The ghost of Clarke’s Beach
There was once an old railway bridge in Clarke’s Beach. Though no longer in use, it was a favourite spot where young people swam in the river.
Local legend has it that one night a young women, whose name has been lost to the mists of history, went there to meet her boyfriend for a midnight dip. He didn’t show up, so she decided to go for a swim anyway. Alone in the dark, she drowned.
For years afterwards, teenagers reported seeing something frightening at the bridge. As they approached, they would see a dark form on the structure. As they drew nearer, the form appeared to take the shape of a young woman, who was wearing a bathing suit and drying herself with a towel. At that moment, the apparition would turn around and stare at them with burning red eyes.
Not surprisingly, this terrifying experience was enough to send the young people scurrying home.
It was said the ghost was that of the drowned young woman. She was returning to the bridge from time to time to meet her boyfriend for a mid-
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 and siblings sat on our fence railing and tried to outdo each other by telling ghost stories.
By the time darkness fell, I would be scared spitless, almost too frightened to run across the garden and duck inside the house.
Of course, we’d vow and declare 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 wonder about the appeal of ghost stories.
Why do we enjoy telling and listening to them, 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 essay, “Short, Scary Ghost Stories,” sets out his own list of considerations.
Captive by the mysterious
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 asks, could it be we are all “ full of superstition,” to a lesser or greater degree? “Only we don’t let it loose,” he says. To divulge such personal proclivities would make us certifiable.
Perhaps, Reeve continues, “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,” he notes.
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’m an agnostic regarding ghost stories. At the same time, I’m open to a deeper explanation, despite the way my mind strives to find natural explanations for supernatural events. There is a tension between the sub- jective and objective. I welcome light on this dark topic.
By the way, the ghost of Clarke’s Beach may still return there. If she does, then anyone swimming in the water below the old railway bridge in the town after dark may not be alone after all.
Now that I wonder about it, we all know a cardinal rule of water safety is: never go swimming alone. A second is: don’t swim after dark. Sad to say, people often ignore such basic bits of common sense and suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, common sense is not all that common.
In case you’re wondering, there are many other ghost stories set in the Conception-Trinity South region, indeed, throughout the province. Read all about them in Edward Butts’ recent book, “Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador,” published by Dundern Press in Toronto.