Sunday 19 May 2013

Help pick the World Storytelling Day theme for 2015

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. Participants tell each other about their events in order to share stories and inspiration, to learn from each other and create international contacts.

Each year, many of the individual storytelling events that take place around the globe are linked by a common theme. Each year, the theme is identified by and agreed upon by storytellers from around the world.

Past themes, and the theme for 2014, are listed here:

2004 - Birds
2005 - Bridges
2006 - The Moon
2007 - The Wanderer
2008 - Dreams
2009 - Neighbours
2010 - Light and Shadow
2011 - Water
2012 - Trees
2013 - Fortune and Fate
2014 - Monsters and Dragons

For the past few years, we've tried to select the theme two years in advance, and there have been a lot of suggestions from all around the world for the theme for 2015.  Now is the time to vote!

Follow the link to vote for your favourite 2015 theme. Spread the word to other storytellers!  Voting closes June 1st, 2013.

Vote here:

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Four favourite haunted spots in Newfoundland

A while back, I was asked by a student working on a heritage fair project to pick my favourite haunted place in Newfoundland. It was not the first time I have been asked it, but it remains a hard question. I’m not certain that I truly do have a favourite, but I do have a couple spots with stories that I love. So here, in no particular order, are four of my top haunted locations.

1. Victoria Street, St. John's

First up is Victoria Street, St. John’s. While one of the shorter streets in downtown St. John’s at a mere three blocks long, Victoria Street has more than its fair share of ghosts and phantoms. It is probably the single street I’ve heard more ghost stories about than another in the province. One older St. Johnsman spoke of how he had been surprised by the ghost of an elderly woman. This phantom woman had appeared before him standing on the landing halfway up the stairs of the house.

Other houses along the sinister street are haunted by mysterious orbs, phantom cigarette smokers, ghostly knockings, and ghosts who open doors and run up stairs. The eeriest haunting involved a screaming ghost who has been known to appear in a bedroom, being dragged by her hair through the room by a second ghost.

2. Mockbeggar, Bonavista

My second pick would be Mockbeggar, in Bonavista. The area known as Mockbegger is the home to a number of strange tales. Several of them revolve around what is known as Bradley House on the Mockbeggar Property. One resident heard phantom visitors walking about, talking, singing and having a party, complete with slamming doors. After a while, the phantom party‑goers had settled down, and the woman had been able to get some sleep. Local folklore maintains they are friendly ghosts, and that if you don’t bother them, they won’t bother you.

The hauntings of the Bradley house may be somehow linked to another mystery of the Mockbeggar property. In the 1920s, under the direction of William Coaker, a canal was dug in the area. As the canal was being dug a number of coffins were excavated. Then, years later, some more coffins were unearthed during the construction of the new bridge across the canal in 1946. The graves were believed to predate the earliest cemetery in Bonavista, which dated to 1725.

3. Isle of Demons, Quirpon Island

An island once populated by so many devils that French sailors would not go ashore without a crucifix in hand hardly sounds like an ideal tourist destination. But it is certainly enough to make it my third pick.

The "Isle of Demons" is thought to be Quirpon Island, at the top of the Great Northern Peninsula, though a few other places vie with it for the title. It is associated with one of the most dramatic stories of love, loss, and terror ever told in Newfoundland. The saga involves a woman by the name of Marguerite de Roberval, niece of the harsh Sieur de Roberval. While sailing from France to the New World, Marguerite raised the wrath of her uncle by becoming romantically involved with one of the men on the ship. The Sieur de Roberval insisted that the girl be removed from his ship, and left on an island along their route.

Once stranded, Marguerite found she was not alone. Imps and spirits walked over the island, peered out of the mist, whispered in the night, and called and whistled in the gale. Marguerite was marooned for three years, before being rescued and returned to France. Modern visitors not concerned about imps and demons can still land on Quirpon Island, now home to the Quirpon Lighthouse Inn. I’ve stayed there, but no imps made themselves known.

4. Hampden, White Bay

My final pick is Hampden, White Bay, which wins the award for the most unusual ghost in Newfoundland. Stories of Hampden’s famous phantom have been in circulation at least since the early 1970s, though the legend may even be older. The majority of the ghostly happenings have been reported along a section of road near the site of the old camp called Faulkner’s Flat. More than a few people have witnessed the figure of a woman walking along Faulkner’s Flat, dressed all in white.

What is most intriguing is that the old woman would walk across the road, carrying an old cast iron Waterloo stove on her back! Locals claim that a woman was killed by a Waterloo stove in a car accident on that section of road, and at certain times of the year, you can see her cross the road with the stove on her back. Others say the woman is old Mrs. Faulkner herself, after whom the Flat is named.

If you have a haunted spot you feel should have made the list, email me at

Dale Jarvis is an author, storyteller, and professional folklorist who splits his time between St. John’s and Clarke’s Beach, Newfoundland, Canada. 

Photo Credit: Victoria Street, NL. Wikimedia Commons

Saturday 4 May 2013

Shakespeare Off The Page Workshop with Danielle Irvine

Sweet Line Theatre Company Presents:
Shakespeare Off The Page Workshop
Weekend Workshop
Saturday and Sunday, May 11-12, 2013.
12-5 pm
Arts and Culture Centre
St. John’s, NL

Words, words, words”  Hamlet 2, ii  Sometimes people think that Shakespeare is just a pile of words. This fun and interactive workshop with Shakespeare theatre director Danielle Irvine will give participants the tools to approach any Shakespeare text and mine it for understanding. Beginning with a monologue provided by the instructor and working with written and performance tools, participants will develop a step-by-step process to lift the words off the page and develop an appreciation for the language.   Instruction will be given both individually, and in group exercises.

For:  Actors, theatre and English teachers, directors, and anyone with a love for the Bard. Recommended for ages 18+.  Maximum 12 participants. Participants will be required to bring pencil, eraser and thesaurus and to dress comfortably for movement work. Sensible shoes are a must!

About the Instructor:
Danielle Irvine’s love of Shakespeare inspired her to co-found the Shakespeare By The Sea Festival in 1993.  Her career highlights include teaching at the National Theatre School of Canada for 6 years; two seasons at the Stratford Festival of Canada; a participant in the World Stage Festival 2000’s Master Class for Directors and winning two national awards for her directing.
Cost: $125 ($100 for students)
Payment by cheque or by email money transfer. Receipts provided.
Pre-registration is required.
To register, contact Danielle Irvine at:

Wednesday 1 May 2013

On the dreamy silence broke the beating of a drum...

Recently, I wrote about a ghostly drummer story, versions of which appear in Turk’s Gut (today’s Marysvale) and Brigus, in Conception Bay. Since that article was printed, I have come across another version of the legend, though without a location.

This “new” version of the legend was included in an article entitled “What About Ghosts?” which was printed in the September-December issue of The Feildian for 1905.

The Feildian was the magazine of Bishop Feild College, a Church of England academy for boys. The magazine ran from 1893 to 1960, and was created to foster school feeling, and to chronicle the College affairs. It was the first publication of its kind on the island, and included news, letters, sports and reports from school alumni.

The author of the piece was identified only as “H.” and in the article, H claimed to have put to rest a story about a ghost. Sadly, the mysterious author did not mention the location of the ghost story, only that it was at the mouth of a bay, “on the bank of a river close to a mountain gorge containing a lagoon.”

“The lagoon was reported to be haunted by a deserter from a French war ship,” writes H, “who had died in a fisherman’s cottage in the bay, after several years spent in the woods, in fear of recapture. He had been a drummer on the ship, and he swore to the woman who had nursed him on his death bed, that he would haunt the lagoon, a weird and lonely spot. For years his drum was heard beating at certain periods, as his spirit marched through the woods, and many a time parties visiting the place fled in terror from its supernatural roll.”

One evening, the author was sitting in the twilight after supper, camped on the reportedly haunted spot.

“My guide was that the brook washing up, and I was placidly smoking, seated on a stone,” writes H, “with my back against a telegraph pole, the line of which ran through this country for many miles. Suddenly on the dreamy silence broke the beating of a drum, and my man came running back with a scared face. I at once recognized the sound, but could see no ghost, so... I kept my head, and began to look for the spectre.”

“I soon noticed that angry gusts of wind were coming down through the gorge,” he notes, “and as these passed,the drum rolled out, I observed a tremor in the telegraph pole. This gave me a clue, and immediately afterwards I saw the ghost in the wire. In short, the drum was the wind playing on a mile of telegraph wire, and reverberating in the cliffs as the ‘spouts’ came down the gorge from the North East.”

I suspect that the story, regardless of where it took place in the province geographically, is what folklorists would call a “migratory legend” - story supposedly based in historical fact, but which is which is found repeatedly at different places, having a similar plot but with place names or topographical information changed. Locals might believe their version to be “true,” but very similar versions, equally “true,” pop up a little bit further down the road, or in the next bay, or even in a different country.

The ghostly drummer legend is probably related to other local legends, like the famous story of Piper’s Hole, near Swift Current on the Burin Peninsula. There, a ghostly piper has been playing his instrument for centuries, possibly giving the location its name.

According to some, the phantom musician was a piper in the French army in the eighteenth century. In this version of the legend, the French and English clashed in battle at spot nearby called Garden Cove. Supposedly, the spirit of the French soldier lingers in the river valley, mournfully playing a tune. In other versions from the same area, the musician was a Scottish bagpiper, killed in a hunting accident by an Englishman.

If you know of another ghostly piper or phantom drummer story, email me at