Praying for help
Vandalism — and ghost stories — at the centre of Christ Church’s problems
For more than 20 years Christ Church in South Head has not only been the scene of vandalism and theft, but, oddly enough, ghosts stories as well.
“Somehow word got around that the church is suppose to be haunted,” said Gail Boutilier, Wadden’s Cove, adding there is evidence it’s often targeted by young people having séances, including one held back in December.
“They brought the organ stool, Bishop’s chair, pulpit — everything — down by the altar. It was obvious what they were doing.”
The church, now 169 years old, is located a kilometre down a dirt road and is isolated deep in the woods.
The church is owned by the Anglican Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
The church closed in the 1970s because services were no longer
The main church, St. Paul’s Church in Port Morien, removed the main stained glass window from the church.
“They took it because there was no more services there at that time and they wanted to preserve it,” Boutilier said.
A group of about 25 parishioners got together and raised the money for the stained glass to be reinstalled. Rev. Margaret Collins helped get the church reopened about 10 years later and began holding summer services. However, in the meantime, with the reduction in services, vandalism and thefts increased.
Boutilier said a bishop’s chair was stole, along with a 200-yearold Bible, with deep roots to the church.
“That was horrible to think someone would steal a Bible out of a church. They also took a guest book that had been there forever and a registration book.”
She said over the years things kept going missing.
“Whatever wasn’t nailed done pretty much went.”
Boutilier said in the early 1980s they began locking the doors. Eventually Plexiglas was even put over the windows. However it didn’t stop the vandalism.
“They keep breaking in and breaking in — there’s even footprints on the door, you can see where they keep kicking at it.”
She said at one time they did come up win an idea to put a gate up at the end of the road, but it had to be removed because people could not access the graveyard.
“There was a lot of people visiting the graveyard and it was a long walk to get in there.”
She said at times groups of people were even going into the woods nearby, making huge bonfires near the church. Branches were discovered scorched, high up on large spruce trees.
“We had pay someone to remove those big trees, they were too close to the church, and if they caught on fire we’d lose the church.”
She said around Halloween is always bad, so this year before Thanksgiving, a bar was put across the church door to protect it further.
“Somehow they managed to tear the bar and the brackets off on both sides and they kicked the door open.”
She said there is even talk of drug deals going on in the church.
“They say when cars go in the woods for only five or 10 minutes, it’s obvious what they are doing.”
She said a security system was even hooked up, but was soon torn from the door.
“All the wires are just hanging there.”
Boutilier said now every time cars are seen going in the road to the church at unusual times, they call the police.
“We’re just going to keep calling and calling, hoping they get them some day.”
However, she said, as well as the damage, many thought the church as haunted, and you’d hear stories of someone seeing “this or that” at the church.
“We just kind of laughed the stories off but it kept going on.”
She said young people hearing about these ghost stories have been going out to the church.
“We even saw videos they made on the Internet, including one of young people outside the church asking, ‘Are any spirits here?’
“I even had someone call me here last year wanting to know if they could go into the church and deal with the spirits in there.”
Boutlier said most of the group looking after the church were seniors and over the years passed away. The past seven or eight years it’s only been Boutilier and her sister-in-law, Janice Boutilier, and Janice’s daughter, Susan MacDonald, working to keep the church going.
However, she said, the public is generous with donations. There are three services a year — an anniversary service, a cemetery service and even a song service, and upwards of 50 or more people pack the little church for each service.
“What we get in collections is usually just enough to keep it going, to get a little insurance, do some painting or little repairs.
“We didn’t have the funds to do all the wiring, just to upgrade to standards that were passable. Lights and a couple of plugs is all we have in there, we don’t have heat. We just have the bare necessities in there.”
Janice Boutilier said although there are only three of them looking after the church now, it’s important to keep it open and continuing on into the future.
“It’s pretty important; when you lose the school and everything else, it’s the only centre, gathering place we have left.”
The services are special and being isolated in the woods, — and, yes, there is often unexpected company at the services.
“It’s nothing to see a poor little church mouse running around and a couple times we’ve seen a bat.”
A small but mighty group, from left, Gail Boutilier, her sister-in-law, Janice Boutilier, and Janice’s daughter Susan MacDonald, have been keeping the 169year-old Christ Church in South Head going in recent years. The church now has four services a year. In the above photo, they hold some of the few valuable items left from the church, which they make sure to take home with them between services. The church has been plagued not only by vandalism and theft for at least 20 years now, but also the curiosity seekers who have been drawn to the church by the ghost stories they’ve heard about it.
An inside view of the beautiful wooden church at South Head which is now kept going by three women in the community and the generosity of others.
The Christ Church cemetery with gravestones dating back to the 1700s. The graveyard behind the South Head church is still used today.