Thursday 25 October 2018

The Ghost Ship of the Bay of Islands - A Hallowe'en tale for #FolkloreThursday

The Ghost Ship of the Bay of Islands
By Dale Jarvis
Ghost ships have a permanent berth in the folklore of Newfoundland and Labrador. They sail out of the night or emerge from stormy seas in countless harbours across the province. Yet while many a port boasts a ghostly galleon of its own, they are few phantom ships as mysterious as that of the Bay of Islands.

The vessel was first spotted several generations ago. Along the shores of the bay lived an old Native American woman in a small cabin. She lived alone, far from the nearest settlement, and was more than content with her life of solitude.

One evening, the woman's peaceful stretch of shoreline was disturbed by a strange series of noises. The night was filled with the sounds of a ship close by. The woman could hear the sound of men shouting orders, the sound of water lapping against its hull, the sound of ropes twisting under strain.

Amidst these noises she could make out another noise. This was a sound more troublesome: the echo of clanking chains, of men in iron fetters. A slave ship had taken shelter in the bay.

Certainly the Bay of Islands is no stranger to sailing ships. Captain Cook charted its waters, finding the bay an excellent base when he visited the coast in 1767. Cook was marine surveyor of Newfoundland from 1763 to 1767. His detailed charts made life safer for mariners, and he made maps so precise they were usedby generations of seafarers afterwards. Pirates too had ventured into the bay, seeking safety from storms and from those who sought to bring them to justice.

But a slave ship was something rare, and unheard of in the woman's lifetime. Years had passed since the last slaver had made its run between Africa and the New World. The appearance of such a ship now bode no good.

The woman opened the door to her small cabin and stepped out onto the beach. From there, the sounds of the ship were louder. She looked out onto the waters of the bay and was startled by what she saw.

The evening sky was clear, and a sliver of moon and twinkling stars shone down on a empty bay. No ship graced its waters. For as far as she could see in any direction, she was alone.

The noise did not stop however. It was as if a ship lay at anchor just in front of her, but was hidden behind some invisible veil. Clearly, a ghost ship had sailed into the bay from points unknown.

Such a dramatic and eerie haunting would no doubt provoke a feeling of great terror in the hearts of many. But the old woman had lived a long life of self-sufficiency, and had seen much in her day. No ghost ship was going to scare her. After the initial surprise of the encounter wore off, she took matters firmly and decisively into her own hands.

She disappeared back into the sanctuary of her cabin for a moment, only to re-emerge holding in her wizened hands an ancient shotgun. She marched down to the edge of the beach without any sign of fear. Raising the gun to her shoulder, she took aim at the general area where the slave ship seemed to be, and fired a mighty volley into the nothingness.

The shot reverberated throughout the night, and then died away. The air resumed its normal stillness, and the clanking and groaning of the slave ship could be heard no more.

Satisfied at the outcome of her attack, the woman slung the shotgun over her shoulder, and marched back into the cabin. She bolted the door behind, and hung the weapon in its usual place from the one of the cabin's exposed beams. She then extinguished the oil lantern she kept by the bed, and went to sleep, untroubled by any further ghostly troubles, phantom ships or mysterious noises.

When the sun rose and spread its warm light across the waters of the bay, the woman rose as well. She left her cabin and once more made her way down to the water's edge.

The water was as calm and as devoid of ships as it had been the night before. She stood still for a moment and tilted one ear to the water, but no noise out of the ordinary could be heard. Soft waves licked the smooth stones which defined the curving line of the beach. Looking into the water, the woman noticed something peculiar within easy reach. She stooped down, and thrusting her hand into the coolness of the bay, withdrew the object from its watery bed.

Rusty and weathered, with weak links and missing pieces betraying its venerable age, was a set of iron manacles.

While the slaving vessel was not seen again, the woman held on to the physical proof its visit for many a year. She would share the story with those rare visitors to her cabin, and would pull out the old manacles as an indication of her honestly.

Forty or so years ago, the woman, grown ancient with the passing of time, told her story to a young boy, and showed him the manacles.

The boy grew in a man, but never forgot what he had seen or heard.. Years later, he told they story to his son. In turn, his son told the story to me, and now I have passed it along to you.

When the wind dies down and the night grows quiet over the Bay of Islands, and the moon has diminished till it is just a sliver of its former self, listen carefully.

photo courtesy Old Book Illustrations.

Monday 1 October 2018

The Harbour Grace Corpse Light - Friend or Foe?

Mysterious lights have a great tradition in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are numerous stories from around the province of an eerie light that would appear in times of danger and was usually followed by a tragic incident.

This pale flame, known in the Latin as ignis fatuus, has been ofttimes reported flickering over marshy ground, and, it is said, over churchyards. It often appears specifically to lead travellers astray, into bog holes, or over cliffs.

This strange phenomena is known most commonly in Newfoundland as the Jacky Lantern, the West Country England name for the Will o' the Wisp. However, it was also known as a Corpse Candle around the capital city of St. John’s, and as a Corpse Light in the picturesque and historic community of Harbour Grace.

Harbour Grace is one of Newfoundland's oldest outport communities, and one with a rich and colourful history. As early as 1550 Harbour Grace was a thriving fishing community, with the majority of fishermen arriving from the Channel Islands. In the early 1600s, oral tradition holds that fortifications were established at Harbour Grace by the famous English pirate Peter Easton, who plundered fishing stations, stole provisions and munitions, induced men to join his fleet, and generally wrought havoc along the eastern coast of Newfoundland.

The community is no stranger to the stuff of legends, and the corpse candle has a firm place in local folklore. In Harbour Grace, however, these strange lights were not always evil or dangerous, nor did they always lure travellers into treacherous areas. In one documented case, one corpse light actually led the Revered Canon Noel and his wife to safety during a blizzard just outside the community.

That event took place at the very beginning of the twentieth century. The Reverend and his wife had taken their horse and sleigh to a blacksmith, several miles distant. Delays meant the couple had to leave during a storm. Their horse was soon bogged down in high snow, and they realized they were completely lost.

A bright light began moving around. Believing it to be rescuers, the couple shouted for help. The light approached them and passed by, but there was no sign of a person carrying it.

The frozen pair walked in the direction of the light. This led them to a stone fence, which in turn led them to a house where they found shelter for the night. When the owners of the house were told of the strange light, they expressed no surprise. The corpse light was no stranger to the citizens of Harbour Grace. It had been seen many times before, generally before some terrible tragedy. For whatever reason, the ghostly glow had decided to protect the Reverend and his fair wife, instead of leading them to their doom.

Photo: A 14-65.3; Harbour Grace. Aerial photograph by Lee Wulff,
c1955. Fonds GN 186, The Rooms.

Friday 20 July 2018

Tombstones and Tea is sold out? What can I do?

I am currently sold out for all the summer dates for the 
Tombstones and Tea walking tour of the General Protestant Cemetery. 
But if you'd like to be notified about future dates for Sept/Oct, 
you can subscribe to the mailing list here:

Monday 25 June 2018

Tea and Tales with tea lady Kelly Jones and storyteller Dale Jarvis

Tea and Tales
The Annex,  365 Old Placentia Rd, Mount Pearl

Join tea lady Kelly Jones and storyteller Dale Jarvis as they celebrate their love of tea with stories, tastings, and treats. As you listen to stories of missing eyelids, wise dragons, haunted tea plantations, and the Iron Goddess of Mercy Herself, you will sample four varieties of tea. Learn about proper brewing techniques, and take away tips to make a perfect cup.

Tuesday, July 17th
7:00 p.m.
Tickets: $35.00

Friday 25 May 2018

Let sickness blast, let death devour: Died in Diptheria, Grand Bank, 1884

Recently, this stone caught my eye in the Old Methodist Cemetery in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. The stone reads:

HARRIET PATTE [broken, possibly PATTEN]

Yet these now rising from the tomb
With lustre brighter far shall shine
Revive with ever during bloom
Safe from diseases and decline.


There are several markers from the 1880s in the cemetery noting that the individual interred died of diphtheria. Archivist Larry Dohey has noted, "A diphtheria epidemic raged throughout Newfoundland from 1888 -1891, medical officials identified at least 3,183 cases and it had resulted in at least 624 deaths."

The phrase "died in diptheria" is intriguing. Other markers in the cemetery use the phrase "died of" rather than "died in." Also, the spelling of diptheria (without the first "H") seems to have peaked in the 1860s, and then was surpassed and largely replaced with the current spelling of diphtheria.

Below: Uses of the words diptheria vs diphtheria, 1800-present

The "Yet these now rising from the tomb" epitaph is taken from Hymn 46 "The morning flowers display their sweets," published in "A Collection of Hymns, for the use of the people called Methodists" by the Rev. John Wesley, 1790, and is attributed to Samuel Wesley, Jr.:

THE morning flowers display their sweets,
And gay their silken leaves unfold
As careless of the noontide heats,
As fearless of the evening cold.

Nipt by the wind's unkindly blast,
Parched by the sun's directer ray,
The momentary glories waste,
The short-lived beauties die away.

So blooms the human face divine,
When youth its pride of beauty shows;
Fairer than spring the colours shine,
And sweeter than the virgin rose.

Or worn by slowly-rolling years,
Or broke by sickness in a day,
The fading glory disappears,
The short-lived beauties die away.

Yet these, new rising from the tomb,
With lustre brighter far shall shine;
Revive with ever-during bloom,
Safe from diseases and decline.

Let sickness blast, let death devour,
If heaven must recompense our pains:
Perish the grass, and fade the flower,
If firm the word of God remains.

The stone carving itself is attributed to J. McIntyre, and is most likely the work of the Standard Marble Works, a St. John's-based firm under the direction of James McIntyre, as advertised below in the Evening Telegram  of 1892-09-05. A high percentage of the monuments of the same period in the cemetery bear the maker's mark McIntyre or J. McIntyre. The stone is somewhat damaged along the top and top right, but it could have potentially been topped with a carved lamb, a common motif for the markers of children, and a motif seen on similar monuments in the cemetery.

Thursday 5 April 2018

Out of the depths of the sea - What are the mystery lights of Come-By-Chance? #FolkloreThursday

Come by Chance, Aerial photograph by Lee Wulff, circa 1955-56. The Rooms Fonds GN 186, Item NA 25250

In the early part of the twentieth century, the waters of Placentia Bay between Come-By-Chance and Sound Island, Newfoundland, were said to be the location of an unearthly red glow, which would appear under very specific weather conditions.

Towards the end of 1928, author Charles Jamieson recounted his boyhood experiences with the light for the Newfoundland Quarterly. He wrote:

“Only once were we privileged to see this light. It is now fifteen years or more since, as a boy, we stood and watched a peculiar light that seemed to burn with a dull red glow off Come-By-Chance Point.”

By Jamieson’s reckoning, he had witnessed the light sometime around or before 1913. As he had watched, the light had appeared, seeming to come up from out of the depths of the sea.

An old local gentleman had waited up with the author to see the light. As Jamieson “gazed with awe struck attention” at the strange gleam upon the water, the old man told him the story of the light’s origins.

Many years previously, three men had set out from Sound Island to go to Come-By-Chance. Folklore maintains that they were a happy crew as they set out, unaware as they were of the cruel trick Fate was about to play on them. Jamieson remembered the old man saying that the trio of sailors formed “a merry party, and sang as they sailed out of the Bay in their open boat.”

Just off Come-By-Chance Point, their luck ran out. A storm sprang up, and the three were overtaken in a gust of wind. The open boat overturned, and all three men were drowned. 

“Ever since, when a strong wind blows as it blew that night,” writes Jamieson, “this strange light rises on the spot where the three men were lost, and there are those who say that strange weird cries and groans are heard.”

This belief that the light appears in times of bad weather is tied to the Newfoundland tradition of what are known as “weather lights”, the gleam or flicker of light at sea thought to foretell a storm.

Sometimes these lights are simply small moving lights, as described by E. Coakes, of Head Bay D’Espoir, in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English. According to Coakes, “weather lights in the riggings of a schooner is the sign of a storm coming. The lights start at the bottom of the riggings and move gradually up to the top where they disappear.”

In some locations, such as with the Come-By-Chance light, weather lights are closely associated with specific tragedies at sea. This type of visual warning of an advancing storm system can even be associated with quite dramatic visitations, such as the ghost of the SS Bluejacket which appears in Conception Bay to presage storms.

Interestingly, it was also noted in 1928 that just behind Come-By-Chance Point was a swamp which also had a reputation for strange lights. The swamp was said to associated with tales of “Jack-o-lantern” fires, known in other places as the Will o’ the Wisp, a mysterious bobbing bit of fire known at times to lead the unwary to their doom.

If there was a link between the red lights off Come-By-Chance Point and the inland Jack o’ Lantern lights, it has never been explained. The two stories, while involving a similar type of light, are probably part of two separate traditions in the area. If you feel you can shed some illumination on the area’s mysterious lights, please let me know!

Dale Jarvis 


Jamieson, Charles. “The Ghostly Light Off Come-By-Chance Point.” The Newfoundland Quarterly 28.2 (1928): 28

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Exploring Canada's Haunted Golf Courses

Haunted Lakes Golf Club -

With its long history and vast geography, Canada has no shortage of strange tales. There are haunted coal mines in Cape Breton, poltergeists in Calgary, and even a pair of haunted boots in St. Vincent’s, Newfoundland. It is no wonder, therefore, that golf courses across the country are home to some extraordinary spirits.

Winning the award for the spookiest name for a Canadian course is the Haunted Lakes Golf Club in Alix, a town east of Red Deer, Alberta. Haunted Lakes Golf Club is a nine-hole course, with three sets of tees on every hole so golfers can alter the play of each hole if they choose. With water in play on four holes, the fairways range from heavily treed to open. Most important is the third fairway, where Haunted Lake hugs the front right of the green. It is here an ancient drama plays out every winter.

Before Europeans arrived, indigenous groups camped on the lake’s eastern shore. One winter, seven hunters camped there for the night. In the morning, they looked out across the lake and spied the magnificent head and antlers of a deer caught in the ice.

The seven headed off. Reaching the creature, they started to chop away at the ice. The mighty animal, very much alive, gave a great heave and smashed through the ice. It swam for the shore, breaking a path before it. The deer made it to shore and the safety of the woods, but the men were not so lucky. They plunged through the ice and drowned.

It is said the seven hunters haunt the lake, giving the spot its name. It is also claimed that every winter, a mysterious phenomenon can be observed. Each year a huge fissure appears in the ice along the path the deer travelled to the shore.

The village of Alix is no stranger to creepy things lurking about its lakes. In addition to the Haunted Lakes ghosts, Alix is home to a mysterious lake monster. In 1979, Robert Plummel saw a large dark object moving through the water, and numerous reports have been filed since. In July 2002, a group saw an object moving in the water 50 meters from shore. The beastie swam for about 30 seconds, submerged and then resurfaced. A month later, a resident complained about a large animal lurking near his back yard.  Locals speculate the lake monster is an alligator, released when the pet grew too large to manage. If it is an alligator, it could give the phrase “water hazard” an entirely new meaning to Alberta golfers. 

Glen Abbey Golf Club -

To the east, in Oakville, Ontario, Glen Abbey Golf Club may not have an alligator, but it does have a ghost. Glen Abbey is home to both the Royal Canadian Golf Association and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and Museum. Karen Hewson, director of the Hall of Fame, filled me in on Glen Abbey’s haunted history.

“There is a house on the property that was built in 1937 by a mining engineer as his weekend retreat,” says Hewson. The engineer, Andre Dorfman, was a leading figure in the Canadian mining industry, involved with companies like INCO and Noranda.

In 1953 Dorfman sold the house to the Jesuit Fathers of Upper Canada as a retreat. The property was sold again in 1963 to businessmen who opened a golf club. In memory of the Jesuits, the course was given the name “Glen Abbey.” Soon after, a spectre made its presence known.

“Within ten years, they started talking about a ghost in the building,” says Hewson. “The story is that the ghost is in the mansion, and that it goes up the back stairs and down the main hallway towards the library.”

The mansion is a good example of the stately homes built in Oakville in the early twentieth century. It is constructed of stone with a red clay tile roof, and features a wood-lined library on the second floor.

“One of the rooms in the basement is actually made to replicate the ship in which the original builder came over from Switzerland,” says Hewson. Originally known as RayDor Estate House, the building has been designated as a heritage property. Before 1975 it served as a clubhouse.

“It became the offices for the Royal Canadian Golf Association, and it stayed the offices of the RCGA until 2001,” explains Hewson, “then we moved into a building that is adjacent.”

The ghost in the old mansion is said to be male, and eyewitnesses agree that it resembles a Jesuit father.

“People did see it, but the main thing was hearing it come up the stairs and walk down the hall,” describes Hewson. “Hearing it was more common than an actual visualization.”

Dean Baker was superintendent at Glen Abbey from 1989 to 2000. He started work there as a high-school student in 1977.

“A number of my friends worked in the club,” remembers Baker. “Anyone in that building always complained of the noises, the sights, and the sounds. You always felt that someone was behind you.”

One night a friend had a creepy experience.

“You had to take a spiral staircase up to the guest lockers,” Baker describes. “There were probably 50 lockers.”

The friend was cleaning up, and had closed the lockers. The phone rang, and he went downstairs to answer, finding a dead line. He went back up the winding staircase and found a number of lockers open. The friend scratched his head, closed them, and continued working. The phone rang again, and again the line was dead. When the young man went upstairs, every one of the 50 lockers was open halfway.  

The friend telephoned Baker, saying “Come and pick me up, and come and pick me up now.”

For eight years, Baker lived on the property, and was often the first to respond if the security alarm sounded. He would often take one of his Labrador retrievers along.

“If I could get the yellow Lab, Bailey, into the building,” says Baker, “her hair stood on end the whole time.”

A stone corridor in the basement led to a spot which once held the Dorfman safe.

“Trying to get the dog through the corridor was next to impossible,” Baker remembers. “She would crawl through the hallway. I’ve never seen a dog do that.”

I asked Karen Hewson if the ghostly legend was still alive. She told me the phantom was last seen about 1990, but a clammy draft in the basement, where Bailey had been so terrified, has been reported since.

“I’m in the middle of doing a project that is a tour of the area, and we mention the ghost, so I guess in a way we are keeping it alive,” she says. If the ghost is still there, he has not appeared visually in years.

“It is rented out now to some investment companies, and I haven’t heard any of them come screaming out, saying they saw a ghost!” Hewson adds with a laugh.

On the other side of the country, Victoria Golf Club boasts both an impressive course history and the odd ghost or two. The club is the oldest course in its original location in Canada, beautifully situated on a rocky point on the southern end of Vancouver Island.

The club dates to November 1893 when enthusiasts negotiated for permanent rights to play the rough fields of Pemberton Farm. Originally, golfers were prohibited from using the grounds over the summer, when cattle grazed what would become today’s fairways.

Like Haunted Lakes, the Victoria Golf Club may be haunted by early aboriginal inhabitants. One researcher suggests that some of its phantoms may be souls of native warriors killed in battle centuries ago. However, these spirits pale beside the club’s other resident, the late Doris Gravlin, possibly Victoria’s most famous ghost. 

John Adams -

The expert on Doris is John Adams. A historian and author, Adams is best known as the proprietor of the “Ghostly Walks” tour, which explores historic courtyards and spooky places where spirits like Doris make their presence known.

“Doris Thomson was born in Blackburn, Lancashire in 1906 and immigrated to

Canada with her parents,” recounts Adams. The Thomson family settled in Victoria where Doris’s mother worked at a private hospital. Doris became a nurse as well, until 1930 when she married Victor Gravlin.

Victor was a sports reporter for the Colonist newspaper, spending many happy hours golfing with his brother Walter, head pro at the Uplands Golf Club. The hours Victor spent with Doris would prove to be much less happy.

“When her husband began to drink heavily, Doris left him,” explains Adams, adding that Doris found work as a private live-in nurse.

“In mid-September 1936 Victor delivered a letter to Doris,” Adams says. “Its contents were unknown, but are believed to have been a request for her to meet him to discuss reconciliation.”

Doris stepped out for a walk at about 7:45 pm on September 22, 1936; Victor left his parents’ house shortly thereafter. One observer saw them together on Runnymede Avenue, but after that, neither was seen alive.

Doris and Victor were reported missing, a search ensued, and days later, Doris’s corpse was discovered. The Victoria Golf Course website states “her body was later discovered amid the driftwood on the beach near the 7th green by a caddy looking for lost balls.” She had been strangled, and her shoes, belt and felt hat were missing.  Gossips maintained that Victor had escaped. But they were wrong.

“One month later a fisherman found the body floating in the kelp beds off the ninth fairway,” describes Adams. “A length of rope was found in his coat pocket, along with Doris’s missing attire. The police concluded he had murdered his wife then committed suicide by walking into the water.”

The discovery of two bodies on the grounds gave rise to the notion the club was haunted, and many sightings have been reported since.

“Typical manifestations are a fast-moving figure in white, a feeling of doom, a cold wind and a globe of spectral light,” Adams describes. “She also plays havoc with motorists along Beach Drive, sometimes flying through open windows and even penetrating windshields as a cold mist!”

One night in 2003, two grandparents drove to the course with their grandson and granddaughter.

“Grandfather and the boy had been fishing off the rocky shore,” describes Adams, “but had left their tackle box there. As the two fishermen walked across the grass the misty figure of a woman suddenly rushed toward them and flew into the air. The scene was witnessed by the terrified grandmother and girl who were waiting in the car.”

Today, Adams incorporates the spook into his storytelling business.

“I conduct the ghost bus-tours for the Old Cemeteries Society at Halloween,” he explains, “and we always stop at the golf course for an update on sightings of Doris over the previous year.”

Club management takes all of these ghostly goings-on in stride, and has even incorporated Doris into some marketing activities.

“I was asked by the golf club to conduct ‘An Evening with Doris’ at the clubhouse for members and the public,” says Adams. “It consisted of dinner, with demonstrations of ghost hunting techniques, stories about Doris, ending with a walk across the fairways to the 7th where Doris is usually seen.”

Unfortunately for attendees, Doris refused to cooperate, remaining invisible. According to Adams however, this has not stopped some from working Doris into their own tall tales.

“Some of the club members claim they now have an excuse for why their golf balls veer off into the bushes or the ocean at that place,” he says.

All in all, Doris seems to have been accepted, with a bit of good-natured scepticism, as part of the club’s folklore.

“To this day, when word of a ghost search goes out across Oak Bay, young people gather in the spring moonlight along the 7th fairway,” reads the club website. “The bell (signifying golfers finishing 6) is rung three times and the crowd waits. The number of sightings is often directly proportional to the ‘spirits’ consumed by the crowd.”

Curious about all these golf course ghosts, I asked one golfer if he had ever experienced anything supernatural whilst hitting the links.

“No,” he said, without missing a beat, “Only the bogey man.”


An earlier version of this article appeared in Golf Canada Magazine.

Thursday 29 March 2018

The Wolves of Deadman’s Cove - #FolkloreThursday

Doug Wells, a retired teacher in Harbour Breton, Newfoundland, sent me a series of articles on local culture. From curing warts to local legends, the articles give a wonderful introduction to the folklore of Harbour Breton and area.

"I had my students to write on local cultural and historical events,” says Wells. “With a folklore background, I also encouraged students to write articles on folklore related practices. The attached articles are folklore/folklife related and represent Harbour Breton and some nearby resettled communities.”

“Over the years of teaching Cultural Heritage 1200, students wrote approximately 150 stories,” Wells explains. “The stories were worth so much towards the student's course evaluation. They were also submitted to our local paper as well, the Coaster. Our classes section of the paper was called Culture Corner and was quite popular with locals, especially with seniors.”

One of the Culture Corner research projects was completed by students Melissa Skinner, Damian Power and Joanne Hynes, of King Academy, in 1997. The three of them worked to retell the legend of Deadman’s Cove.

During the class research, they found many people had stories of shipwrecks and bodies associated with Deadman’s Cove. One story, however, stood out. This was a particularly thrilling tale which had been written down Ron Rose of Harbour Breton, sometime around 1975.

“It is said that a ship was sailing along our coast (now called Deadman’s Cove), and the crew members were of a very wicked and sinful nature,” wrote the student authors. “They were so wicked that death came upon the whole crew by way of a shipwreck upon the rocks at Deadman’s Cove. Their evil spirits haunted the coast in that area.”

According to local folklore, the evil spirits of the wrecked sailors either took on the form of savage wolves, or possessed the bodies of wolves in the area. It was reported that several sailors met an untimely end due to these fearsome creatures.

“One day a woman, who was a very good person and had never been bad, went to the beach,” the students continue. “When the wolves were about to leap on her, they all fell dead on the ground in front of her. It is said that God saved this woman because she was good, and goodness triumphs over wickedness.” 

John Maunder, in a research paper revised and updated for the Newfoundland Museum, traces the somewhat colourful history of the wolf in Newfoundland history. According to Maunder, the first written mention of wolves on the Island, dates to 1578. Captain Edward Haies, a member of Sir Humphrey Gilbert's expedition of 1583, also mentioned wolves. 

“From that time onward, a great many Newfoundland letters and journals contained at least minor references to the species, so great seems to have been the fascination with wolves in the early days,” says Maunder.

By about 1930, sadly, the Newfoundland Wolf was extinct, existing only as a few specimens, and an occasional local legend like that of Deadman’s Cove. 


Special thanks to Doug Wells for the story and photo. This story appears in my book Haunted Waters, available as ebook for Apple, Nook, Kindle, and Kobo!

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Cultural Tourism workshop with Dale Jarvis - Storytelling Your Site


An introduction to crafting storytelling-based guided tours for sites, museums, and historic places, with storyteller Dale Jarvis.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

“Storytelling Your Site” is a cultural tourism workshop for museum, parks, and historic site staff, archivists, docents, and tour guides, designed to help you improve visitor experience through storytelling.
  • Why use story in heritage sites?
  • How do you search out stories for your site, tell these stories, and make history come alive?
  • How do you encourage people to linger and spend more time exploring?
Instructor Dale Jarvis will answer those questions, and demonstrate how he uses archival material and oral history to find his tales and bring them to life. Along with insider secrets, suggestions for project focus, and examples from his own award-winning projects, Dale will show you how to work with what you have, and how to tie those things together to create a consistent theme that links to your site mandate.

The workshop will provide an interactive, relaxed, and supportive environment. Participants will work individually, in pairs, and in groups. If you haven’t done a workshop with Dale before, he encourages talking, laughter, thinking, and doing!

About Dale Jarvis

Dale Jarvis is the proprietor of the St. John’s Haunted Hike ghost tour and has been storytelling and delivering education sessions for museums and parks for over a decade. As a storyteller, he has worked with venues including Red Bay National Historic Site, Cape Spear National Historic Site, The Rooms, and the Newman Wine Vaults Provincial Historic Site, and he has created a popular site-specific storytelling program for Signal Hill National Historic Site. Dale is a trained folklorist, author of six books on the folklore of Newfoundland and Labrador, and is the founder of the St. John’s Storytelling Circle. In 2015, the City of St. John’s presented Dale with the Legend Award for outstanding enhancements to the tourism industry.

Thursday, March 15, 2018
Admiralty House Communications Museum
365 Old Placentia Road, Mount Pearl
12:30pm - 4:30 pm

This is a half-day workshop (with snacks!)

Cost: $55

Pre-registration is required, and you can book and pay online at If you are registering on behalf of an organization that requires an invoice to pay by cheque, email directly. Workshop limited to the first 20 participants to register. Free parking on site.

About the venue:

Admiralty House Communications Museum, Mount Pearl, tells the story of the region's past, wireless communication, and the tragedy of the S.S. Florizel. It was originally constructed in 1915 by the Marconi Telegraph Co. during the First World War as the top secret H.M. Wireless Station for the British Royal Navy. This station, now the last standing of the 11 identical stations around the world, was built to intercept German naval transmissions, and to track icebergs and ships in distress.

Monday 29 January 2018

"Lugged off" by the fairies - A Quebec fairy story from Dr. Wilfred Grenfell

The Strathcona, ca. 1910. From Wilfred T. Grenfell, Labrador: The Country and the People
(New York: The MacMillan Company, 1910) 246. Heritage NL website

Most of the fairy stories I have come across from this province are from the Avalon region, with a seeming concentration of fairy stories from Conception Bay. There are other spots throughout the province where fairy stories can be found, and I have heard a few, though not many, from Labrador as well.

This story is from just over the Labrador border, in the Bonne Esperance region of Quebec’s Lower North Shore. But there is a Newfoundland and Labrador connection, since the story itself comes from the famed Dr. Wilfred Grenfell.

The earliest version of the story I have found is from an article entitled “The Log of the S.S. Strathcona” published in the magazine “Among the Deep Sea Fishers” in October of 1903. The magazine was the official publication of the International Grenfell Association. It was published in Ottawa by the Grenfell Association Publication Office, from 1903 to 1981, and details the life of the mission and experiences in Labrador and northern Newfoundland.

In the summer of 1903, Grenfell, travelling on board the S.S. Strathcona, stopped in the community of Bonne Esperance, Quebec, and shared stories with some of the local inhabitants. It was here that Grenfell heard a story about the fairies, which he included in a letter written on July I5th to the editor of the magazine. Grenfell writes,
“I was greatly interested by one of the settlers telling me that last winter he had been ‘lugged off by the fairies.’ He assured me many travellers over some marshes known as Kennedy’s, had at various times been ‘lugged off’ by these same fairies. Certain it was he spent a night away on ground well known to him last winter, and that without food or any preparation for the night. A search party found him returning next day. It had been bitterly cold and there was 12 to 16 feet of snow on the ground, but his own description was that he had heard these fairies, and had had to follow them away from home. 
At night he climbed down into a hole in the snow by the foot of a tree, placed under his feet the still warm body of an Arctic owl that he had shot, and around his legs a dozen or so dead partridges. Then he crouched up in a ball, and pulling his jumper right over his head to keep the draft off and the heat in, he went peacefully to sleep. In the morning he woke up as spry as could be, ‘ne’er a frostburn,’ though it was some time before the blood had done ‘trinkling’ back again into his legs.”
The story evidently made an impression on the then 38-year old Grenfell, because he included the tale, with additional detail, a decade and a half later in his autobiography, “A Labrador Doctor.”

In his book, Grenfell gave the man a name - Harry Howell. Grenfell also added a few details missing from the 1903 version. According to Grenfell, Howell had heard the fairies ringing bells, a sound he had heard before. Grenfell writes,
“He told me later that he was coming home in the afternoon when the blizzard began. It was dirty, thick of snow, and cold. Suddenly he heard bells ringing, and knew that it was the fairies bidding him to follow them - because he had followed them before. So off he went, pushing his way through the driving snow. When at last he reached the foot of a gnarled old tree in the forest, the bells stopped, and he knew that was the place where he must stay for the night.”
Grenfell goes on to note that there “was no persuading the man that the ringing bells were in his own imagination.”