Friday 12 December 2014

Win a free copy of "Any Mummers 'Lowed In" Contest draw date Dec 16!

Would you like to win a free copy of my new book, "Any Mummers 'Lowed In? Christmas Mummering Traditions in Newfoundland and Labrador"? Well, you might be the lucky one who does! Downhome Magazine is running a contest, with a draw date of Dec 16th. Enter here, and who knows, the Downhome jannies might give you a free copy for Christmas!

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Unveiled: The research and stories behind “Any Mummers ‘Lowed In?”

Unveiled: The research and stories behind “Any Mummers ‘Lowed In?”
Wednesday, December 3rd, 7pm.
Engaging Evenings Series, The Rooms Theatre, St. John's

Folklorist and author Dale Jarvis presents an illustrated talk on the work that went into the making of his most recent book, “Any Mummers ‘Lowed In?” Using examples from historical records, oral histories and collected photographs, Dale will explain how the book came together, and share stories from his research.

Presented as part of the Mummers Festival

Sunday 12 October 2014

Mummers are finally here! "Any Mummers 'Lowed In?" by Dale Jarvis in stores now

The Mummers are finally here! After years of work, my newest book is in stores now!

I'm thrilled about this book, and the design work by Graham Blair is fabulous. This is one gorgeous book, and a perfect Christmas present.

I'm hoping that some of you will be able to join me for the official book launch on Wednesday, Oct 15th, at  7pm, at Chapters in St. John's. There will be purity syrup and jam-jams!

Any Mummers ’Lowed In? : Christmas Mummering Traditions in Newfoundland and Labrador

Thursday 7 August 2014

The White Horse - A Newfoundland tale of superstition and loss

A fisherman named Albert has a strange encounter with a phantom white horse. Only too late does he realize what terrible tragedy the ghost horse presaged. This traditional tale of superstition and folk belief from Proctor’s Cove, Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, originally recorded in the 1920s, is here retold by folklorist and storyteller Dale Jarvis, and is taken from his book “Haunted Waters: More True Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The music track for the tale is “Salted Caramel” by Black Twig Pickers and Steve Gunn, and is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License. Additional sound effects by swiftoid and geoneo0 of Photo "White Horse" by Richard PJ Lambert/Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Sea Monsters! - Dale Jarvis in the parlour of Cape Spear Lighthouse

Sea Monsters!

From the creator of the award-winning St. John's Haunted Hike, storyteller and folklorist Dale Jarvis, comes an evening of stories of sea monsters and ghost ships, told within the (relative) safety of the lighthouse parlour at Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site. 

Date: July 31 and August 28, 7:00pm
Cost: $15 ($10 for kids 12 and under) – cash sale only

Note: Seating is limited! Tickets available at the lighthouse door. Not responsible for kraken attack.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Philip Goodridge joins the cast of "Ghosts of Signal Hill"

Returning storytellers Dale Jarvis and Chris Hibbs are joined for this summer's run of "Ghosts of Signal Hill" by local actor Philip Goodridge, sharing the role of Lieutenant Ranslaer Schuyler.

Philip is a graduate of York University’s Theatre program (performance/playwriting). He was most recently seen in Joint Productions’ slapstick farce Don’t Dress For Dinner. He has also worked with TaDa! Productions (Cabaret, Alice In Wonderland, The Rocky Horror Show, White Christmas , Chicago, Evita and several Our Divas concerts), Best Kind Productions (Avenue Q), RCA Theatre (iFrancoPhone, Makin’ Time With The Yanks), Rising Tide Theatre’s Summer In The Bight, c2c (Bent, Beyond Therapy) , Beothuck Street Players (Blood Brothers, Jesus Christ Superstar) Peter MacDonald Productions (Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Anne of Green Gables) etc. He has written several plays including Eli and The Deathcurse, Above and Below, The Thieves’ Tale, Once Upon a Blah Blah Blah..., and Aquarium. His most recent play, The Ogre’s Purse (RCA Theatre) toured schools across the province in November. As a director he has worked with Shakespeare by the Sea (Romeo and Juliet, Above and Below) as well as his own work Three Tales of Terror: Old Time Radio Drama and The Saucy Personnel. He is also singer/songwriter performing solo as well as part of the duo The Duds with Melanie O’Brien Hutton

Philip's first performance is this Friday, 8pm! Welcome to the cast!

Tickets for "Ghosts of Signal Hill" are available in advance from the Signal Hill Visitor Centre, Signal Hill road.

Note: due to a scheduling conflict, Saturday's performance will take place in the Signal Hill Visitor Centre Theatre, instead of in the Queen's Battery. 

(photo courtesy Provincial Historic Sites)

Friday 11 July 2014

Free family storytelling in Bowring Park on Sunday with Kathy Jessup

Bowring Park is turning 100 and is going to celebrate! On Sunday, July 13 from noon to 4:30 p.m. the Bowring Park Foundation is hosting a birthday party with free events for everyone.

See the list of events here.

One of the events is the next in our family storytelling series. Every Sunday afternoon for the rest of the summer, there will be free family-friendly storytelling at the Peter Pan statue, with a variety of local and visiting storyteller. For this Sunday only, the action will shift up to the Bungalow as all the 100th birthday activities are taking place up in that end of the park.

Sunday's storyteller is Kathy Jessup, a professional storyteller visiting from Alberta. Over the years she’s performed her original tales in countless schools, libraries, concerts and festivals across Canada — from Inuvik to Regina, and from Vancouver to Halifax, and now in St. John's. Kathy’s stories and articles have appeared in various publications including the children’s magazine chickaDEE, and the Alberta Centennial anthology Under the WideBlue Sky: Alberta Stories to Read and Tell published by Red Deer Press.

All other storytelling sessions for the rest of the summer are still scheduled at the Peter Pan Statue. Next week: Mary Fearon!

Friday 27 June 2014

Share a Scare - 6th annual NL ghost story writing contest

Once again the three St. John’s city libraries are coming together to present youth in the St John’s area with an opportunity to share. We are hosting our 6th annual ghost story writing contest with celebrity judge, Dale Jarvis (international storyteller, personality, author and cultural protector of NL culture).

St. John’s is a wonderful old city steeped in mystery, folklore and spooky tales, so what could be better than sharing a creepy story? This is an opportunity for children ages 7-17 to share their stories and showcase their writing and story-telling talents. The winner receives a $50 Chapters gift card , a gift bag full of writing goodies, a chance to talk to an award winning author and a showcase for their work. 

Drop off your entry at the library nearest you before October 17 or visit and email your entry to

Tuesday 3 June 2014

St. John's Storytelling Festival is hiring a student

The St. John's Storytelling Festival is hiring a student for the summer.
Check out the details below:

Festival Assistant June 30-August 15, 2014 (7 weeks), 30 hours per week, $10.00/hour

If you are a self-directed, organized, and energetic student with an interest in storytelling, the St. John's Storytelling Festival would like your help with planning and preparing for the St. John's Storytelling Festival (October 3-10, 2014). An average day could include (but will not be limited to) any of the following tasks: planning and confirming event locations and details for the Festival, making sponsorship phone calls, creating web content and ad copy, scanning/filing documents and other administrative tasks, and, coordinating with the board to create and execute a program to record and curate stories from various local tellers; and to plan and create further storytelling programs for the next year.

If you'd like to be a crucial part of the success of the 2014 St. John's Storytelling Festival, please forward your resume, with a cover letter outlining your interest and relevant skills, to or St. John's Storytelling Festival, PO box 23084, Churchill Square, St. John's, NL, A1B 4J9 by June 10th, 2014.

This position is funded under the Canada Summer Jobs program and is open to post-secondary students who will be returning to full-time studies in the fall semester. We thank all who apply for the position; only those considered for an interview will be contacted.

Friday 25 April 2014

A postcard from Wisconsin - Ghosts, Gygax, and Grrrrr!

Hello, Wisconsin!

It has been several years since I’ve been here, but I’m back at the Northlands Storytelling Conference. The conference this year in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, famous as the home of the late Gary Gygax, creator of Dungeons & Dragons. I’ll head out to try and find a dragon later, and so far, the conference hotel seems relatively free of halfling thieves. Nasty hobbitses…

I flew in to Chicago yesterday, and was met at the airport by storyteller Camille Born and her husband, who drove me to Lake Geneva, where we had a great chat and lunch of pulled lamb at a lakeside restaurant. Then they dropped me off at the Geneva Ridge Resort, where I had a moment to rest before two events to kick off the conference - the story slam and the ghost story swap.

I didn’t have a story to tell at the swap, hosted by friend Katie Knutson, so I ended up as a judge. The theme for the night was GRRRR! and we had stories of bears, trips through swamps, dogs of various sizes, bobcats in suitcases, New York City thieves, and (to my personal delight) a visit from a clever fellow named Jack.

Afterwards, the ghost story swap, hosted by Maureen Korte, whom I had met at the Story City festival (a place that loves giving free money to Canadians, if you are in the neighbourhood). There were lots of great ghost stories of every sort and description, and I told one of my favourites, the story of the SS Regulus.

Then off to bed! Today, day two, and more stories!

Friday 11 April 2014

Haunted Shores - The little Newfoundland ghost book that could

About eleven years ago, I approached Garry Cranford of Flanker Press with an idea to write a book of true Newfoundland and Labrador ghost stories. Without seeing a manuscript, Garry said they would publish it. The book "Haunted Shores: True Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador" was published in May, 2004.

It was my first of several books for Flanker Press. My only previous work had been been the chapter on Newfoundland and Labrador in a compilation of Canadian ghost stories by Lone Pine Publishing. I had been writing stories of the unexplained for the local paper, but Haunted Shores was my first real collection of stories.

It sold well, right out of the gate, and before long was into its second printing. I got busy with other projects, wrote a few more books, and after a few years, rarely thought about Haunted Shores. But a strange thing happened. The book continued to sell, and sell, as the years rolled on by.

This month, I got one of my regular royalty notices from Flanker, and I saw that Haunted Shores, as it has for the past few years, continues to outsell my other books. In fact, it continues to outsell all my other Flanker titles combined!

To date, ten years after its launch, Haunted Shores has sold close to 18,000 copies, which is not bad for a little compilation of local ghost stories! And not only does it outsell print copies of my other books, it is now outselling them in digital sales as well.

As an author, you never know quite what will catch people's attention. But Haunted Shores has done that, for whatever reason, and I'm thankful!


"Drawn from both archival sources and first-hand accounts, these delightfully spooky stories promise to become a campfire essential." -- Luminus

"Well documented as to source and complete with vintage historical photographs, it is well worth reading and shivering over on a dark, rainy night." -- Fate magazine
"Haunted Shores is a fascinating book that helps preserve many of the old supernatural tales from Newfoundland and Labrador." -- The Telegram

"It's a book worth picking up for a well-written, quick and easy pleasure read." -- The Compass

Friday 4 April 2014

Open Letter to the Members of the Memorial University Senate

The following is a copy of the email I sent today to every member of the Memorial University Senate. If you'd like a copy of the email list in order to send your own letter, send me a note.


Dear Members of the Memorial University Senate,

I'm a proud alumni of Memorial, one of the founders of the Leida Finlayson Memorial Scholarship, a frequent guest lecturer, MUN volunteer, and a Research Associate of the Department of Folklore. I am writing to you about the Senate’s troubling decision last November to modify its position on weapons on campus. The previous policy to prohibit the possession, storage, or use of firearms, ammunition, or weapons on any property of the University was a good one, and a smart one.

Weapons do not belong in classrooms. That is the ideal, and one which we should never compromise.

One of Memorial’s roles is to provide the best environment for education that it possibly can. This means taking a stand for what is right. No student, faculty, staff member, or visiting lecturer should have to be in a classroom where weapons of any kind are present.

Memorial prides itself as being an inclusive community, dedicated to innovation and excellence in teaching, learning, and public engagement. The Senate has an opportunity here to show vision and courage, to be a beacon for positive and peaceful dialogue, to foster the best possible conditions for student learning, and to set a clear policy which enshrines classroom spaces as weapons-free zones.

These are things that need to be worked out carefully, transparently, and with the participation and consultation of the wider university community. I know that your next regularly scheduled meeting of the Senate is April 8th, and I hope that at that meeting, you and your colleagues will reverse the decision of November 2013, and take strong steps to abolish all weapons from classrooms at Memorial University.

Respectfully yours,

Dale Gilbert Jarvis, BSc, MA

“Peace is a mode of behaviour.”
     - UNESCO Yamoussourko Declaration on Peace 

photo: David Miller/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Newfoundland Mermaids... for the win!!

About a month ago, I got an email from Erin, a grade four student at All Hallows Elementary, North River. She was working on a Heritage Fair project, and had decided to do it on the folklore of mermaids in Newfoundland. So I sent her some information, and wrote up a little bit about mermaids in Newfoundland for my "Newfoundland Unexplained"column in The Telegram.

Then, the other day, I got this email from Erin, and the photo above of her with her winning presentation:
Thank you for all the help you gave me with my project. I won first place! That means I'm going to the regional fair at Amalgamated! As promised I will send you a picture of the finished project. It was really nice talking with you. Thanks,
Congratulations, and good luck, Erin! 

Tuesday 1 April 2014

L'empire de la Mort - Exploring the Catacombs of Paris

Sitting here in St. John’s, Newfoundland, in the dreary depths of another snow storm, it seems hard to believe that only a few short days ago, I was walking around the neighbourhood of Monmartre, Paris, in 20°C weather. Such is the nature of international travel, but the difference makes it hard to readjust to life when you return.

One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to a famous underground site, the Catacombs of Paris, on the city’s Left Bank. The catacombs started their life as quarries, where much of the limestone for building the city was excavated. From the thirteenth century onwards, underground quarries were required to supply the huge quantities of stone required to build Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and city walls. Over time, the city spread, and by the 18th century many of the city’s arrondissements were overtop previously mined territories, some of which had started to collapse, and in in April 1777, King Louis XVI established the “Quarries Inspectorate” to protect Parisian quarries.

Around the same time, many of the city’s graveyards had become full, with no available space to house the newly dead, and it was suggested that the abandoned quarries would be an ideal resting spot. In April 1786 the former Tombe-Issoire quarries were blessed and consecrated, and the work of transferring bodies to the catacombs began. Black cloth-covered wagons rattled through the streets, carrying the millions of dead from the cimetière des Innocents graveyard, the largest in Paris, to their new home, a process which took two years to complete. Following that, other graveyards were emptied out and added to the catacombs, until somewhere between six and seven million of the Parisian dead had been resettled.

Today, the catacombs and their millions of sleeping inhabitants are open to curious visitors. There are 130 steps winding steps you must descend, taking you well below the level of the Paris Metro line, to the cool 14°C interior. You start the tour in one of the old quarries, following a low narrow tunnel through the limestone foundation of the city of Paris till you reach the consecrated space of the ossuary.

A stone doorway greets you, the entry to the ossuary itself, with the inscription Arrête! C'est ici l'empire de la Mort - Stop! Here lies the Empire of Death. Passing through, one wanders through chambers lined with millions of bones, stacked neatly, and arranged at times in artistic patterns. It is an eerie place, and it can be overwhelming to be surrounded by so many of the dead. Narrow passageways lead through the bones, with dim lighting adding to the sepulchral atmosphere. No noise from the realm of the living pierces the gloom, only the faint dripping of water, and the echoes of your own footsteps on the limestone paths.


If you love history and have a taste for the ghoulish, the Catacombs of Paris are definitely worth the visit.

Notes for travellers visiting the Catacombs:

The entrance is from a tiny green building opposite the Denfert-Rochereau Metro station. 
Visitor numbers are restricted to 200 at any time, and admission may be delayed for a short time during busy periods. On the day we explored the catacombs, they opened at 10am. We had read that it was best to line up early. We arrived shortly after 9am, and there were already 30 or so people ahead of us. Within half an hour, the line behind us stretch around the corner of the block. I would highly recommend getting there early in the morning, rather than waiting and hoping to get in later in the day. We were in the first group to descend, and once down, were at times alone in the passageways, which was a definite bonus. We opted against the portable audio guide (you can download a pdf from the website) and there are English tours only on specific days, but you can easily take the basic tour on your own. Signs include English text throughout.

If you are paying by cash, have exact change ready, or be prepared to pay by credit card. The walk is not for those who are claustrophobic. Once you are down the stairs, there is nowhere to go but forward, about a 2km walk through the old quarries and the ossuary itself. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to make the trek, and then there are 83 steps up a final winding staircase to the surface. Wear sensible shoes and be prepared for the temperature. There are no toilet facilities, and no flash photography is permitted.  There is a great little gift shop with suitably ghoulish merchandise when you exit. 

Saturday 22 March 2014

Welcome to The End: On finishing a manuscript, and the state of flow.

A couple weeks ago, I made a set of final edits to a manuscript I have been working on for quite some time. The manuscript is for my newest book, tentatively titled “Any Mummers Allowed In? Christmas Mummering Traditions in Newfoundland and Labrador.” It has been a work-in-progress for a while; I started chatting with Garry Cranford at Flanker Press about it several years ago. Now, after a couple years of alternating between bouts of intense procrastination and intense work, it is finished. The manuscript, the photographs, the illustration captions, the list of thank-you’s, they have all been passed over to Flanker for the next phase of editing and layout.

The handing over of that body of work, and the relinquishing of a daily routine of writing and research, is a strange thing.

“You must be pleased,” one acquaintance said to me, upon hearing of the manuscript’s completion. That would seem to be a logical thing to say to an author upon finishing a piece of work. And, in truth, I am indeed pleased. I am happy it is finished, and there is a certain sense of satisfaction that comes with looking at a stack of paper and ink and thinking, “I made this thing.”

But most of what I have been feeling is a strange sense of emptiness, or loss.

I love working on projects; I am a very project-oriented person. I love creating things, and making things happen. While I’m working on something, particularly on a research and writing project, there is often a state in which I find myself. My mind gets focussed, and for a while, all the other worries and anxieties of my life fade to the background.

Psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi calls this state “flow” - an optimal experience or state of concentration or absorption, where one is so engrossed in an activity that nothing else seems to matter.

Coming out of that state is always slightly jarring for me. I start to worry a bit more, sleep a bit more erratically, and feel like something is missing. I crave another project to work on, and I wonder sometimes if isn’t so much the project I am interested in, but that sense of being in the state of flow that comes with it.

So what is next for me then? I always have a couple projects in the back of my mind, and have already started a writing folder for another book project of Newfoundland and Labrador ghost stories. I have ideas for a couple other research and writing projects, and a few storytelling performance show ideas I want to explore.

And in the meantime, there is still the mummers book, which, though the manuscript is complete, still isn’t a finished product. I’m looking forward to seeing how it will evolve through the editing and design process. If everything goes smoothly, look for it on bookstore shelves by the autumn, well in time for your Christmas shopping!

(Mummer photo courtesy Neddal Ayad)

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Marguerite de Roberval and The Isle of Demons

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 an island off the northernmost tip of Newfoundland with that dubious distinction is becoming internationally known as a unique and romantic holiday retreat.

The "Isle of Demons" is thought to be Quirpon Island, at the top of the Great Northern Peninsula. It is associated with one of the most dramatic stories of love, loss, and terror ever told in Newfoundland. The story was popularized by a late nineteenth century writer named Charles M. Skinner, who wrote several books on native North American legends and early colonial folklore.

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. Skinner describes Marguerite’s marooning in highly dramatic and romantic terms. He writes,

“The girl had plighted her troth to a young cavalier who had enlisted among the adventurers on this expedition. It was of course impossible that their love-making should escape notice, and old Roberval was so incensed about it that when his ship arrived at the Isle of Demons he set Marguerite ashore there with her nurse, and only four guns with their ammunition to support life, while he held on his way.”

The woman’s lover was not about to let his sweetheart be abandoned, so he decided to join her. As Skinner describes it, “the lover sprang from the deck with gun in hand and armour on his back and swam to shore, where the three exiles ruefully or vengefully watched the departing ship.”

The three castaways worked to built a rough hut to give them shelter, and before long a baby was born to Marguerite. The birth however was not a cause for celebration. The weather grew cold, and food grew scarce. Eventually, the harsh conditions proved to be too much for the inhabitants of the Isle of Demons. The lover died first, followed by the infant. Following this, the nurse died as well, leaving Marguerite bereft of human company.

After Marguerite buried her three companions, she found she was not alone. Skinner states that imps and spirits “walked over the island, peered out of the mist, whispered in the night, called and whistled in the gale”.

The woman remained on the island for three years, shooting game and tanning hides to make clothes. In her third winter, another sail appeared on the horizon, and again she built a signal fire.

As the ship drew closer, Marguerite waved frantically. The smoke and the strange figure dressed in furs terrified the French fishermen onboard, but the captain forced them to anchor and go ashore. They were amazed to discover that the hairy demon was in fact a Frenchwoman. They took Marguerite back to France, where she lived the rest of her life as nun.

Upon her return to France, Marguerite claimed that she had been hunted by large beasts, and had heard screaming demons in the night. Charles Skinner writes that “these evil ones had horned heads and wings and howled like a crowd in the marketplace.”

Modern visitors not concerned about imps and demons can still land on Quirpon Island. If they wish to spend the night, they need not worry about staying in a crude hut like Marguerite’s. The island is now home to the Quirpon Lighthouse Inn, operated by Linkum Tours.

International response to the location has been very positive, but one must wonder what sort of rating Marguerite would have given the island if she had pursued a career as a travel writer, instead of retiring as a nun.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Going mummering in Harrington Harbour? Be careful what you drink!

A while back, I came across an old web posting by Sharon Chubbs-Ransom, from Harrington Harbour, about mummering traditions along the Lower North Shore of Quebec. The shore, just over the Labrador border, is almost like a forgotten part of Newfoundland. Many of the early settlers, especially in places like Harrington Harbour, were from the south-west coast of Newfoundland, so they have maintained many traditions that would seem very familiar to Newfoundlanders.

This, of course, includes mummering traditions at Christmas time. You can read Sharon's article on those traditions here.

Sharon happened to be St. John's over the Christmas holiday, and on New Year's Eve, I tracked her down and we had a chat about her memories of mummering, hobby horses, and the Christmas dinners of her youth.

She also told me a story of her husband's, from Harrington Harbour. She asked me if I knew about St. George's wine, which I didn't. Here is what she had to say:
It is a fairly strong, sweet type of wine, and it came by the gallon jar, so at Christmas time there wasn’t anybody in the community that didn’t have a gallon jar of St. George’s wine. That was the drink, you know! When you went around mummering, if you were close to drinking age, well, everybody gave you a drink of St. George’s wine, and so by the time you got around to all the houses, you were absolutely innebriated, in most cases. My husband tells this story about getting a water glass full of of wine at the second house they went to, and by the time they got around, somebody fell off a cliff! They had to rig something up to get him back up, and he was ok.
I'm still looking for more of your mummering memories! If you have one, drop me a line at