One of the most haunted places in North America, Newfoundland and Labrador has many stories to share
My grandparents live in Cook’s Harbour, a small fishing community on the Great Northern Peninsula. As a young child, I spent some time up there. Their house was located right by the water, and I recall many times sitting on the ledge of the kitchen window with my pop’s binoculars, and looking out at the mysterious island that was about a kilometre away, they called Brandy Island.
To my knowledge, this island isn’t inhabited and it isn’t haunted. However as a kid, the idea of it being so close and not being able to visit it always drew me in, and the mystery gave me the heebie-jeebies.
Newfoundland is known as the most haunted place in North America. The island is filled with an overwhelming amount of legends, ghost stories, and myths. The Newfoundland Herald caught up with folklorist Dale Jarvis for an exclusive interview about island hauntings around the province, for this week’s Survivor: Ghost Island edition.
“I think part of it is our history, people have been here for such a long time. We have that great storytelling tradition here, that oral history still matters to us,” Jarvis suggested.
“Lots of people still have stories about the places they’ve lived, and ghost stories are certainly one of these ways that we perpetuate oral history. We tell a lot of these ghostly stories, and some of them are linked to real events.”
Bell Island is one of those places that attracts stories because of its abundance of history and culture. From the old lighthouse, to the ancient iron ore mines, this island holds a lot of tales.
“The mines have such a deep history and of course at times, especially in its early history, was a dangerous place where many workers were killed. There’s a story about a group of people who were sitting down one Sunday, having a cup of tea,” Jarvis began.
“The mine was closed that day. They looked out and they could see this line of workers coming up out of the mine as if the shift had just ended, which was unusual because it was a Sunday. This line of men came up and walked past them. They realized as they did so, that it was all the men who had died in the mine who were walking out, and as they came up out of the mine they all kind of vanished. That’s a great little, creepy story from Bell Island.”
Another well known island to the province is Kelly’s Island, located in southeastern Conception Bay and known for its stories of ghostly pirates and treasure.
“There’s a story that’s told there about Capt. Kelly, after whom the island was apparently named, and who was said to be a pirate. This is the legend anyway. He had been a pirate around the time of Peter Easton, some people even say he had worked for Easton in some way,” Jarvis shared.
“The story was that he had been killed by his men, and his body had been buried on top of a treasure that is hidden on Kelly’s Island, and his spirit remains as a ghostly guardian. People have had strange experiences on Kelly’s Island. Years ago, there was a group of people who went camping for the night on the island and they had strange experiences seeing strange figures. That’s a very persistent legend in that area.”
Many have heard about will-o’-the-wisps, but for those who haven’t, it’s said to be an atmospheric ghost light seen by travellers at night, which will lead them astray. The phenomenon is known by a variety of names, and works to apparently draw travellers from the safe paths.
“There’s something about islands that seems to attract stories. I know there’s an island off the Bay Roberts Heritage Walk area, some people call it Fergus Island, and some just call it Big Island,” Jarvis explained.
“There use to be a cairn of stones, what some people would call American man, there’s still one standing down in Cupids that’s fairly well known.
“This American man was said to be haunted by this spirit of this will-o’-the-wisp that would come down off Fergus Island, and come over to the mainland part of the bay, and go around the old track there. Then it would come up to a certain spot and hop back over to the island.
“People who lived in that area would see this ball of light making this little circuit and always returning back home to Fergus Island.”
Needless to say, we are one haunted island with an abundance of stories and tales that will be forever passed down through history and eternity.