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Where the Ghosts Are

Where the Ghosts Are

A Guide to Nova Scotia's Spookiest Places
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Great Canadian Ghost Stories

Great Canadian Ghost Stories

Legendary Tales of Haunting from Coast to Coast
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Ghost Stories and Legends of Prince Edward Island
Excerpt

CHAPTER 1: AN EARLY HISTORY

To fully appreciate any tales of early Prince Edward Island, it is best to understand at least a little about the early peoples and how they lived. For it is with these early dwellers, and the circumstances of their lives, that many legends, folklore, and true tales (as strange as any fiction imaginable) originated.
The Island was first inhabited by the Mi’kmaq First Nations. Europeans brought additional cultures and approaches to life when they arrived. But these early settlers did not have an easy time adjusting. Most of them were poor and unskilled. The general population had little education, with the exception of members of government or high-ranking military officers. No matter the culture, it was through storytelling, usually around the fire after dark, that many tales were passed down.
Many of the stories originated with early settlers to the Island. While trying to eke out existence from a harsh land, they were beset by pirates, privateers, enemy forces, plagues of mice, devastating fires, and corrupt landlords and agents. Their very lives were threatened by the wars of other nations: the French, the British, the Americans, and then the First and Second World Wars. The expulsion of the Acadians was reflected years later by the arrival of the Loyalists, fleeing from their own intolerable situation. Although an island, the influence of the outside world was never far from shore.
A short history will provide insight into the province’s development, but bear in mind that while these facts were being established, all of the aforementioned obstacles and many more affected the lives of the individual.
It is thought that several thousand Mi’kmaq people may have lived on or near the Island prior to settlement by Europeans. In 1534, their way of life changed. Jacques Cartier sighted, landed on, and duly reported to his ruler the existence of the “fairest land that may possibly be seen.” Over the next hundred years, the most frequent visitors were French and Basque fishermen. In fact, it was not until 1720 that Europeans, namely French colonists, began to settle permanently in any numbers.
At that time the Island was heavily wooded. Hard labour was required to even clear enough land to build a home, let alone fields for crops. For a great number of years, settlement didn’t extend more than one farm deep from the shoreline. The development of roads was a slow process, so travel was primarily undertaken by canoe. The Hillsborough River was the main water route, accounting for the distribution of the settlers along its shores.
Early settlement concentrated around Charlottetown Harbour, particularly at Port-la-Joye and in St. Peters Bay, as well as in the areas of Tracadie, Orwell, and South Lake. The Island’s settler population numbered just over seven hundred people by 1748.
Generally, the north shore area was slow to be settled, because sand dunes and shallow waters barring the entrances to the bays and rivers made it difficult to bring large ships to shore. This situation continues even today, resulting in all large shipping taking place from the south shore, and even small fishing boats occasionally facing problems getting in and out of harbour safely in the north.
Through the 1740s and 1750s, the population gradually increased along the north shore, especially between Malpeque and Savage Harbour. After the French were expelled from the Bay of Fundy area by the British, many travelled to the Island by 1758, creating a refugee camp as much as a colony, and increasing the population to around 4,500 people.
The Island remained under French rule until 1758 when the British, having taken the Fortress of Louisbourg for the second and final time, rounded up the French settlers and deported them. This expulsion and its consequences mark a shameful part of history. Only about three hundred Acadians remained, located south of Malpeque and around Rustico and Souris.
In 1763 the Island was formally awarded to the British Crown as part of the Treaty of Paris. There was pressure on the Crown to award land to influential petitioners; thus Samuel Holland came to survey in 1764. The Island was divided into three counties, fourteen parishes, and sixty-seven townships or lots, with each township containing twenty-thousand acres and each county having its own town.
By 1767, Holland had done his job, and the British Board of Commissioners conducted a lottery in which lots were awarded to military officers and others of influence. Each new proprietor had to agree to pay quit-rents to the Crown, and to settle his township with one hundred Protestants within ten years.
Unfortunately for the Crown and the early settlers, most proprietors were not particularly interested in their acquisitions or in fulfilling the requirements. As a result, lots changed hands, rents went unpaid, and a land-ownership problem began that would cause trouble on the Island until after Confederation — still almost a century away.
Basic settlement patterns followed those of the French, which was a natural progression since the British had simply taken over what the French had begun.
A few proprietors tried to settle their lots, and by 1800 communities were developing. The Tracadie area was among the more notable, where Captain John MacDonald of Glenaladale brought several hundred Scottish Highlanders in to farm the area between 1770 and 1775. He did not stick strictly to the letter of the agreement, however, as the Scots were Roman Catholic.
The eastern shores of Malpeque were settled by Protestant Scottish Lowlanders. Lowland Scots and English Protestants settled the New London area, and a number of Protestant families set down roots in the Covehead area. The Rustico area was heavily populated by Acadians who fled British capture in 1758. The religious patterns continued for many years; in fact, they can still be seen today by the careful observer.
This influx brought most of the north shore land under cultivation, and established transportation patterns that ran primarily east and west. The main route from north to south shores was still the mighty Hillsborough River, and it was there and across the bays of the north shore that the first ferries operated.
The Island had been granted separate government from Nova Scotia in 1769 on the presumption that government would be financed by the quit-rents due from proprietors. As they evaded these responsibilities, land ownership became a volatile issue for the populace, who, in 1798, numbered over four thousand.
Roads developed slowly, with the first of note connecting Charlottetown to Malpeque and St. Peters. By 1850 a basic network was in place, with roads running north and south to link these principal routes. Settlement naturally followed, and the population crept southward.
Beginning in the 1840s, relatively large numbers of Irish Roman Catholics immigrated to the Island. They tended to concentrate their settlements inland in areas like Saint Ann and Hope River. Immigration continued, and by 1891 the population had grown to 109,000 before it began a decline, reaching a low of about 88,000 in the 1930s. The population then began a steady increase to today’s population of around 143,000.
During the first half of the nineteenth century, many residents were able to acquire title to their lands. By Confederation about 50 percent of the lots were in freehold tenure. After Confederation the provincial government was able to purchase land and turn it over to tenants by lease purchase agreements.
The primary source of insecurity and the all too often dishonest dealings was gone, and the population had settled into a pattern of development and modernization following that of Canada as a whole. Modern shipping, stronger governments and law enforcement, electricity, the railroad, the automobile, and other technology served to change life, just as the pattern continues today.

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Real Hauntings 5-Book Bundle

Real Hauntings 5-Book Bundle

Macabre Montreal / Creepy Capital / Spooky Sudbury / Haunted Hamilton / Tomes of Terror
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Macabre Montreal

Macabre Montreal

Ghostly Tales, Ghastly Events, and Gruesome True Stories
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Excerpt

The Tobogganing Ghost of Simon McTavish
Mount Royal

In the late 1700s, Simon McTavish was the richest man in Montreal. An immigrant of Scottish decent, McTavish prospered as a fur trader, founding the North West Company, which would compete for business with the more well-known Hudson’s Bay Company, and eventually merge with it. Like many rich men, McTavish was known to be arrogant. He was also somewhat of a dandy, and according to Donovan King, who conducts ghost tours of Montreal, he would strut around town in the finest garments, wearing elaborate jewellery and whacking anyone who disrespected him with a gold-tipped cane. Though he was in no way a nobleman, he insisted on being called “The Marquis.”
Perhaps in an effort to literally look down on the inhabitants of Montreal, McTavish purchased a swath of land on Mount Royal, the highest point in the city, right next to a property owned by James McGill. Soon after, in the early 1800s, he began construction of a grand castle for his family, to be built in the Scottish baronial style. As work on the castle neared completion, McTavish liked to stalk around the construction site, striking anyone working too slowly with his infamous cane.
Then fifty-four years old, McTavish would often make the trek up the mountain from his home in Old Montreal on foot. It was on one of these occasions that he was caught in a rainstorm and developed a cold. Being a stubborn man, he would not listen when his doctor instructed him to stay in bed to recover and as a result, his cold developed into pneumonia, then pleurisy, and finally killed him just weeks before the castle was set to be completed.
There was an elaborate funeral. A mausoleum was built to house his body and a tall stone monument was erected in McTavish’s honour. But work on his beloved castle, so close to being finished, was abandoned. Over the years the structure began to crumble. In an episode of the podcast Listen with the Lights On, King muses about how at one point the disintegrating castle resembled a giant hollow skull from the street below as snow collected in the gaping windows, or “eye sockets.”
Twenty years later, in 1821, McGill University opened its doors, the crumbling castle looming over its buildings from Mount Royal. It didn’t take long for stories to begin to circulate on campus about McTavish, his tomb, and his ghost. These rumours may have been prompted by the school’s rabble-rousing snowshoeing club — apparently the bad boys of the 1800s — who liked to get drunk, strap on their snowshoes, light their torches, and run amuck across the mountain. King likens the sight of these boys and their torches going up the mountain to a fiery snake.
Apparently, this band of mischievous youths liked to make a pit stop at McTavish’s tomb to try and rouse his spirit by yelling and carrying-on. On one particularly passionate occasion they even went so far as to break into the mausoleum and vandalize the place, tipping over the coffin and spilling McTavish’s remains across the floor.
Simon McTavish’s ghost saw its chance and escaped.
It wasn’t long before there were reports of ghost sightings at the castle. McTavish’s spirit was seen peeking from the doors and windows of the abandoned structure at night. It was even reported that the apparition could be found dancing on the castle roof on moonlit nights. But in perhaps the most Canadian description of a ghost sighting ever reported, McTavish’s ghost was spotted tobogganing down the slopes of Mount Royal in his own coffin.
The residents of Montreal became fearful of the mountain after these sightings, and as the castle was a terrible eyesore it was demolished in 1861. To put an end to the desecration of McTavish’s gravesite, the rubble from his castle was used to bury his mausoleum for good. During the demolition a construction worker fell three stories to his death, which some believe was McTavish’s last act of revenge against those trying to bury his legacy as well as, quite literally, himself.
On the Haunted Mountain ghost walk, King posits a logical explanation for the tobogganing ghost. Though it may not be widely known it was almost impossible to obtain legal cadavers, or corpses, for dissection in the classroom until the mid-1800s. Professors had to get creative in order to teach their anatomy lessons, and it’s said that one such McGill professor, nicknamed “The Resurrectionist,” did just that. In the dead of night he would climb up Mount Royal to the Catholic cemetery and dig up a corpse from one of the unmarked paupers’ graves, which wouldn’t be missed, then strap it onto a toboggan and ride down to the medical building.
So we’ve either got a grave-robbing and possibly unhinged professor of medicine, or a dead millionaire out for a joy ride down the slopes of the mountainside he once considered his. Personally, we know which story we’re sticking with. There’s nothing more Canadian than a tobogganing ghost, after all.

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