Ghosts on the Bac­calieu Trail

The Compass - - OPINION - Bur­ton K. Janes bur­tonj@nfld.net — Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at bur­tonj@nfld.net

The Bac­calieu Trail is alive with the sound of ghost sto­ries.

In the fall of 2012, Tri­con El­e­men­tary School in Bay de Verde be­gan an Arts Smarts project, with ghosts as the sub­ject, the goal be­ing to in­volve the stu­dents in cre­at­ing a book. The idea orig­i­nated with Charis Cot­ter, a Toron­to­nian now liv­ing in New­found­land.

The prin­ci­pal, Wendy Clarke-Tiz­zard, ex­plains: “Charis felt that the stu­dents had a lot of sto­ries that needed to be ex­plored and shared.”

Charis con­ducted work­shops at the school, then edited a book, “The Ghosts of Bac­calieu,” which she pub­lished un­der her com­pany, Bac­calieu Books.

“From Bac­calieu to Job’s Cove, from Grates Cove to Hant’s Har­bour,” she writes, “ghosts haunt the wa­ter, the shore, the bar­rens, the roads, the houses and, of course, the ceme­ter­ies.”

The word “ghost,” she adds, “spo­ken to a child, opens the door to a rich world of imag­i­na­tion, cre­ativ­ity, and de­li­cious, spooky de­light. Ev­ery cul­ture in the world has its ghosts, and the fas­ci­na­tion with spir­its starts early as chil­dren strug­gle to un­der­stand life and death.”

The stu­dents went on a ver­i­ta­ble spree of col­lect­ing ghost sto­ries.

“We struck a rich vein of ghost sto­ries,” Charis com­ments. “The im­ages they leave with the reader are not eas­ily for­got­ten.”

Some stu­dents drew il­lus­tra­tions of ghosts, in­clud­ing a ghost dancing on wa­ter; a ghost un­der a bed; ghosts walk­ing up­stairs to their bed­room; a ghost in an at­tic, hid­ing from other ghosts; ghosts look­ing for candy, be­cause noone feeds them; a ghost climb­ing a tree... The ghostly de­signs are limited only by the stu­dents’ imag­i­na­tion.

Other stu­dents told ghost sto­ries, many re­mem­bered by their fam­i­lies and friends. The tales, which are not re­stricted to the Bac­calieu Trail, are set in such places as Bay de Verde, Lead Cove, Job’s Cove, Dun­tara, Port au Bras, Old Per­li­can, Bac­calieu, Win­ter­ton, Kel­li­grews, Sag­ona Is­land, Grates Cove, St. John’s, Gull Is­land, Si­b­ley’s Cove, Heart’s Con­tent, Capelin Cove, Shearstown, Keels, Pushthrough, Hant’s Har­bour, Bi­son Cove, Tiz­zard’s Har­bour, even Ni­a­gara Falls, Ont.

The story from Hant’s Har­bour im­me­di­ately grabbed my at­ten­tion, as my pa­ter­nal fore­bears came from this Trin­ity Bay vil­lage.

“One night my mom woke up in the mid­dle of the night to see a man star­ing at her. His face looked kind of puz­zled, as if he was won­der­ing who she was.” When he turned to walk to­wards the closet, she couldn’t help but no­tice he had no feet.

The story from Shearstown drew me in be­cause I lived there as a teenager.

On Dec. 31, 1920, “a dark, rainy, foggy, windy, stormy night,” the best kind of night for ghosts to put in an ap­pear­ance, an el­derly man had just let his big black New­found­land out­side.

“The dog went to the brook to get a drink, and his big sil­ver bell or col­lar got stuck in the branches from the t re ss a n d twi g s , a n d h e w a s drowned....

“For some time af­ter that, mem­bers of the com­mu­nity would say that when it was a dark, rainy, stormy night, if you stood by the bridge where the New­found­land dog drowned, you would hear the big sil­ver bell on his col­lar rat­tle.” Scary! Charis Cot­ter is no stranger to ghost sto­ries. She grew up in down­town Toronto be­side a ceme­tery, the spooky lo­ca­tion where her fas­ci­na­tion with ghosts be­gan. Since then, most of the books she has writ­ten have ghosts walk­ing in and out of them. To­day, in Western Bay, she lives at the end of a road near two ceme­ter­ies and, it should be noted, she sleeps with a night­light. She can see Bac­calieu Is­land from her liv­in­groom win­dow, some­thing else that makes her very ner­vous.

A word to the wise from the edi­tor of “The Ghosts of Bac­calieu”: “don’t read it af­ter dark!” The prin­ci­pal con­curs: “be care­ful! You never know what ghosts may await you, es­pe­cially in this very spooky cor­ner of New­found­land!”

Part of the pro­ceeds from the sale of “The Ghosts of Bac­calieu” goes to Tri­con El­e­men­tary School, which cur­rently caters to 105 stu­dents from kinder­garten to Grade 6 and hail­ing from Bay de Verde, Red Head Cove, Grates Cove, Old Per­li­can, Si­b­ley’s Cove, Lead Cove, Browns­dale and Low Point.

Read­ers in­ter­ested in “The Ghosts

Charis Cot­ter is no stranger to ghost sto­ries. She grew up in down­town Toronto be­side a ceme­tery, the spooky lo­ca­tion where her

fas­ci­na­tion with ghosts be­gan. Since then, most of the books she has writ­ten have ghosts walk­ing in and

out of them.

of Bac­calieu” can check out the edi­tor’s web­site (http://www.chariscot­ter.ca/in­dex).

Charis’ next book, “The Swal­low: A Ghost Story,” is due to be pub­lished in Septem­ber. Her first novel is set in Toronto, but is in­spired by the New­found­land folk­song, “She’s Like the Swal­low.” She is also com­plet­ing a col lec­tion of orig­i­nal sto­ries, “Spooked: Ghost Sto­ries for Chil­dren from Haunted New­found­land.”

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