Tuesday 12 April 2016

"Listen here, buddy!" - Encounters with pirate ghosts in Newfoundland.

There are numerous locations across Newfoundland and Labrador that boast piratical phantoms. The community of Boxey on the south coast of Newfoundland, almost midway between English Harbour West and Coombs Cove, was one such locale. In the 19th century, Boxey was well known for an opening or "spy hole" in a local rock formation. The hole was used by local sailors to navigate safely amid treacherous rocks in the bay.

According to local legend, a man named Jacob Penney and his companion, Simon Bungay, ran aground close to the spy hole. It was said spirits had tricked them into running their boat onto the rocks. The two men had been on a treasure hunt to haunted Deadman's Bight, just up the coast from Boxey, when the boat ran aground.

The legend goes the men were able to pull the boat off the rocks and continue on the hunt for the buried treasure. The twosome arrived at what was reported to be the location of the treasure, but their misadventure on the rocks had cost them valuable time. They arrived just in time to catch a glimpse of the fabulous treasure before a rock door slammed shut before it. The treasure was never recovered.

Another community with active pirate ghosts is Portland Creek, on the west coast of the island. The local ghosts are said to be the phantom remains of pirates who made the cove the location of their secret treasure hoard. According to different versions of the legend, the pirates had either been shipwrecked in the area, or had sought out the cove purposefully. Either way, it was said they had buried their gold there and that they had returned year after year gradually picking it up.

One intriguing claim has been made which states that, at one point, Portland Creek was so haunted by pirate ghosts that it was nearly impossible to keep a dog in the community. Apparently the dogs, sensitive to the phantom menace, were driven wild by paranormal visitors and would keep owners up with their nightly howling.

Portland Creek lies in a C-shaped cove, and if one stands in the middle of the beach looking out, the two points of the cove can be seen curving in towards one another. The most visible manifestation of the ghostly buccaneers were lights that would appear on one of the points. The apparitions would materialize on the beach at dusk. They took the form of flickering lights, looking almost like lanterns. No one could find any explanation for them, other than that they were the ghosts of the pirates returning to look for and dig up their buried gold.

 Some houses in the community were also troubled by spirits. One man by the name of Payne was particularly tormented by the phantoms. Night after night, he and his wife would be in bed and hear the sound of dishes rattling downstairs. They would go downstairs to find the kitchen empty. Payne would quite often get into his bed and feel someone, or something, slowly pulling the bedclothes from the bed. Eventually, this became too much for the man. One night as he got into the bed, he felt the ghostly tugging at his blankets.

"Listen here, buddy," said the angry fellow. "You might be taking the bed, but you are not getting my blankets!"

He got out, took the blankets and went downstairs. Presumably, he got a good night's sleep, pirate ghosts, or no pirate ghosts!

Dale Jarvis is an author, storyteller, and professional folklorist who splits his time between St. John’s and Clarke’s Beach, Newfoundland, Canada. The proprietor of the St. John’s Haunted Hike ghost tour, Dale tells ghost stories, supernatural stories, legends and traditional tales from Newfoundland, Labrador and beyond. He is also the storytelling coach for Shakespeare's Fairytales, running April 28th-29th, 2016. Get your tickets here!

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