Halloween is a good
time to visit Ghost Hollow or Ghost Rock
By Bill Hamilton
The last day of October means Hal loween;
with ghostly apparitions and "trick or treat" expeditions by children. In its
origins, the celebration is a curious mix of pagan and Christian lore. The
ancient Celts set aside as special the 31st of October, the final day of their
year. On this date it was to be expected that ghosts and goblins would be
roaming about. With the introduction of Christiani ty, the day became more
"sanitized," as the eve or "e'en" of All Hallows or All Saints Day which falls
on Nov. 1st.
Over the years, the ghosts of Halloween have
become deeply imbedded in folklore. Inevitably, this is reflected in New
Brunswick place names such as: Ghost Hollow (Kings), Ghost Hill (Charlotte),
Ghost Lake (Saint John), Ghost Island (Kings) and Ghost Rock (Saint John). It's
a safe conclusion that all these names were bestowed because of some
supernatural incident. Still other place names have ghost stories enshrined as
part of their history.
If you are on the shoreline of the
Bay of Fundy near Lorneville on Halloween night, and are lucky, you may "see a
lovely maiden in bridal dress and a young man in naval uniform rising out of
the mist at Ghost Rock." According to legend, one Florence Atherton and her
groom, Captain James Trevarton of the brig Minerva, were engaged to be married.
On the day of their wedding, the groom disappeared, never to be seen again
in the flesh. Years later it was revealed that he had been murdered by a
jealous shipmate. On hearing this news, Florence reputedly "died of a broken
Another ghost story involving starcrossed lovers
took place on the banks of the Missaguash River that now forms the boundary
between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. During the French colonial period the
Mi'kmaq name, Missiguash (for muskrat), was changed to the euphonious Riviere
Marguerite. The change was made by Michel La Neuf de la Valliere (c.1640 -1705)
in honour of his favourite daughter. He was the commandant/governor of Acadia
from 1678 to 1684.
Unfortunately he made the mistake of
giving his daughter's hand in marriage to someone she had never seen, a soldier
of noble blood. Unknown to him, Marguerite had fallen in love with a farmer on
his seignory at Beaubassin, Louis de Gannes. To head off the prearranged
marriage, the couple eloped and were secretly married.
Upon hearing the news, la Valliere flew into a rage and
vowed never to speak to Marguerite again. He also changed the name of the river
back to the original Missaguash. Down the centuries, many of those who have
lived or still live nearby, maintain that on nights when the moon is full, a
ghostly female figure appears on the banks of the Missiguash, swinging a
lantern in defiance of her father.
Many other areas
of the province have, by association, become famous for their ghostly tales.
Phantom ships ring the coastline from Baie des Chaleur, along the
Northumberland Strait and through to the Bay of Fundy. These "ghostly galleons"
are are well known and often sighted.
But arguably, New
Brunswick's most famous ghostly "incident" took place in a lumber camp near the
Dungarvon River (a branch of the Renous River) in Northumberland County. Known
locally as the "Dungarvon Whooper," this ghost's "escalating scream, which
freezes strong men in their tracks" is reputedly the dying shriek of a 19th
century lumber camp cook who was murdered for his money belt.
A folk song written by Michael Whalen detailing the
grisly details of the murder was collected by the famous folklorist of the
Miramichi, Louise Manny. According to the song, Rev. Edward Murdoch, parish
priest at Renous, read the church service of exorcism at Whooper Spring, site
of the tragedy. And "since that day the sounds have ceased."
Despite this assurance, so strong is the folk
tradition, more contemporary variations of Whooper "soundings" are still to be
heard. For certain, readers should not tempt fate and enter the Dungarvon woods
on Halloween 2002.
As a footnote to this story, for many
years, a train engine on the Canada and Eastern Railway, which once ran between
Newcastle and Fredericton, was named the Dungarvon Whooper. Since it went out
of service in 1936, it cannot be held responsible for more recent soundings of
For those who remain skeptical, it is worth
noting that New Brunswick has more than 20 place names incorporating the word
"Devil." The story of their significance will have to await another column.
Bill Hamilton is a freelance journalist and historian