Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Merfolk, Good and Bad - Encounters with Mermaids and Mermen in Newfoundland and Labrador


Tales (and Tails) from St. John’s, Whale’s Gulch, Beachy Cove, Saglek Bay, and various other locations

The sun splits the rocks, and on the shore perches a remarkable girl. With one hand she combs out her luxurious locks, all the while admiring herself in the mirror she holds in her other hand. You make a noise on the stones of the landwash, and startled, she turns to look at you. Then, with a splash of water and a flick of what might be a great fishy tail, the girl is gone beneath the foam. 


Have you just seen a mermaid?


Mermaids and mermen are legendary aquatic creatures with the head and upper body of a human and the tail of a fish. “The name mermaid comes from ‘mere,’ meaning lake,” writes English author Jane Hutchins, “and ‘molgd’ meaning Maid, which has been replaced by the latter. However this race of so-called mer-people has always been associated more with the sea than with inland waters.”


While the first merfolk stories may have appeared in ancient Assyria, mermaids now appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide. Given the province’s long maritime history, mermaid stories have been a small but persistent part of our storytelling traditions for generations. As an example, an article in the Journal of American Folklore in 1895 wrote of a Newfoundland man who, “saw a mermaid sitting on a rock as plainly as he ever saw anything, and was within a couple of boat's lengths of her when she dived to her crystal caves below and was lost to sight.” 


The most famous Newfoundland mermaid sighting is the story of Captain Richard Whitbourne, who described meeting a “strange Creature” in his book “Discourse and Discovery of Newfoundland.” Early one July morning in 1610, Whitbourne spotted something fishy swimming in St. John's Harbour. As Whitbourne tells it, the mermaid swam swiftly towards him:


“Now also I will not omit to relate some thing of a strange Creature, which I first saw there in the year 1610, in a morning early, as I was standing by the water side, in the Harbour of Saint John’s,which very swiftly came swimming towards me, looking cheerfully, as it had been a woman: by the face, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, ears, neck, and forehead, it seemed to be so beautiful, and in those parts so well proportioned, having round about upon the head, all blue streaks, resembling hair, down to the Neck, (but certainly it was no hair), yet I beheld it long, and another of my company also yet living, that was not then far from me, saw the same coming so swiftly towards me: at which I stepped back; for it was come within the length of a long Pike.” 


The mermaid, with a tail proportioned “like a broad hooked Arrow,” then tried to climb into a boat owned by William Hawkridge, who was not impressed with the creature's attentions:


“...the same Creature did put both his hands upon the side of the Boat, and did strive much to come in to him, and diverse then in the same Boat; whereat they were afraid, and one of them struck it a full blow on the head, whereby it fell off from them: and afterwards it came to two other Boats in the said Harbour, where they lay by the shore: the men in them, for fear fled to land. This (I suppose) was a Marmaid.”


Many years later, the Reverend Moses Harvey, who had a fine appreciation for giant squid and other denizens of the deeps, was not overly impressed by Whitbourne’s interpretation. “There can be no doubt that the honest captain had seen a seal disporting in the waters of the harbour, in the haze of the morning,” opined Harvey in 1885, “and his excited imagination did the rest.”


Mermaids lived on in the imaginations Newfoundlanders for generations. A different Reverend, the Rev. Fred T. Fuge, originally of Whale’s Gulch (now Valley Pond, near Twillingate) wrote in 1955:


“Everybody believed in dreadful sea-serpents and charming mermaids, and many imaginary creatures that never did exist. But, as I see it now, the old seafolk could not altogether be blamed for the strange stories they told. The giant cuttlefish lived in our waters; and this monster, shooting his eight great horns into the air for fifteen or twenty feet, and at the same time concealing his bulk beneath the surface, would forever settle the question of sea-serpents. And the beautiful sea-cow standing erect, half out of the water, and holding her calf between her front flippers while it nursed, was sufficient to impress the ancient mariner with the idea of lovely sea-women, who came out of the water to fondle and nurse their babies.”


Mermaids are mysterious creatures, and their passions and motives are not clearly understood, not even in the legends we tell about them. They might be charming, as Reverend Fuge describes, or worthy of a smack across the head, as Whitbourne describes. Sarah Peverley, a professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool, writes, 


“Mermaids have been used across the ages, and across world cultures, to reflect human hopes and fears. In the Middle Ages, for instance, they were used as icons of pride and pleasure, speaking to clerical anxieties about female sexuality and worldly sin, and yet they could also embody Christians’ hope of achieving salvation. The mermaid’s hybrid form makes her a perfect cipher for navigating contrasting ideas and emotions like hope and fear.”


Folklorist John Widdowson notes that mermaids were sometimes used as a threatening figure in Newfoundland folklore, as in an example from Elliston which goes “Don't go down on that ice today, recess time, mind now! If you are not careful a mermaid will get you and carry you out to sea.” It is a belief that was common in mermaid lore. Researcher Allan Jøn argues that like “the half-women Sirens of Classical mythology, mermaids are reported to be highly dangerous to male sailors, sometimes using their feminine wiles and sweet songs to lure ships onto rocks, thereby causing the sailors’ deaths.” Another writer, Barbara Rieti, came across a mermaid story while doing research on Newfoundland fairy traditions. It well illustrates the confusing dual nature of merfolk:


“...there were two sisters who were mermaids. They lived in a place called Beacy [sic] Cove. He says that they would come up by the side of the boat and talk to him. They were very beautiful creatures, half woman and half fish. The older sister was bad and used to cast a spell; this spell was counteracted by the younger sister. The mermaids would come in on the beach at night and comb their hair. These mermaids were daughters of the sea and would bring him strokes of good and bad luck as well as played tricks on him. Once they warned him of a storm and saved his life.”


The book “Folklore of the Sea” is a great resource for nautical tales, and was originally published in 1973 by the Mystic Seaport Museum. The author, Horace Beck, was a former professor of American Literature at Middlebury College, and at the time of writing had been gathering the sea's folklore for decades in Europe, North America, and the West Indies. His life seems the stuff of romantic legend: his first sailing at age three, work on whaling ships, 28 transatlantic crossings under his belt, and an ear torn half-off in a wrestling match.


Luckily for us, his book contains a few references to Newfoundland mermen, including one encountered by a fisherman who was hand-lining by himself in a dory just off the Newfoundland shore. Like the sisters in Rieti’s story, the mermen of Beck’s stories could be either bad or good.


“At noon he stopped fishing and started to eat his lunch, when much to his surprise and annoyance he discovered a merman about to climb into the boat,” writes Beck. “He tried to shoo it away with no success, so he grabbed the fish gaff and bashed it on the fingers, after which it acquired a lively interest in other things.”


A second merman was seen in the same area around the same time. When two men were out hunting, they saw a strange creature in the water and shot at it.


“Whatever it was sank,” describes Beck, “but a short time later a dead merman with a black beard and hair washed ashore nearby.”


Not all of Beck’s Newfoundland merfolk stories end badly. In one, a mermaid helped a Newfoundlander caught in a storm.


“On still another occasion a man was caught in a small boat in a heavy gale. When the situation became most critical a mermaid appeared, climbed onto the gunnel and conned the boat safely through the breakers to shore.”


Another helpful mermaid was recorded by author PJ Wakeham in 1967, who notes that the encounter took place around the middle of the nineteenth century. He writes,


“This story goes on to say that a diver from the United States was working on a wreck at St. Shotts Rock, trying to effect a salvage job, and finding the work almost beyond his capabilities, because of strong tides and undertow, he was on the point of giving up, when a strange creature appeared and taking the ropes he was trying to fasten onto an object, the stranger did the job for him. He was scared at first and wondered where the party had come from, as he was the only diver, as far as he knew who was working on the wreck. But when this friendly helper stayed around and appeared to be anxious to help, he took confidence and continued his salvage operations. In the murky waters the diver said, it was difficult to be certain of anything or anybody, but the creature that assisted him appeared to have the body of a woman from the waist up, but from the centre of her back down the body tapered away to a large fish’s tail. The diver stated emphatically that he could never have effected that salvage job if it hadn't been for the assistance he received from the friendly mermaid.”


Our final mermaid story, from Labrador, also has a happy ending. In this instance, the story was collect by the Torngâsok Cultural Centre as part of its first Inuttitut language storytelling festival, which was held on May 20, 2006. The festival was created with four goals: to provide an opportunity for speakers to share their knowledge of culture and history, to create a forum to collect and record stories, to increase the prestige given to the Inuittut language in local communities, and to bring people together to celebrate that language as a vital part of Labrador culture.


Many of the stories from the festival were brought together in a book, and one of those stories was contributed by elder Bertha Holeiter, who was born in 1951 in Saglek Bay. In her legend, an orphaned boy rescues a mermaid who had become grounded on the rocks. Holeiter says,


“They look like people but they have tails, upper half of them are human and the lower part look like a fish, and they can’t speak. Because they don’t speak, the mermaid spoke to the orphan boy through his mind, ‘I have been grounded and my body is starting to dry up and if I dry up I will die, if you put me to the water I will grant you a wish whatever you want but you have to wear gloves to lift me.’”


The boy dons gloves, and carries her to the water. Safe in the water, she offers to grant his wish, as long as it is not for eternal life. The boy asks for a sealskin cap, and the mermaid gives him one with a fancy broach as his reward. Later, visiting sailors recognize the broach as one lost by the King of England, who in turn gives the boy a hefty sum of money for its return. The boy buys a house for other orphans with the money and thanks the mermaid for his good fortune.


So if you meet a mermaid, you take your chances. You might end up with wealth, fame, and a houseful of orphans, or you might end up with nothing but bad luck and an underwater grave. Keep an eye on the sea, and hope for the best.




Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Hallowe'en Ghost Story Schedule 2020, with Dale Jarvis

Mythic Beasts

Wednesday, October 28th

7:30 pm NF (3:00pm PDT, 6:00pm EST, 11:00pm GMT)

Free | Live on YouTube!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbmk486g5eU 


Cozy up, turn off all the lights, and get ready to be immersed in a world of Mythic Beasts! Frothy creatures rise out of the depths off the shores of Ireland; others slink out of the graveyards of the Brothers Grimm. From the waters, fields, and forests of Newfoundland emerge scaly pond-dwellers, gallumphing giants, and forlorn spirits that will raise the hair on the back of your neck.


Our host for the evening is folklorist, author and local legend Dale Jarvis (who is no stranger to things that go bump in the night). Joining him are renowned NL authors and storytellers Charis Cotter and Gary Green. From far away west in British Columbia comes award-winning storyteller Melanie Ray, and from across the Atlantic comes acclaimed storyteller Maria Gillen.






“Canada from Ghost to Ghost” Virtual Haunted Campfire

Thursday, October 29th 

9:00 pm NF  (4:30pm PDT, 7:30pm EST, 11:30pm GMT)

$10.00 per Family 

https://hauntedwalk.com/virtual-haunted-campfires/


Featuring:

Dale Jarvis, St. John's Haunted Hike

John Adams, Ghostly Walks of Victoria

Glen Shackleton, Haunted Walks Inc. 


Grab a hot chocolate, cozy up with a warm blanket and get ready for some Hallowe’en chills at home. Our special guests make their homes at opposite ends of this creepy continent but are some of Canada’s finest storytellers. From ghost ships to haunted pubs, the true north strong and free is also the perfect place for a supernatural encounter. Join us around the “fire” as we share our favourite stories just before welcoming in the final weekend of our spooky season. 




NSO Hallowe’en Spooktacular

Friday, October 30th

7:00 pm NF (2:30 pm PDT, 5:30 pm EST, 9:30 pm GMT) 

$10 – $25

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/nso-halloween-spooktacular-tickets-125964496199


The Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra presents our second annual Hallowe'en Spooktacular. This year, join our NSO musicians together with resident teller of ghoulish tales Dale Jarvis. We will bring you on a journey through some fun and spooky (kid-friendly) tales with a Newfoundland and Labrador twist. Gather your ghosts and goblins round the living room, scrounge up some spooky snacks and settle in for a great night of family entertainment.



 

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Cover Art Reveal - On This Day: the new book from author Dale Jarvis



Here it is, the cover art for my latest book, published by Flanker Press, art by Graham Blair! Stay tuned, new news on virtual launches and print releases coming soon!

Pre orders here:



Thursday, 16 April 2020

Encounters with the Boo Darbies - tales from Ramea, English Harbour, Colinet, and Conception Harbour



“I can recall her saying to us, ‘If you go out tonight the Boo-Darby will carry you away.’ She said that he was a black man with horns. This proved to be very effective, because I always shuddered when she mentioned the Boo-Darby.”

A word you will not hear very often anymore in Newfoundland is “darby” -- meaning a type of potentially supernatural figure.

The word is not lost completely, however. There are at least three place names in Newfoundland that include the word “darby.” The first is Darby's Harbour, a former settlement located on Merasheen Island, Placentia Bay.  There is also another Darby Harbour in Placentia Bay, in Paradise Sound, which was abandoned before the official resettlement period of the 1960s and ‘70s.  A third is Darby's Island, still shown on some maps as “Old Ferrole Island,” which fronts the communities of Brig Bay and Plum Point, on the Great Northern Peninsula.

The name pops up in other contexts as well; the Newfoundland folk music quartet of Jean Hewson, Christina Smith, Rick West, and Dave Penny have performed together under the name “Boo Darby.”
But clearly defining what is meant by “darby” or “boo darby” is difficult, as the meaning varies from place to place, from person to person, and changes over time.

In certain contexts, darby can mean a type of ghostly apparition or spook. It can also be used to refer to a Hallow-e'en spectre, or a boogey-man type figure used to frighten or threaten children. One person from Ramea told folklorist John Widdowson how their mother used the name “Boo-Darby” to keep them in line:

“My five-year-old brother was taught and expected to obey at all times but like most kids he occasionally disobeyed, when mother would step in and say, ‘Now Tommy, you do like you’re told or under the steps you go where the Boo-Darby is ready for bad little boys.”

In one story from Colinet, St. Mary's Bay, Barbara Rieti’s informants told her a strange story about serving girl who was killed, flattened, by the darbies. She writes,

“So by and by she hears them coming, they come down the back of the meadow. She hears the fences busting and cracking, and she ran to sing out to tell them that they were corning. And they were gaining on her so fast that she see she couldn't do it and when she got to the door they were nearly on top of her and she sung out, ‘Darbies.’ And as quick as that, they said, you could hear the big ruption. They trampled her in the door, flattened her out, and she was black as tar. And the whole house, our uncle said, full up, great big long white feathers was full from the floor right up to the ceiling, he said. And a cold breeze going through the house , frightening everyone to death, and about two seconds everyone was gone.”

While it seemed clear to the storytellers that the darbies killed the girl, it was a bit confusing if those particular darbies were fairies, evil spirits, or humans in disguise.

The Dictionary of Newfoundland English includes several different meanings for the word darby, but most commonly it seems to have referred to disguised people who participate in disguised mummering activities during the twelve days of Christmas, though it could also mean a scoundrel, sly or cunning fellow.

Mr. Hubert Furey, of Harbour Main, is a great raconteur and a master recitationist, and a fabulous person to turn to when you are looking for bits of Newfoundland folklore.

“We never called them mummers, when I was young,” he told me. “We called them darbies.”

“We would make up our costumes, with cardboard masks with holes, and paint, crayon and whatever, sheets and pillows, wool for hair, whatever you could do to make yourself look ridiculous or funny or otherworldly. There wasn’t much style in the thing, it was very individual, whatever you could make up. You had the odd person who was very ingenious and creative, who had a good costume. But generally speaking it was whatever found itself on the body, so to speak, from whatever was lying around.”

Darbies in Harbour Main followed many of the customs followed by mummers and jannies in other parts of the province, except for the fact that darbies would start their rounds at about December 15th, but they would be done by Christmas Eve.

Joseph Dobbin, writing in 1984, shared his thoughts and memories about Christmas in St. Mary’s Bay at the start of the twentieth century.  He included a reference to the darbies, saying:

“You and your brothers and father now begin to make your rounds. You go from house to house, singing, dancing, dressing up as the darbies, frightening children and little old ladies with your masks and the hobby-horse, and you have a wonderful time chasing, finding and blackening your friends, particularly the ones who showed any sign of fear of the darbies.”

In Conception Harbour, the darbies would go out even earlier, around Colcannon time (All Souls’ Night) at the end of October. There, the darbies would burn corks in the stove and pull them out with tongs, then use the blackened cork to darken their faces.

So are darbies a type of frightening, black-skinned supernatural creature, who inspired people to mimic them during mummering season? Or did it work the other way around, with costumed figures giving mothers a story to use to frighten naughty children?

If you have had a run-in with darbies, boo-darbies, boo-baggers, or other frightening creatures, comment below.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

That viral poem and photo? They aren't what you think they are. #askafolklorist #covid19



Chances are, if you've been spending more time on social media lately than usual, you may have seen the above photo with some variation of the following:

We will get through this together.....
A poem written in 1869, reprinted during 1919 Pandemic. Truly shows history repeating itself. This is Timeless....It was written in 1869 by Kathleen O’Meara:
 
‘And people stayed home
and read books and listened
and rested and exercised
and made art and played
and learned new ways of being
and stopped
and listened deeper
someone meditated
someone prayed
someone danced
someone met their shadow
and people began to think differently
and people healed
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
even the earth began to heal
and when the danger ended
and people found each other
grieved for the dead people
and they made new choices
and dreamed of new visions
and created new ways of life
and healed the earth completely
just as they were healed themselves’
 
Reprinted during Spanish flu Pandemic, 1919
Photo taken during Spanish flu

Awesome, right? It's a great poem, made even better by its astonishing history, and the accompanying photo shows people getting about their business, and even looking fashionable, during one of the worst pandemics of the 20th century. If they can do it, so can we!

It is fabulous, except that the historical aspect of it is fabricated. It is a great story, but, surprise, not everything you read on the internet is accurate.

First, the poem. Kathleen O’Meara was a real person and her life sounds pretty interesting. She was an Irish-French Catholic writer and biographer, and wrote about women's suffrage and social reform. She died of pneumonia at only age 49, in 1889. She wrote novels, biographies of leading Catholics, and journal articles. She did not write "And the people stayed home."

The poem was written circa March 2020, in response to the current coronavirus pandemic. It was written by an Irish-American teacher coincidentally-named Kitty O'Meara, from Madison, Wisconsin. Her poem went viral online, and she was profiled in an article in Oprah magazine by writer Elena Nicolaou on March 19, 2020.

"It offers a story of how it could be, what we could do with this time," O'Meara told OprahMag.com of her viral work.

What about the photo taken during Spanish flu Pandemic? Surely that is the historically-true part of the viral phenomenon?

It is an old photo, but it predates the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 (which was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin).

The photo dates to 1913, and has been shared and shared again online through sites like Pintrest and via social media, and one of the earliest versions posted online was uploaded by the stock photo company Alamy. The photo comes from the archives of the former press empire of major Berlin publisher August Scherl. The Alamy online catalog includes this version of the photo:

After the Balkan War, a new fashion is emerging. Women wear nose veil that is commonly used in Turkey.

Helpfully, it also includes the following metadata (information about the image):

More information: This image could have imperfections as it’s either historical or reportage.Ladies' fashion from 1913. New veil fashions, based on Turkish nose veils., 01.01.1913-31.12.1913Photographer: Scherl/Süddeutsche Zeitung PhotoDate taken: 1913

 I'm not the first one to point this out, either. On April 6, 2020, actor Scott Baio tweeted out the photo.


It was retweeted hundreds of times, and generated a response three days later from the Fake History Hunter twitter account @fakehistoryhunt who wrote:
Incorrect.Photo was taken in 1913, probably in Germany, years before the Flu pandemic began.This original description states that it is a fashion fad inspired by the Balkan war, they're wearing veils based on Turkish nose veils.

I'm guessing that the Balkan war referenced here is the First Balkan War, 1912-1913, which was tied into a very complex history of conflicts before and after that I'll let some military historian far more knowledgeable than I unpack. And if you want more information on how the conflicts of that era impacted fashion (and set the stage for designers like future Nazi-collaborator Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel) you can read Anja Reinthaler's article "Clothing during World War I - How the war influenced the fashion industry."


Why does this matter? "Whatever," you might say, "I still like the poem." It matters, in part, because your perception of history is being modified by unknown persons for unknown reasons, and there are a lot of historical precedents that teach us why that sort of behaviour is problematic.

Another reason it matters is that we are living in the midst of a historical event, and the works that are created now will be the history (and folklore) of the future. Kitty O'Meara of Wisconsin deserves to be recognized and remembered for her contributions, just as much as Kathleen O’Meara deserves to be honoured for hers.  The innovators of 1913 deserve credit for their creativity, and the global impact and historical echoes of local conflicts deserves proper study.

For more on how folklore is evolving and ever-present in times like these, check out Smithsonian folklorist James Deutsch's recent article "How to Detect the Age-Old Traditions of Folklore in Today’s COVID-19 Misinformation."

As I wrote above, not everything you read on the internet is accurate (sorry, Scott Baio). If you have more information on either the poem or the photograph, email me and I'll add it!

And if you want an awesome photo of badass women wearing face masks in response to Spanish Influenza, here you go: the St. Louis Red Cross Motor Corps on duty during the Oct. 1918 Influenza epidemic, from Library of Congress.


Keep safe, wash your hands, and watch what you post online.  I'm off to research Turkish nose veils.


- Dale Jarvis, Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland, 15 April 2020.




Monday, 6 April 2020

Exciting news! Haunted Ground ebook is on sale this week for just $4.99!


Our friends over at Flanker Press have announced that for this week (April 6 - 12), all e-book versions of Haunted Ground are just $4.99!  

In this collection of ghostly tales, I will introduce you to old legends, including spectral Viking longships, encounters with ghostly ferrymen, and strange voices on the trapline, while exploring classic elements of local folklore such as tokens and premonitions, bad weather lights, and the Old Hag herself. In addition to historical tales, you will also come face to face with some of the province’s eeriest urban legends, from the mysterious Red Eyes of Glovertown, to the chilling west coast Webber, to the Phantom Drummer of Conception Bay North. With leaping witches, dancing devils, phantom locomotives, and even a ghostly kitten or two, there is no mistaking that you are exploring truly haunted ground. 

You can find your copy here: 

Kobo

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Apple


Monday, 11 November 2019

Things That Go Bump In The Basement, Livingstone Street, St. John’s

Things That Go Bump In The Basement
Livingstone Street, St. John’s

By Dale Jarvis

Winter nights seem made for the sharing of spooky tales.  Wind swirling ‘round the gables of old houses and the tappings of skeletal branches against attic windows would certainly set the stage for many a ghost story.

In his book, Streets of St. John’s, author Jack White quotes newspaper columnist, J.M Byrnes. Byrnes reminisced of a particular poplar tree from his youth on Livingstone Street in the 1880s, “its stark branches now in the sleep of winter and ghostly with bandages of falling snow, sprawling over the gables of the adjoining houses and stirring restlessly with the ever increasing wind which tapped and swirled against the attic windows.”

Livingstone Street is more that just atmospheric, however. Indeed, it seems to have attracted a fair share of local legends.

It was not that long ago that there was a woman living on Livingstone Street with her young son. The boy, like many young children, was possessed of an imaginary friend.  In this particular case, it was an imaginary dog.  The boy would often go down into the basement to play with his invisible friend, and the mother thought nothing of it.

The basement was only roughly finished, and not the most comfortable of spaces. So the woman hired a contractor to come in, tear up the old broken concrete floor and pour a new one, in order to finish the basement and make it more liveable.  When the workman pulled up the floor, there, underneath the old concrete, he found the skeleton of a dog.

Or so the local legend goes, anyway. Like many ghost stories, it is one that I have come across through second-hand sources, so it difficult to judge its accuracy.  What is interesting, however, is that it is a story which does not seem out of place on Livingstone Street.  Haunted basements, in fact, seem to be a recurring theme in the neighbourhood.

Around 1972, a family with several children was living in a house on that street. By and by, several family members started to experience strange things.  One of the eldest boys saw a strange face looking in at him through a window.  The mother started to hear heavy footsteps coming up the stairs in the middle of the night.  But it was the two youngest children that witnessed the most terrifying event, down in the basement of the property.

“Caroline” was only a young girl at the time, about six years old. Over 30 years later, she still has a vivid memory of what she saw in that basement.

“Me and my brother were down in the basement playing,” remembers Caroline. “He wanted me to sit on top of an old oil barrel that was in our basement. I was afraid to sit on the barrel because I was afraid I would fall off.  I reluctantly agreed to go up there only after he went first.”

Caroline’s brother started to climb up the barrel when the girl looked across the room.

“There in the middle of the basement was the most terrifying sight of my entire life,” she says, thinking back on the events of that day. “There was this giant head and face staring at me.  It had black hair; the face was very ugly. The lips were the scariest part, and were snarled up and sneering at me.”

“It was horrifying,” she remembers.

The image was in the middle of the basement, with an evil smirk on its face, about three feet high. Both Caroline and her brother saw the apparition.

“I ran out of the basement screaming, my brother ran after me,” Caroline describes. “I ran upstairs and told my older brother, he went downstairs to check out what I had seen”

When the family went downstairs, the head had disappeared. The basement light, which had been on when the children had fled, was now turned off.

“I guess the darkness hates the light,” says Caroline

Originally printed in Haunted Waters, published by Flanker Press. 
Map: Insurance plan of the city of St. John's, Newfoundland

Saturday, 2 November 2019

The Ghost Dory of Cape St. Mary’s - Was it a Mirage or Phantom?

The Ghost Dory of Cape St. Mary’s

In 1999, John Lou Ennis of Placentia released a book about the changes that have taken place in Placentia Bay over the centuries. Ennis, the son of John Louis Ennis and Leah Best of Merasheen, included in his book one example of a ghostly encounter which he explained as being caused by a mirage.

Ennis’ father was a fisherman out of Merasheen, and would often fish off the coast of Cape St. Mary’s. One night while anchored near Cape St. Mary’s, the man saw what he believed to be an optical illusion.

“Looking out through the thick fog, he suddenly spotted a dory coming towards his boat, rowed by two men,” writes the witness’ son. “He had no idea who the men were although he could dimly see their faces.”

The first thought of the fisherman was that the men in the dory must have gotten separated from their schooner, or that they were in need of something. He called to another man on watch, who could also see the dory approaching them.

Together, Ennis Sr. and the man on watch ran to assist the small vessel. The two rushed forward to catch hold of the thrown rope as the dory came closer to them. As they did so, the dory vanished before their astonished eyes.

“Mirages are a fairly common sight at sea and I’m sure sailors still get a shock when one occurs,” writes Ennis.

While visually startling, the concept of a mirage has been well understood for many years. This natural phenomenon may explain some ghostly sightings from Newfoundland and Labrador. The 1915 edition of The New Practical Reference Library defines a mirage as “the appearance of an object in the sky, due to the reflection of rays of light by a layer of atmosphere of different density from that in which the object is situated.”

One type of mirage presents the appearance of ships and icebergs, sometimes inverted and suspended in the clouds. This particular type of mirage is frequently observed at sea in the northern latitudes. It occurs when the lower air is very much colder and therefore denser than the air immediately above it, causing distant objects to appear in the low sky.

This type of mirage is known as a “superior mirage” and is most common in the Arctic and Antarctic. One phenomenon commonly associated with superior mirages is a repeat sunset. In this, the sun appears to set, reappear, and then set again some time later. This was witnessed in 1915 on a Antarctic expedition led by Sir Ernest Shackleton.

Shackleton encountered many mirages, and in January of 1915 he wrote, “From the mast-head the mirage is continually giving us false alarms. Everything wears an aspect of unreality. Icebergs hang upside down in the sky; the land appears as layers of silvery or golden cloud.”

The ghost dory of Cape St. Mary’s may have been a mirage of an event occurring at some distance. Or could it have been a phantom boat doomed to row for all eternity? Optical illusion or true haunting? You will have to decide for yourself.

- by Dale Jarvis, originally printed in "Wonderful Strange" published by Flanker Press. Photo credit: Three men in dory, circa 1930s. George W. Bailey fonds, Item B 22-3, The Rooms. Inscription: To Geo. W Bailey from [Eben] A Ayers for The Associated Press



Thursday, 6 June 2019

Holographic fairies and giant teacups - Introducing NewfoundlandLand!




Experience a Holographic Fairy and a Giant Teacup.
Meet the Fairy Rescue Professors. Learn About the Giants of Placentia Bay.


NewfoundlandLand is a magical and interactive storytelling event that includes family-friendly attractions based on the legends, lore and popular culture of Newfoundland and Labrador. This touring attraction has officially launched in St. John’s and will be visiting communities across the province throughout the summer and fall.

This interactive exhibit combines today’s cutting-edge technology with traditional Newfoundland folklore, is designed for all ages and is composed of three unique pavilions:

  1. Dark Night of the Ugly Stick: Puppet/stop animation film and installation. 
  2. Fact or Fiction: The Talls: Fairy Rescue Professors will lead a storytelling session based on historical NL “tall tales”. Experience giant artifacts like a larger than life lunch box and teacup.
  3. NL Fairy Rescue: Guests will be invited into the Fairy Research Centre where they will learn about the history of fairies and meet a fairy! 

Theodore Thales Laxity, Founder of the Newfoundland Fairy Rescue and Research Laboratory says, “Newfoundland is a place of wonder and magic deeply rooted in the tradition of storytelling. Growing up in a small community, my parents and grandparents passed down stories of fairies and other marvellous tall tales. I wanted to create an interactive exhibit that is portable and can be easily toured to small communities across the province, as a way of engaging both young and old by sharing traditional stories in a contemporary way. Myself and the rest of the Professors will also give people an opportunity to have a hands-on experience with artifacts like a giant tea cup, as well as an enormous lunch box, and provide an up-close-and-personal visit with a real-life fairy!”

How does it work? Guests can decide which pavilions they would like to visit for a small fee. There’s also lots of fun activities to keep guests entertained in the general area including:

  • Performers entertaining guests as Fairy Rescue Professors
  • Children’s colouring and drawing centre 
  • Popcorn and fairy cloud (cotton candy) 
  • A mini-documentary starring local historian Dale Jarvis about fairies and its ongoing impact on Newfoundland culture 
  • Merchandise table with fairy colouring books and special giveaways for kids 

Starring

David Keating as Professor Theodore Thales Laxity | Paul David Power as Professor Rocky Earle | Chris Adams as Professor Conroy Bowman | Matthew Dawe as Professor Popcorn |
Richard Short as Professor Hot Dog

Booking NewfoundlandLand
NewfoundlandLand utilizes technological and entertainment approaches to engage our young population in our cultural heritage. From the rich tradition of fairy lore to showcasing how people in our outport communities used material on hand for entertainment - NewfoundlandLand is committed to complementing the educational curriculum when it comes to learning about and appreciating traditions. On a school and or community visit we provide all or any of our attractions to engage youth.

For more information about bookings please contact:

www.Newfoundlandland.ca | www.facebook.com/NewfoundlandLand

Monday, 22 April 2019

Burial, Cemetery, and Death Ritual articles by Dale Jarvis

Someone asked for these today, so I've decided to put them all in one blog entry!

Jarvis. Dale Gilbert.



Jarvis, Dale Gilbert; Drover, Kelly.



Jarvis, Dale Gilbert; Barrett, Terra; Elliott, Heather; Li Xingpei.