Friday, 25 November 2016

"Red Eyes" - Glovertown's glow-in-the-dark #UrbanLegend. #amwriting

Down at the end of Angle Brook Road in Glovertown is the impressive ruin of an old pulp and paper mill. It is also the site of a creepy local urban legend about a mysterious figure known as “Red Eyes.”

You can read about the history of the mill and see more great photos on the Hidden Newfoundland website here

For locals, it is a creepy spot, tall and still, empty, and dark even in the daylight. “The Plant” became an after-hours hangout for teenagers, and before long, rumours began to circulate that the old mill was haunted by a spirit known as Red Eyes. It got to the point that many people would not dare go there at night by themselves.

“Eyes are seen in the tower,” one woman told me “The red eyes are said to be from a man that died while building the mill.”  A second woman told me that people used to hang out at the mill, and “would see a worker’s daughter who died there in one of the towers.”

“I heard that apparently it was a man killed during construction,” a third woman told me, who had heard the legend in the late 1980s or early 1990s. “He fell into the cement mixer or something like that, and I think he was built into the place. At night people would say ‘Be careful of Red Eyes!’ It was just an eerie place to be around, even in the daytime. I was only up there once at night, and not for long.”

A Glovertown man who also heard the story in the 1990s told me much the same thing: “He was a worker that fell in the pour when they poured the concrete for the tower. They never got him out. He stuck in the walls, and he still there.” Yet another man told me the spirit was that one of the construction workers who was blown of the top of the building while the mill was being built. “You can see his red eyes glow from the top once a year on the date it happened,” he added. “Some people say he was pushed.”

I posted a request for information on social media, and was almost immediately contacted by someone on Facebook, who wished to remain anonymous.

“I'm born and raised in Glovertown, and spent my teenage years in ‘the plant’ as we like to call it,” he told me. “I've heard of the story and I'll tell you what I know, if you want some info?”

Of course, I wanted more info. I called him up to get his version of the Glovertown urban legend, which he too had learned in the 1990s:

“Most of my teenage years were spent at The Plant, the old sawmill. There is a swimming hole next to it. As a teenager, that is where we went. It is only a couple minutes off one of the roads, so it was just tucked away enough that your parents couldn’t see you drinking. The story has been passed down from the older kids to the younger kids, to scare the crap out of them. When I was a kid, the story was that when the mill was built by a Norwegian company, safety was non-existent. One of the construction workers did not show up at the end of the day. They found his body where had fallen down through one of the towers. He died there. They say that to this day his red eyes haunt the plant. If you were there by yourself, you would see these travelling red eyes following you around.”

Do you have a story about Glovertown's Red Eyes? Send me an email at or comment below!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Meet "The Webber" - Newfoundland's creepiest #UrbanLegend. #amwriting #nlunexplained

One of the most intriguing and creepy contemporary legends I have come across from Newfoundland is the story of The Webber - a terrifying, woods-dwelling creature with webbed hands, who loves to catch and devour children, campers, and canoodling teenagers. Like you would, if you lived in the bush and had hands like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The Webber seems to be a largely west-coast legend, and several of its older origin stories place it around the Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville, which operated between 1941 and 1966.

The legend has migrated north and east, with versions found along the Great Northern Peninsula and Labrador, and with one outlying variant told about the Heart's Content Barrens area between Carbonear and Heart’s Content. The stories incorporate tropes found in other contemporary and urban legends like The Hook Man, but there are similarities between many of The Webber’s origin stories -- he is born with webbed hands (and sometimes feet) and then is either abandoned, lost in an accident, or murders his unfortunate parents. It then goes on to live in the wild, and terrorize (and/or eat) innocent passers-by.

The Webber made a special guest appearance (stories of The Webber did, at least) on the Hallowe’en edition of the “Sunday Night Geek” podcast for Oct 30th. 2016. Folklorist John Bodner of Memorial University's Grenfell Campus stopped by the podcast to share some tales, and you can hear a fantastic archival version of the creature’s origin story at about the 20 minute mark.

I’ve been collecting other Webber stories, and have condensed some of them below. If you know about The Webber, and have a different version, PLEASE let me know!! Send me a note at or post to social media with the hashtag #NLunexplained.

And now, prepare to meet The Webber:

Version One
The Webber was a man-like creature covered in hair who migrated between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland every seven years. The creature had webbed hands and feet which enabled it to swim to and from Newfoundland.
Version Two
An American couple were living on the base in Stephenville during WW2. They had a baby boy, and to their horror he was born with webbing between his fingers and toes. They decided to fly back to the States to have the webbing removed, but their plane crashed just outside of town and the parents were killed. The baby survived, and grew up to hunt children who go out wandering around the woods after nightfall.
Version Three
A family was involved in a car accident along the highway near Pasadena. It happened at night and the car went far enough into the woods that no one noticed it for a few days. A kid survived the crash, but a bunch of birds attacked him and injured his hands as he defended himself. He couldn't find the highway and went into the woods and raised himself. His injured hands healed into duck-like webs, and he ate whatever he could find.
Version Four
The Webber was born deformed with webbed hands and webbed feet, and lived in isolation near Pasadena with his unwed mother, who was embarrassed by his appearance. He was feral and lived outside, and when his mother passed on he continued to live in the woods. He was said to feed on the children who attended the camp built on his mother’s land.
Version Five
A man and woman in their 50s found out they were going to be first-time parents. Unlike most newborns The Webber Baby was grotesquely deformed, with webbed hands and feet, an unusually large head, and long claw like fingernails They decided to raise him at home and keep him inside at all times, so no one could make fun of him. As grew, he was unusually strong and too hard for them to handle. They decided to bring him to Carbonear to a home for people who needed special care. They put him in the car and headed away from home. Later that night on the Heart's Content Barrens, their car was found flipped over in the woods. The couple was torn up and dead, and the roof was slashed apart as if by a wild animal. 

Got your own Webber story? Do versions of this legend occur outside of Newfoundland? Get at me, true believers! 

PS: Want a pair of those sweet, sweet Deep Spawn silicone gloves shown above? They can be yours for only $569.95 and are perfect for terrorizing sleep-deprived campers. Start rolling your nickels and dimes, kids.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Do you know about the two headless ghosts of Fogo Island? #amwriting #NLunexplained #NaNonFiWriMo

In 1999, Fogo Island Literacy Association published a small book called “Tales of Fogo Island,” compiled and edited by Della Coish. The publication was designed as easy-to-read book about local life and culture, for use with adult learners in literacy programs.

The book includes references to two (presumably) different Fogo Island headless ghosts.

The first headless phantom was spotted by a man named Lynch, of Island Harbour. Lynch was on his way from Payne's Harbour to Butt's Point when he met a man on the road, dressed in a black suit of clothes. When Lynch spoke to the stranger, he got no reply, probably because the figure was missing his head.

On a different occasion, a woman from Fogo was walking home, when she became aware of a man walking in front of her. Thinking it was her brother, she called out to him, and found out that he too was headless.

I'd love to know if there are more recent encounters with these ghosts, and would like to gather more details about either of the stories, or other stories of hauntings from Fogo Island. If you have info for me , drop me a line at

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Hand Shot Off - News from Trepassey, 1918. #NLunexplained #NaNonFiWriMo

I'm working away at my National Non Fiction Writing Month project, #NLunexplained, and I found this little gem of a story from the St. John's Daily Star, 1918-12-11:
Mr. Wm. Bulger who was hurt at Trepassey in a gunning accident was brought in from there by train at noon to-day, and was taken in the ambulance to the Hospital. He was in the act of drawing a charge of powder and shot from the weapon when the cap, which he had forgotten was on the nipple, was hit by the trigger which was accidentally pulled. His left hand was practically blown off from the wrist. He lost much blood and suffered great pain, but bore it with stoicism.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

My November writing project is #NLunexplained! #NaNonFiWriMo #WNFIN

It is November 1st, All Soul's Day. Hallowe'en is over, the St. John's Haunted Hike and my "Haunted at Leaside" show has been put to bed. This is when normal people would say, "I'm going to take a break." Well, I'm not doing that.

Today is also that day when aspiring fiction writers gallop madly off as part of the National Novel Writing Month. Well, I'm not doing that, either.

Instead, I've decided to take on the 2016 Write Nonfiction in November Challenge! As part of National Non-Fiction Writing Month, this annual challenge is to complete a work of non-fiction in 30 days. You can learn more on Facebook.

My last book of NL paranormal stories was Haunted Waters (available on, Kobo, iTunes, Nook, and Kindle) back in 2010. So I'm overdue for another book.

So as of today, I'm officially starting on my next book project on local folklore, true hauntings, and supernatural stories!  Follow along with the #NLunexplained hashtag on social media, and stay tuned! I'll be posting updates on my projects and on the various creepy and mysterious stories from NL folklore I'm in the process of researching.

Got a story of your own you want to share with me? I'm always looking for new stories of hauntings, fairies, strange creatures and the unexplained, from anywhere in Newfoundland and Labrador. Drop me a line at

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Jack the Lantern in Shoe Cove Bight - A Will o' the Wisp for #FolkloreThursday

By Dale Jarvis
The sighting of mysterious lights is part of a great and honoured tradition here in Newfoundland and Labrador. There are stories too numerous to count of an eerie light that will appear in times of danger or which is followed by a tragic incident. They also often appear specifically to lead foolish or unsuspecting travellers astray, into bog holes, or over cliffs.

These strange lights are not always evil or dangerous, neither do they always lure travellers into treacherous areas nor to their doom. In one documented case, one such light actually led the Reverend Canon Noel and his good wife to safety during a blizzard outside Harbour Grace. Sometimes these mysterious apparitions appear for no reason at all, content to merely flit, gambol and cavort in the dark shadows of the Newfoundland night.

There are those in Newfoundland and elsewhere who will tell you that these strange lights are a type of fairy or possibly even a spirit. In the United Kingdom the phenomenon is known as a Hinky-Punk, a Hobby-Lanter, or a Joan-in-the-Wad. Another English name is the Jill-Burnt-Tail, who is deliciously said to be a more flirtatious, female version of the light. In Newfoundland it is known as a corpse candle, a Will o' the Wisp, or a Jacky Lantern. Around La Scie the otherworldly glow is recognized as no one less than Jack the Lantern.

Not far from La Scie is the community of Shoe Cove. It is about ten km southwest of Cape St. John, the western headland of Notre Dame Bay. The Cove itself is a steep-sided, open bight about two km wide. Today the Cove is a much different place than it was before Confederation. Before the days of Joey Smallwood and the pains of resettlement, there were many smaller settlements including Stage Cove, The Bight, The Brook, Caplin Cove and Beaver Cove. Since Confederation most these sites have been abandoned. One of these abandoned sites, The Bight, was said to be a favourite stomping ground of Jack the Lantern.

Growing up in Shoe Cove Bight in the years before Confederation, the young men of the settlement heard the old fellows talk about Jack the Lantern. Skeptics to a man, the youngsters never put much faith in any of the stories. One of the older men who kept the legends alive lived down by the shoreline, and he claimed that he had met Jack the Lantern first hand.

Years earlier, this gentleman had seen a light coming in from the water. Thinking it was a boat coming in to land on the beach, he went down to meet it. He watched the light come in, but when it came close its forward movement slowed. In fact, the light did not land on the beach at all. Instead it chose to move parallel to the shore, just the same as if it were a man with a lantern in his hand, walking on the water.

Time and again they heard the tales. But the young men considered the stories told around hot stoves and in the camaraderie of the fishing sheds nothing but old foolishness, and they paid their elders no heed. If they thought of Jack the Lantern at all, they must have figured they just were as likely to meet the Man in the Moon himself, with his own lantern, dog and bush of thorn.

One night around September, a group of three or four of the boys were over in La Scie. The terrain between La Scie and Shoe Cove Bight made overland travel all but impossible, so the boys were used to taking a punt and rowing home.

The boys set off in the punt. When they looked up along the shoreline, they all saw a light upon the water. Just after they came out into the water a little further, the light started to come down closer to them. When it got down closer alongside of them it shone dimly in the night, like the low glimmer of a dull flashlight.

The light came close to the bow of the rowboat. And there it stayed, matching the speed of the vessel. One of the fellows, more brave or more foolish than the rest, tried to reach it with the paddle. No matter how hard the lad tried, he could not get handy to the glow. The light remained tantalizingly out of reach, silently hovering only about five or eight feet away, bobbing out of striking distance of the paddle.

When the boys reached the Bight, they turned in towards shore and the more familiar lights of home. At that time there was no wharf, and the locals of the Bight were accustomed to tie their craft off on the collar, a place near shore where boats were moored for safety.

The light was persistent in its attention, or perhaps it was curious as to what would take a punt full of young men all the way from La Scie to Shoe Cove Bight so late in the evening. For whatever reason, the light followed the punt to where the boats of the settlement were on the collar. As they turned in towards land the light thought better of its bold advance and turned out.

Where the light had been small and dim all the time it had followed the punt, it now started to change and swell. As it moved off into the distance it got both bigger and brighter. When it reached a spot approximately half a mile off shore, it had grown significantly in size and luminescence.

Looking back, the boys were witnesses to an unbelievable sight. The tiny flame-light glow had metamorphosed into a burning mass of light. As the watched, the light changed into something that looked all the world like a ship all lit up, or like a schooner sailing past with its lights lit, and lights all up along the masts and rigging.

They tied up the boat and made their way to their respective homes, minds awhirl with the events of the evening. Much later, the boys spoke of what had happened and of their meeting with Jack the Lantern. And if they themselves were not believed at the time, that perhaps was their reward for their being so disbelieving at the start.

A version of this story was originally published in Downhomer, April 2002, Vol. 14(11), pp. 70-71. Photo of Shoe Cove Bight courtesy of KevinGMartin.

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. The Haunted Hike runs every Sunday to Thursday during the summer, and is online at You can like us on Facebook, or better yet, come along and let us tell you a tale!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Blood luck - a strange superstition from Harbour Deep, Newfoundland. #folklore

I came across this paragraph about folk belief and superstitions from the community of Harbour Deep, located on the east coast of Newfoundland's Great Northern Peninsula:

The settlers had many superstitions and were obsessed by a belief in the presence of ghosts. It was common to hear of a man, who, while rowing across the harbor, had seen a phantom French ship, with many soldiers aboard, also crossing. Others had seen an Indian ghost following them from one settlement to another. Their superstitions were legion and I shall mention only one. During the seal hunt if a successful hunter saw anybody throwing blood out of his boat into the boat of another, a fight was sure to follow because the hunter believed that his luck was being stolen. 
- J. Morgan, "Recollections of Harbour Deep." September 1957, page 5. Atlantic Guardian Vol 14, no 9

Has anyone come across the idea of someone using blood to break someone's luck? If you have, I'd love to hear about it! You can 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. 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. The Haunted Hike runs every Sunday to Thursday during the summer, and is online at You can like us on Facebook, or better yet, come along and let us tell you a tale!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Pirate Gold! The Man in the Mountain & Corner Brook's Treasure Island. #FolkloreThursday

By Dale Jarvis

I've been in the Humber Valley this week, talking about local stories and history. So it seems fitting that this week's contribution to #FolkloreThursday be about one of the region's most enduring and well known legends: that of the Old Man in the Mountain, a strange face which can be seen in the cliffs outside of the town. The Old Man himself is located just east of the city and is best seen when traveling east to Steady Brook. About two minutes outside of Corner Brook is a rocky cliff known as Breakfast Head. If you slow down and look up, the Old Man in the Mountain can be seen on the rockface overlooking Shellbird Island in the Humber River.

It is often said that the face is hard to locate, but patience and a bit of imagination is all it takes to find it. In the photo above (from A Place To Call Home) you can see the face in the lower left quadrant of the image. The image in rock resembles the face of a fisherman, or pirate, or Beothuk, depending on who you talk to. The face leers out over the Humber, looking down on Shellbird Island from his lofty, rocky perch. Legend has it that the old man was carved into the mountain to serve as a marker for an undiscovered treasure.

Shellbird Island is situated in the Humber River Valley, the main arterial route between the granite hills surrounding Corner Brook and the only transportation link for east to west land traffic in the area.  Captain Cook explored this river valley in 1767, and found Corner Brook to be an excellent base of operations for his work in charting the coastline. Cook was marine surveyor of Newfoundland from 1763 to 1767. Cook's maps were the first to use accurate triangulation. Much of his work was so accurate that many of his charts could still be used today. He went on to explore much of the Pacific and was killed in Hawaii in 1779. If only he had stayed in Newfoundland!

Although Cook was probably familiar with Shellbird Island, there is no indication that the legendary treasure is his. Indeed the legend states that the treasure was buried by the Spanish or by pirates, and that it was one of them who carved the mysterious face.

The theory that the treasure has Spanish origins may have some basis in reality, as the Spanish were frequent visitors to the west coast of Newfoundland long before Captain Cook started his chart making work there in the eighteenth century. The Spanish fishery in Newfoundland and Labrador, especially that originating from Basque ports, peaked between 1570 and 1580.

In 1578 Anthony Parkhurst, an English explorer and merchant, reported 100 Spanish fisherman working in Newfoundland. Tensions between England and Spain however contributed to a decline in the industry, with Spanish ships becoming targets of pirates and privateers. As English and French ships came to the Island more often, the Spanish abandoned the Avalon Peninsula in favour of the south and west coasts.

Spain's involvement in the Newfoundland fishery was fated not to last. Harassment of Spanish vessels by pirates and the English meant that by 1597 Spain relied on the French Basques for supplies of Newfoundland cod.

The busy fish trade, and the even richer fur trade between New France and Europe, proved to be an excellent hunting ground for pirates. And Newfoundland's long unprotected coastline, with hundreds of hidden bays, made the island a perfect spot for pirate hideouts.

The west coast, well away from the more densely settled east coast, was ideal hideout territory. Several years before Cook arrived, the west coast was the base of operations for one of piracy's most legendary and bloodthirsty couples, that of Eric and Maria Cobham. In 1740 the pair arrived near St. George's, within easy striking distance of the St. Lawrence River trade routes. The Cobhams were mainly interested in furs, which brought a high price on the black market.

Legend maintains Maria was part of her husband's expedition to Newfoundland and lived here from 1740 to 1760. It is claimed that she was the first European woman to have lived on the west coast of the island. She was also a ruthless pirate. Maria and her husband made a point of sinking every ship they captured, and killing everyone on board to be certain there would be no witnesses. Shipowners assumed their ships had been lost at sea with all hands due to natural disasters.

While the Cobhams may be more myth than history, their buccaneering enterprise is linked to an established history of piracy on the west coast. But is the Shellbird Island treasure theirs? Other researchers have argued that the treasure is related to the most famous pirate in Newfoundland history, Peter Easton.

In 1989, authors Frank Galgay and Michael McCarthy published a book entitled "Buried Treasures of Newfoundland and Labrador", now sadly out of print. In the book, they devoted a short chapter to the Shellbird Island treasure.

Peter Easton, well known on the east coast of the island for his pirate fort at Harbour Grace, was also active on the west coast. Like the Cobhams, Easton was well aware of the riches to be gained by plundering the merchant ships engaged in the fur trade of New France. Easton intercepted several merchant ships from Quebec City and Montreal, and made quite an impressive haul before being sighted by a French warship.

Easton and his crew realized they were outgunned by the French ship, so they quickly set sail back to Newfoundland. Easton made his way to the mouth of the Humber River to hide from the French. According to legend he decided to bury his treasure, just in case.

The gold was divided into three chests, and Easton entrusted a mate to take the gold and another sailor in a small boat to Shellbird Island to bury it. In one version of the story, the Old Man in the Mountain was already there, and Easton decided to use it as a marker to remember where the gold was buried.

The mate and sailor buried the gold on the island. As the sailor started to fill in the last of the three pits, the mate drew his flintlock pistol and fired! The sailor slumped dead over the chest, and he was quickly buried by the mate in order to provide a ghostly guardian for the gold.

Tragedy struck the mate on the way back to Easton's ship. At a section of the Humber called the Devil's Dancing Pool, the boat was swamped. The mate drowned, taking the exact location of the gold with him. Easton, it was said, later returned to Shellbird Island. He left empty-handed, the gold still buried deep beneath the earth, the spirit of the dead sailor left to protect it.

Over the years, rumours have circulated that portions of the treasure have been found. In the late nineteenth century it was said that one of the three chests was uncovered, and that the gold doubloons inside were shared in secret. Then, around 1934, word spread that a second chest had be uncovered. Once more the finders shared their gold in secret, leaving one last chest just waiting to be found. Such is the stuff of legends.

There are many who feel the entire story is just that, a legend. These skeptics argue that the image on the cliff is the result of the natural erosion of the cliff, with the "face" just a random collection of rocks and hollows. Certainly, there are many naturally occurring rock formations all across the island, and indeed, all over the world, that are said to look like people, animals or other objects. There is even another "Old Man in the Mountain" in Hawaii, and another one in New Hampshire.

But what about the legend of the buried gold? If you discount century-old rumours, no gold has ever been found on Shellbird Island. David Cordingly, a naval historian and world renowned expert on historical pirates, has argued that the whole idea of buried pirate gold is a nineteenth century invention. Cordingly writes, "although buried treasure has been a favourite theme in the pirate stories of fiction, there are very few documented examples of real pirates burying their loot."

The idea of buried treasure was made widely popular by the publication of Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Treasure Island" in 1883, and it has also been a firm part of Newfoundland folklore for generations. Perhaps it has remained such a fixture in our legends and storytelling traditions because of the slim chance that the gold might be real after all. And as long as the Old Man in the Mountain looks down over Newfoundland's own Treasure Island, there is still a chance that one of us will strike it rich.

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. The Haunted Hike runs every Sunday to Thursday during the summer, and is online at You can like us on Facebook, or better yet, come along and let us tell you a tale!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The Noose-ence of Smithville Crescent, St. John’s. #FolkloreThursday

By Dale Jarvis. Originally printed in Wonderful Strange

On November 2, 1898 businessman Lawrence O'Brien Furlong acquired Smithville, a large estate, restaurant and banqueting centre on the outskirts of St. John's, from retired Sergeant John Smith of the British Military, the original owner since 1871. The house, with its verandah running the length of the building, became much frequented for weddings, tennis parties and suchlike in the warmer months, and by skaters and ski enthusiasts in winter.

The 1928 Newfoundland Directory ran an advertisement which described Smithville in glowing terms. “This renowned and ever-popular Hostel, situated almost within the City Limits, and surrounded by smiling farms, cooling forests, and enchanting waters, is daily serving delightful dinners and teas. Dances and Pic-Nic Parties a specialty.”

City directories from 1913 to 1937 make note of the fact that the estate was also home to Smithville Bakery, and many of the Furlongs were noted bakers. One of these was Mr. Patrick Furlong, the son of Lawrence Furlong. Patrick Furlong and the large horse and buggy which he used to deliver goods were a familiar site in the neighbourhood.

The Furlong family ran the establishment into the 1950s. Around 1963, the Smithville estate was torn down to make room for St. Pius X school, Gonzaga school, and a new parish church. While Smithville itself may have vanished, the name has survived to the present day by renaming the upper part of Long Pond Road to Smithville Crescent.

Another aspect of the property which has survived is a few old ghost stories, one of which was related to me by Nancy Squires, the great-granddaughter of Patrick Furlong himself. The ghost in question has been given the nickname "The Noose-ence" by the family, for reasons which will soon be made apparent.

One summer evening, Patrick was heading for home after concluding some business on Water Street. It had been a long day and he was looking forward getting home in time for tea. Putting the affairs of the day behind him, he and his horse, Nell, and the buggy started off.

Nearing the fork in the road of Strawberry Marsh Road and Smithville Crescent (then Long Pond Road), he saw that a large crowd had gathered around a rather gruesome sight. A man had hanged himself from an old tree in the meadow located between the two roads. A constable on the scene asked Patrick if they could put the corpse in his buggy and transport it to the city morgue.

The man apologized sincerely and said no, as he did not want to carry a dead body in the buggy he used for his bread business. The constable said he understood, and said they would wait for someone else to come along.

Nothing more was thought of the incident until one cold evening in January. Once more Patrick was heading home to Smithville, and approached the same area where the man had hanged himself months before. Suddenly, the sleigh settled as if a heavy weight had just been loaded aboard, and at the same time Patrick felt colder than he had ever felt in his entire life.

Patrick then thought back to the death of the previous summer. Scared beyond belief, he turned and peered back at the sleigh. It was empty. At the same time, he could sense that he was in the company of a bad presence.

Nell slowly dragged the now heavy sleigh all the way to the lane leading to Smithville. When they reached the laneway, the ghostly weight lifted swiftly. Patrick took Nell’s reins in hand and led her down the entrance to the barn and put her inside. Inside their home his wife Annie was waiting for him and opened the door only to be greeted by her husband, his face as white as bleached flour.

Patrick Furlong was sick with fright and had cold chills for nearly a month. Nell was so spooked that she was never used for work again, and lived out the remainder of her life in the meadow at Smithville.
Photo: Furlong Family, Sept 6 1930, courtesy Nancy Squires.

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. The Haunted Hike runs every Sunday to Thursday during the summer, and is online at You can like us on Facebook, or better yet, come along and let us tell you a tale!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Getting to the bottom of some bottomless pond legends for #FolkloreThursday

Nestled between Breakheart Hill and Bennett's Point is the village of Champney's West in Trinity Bay. Across the Tickle from Champney's West is Fox Island, which is connect by an isthmus to the mainland. Within the isthmus is a deep freshwater pond, surrounded on either side by stony beaches.

The pond itself is famous for being bottomless, one of several reportedly bottomless ponds in Newfoundland. The best known of these is probably Deadman's Pond in St. John's, one of the tales we tell as part of the Ghosts of Signal Hill program.

Legend holds that the bodies of executed criminals were displayed on a gibbet at Gibbet's Hill. After a time the bodies were cut down and loaded into barrels. Upon being weighed down with rocks they were then rolled into Deadman's Pond. Deadman's Pond was believed to be bottomless, thus quickening their descent into hell.

A direct portal to Hell in St. John's East? Gothic stuff indeed, and as firm a fixture of St. John's folklore as the miles of tunnels everyone knows are just waiting to be found underneath Water Street. Firm enough in fact to steel the determination of a film crew from Space: The Imagination Station, Canada's national science fiction and fantasy cable station. They arrived in St. John's several summers ago as part of a cross-Canada odyssey to explore the unexplained.

After having invested in a boat rental and trolling Deadman's Pond, the adventuresome Torontonians demonstrated on national television what every Townie could have told them ahead of time, should they have felt so inclined. Deadman's pond has a bottom. It isn't even that far from the surface.

While I personally have not plumbed the depths of the Fox Island pond, something tells me that it probably has a bottom as well. Well of course it has a bottom, and we all know it. Most of us accept that we live on a spherical planet, and the idea of a pit that truly goes on forever is fantastic. We live in an era where satellite technology allows us to map the ocean's deepest abyss, and unless NASA is holding something back, no direct entrance ways to Hell have been discovered.

But legends like those of Fox Island Pond and Deadman's Pond continue to circulate, be retold, and find their way into tourist literature. Why do we continue to tell these tales, and why does the idea of a bottomless lake continue to hold such a grip on our collective imagination?

Part of it must be the fact that Newfoundlanders love a good yarn, even those (or perhaps especially those) known to be less than one hundred percent accurate. But maybe it goes deeper than that, if you will pardon the pun.

Legends and tales of bottomless pits, lakes, and ponds are almost universal. Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park near Kingston, Ontario has a bottomless lake. So does Budapest and the town of Agias Nikolaos in Crete. There is even a Bottomless Lakes State Park near Roswell, New Mexico.

These lakes and ponds offer us tantalizing doorways to another realm. Sometimes this other realm is stated as in the legend of Deadman's Pond, and sometimes it is left unsaid. But peering into the reflective surface of a still body of water and wondering what lies beneath provides us with a link to the unexplained. Perhaps this is why they fascinate us. It is not so much that we think they actually are bottomless, but that part of us wishes that they might be.

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. The Haunted Hike runs every Sunday to Thursday during the summer, and is online at You can like us on Facebook, or better yet, come along and let us tell you a tale!

Photo credit:  Deadman's Pond by John W.