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-

night swim.

Scared spit­less

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?”

Dark topic

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.

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