Monday, 29 October 2012

Skeletons in the Closet - Win $150 for the best story Hallowe'en Night

Hallowe'en Night
{9 pm, The Ship Pub}
Part of the St. John's Storytelling Festival 2012

Hosted by Dale Jarvis and musical guest, Daniel Payne. A Story Slam is a contest of words; imagine a poetry slam format meets Canadian Idol, with a storytelling twist. Prize of $150. Presented in collaboration with the Folk Arts Society of Newfoundland & Labrador.

A life and death storytelling competition, the theme of this terrifying tilt of tales will be "Skeletons in the Closet"! So check your closets and see if what's lurking inside is fit to bring to the may get you $150 bucks! It may get you arrested! It may remind you it's time to clean the house! Just remember to keep it to 5 minutes, or else...

We'll be using five judges from the audience to score the stories. This is how we will be running the scoring, borrowed from the Once Upon A Slam series in Ottawa:

"We have the 5 randomly-chosen-from-the-audience judges. Each judge will give a score out of 10 to 1 decimal place i.e.. 8.3, 9.5, 7.9, you get the idea. The highest score and the lowest score are dropped to get a score out of 30. If there is a time penalty, it is deducted and the total score is given. The highest total score after penalties wins the slam.... The judges are instructed to give half the score for the content of the story and half for how it is told. So, someone who is really engaging and entertaining but tells a story without much meat to it won’t score as well as someone who has a balance of both."

Host: Dale Jarvis

Dale Jarvis tells ghost stories, legends and traditional tales from Newfoundland and beyond. Founder of the St. John’s Storytelling Circle, Dale is also the host of the St. John’s Haunted Hike, named “Event of the Year” by the City of St. John’s. Author of four books on Newfoundland folklore and ghost stories, Dale has also taught workshops across North America on historical storytelling.

Musician: Daniel Payne

Daniel Obediah Payne is from the town of Cow Head on the Northern Peninsula. For over a decade now, he has worked as a professional musician, performing the traditional music of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as collecting songs and dance tunes from older traditional players around the province.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Photographic evidence of the living dead - the St. John's Zombie Walk

An unholy horde of flesh-eating zombies shambled out of Bannerman Park today, and lurched through the streets of downtown during the annual all-ages St. John’s Zombie Walk. Yours truly, at great risk to my own life and limb, went out and gathered these photos. I escaped with only minor scratches. Those are nothing to worry about, right?

Watch out for the zombiedoodle. I'm certain he bites.

External frame backpacks wanted for my next BIG mummer project

Those of you who know me are aware I don't sit still for very long, often rolling one project right into the next one without stop. Someone posted a link recently to Austin Kleon's short video on the subject, which likens this approach to chain smoking. To extend that analogy onwards, I have a serious pack-a-day project habit.

And occasionally, I need someone to enable my addictions.

One of the projects I'm going to be exploring over the next couple months is making giant puppets. I'm gathering together a crack team of artists, bohemians and fans of the carnivalesque to make a few BIG mummer puppets for this year's Mummers Parade (coming up December 15th, 2012).

To do that, we need some old external frame backpacks, the cheap old kind that you often see at yard sales and in corners of people's basements (see photo above). The pack itself doesn't even matter, we will be cutting those away. What we need are the aluminum frames and harnesses. So if you have a worn-out old backpack that you aren't using anymore, I'm sure we can adapt it into something fantastic for the Mummers Festival.

If you have one you are willing to donate to a new, creative, loving, slightly obsessive home, you can email me at

And if you have expertise or interest in building some giant mummer puppets, let me know!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Haunted Hike Goes Mobile for Hallowe'en

This Hallowe’en, the ghosts of the St. John’s Haunted Hike are going mobile - materializing on wireless devices near you. Storyteller Dale Jarvis has released a version of his popular ghost tour for iPhone and iPad users, just in time for the holiday. The app was created in partnership with St. John’s web designer and developer Levin Mejia, and his company IV & III.

The mobile Haunted Hike application celebrates 20 creepy stories from downtown St. John’s. It features dead soldiers still standing guard, night-time warnings from eerie Victorian ladies, and strange creatures lurking around the shores of a local pond. The app is currently available for download through the iTunes app store.

“I love sharing old stories in new ways” says Jarvis. “This new app allows us to put a modern spin on classic ghost stories. It has a gorgeous vintage feel to it, fully in keeping with the character of the original Haunted Hike.”

The St. John’s Haunted Hike ghost tour was established by Jarvis in 1997. It regularly sees crowds of tourists exploring the city’s dark twisting streets, listening to ghost stories and learning about the more sinister side of the history of St. John’s.

"I wanted to do this app because I thought it would be a great way to turn Dale’s Haunted Hike into something people could enjoy all year round and across the globe,” says Mejia. No stranger to the development of mobile content, Mejia has also produced the Moose Watch app, a real-time location based application bringing awareness to moose sightings on Newfoundland and Labrador roads and highways.


To arrange interviews, or for print and web images, contact

Levin Mejia

Dale Jarvis

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Haunted Brigantine of Sound Island

A ghost town is the perfect location for a ghost story. The former settlement of Sound Island, Placentia Bay, is proof of this. The first record of settlement is from around 1805, when William Cummins lived there. Thirty years later, the population had grown to close to 160. Today the island is uninhabited, but its ghost story lives on.

Before the days of resettlement, the people of Sound Island fished for cod and salmon and kept some cattle and sheep. In the mid 1800s Sound Island boasted a thriving fishery, concentrating on the grounds around Cape St. Mary's. The inhabitants also prosecuted the herring fishery, collecting the fish in nets and seines.

A report by the Department of Fisheries in 1898 stated that “this year, up to date, the Placentia herring fishery has been one of the finest on record. Enormous shoals of herring of the finest quality are reported, and an unusually large fleet of American and Canadian vessels are loading at Sound Island and other places in the bay.”

The herring fishery attracted workers from neighbouring communities, and one year a 19 year old from a nearby settlement acquired work on a herring boat. He made his way to Sound Island, but did not get there until around 9 o’clock at night.

The harbour was dark, but the young man recognized the brigantine he was to serve aboard. He found his way onboard only to discover he was alone. She was a nice vessel compared to what the man had worked on before, well fitted out with carpets on the floor.

Not knowing anyone in the community, and not wanting to rouse strangers from their sleep, the young man decided to sleep where he was. He found an empty cabin, close to the hold where the herring was packed, and settled in for the night.

Around midnight, the lad was startled from his slumber by a terrible commotion in the hold. It sounded as if people were quarrelling and fighting. It stopped for a while, and then started up once more. All of this fighting and arguing was carried out in a tongue the man did not understand, although he thought it sounded like Portuguese.

Leaving his bed to investigate, he made his way to the hold. Opening the door on the noise, and peeking in, he was terrified to find the hold empty. He was so frightened that he ran out, jumped overboard, and swam to land.

The next day, the crew arrived by another vessel. They were joined by the captain, who had spent the night in the house of a local fisherman. When the young man asked the captain about the noises in the hold, the captain said that the brigantine was haunted. This was the reason the captain had slept elsewhere!

The captain had first hand experience with the onboard phantoms. One night, alone on the brigantine, he had been reclining on his berth and smoking a cigarette. At around 9 o’clock, a man with his throat cut from ear to ear walked though the captain’s cabin, and vanished.

According to the captain, the brigantine had been brought up from the United States, but before that, the vessel had originated in South America. Wharfside rumour was that it had been a pirate ship, and that at some point in its history, the entire crew had been murdered.

With the captain and full crew onboard, no ghostly noises were heard. The name of the brigantine has been lost, and what became of it is unknown.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

International storyteller to present workshop at St. John’s Storytelling Festival

On Saturday November 3, as part of the St. John’s Storytelling festival Ragnhild A. Mørch will facilitate the workshop When the Body Speaks.

Her broad experience working in the arts throughout England, Norway and Germany will be evident during this workshop which focuses on the physical presence of the storyteller on stage. It will look at how the body communicates in its own right – with or without words. Ragnhild works with the whole arsenal the body has in store such as gestures, mimic, directions of movements, physical energy levels and the placement of the body on stage. The workshop combines exercises from physical theatre and storytelling and is open to experienced storytellers with a broad repertoire, including animal stories, repetitive tales and wonder tales.

The workshop is hands on and fabulously physical so participants need loose clothing and shoes made for moving. And if you ever wondered... the course proves that every storyteller should own a bag of tennis balls and sign up for a lifelong membership in a fitness club!

1:00 - 3:00 PM
MMaP Gallery Space - 2nd Floor, Arts & Culture Centre
Cost: $20
Preregister at:

Visit for information on other events happening during the festival.

Ragnhild A. Mørch Biography
Ragnhild Mørch trained in directing, physical theatre, dramaturgy and storytelling, and has worked in live arts since 1996. Her projects include storytelling for BBC’s Music Live event in Hyde Park, direction of large scale outdoor promenade performances in Norway and England, collaboration with The Norwegian Broadcasting, drama teaching and play writing. She has been Artistic Director of a regional theatre centre with tasks as divert as financial management, staff management and marketing. Since 2005 she is a full time storyteller and focuses on storytelling both as performance art and as an educational tool for professional and personal development. She is Artistic Manager of the training course “Storytelling in Art and Education” at the Berlin University of Arts and has lectured at the University of Roehampton, London. Over a period of four years, she received funding to run long term research projects in schools in England to look into the effect of storytelling on children’s learning and personal development. She is invited to festivals all over Europe and her repertoire spans from fairytales to myths; historic events to urban legends; autobiographical stories to tall tales. Her studies in physical theatre and mime provide her with a unique physicality and precise timing and she tells her stories in Norwegian, German and/or English.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Boulevard's Black and White Ghost

Shortly after midnight on Remembrance Day in 2011, “Karen” had a strange experience whilst driving alongside Quidi Vidi Lake. She was in St. John’s from out of town, and had just dropped off a friend, when a strange apparition came up onto the road in front of her car.

“I was driving along the Boulevard by Quidi Vidi Lake, between the bandstand and military base,” Karen remembers. As she did, something caught her eye, moving very quickly up the bank from the direction of the pond.

“I saw a smoke-colored figure come over the bank and onto the road directly in front of my car,” she says.

Thinking she was about to hit a person, the woman reacted immediately.

“I slammed on the breaks,” she describes. “ I’m glad there was nobody behind me, because I would have gotten rear-ended.”

When she did, the figure in front of her completely dissipated.

“I did not just see that!” the woman thought to herself.

“It happened all in the matter of seconds, split-seconds,” Karen says. “It was very, very fast. It was just like somebody walked right out in front of my car.”

“I’d never seen anything like that before in my life,” she states. “ I couldn’t believe it had happened. I was on my way over to my sister’s house, and I told them as soon as I got there.”

Karen says that while she had experienced strange things in the past, meeting the figure on The Boulevard was her time seeing a full-bodied apparition. She was shocked by how detailed the figure was.

“It was a man about 5'9" and slim build, dressed in older style clothing, wearing a salt/pepper cap, linen shirt with the sleeves rolled up, suspenders and linen trousers. His clothing appeared to be messed up, or worn-in. I could see that he had dark hair and stubble, and he looked to be in his 30s.

Karen describes the man as being a dirty, smoky colour, almost more like he was an antique photograph than a real person.

“He looked like he was in a black and white picture, and when he dissipated, it was just like cigarette smoke!”

“I will never forget it,” she says.

I was interested in Karen’s story for a number of reasons. The motif of a ghostly figure vanishing in front of a car is one which I have come across numerous times, and anyone who has watched movies with a paranormal theme will have seen this acted out before. I was also interested in the location of the haunting, as it is a spot I have not heard a ghost story from before.

It is quite common for me to hear a story that only feels like part of a larger narrative. I have heard stories about ghostly ladies on the stairs, or strange occurrences in old houses, often without any explanation for the cause. When it happens, people such as Karen often then contact others, such as myself, to try to make sense of what has happened, and to fill in the blanks in the story.

Sadly, in this instance, I do not have a lot more to add. The area certainly has a lot of history, but I have not heard similar stories from the neighbourhood, so I do not have a lot to go on. If you have heard any similar stories about this area of town, let me know! You can email me at

AUDIO - The Seekers Paranormal Panel at Atlanti-CON 2012

I had a blast at Atlanti-Con this past weekend in Corner Brook, where I got to hang out with Grace Shears and Gerard Duffney of The Seekers, a paranormal investigation team based in Corner Brook.

The three of us did a panel session on paranormal investigation and story collecting, and I did a quick-and-dirty audio recording of the event.

If you missed it, you can check out the audio at and download a copy for yourself, or listen to the streaming audio version of the panel.