there were two young people who fell wildly in love. A wedding date was eventually scheduled for November 23rd. In a small community, a wedding was a cause for celebration, and all hands were excited.

The young man was, like most men in Arnold's Cove, a fisherman. He would often be gone for months at a time without anyone hearing from him. This particular year the young lover left in August but he promised his love that he would return in time for the wedding.

Months passed without any word of his whereabouts returning to the town. November arrived and plans for the wedding continued. But when November 20th and then 21st came and passed, it was assumed by everyone in the town that he was not going to be back in time for the ceremony. The bride to be however had the utmost faith in her groom. She swore up and down that he would return in time to marry her.

The morning of the wedding day arrived, still with no groom. The girl remained sure he would be true to his word and began to prepare herself. She donned her dress and shoes, and just as she was adjusting her veil, she looked out the window.

There, sailing into the harbour, was the young man's ship. The community breathed a collective sigh of relief and the girl sent her father down to the to the wharf to collect the groom and take him to the church.

She was almost ready to leave for the church when her father returned with tears in his eyes and grim news. The vessel had been caught in a storm and her promised one had drowned at sea.

At first the girl would not believe her father's words. She cried out that he would return, and that she would be married that day. She left her house, still wearing her wedding dress, and ran towards the harbour. From there she ran across the beach, through the woods, and towards a cliff overlooking the ocean.

The weeping bride stood there overlooking the cruel seas crying out the name of her beloved.

Finally, the poor maid realized he was fated never to return. In true melodramatic fashion, she flung herself off the cliff and plummeted to her tragic death.

The story of course does not end there. Not content to throw herself off the cliff once, our heroine returns every year, on the anniversary of her death, to the cliff where she met her untimely end. Or so goes the local folklore of Arnold's Cove.

Her ghost wanders the cliff, dressed in her wedding dress and veil, weeping and wailing through the afterlife, pining away for her lost love. Known locally as "The White Woman", the tradition maintains that her ghostly self has been spotted by many and that her eldritch wailing has been heard by even more.

While the story may be based on some real event which was passed down and embellished over the years, the motif of a lover (or lovers) jumping to a tragic death is a common motif in local legends around the world.  So is the White Woman real? The only way to find out is to make a trip to Arnold's Cove next November 23rd and see for yourself.