Ri­d­ley Hall is haunted!

The Compass - - OPINION -

I hate to be the bearer of bad tid­ings, but Ri­d­ley Hall in Har­bour Grace is haunted.

Please al­low me to fa­mil­iar­ize read­ers with this struc­ture.

The Hall, which has been empty for some years, is “an im­pres­sive build­ing which was con­structed out of lo­cal stone and brick, and which once had a roof of New­found­landquar­ried slate tiles,” said Dale Jarvis, the well-known per­former, re­searcher, writer and sto­ry­teller.

“In 2003 the build­ing … was gut­ted by fire, and now sits for­lorn and in ru­ins, a ghost of its for­mer self,” he added. An ideal place for a haunt­ing. A Har­bour Grace res­i­dent told Jarvis that peo­ple who vis­ited the house “ex­pe­ri­enced para­nor­mal ex­pe­ri­ences. They felt a feel­ing of dread, mainly in the cel­lar and at­tic ar­eas. And I have felt an eeri­ness while walk­ing by it in the day, as well as in the night.”

Jarvis’ con­tact con­tin­ued: “In the cel­lar there is a lump ris­ing from the ground.” It was ev­i­dently “cre­ated by the Devil him­self as he tried to rise to the world of the liv­ing, but when he hit the earth, some­thing hap­pened that caused the earth to act as a bar­rier. As it was hit, the earth cre­ated a small mound which in turn cre­ated the bump in the wood of the cel­lar.”

Has your at­ten­tion been piqued yet?

How about the story of a cer­tain brightly-coloured house, lo­cated on Cross Road in Bay Roberts? It, too, is haunted.

Alyssa Crane, re­lat­ing her ex­pe­ri­ence with the house around 1999, said, “ We walked past the house, and there was a man stand­ing where the fence was. We asked him what he was do­ing, and he said he was dig­ging for some­thing his wife left him there years ago, be­fore she died. He said he dug there ev­ery year to find it, but he couldn’t.

“ We went to walk away, and when we turned around, he was gone.” Shiv­er­ing in your shoes now? I’m be­ing face­tious, of course. Ghost sto­ries have been around since the dawn of time.

As a child, I lived in the White Bay com­mu­nity of Ham­p­den. To make our own en­ter­tain­ment on long, drawn-out sum­mer evenings, we friends sat on the fence and tried to outdo each other by telling ghost sto­ries.

By the time dark­ness fell, my sib­lings and me would al­most be too scared to scurry across the gar­den and duck in­side the house.

We’d vow to never again en­gage in such scary sto­ry­telling … un­til the next night and the next and the next. It seemed we couldn’t sa­ti­ate our long­ing to hear more ghost sto­ries.

I of­ten ap­peal.

Why do we en­joy telling and lis­ten­ing to the ghost sto­ries, es­pe­cially those scarier-the-bet­ter ones? In a sci­en­tific age, when many of us boast about the log­i­cal, skep­ti­cal and in­tel­lec­tual bent to our minds, why do we thrive on sto­ries de­signed to scare the livin’ day­lights out of us?

Arthur B. Reeve, in his on­line es­say, “ Short, Scary Ghost Sto­ries,” sets out his own list of con­sid­er­a­tions.

A love of ghost sto­ries may be no dif­fer­ent than a pen­chant for de­tec­tive sto­ries. I per­son­ally am held cap­tive by the mys­te­ri­ous. For ex­am­ple, who can im­prove on sto­ries as di­verse as G.K. Ch­ester­ton’s Fa­ther Brown mys­ter­ies, Dorothy L. Say­ers’ Lord Peter Wim­sey or the writ­ings of Agatha Christie, the “queen of crime fic­tion”?

Reeve asked: Could it be that we are all “ full of su­per­sti­tion,” to a lesser or greater de­gree? “Only we don’t let it loose.” To di­vulge such per­sonal pro­cliv­i­ties would make us cer­ti­fi­able.

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Per­haps, Reeve con­tin­ued, “man is in­cur­ably re­li­gious.” In other words, “if all re­li­gions were blot­ted out, man would cre­ate a new re­li­gion.”

Fur­ther, we tend to “stand in awe of that which we can­not ex­plain.”

The bot­tom line is that many of us con­tinue to be en­am­oured with sto­ries about “ things that go bump in the night.”

I’ve had my own en­coun­ters with the un­ex­plained in the past. All of them have left me deeply un­set­tled and raised ques­tions, “ What did it mean? Was it real?”

I’ve been known to sleep­walk. Per­haps the un­ex­plained in­ci­dents fall into this cat­e­gory. Was I sleep­walk­ing when I ac­tu­ally thought I was awake?

I’m an ag­nos­tic re­gard­ing ghost sto­ries. At the same time, I’m open to a deeper ex­pla­na­tion, de­spite the way my mind of­ten tries to find nat­u­ral ex­pla­na­tions for su­per­nat­u­ral events. There is a ten­sion be­tween the sub­jec­tive and ob­jec­tive. I wel­come light on a dark topic.

In case you’re won­der­ing, there are many other ghost sto­ries set in the Con­cep­tion-Trin­ity South area. Read all about them in Dale Jarvis’ re­cent book, “ Haunted Wa­ters: More True Ghost Sto­ries of New­found­land and Labrador,” re­cently pub­lished by Flanker Press.

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