Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:34 pm
Last edited by 1andonly on Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Some say specter re-lives the day natives attacked the explorers who kidnapped their people
By Gail MacMillan
Some ghost stories are based purely on legend, others on eyewitness reports, and yet others explained as simple scientific phenomena. The Phantom Ship of Chaleur Bay has all three on its side.
For more than 200 years the Phantom Ship has kindled the imaginations of visitors and area residents alike with sparks from a romantic past: a past filled with wooden ships and iron men, with pirates and buccaneers, with dark deeds and their dire consequences.
Some eyewitnesses have described a ball of fire far out on the bay. Others claim to have seen the distinct outline of a threemasted ship engulfed in flames. And still others describe sailors climbing the rigging and scurrying about burning decks in a last, desperate attempt to save themselves.
The legends surrounding.the Phantom Ship are numerous. The most credible story centres on Gaspar Cort-Real and his brother Miguel, two Portuguese explorers who are believed to have made voyages to the Chaleur Bay region around 1500.
In her book Will O' the Wisp ... Folk Tales and Legends of New Brunswick Carole Spray describes Gaspar Cort-Real as a crafty trader who traded cheap trinkets, guns, and whisky to the native people in return for valuable furs. Finally, greedy for more profitable booty, he enticed a group of them aboard his ship, offered all the food and whisky they could consume, then once they were thoroughly inebriated, chained them below deck and set sail. Back home in Portugal, he sold his victims as slaves.
Pleased with the success of this venture, Gaspar soon returned to Chaleur Bay with plans to gather more human booty. Apparently, however, news travelled among the local population. They quickly learned of the kidnapping of their brothers by the unscrupulous visitor and were ready for revenge.
One moonless night, they boarded Gaspar's ship as it lay at anchor and killed all but Gaspar himself. With a special death in mind for this Judas, they bound the trader to a large rock at low tide, then hurried to shore to watch the traitor's terror as the water slowly rose up his body and closed in over his head.
Two years later Gaspar's brother Miguel came to Chaleur Bay in search of him. Overjoyed when he saw Gaspar's ship riding at anchor, Miguel and his men hastily boarded it and rushed into the hold to view the spoils. They were no sooner below deck when dozens of native people clambored onto the ship in an all-out attack.
The Portuguese soon realized their position was hopeless but, determined to fight to the death, they set the ship afire and made a solemn vow to haunt Chaleur bay for a thousand years. According to the story, only one person, a native, survived the bloody battle to tell the tale. But over the years since that night, there have always been witnesses who declare they have seen figures desperately climbing the rigging of the Phantom Ship as the Portuguese sailors might have done as they struggled to avoid the flames to the very last.
It is here, on the Chaleur Bay, that people report seeing a three-masted ship engulfed in flames.
Another legend declares the Phantom Ship to be the ghost of one of the casualties of the Battle of the Restigouche, the last North American naval encounter of the Seven Years War. Others say it is the spirit of a ship wrecked in a storm at Green Point near Bathurst 300 years ago.
More fanciful and tragically romantic is the tale of a young bride abducted and ravaged by pirates. In retribution for their despicable act, the picaroons found their ship engulfed in flames and their souls doomed to forever sail the waters of Chaleur Bay aboard the fiery vessel.
Over the years there have been numerous sightings of the Phantom Ship. Former Bathurst Mayor Kevin Mann has seen the specter on two separate occasions.
"The first time I saw the Phantom was in the early 1960s on a hot July afternoon at Salmon Beach," Mann recalls. "I spotted a burning mass on the water near the Gaspe shoreline. It appeared to be a three-masted ship totally engulfed in red-orange flames with the bow pointed directly at us. And it never moved. It remained there until we tired of looking at it with our binoculars. It was not visible to the naked eye."
The second time Mann spotted the Phantom proved to be a benchmark in the history of the ship's many appearances. On that occasion he actually managed to photograph it. A high school teacher at the time, he was marking essays at the family cottage at Youghall Beach late in the evening of October 10, 1980, when he happened to glance out a window.
"About three or four miles out, there was a fiery mass that seemed to bob in the water," he recalls. "Looking through my binoculars, I was able to identify a structure with three spires that had the appearance of being entirely engulfed in redorange flames. Intrigued, I grabbed my camera and began clicking away."
Of course there are several scientific explanations for the Phantom Ship. Some believe it is a combination of escaping gases, atmospheric conditons, and changing currents. Historian W. F. Ganong suggested it was a version of St. Elmo's Fire.
Several years ago, an artist's conception of the Phantom Ship became the logo of the Bathurst Tourism Commission. According to Mal Rogers, former executive director of the Downtown Bathurst Revitalization Corporation, there's a valid defence for using the Phantom Ship for a tourism logo.
"Other regions have their unsolved mysteries that draw tourists even though these apparitions or creatures don't appear on a given schedule ... sometimes not for months or even years at a time," he explains. "Their unpredictability only makes their sightings all the more exciting. One famous example is the Loch Ness Monster. In the presence of the Phantom Ship, Bathurst has the same type of drawing card - its very own Nessie."
Gail MacMillan lives in Bathurst. She wrote `Biography of a Beagle' which was awarded a Maxwell Medal at the Dog Writers' Association of America Banquet in New York City as the Best Dog Fiction Book of 2001.
Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:36 pm
Halloween is a good time to visit Ghost Hollow or Ghost Rock
By Bill Hamilton
The last day of October means Hal loween; with ghostly apparitions and "trick or treat" expeditions by children. In its origins, the celebration is a curious mix of pagan and Christian lore. The ancient Celts set aside as special the 31st of October, the final day of their year. On this date it was to be expected that ghosts and goblins would be roaming about. With the introduction of Christiani ty, the day became more "sanitized," as the eve or "e'en" of All Hallows or All Saints Day which falls on Nov. 1st.
Over the years, the ghosts of Halloween have become deeply imbedded in folklore. Inevitably, this is reflected in New Brunswick place names such as: Ghost Hollow (Kings), Ghost Hill (Charlotte), Ghost Lake (Saint John), Ghost Island (Kings) and Ghost Rock (Saint John). It's a safe conclusion that all these names were bestowed because of some supernatural incident. Still other place names have ghost stories enshrined as part of their history.
If you are on the shoreline of the Bay of Fundy near Lorneville on Halloween night, and are lucky, you may "see a lovely maiden in bridal dress and a young man in naval uniform rising out of the mist at Ghost Rock." According to legend, one Florence Atherton and her groom, Captain James Trevarton of the brig Minerva, were engaged to be married.
On the day of their wedding, the groom disappeared, never to be seen again in the flesh. Years later it was revealed that he had been murdered by a jealous shipmate. On hearing this news, Florence reputedly "died of a broken heart. "
Another ghost story involving starcrossed lovers took place on the banks of the Missaguash River that now forms the boundary between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. During the French colonial period the Mi'kmaq name, Missiguash (for muskrat), was changed to the euphonious Riviere Marguerite. The change was made by Michel La Neuf de la Valliere (c.1640 -1705) in honour of his favourite daughter. He was the commandant/governor of Acadia from 1678 to 1684.
Unfortunately he made the mistake of giving his daughter's hand in marriage to someone she had never seen, a soldier of noble blood. Unknown to him, Marguerite had fallen in love with a farmer on his seignory at Beaubassin, Louis de Gannes. To head off the prearranged marriage, the couple eloped and were secretly married.
Upon hearing the news, la Valliere flew into a rage and vowed never to speak to Marguerite again. He also changed the name of the river back to the original Missaguash. Down the centuries, many of those who have lived or still live nearby, maintain that on nights when the moon is full, a ghostly female figure appears on the banks of the Missiguash, swinging a lantern in defiance of her father.
Many other areas of the province have, by association, become famous for their ghostly tales. Phantom ships ring the coastline from Baie des Chaleur, along the Northumberland Strait and through to the Bay of Fundy. These "ghostly galleons" are are well known and often sighted.
But arguably, New Brunswick's most famous ghostly "incident" took place in a lumber camp near the Dungarvon River (a branch of the Renous River) in Northumberland County. Known locally as the "Dungarvon Whooper," this ghost's "escalating scream, which freezes strong men in their tracks" is reputedly the dying shriek of a 19th century lumber camp cook who was murdered for his money belt.
A folk song written by Michael Whalen detailing the grisly details of the murder was collected by the famous folklorist of the Miramichi, Louise Manny. According to the song, Rev. Edward Murdoch, parish priest at Renous, read the church service of exorcism at Whooper Spring, site of the tragedy. And "since that day the sounds have ceased."
Despite this assurance, so strong is the folk tradition, more contemporary variations of Whooper "soundings" are still to be heard. For certain, readers should not tempt fate and enter the Dungarvon woods on Halloween 2002.
As a footnote to this story, for many years, a train engine on the Canada and Eastern Railway, which once ran between Newcastle and Fredericton, was named the Dungarvon Whooper. Since it went out of service in 1936, it cannot be held responsible for more recent soundings of the Whooper.
For those who remain skeptical, it is worth noting that New Brunswick has more than 20 place names incorporating the word "Devil." The story of their significance will have to await another column.
Bill Hamilton is a freelance journalist and historian from Sackville.
Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:42 pm
In life, Mrs. Medley was a groundbreaking nurse; in death she still brings her husband, the bishop, his supper.
by Lisa Alward
It is almost 11 p. m. and a small group is crouched on the darkened lawn in front of Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton. Their guide, a voluble young man in 19th-century costume, has just set down his lantern when a woman in white flits through the shadows behind him and disappears around the corner of the church. The guide, immersed in telling an anecdote about John Medley, the first Bishop of Fredericton, appears not to have noticed. "Oh," he suddenly adds, "and they say that his wife's ghost has been seen on this very lawn, bringing his dinner to the Cathedral just as she always did. Of course, I've never seen her."
"This is when someone in the group usually says `but she just walked by!' " explains Natalie Roy of Fredericton's well-known theatre troupe the Calithumpians. A third year Honours English student at St. Thomas University, Ms. Roy has been playing the ghost of Mrs. Medley in the Calithumpians' "Haunted Hikes" through downtown Fredericton for the past three years. On moonlit evenings in summer and early fall, she dons an old-fashioned wedding gown and waits at the edge of the Cathedral Green for her cue - the setting down of the lantern. Then she nimbly crosses the lawn and hides among the tombs at the back of the Gothic-style edifice before taking her bow with the rest of the night's spooks.
Natalie Roy calls the ghost of Mrs. Medley "the forgotten bride," and notes that since her death nearly a century ago, the spectral veiled figure has been spotted outside and also inside the Cathedral - playing the organ and even standing in the pulpit. Ms. Roy, who describes herself as "a believer," was quite scared the first few times she impersonated the bishop's wife. Even now she often feels "a presence or a spirit in the air" when she hurries across the Cathedral Green in her wedding whites, and she confesses to having even addressed Mrs. Medley's ghost as she waits beside the tombs for the tour to end. "It's like I'm being watched," she says. "The wind is a little heavier."
The first published account of the ghost of Mrs. Medley appears in Stuart Trueman's book Ghosts, Pirates and Treasure Trove: The Phantoms that Haunt New Brunswick, published in 1975. The local historian, who had apparently heard stories about Mrs. Medley's nightly perambulations, describes his conversation with Christ Church Cathedral's then assistant curate, Reverend David Mercer. The clergyman confirmed that Mrs. Medley had been seen walking up Church Street and entering the Cathedral by the west door; he then commented laconically, "What she does after that, I really don't know."
Dorothy Dearborn further embellished the legend in her two books, New Brunswick Ghosts, Demons - and Things that go Bump in the Night and New Brunswick Haunted Houses - and Other Tales of Strange and Eerie Events, noting, for example, the ghost's habit of bearing plates of food.
Both of these authors employ a tongue-in-cheek prose style that makes it difficult to tell whether they think there's anything to this ghost story or not. Indeed, some observers have speculated the whole thing was made up so that the Cathedral could have a "presence" in Stuart Trueman's book. But for those who claim to have seen or heard her, the ghost of Mrs. Medley is very real. Natalie Roy tells of a grieving woman who sought solitary refuge in the Cathedral one night only to be comforted by an older woman. When she mentioned the incident to her priest, however, he expressed great surprise and insisted no one had been in the building at the time but himself. Over the years many a tour guide has also spoken of hearing footsteps and organ notes in the empty church.
The newspaper coverage of Margaret Medley's death in 1905, at the age of 84, was fulsome in its praise for her many charitable acts. Bishop Medley's widow was eulogized as a "a beautiful Christian character" and "generous giver to all deserving objects" who had "a look of Heaven in her face" and whose life was "an invaluable dowry" to Fredericton's Anglicans. But the details of that life, especially any details about the years before she arrived in New Brunswick, are about as consistent as a well-worn folk tale.
Mrs. Medley is said to have suffered a tragic love loss in her youth when her fiancé, who was either an army officer or a parliamentarian's son (take your pick), died either in the line of duty or from the emotional stress of a sister's death. She is said to have served as a nurse under Florence Nightingale, possibly even in the Crimean War. But she is also said to have graduated from Nightingale's second nursing class (which would mean that she did her nursing training after nursing for more than a decade). Even the day she died is unclear. While her death certificate is dated February 28, her obituary appeared in The Daily Gleaner a day earlier. (Most sources agree with The Gleaner that she actually died on the 26th).
Of course, much of this confusion can be attributed to the relaxed record-keeping and creative reporting of the period. British citizens who moved to the colonies in the 19th century could expect to have their previous lives obscured, and this was especially true for women. It certainly doesn't help that Mrs. Medley's doubtless quite extensive correspondence, and the bishop's letters to her, have never surfaced. But the romantic (if sketchy) spin that Mrs. Medley's contemporaries gave to her early life points to something else as well - Margaret Medley was not a conventional 19th-century bishop's wife.
The woman we know as "Mrs. Medley" was, in fact, Bishop Medley's second wife. John Medley's first bride and the mother of his seven children was Christiana Bacon, whose beautiful effigy hangs in the chancel of St. Thomas' Church, Exeter. The daughter of an eminent Victorian sculptor, Christiana came from a privileged and affluent background not dissimilar to John Medley's own. The two met during Rev. Medley's 17-year ministry in the diocese of Exeter, where he served as vicar of St. Thomas' and later prebendary of Exeter Cathedral. John Medley's family situation was secure and his career on the rise when a series of domestic tragedies prompted him to rethink the course of his life, with dramatic consequences for New Brunswick's Anglican Church.
In 1839 the Medleys' eldest son, Thomas, died. Two years later, in 1841, Christiana fell prey to consumption, leaving her husband with six children, the youngest (her namesake) an infant of only one year. The family's eldest daughter, Emma, took charge of the household but, in 1843, she died of scarlet fever. John Medley's mother then broke up her household in order to move into the vicarage and look after the children of her beloved only son. But in September 1844, she was killed in a carriage accident. Rev. Medley, who was sitting beside her, was seriously injured and, if not for his firm protestations to the doctor, would have lost an arm. It was in the midst of this intense personal anguish, in October 1844, that he received a letter from the Archbishop of Canterbury offering him the bishopric of New Brunswick.
While there were political and theological reasons why John Medley chose to exchange the comfortable civility of Exeter for the remote colony of New Brunswick at 41 years of age, there is no question that he was anxious to remove himself from the scene of so much grief. His biographer, W. C. Ketchum, recalls standing on the steamboat wharf on the June day in 1845 when the newly appointed missionary bishop arrived in Fredericton, "accompanied by his chaplain; five of his children, with their governess, and servants." As this is Ketchum's first and last reference to Bishop Medley's domestic arrangements in New Brunswick, one can only assume that the bishop placed a great deal of trust in his paid caregivers and threw himself into the work of building Christ Church Cathedral.
Interestingly, it wasn't until the spring of 1863 that the bishop (now 59) decided to remarry. After a trip to England, he brought home 42-year-old Margaret Hudson, and the two were wed on June 16 in St. Anne's Church on Campobello Island.
Margaret Hudson was born in 1821 in Carlisle, Cumberland. She was the younger daughter of Commander Edward Charles Hudson of the Royal Navy and appears to have grown up in the village of Crossmead in John Medley's Exeter parish. While the second Mrs. Medley had some upper-class relations and must have been at least middle class, not much else is known about her background. According to her obituary in The Daily Gleaner, she was at one time engaged to a wellpedigreed youth of 23. (Her friend Juliana Horatia Ewing suggests that he was an officer in the army, but the Gleaner contends that he was a son of a member of parliament.) Just before he would have entered holy orders, the man's sister died from what the Victorians termed "a broken blood vessel." "This incident proved a severe blow to the young man," the Gleaner reports, "and while standing at the grave at the time of the funeral the strain became so great upon him that he broke a blood vessel and passed away also." After this melodramatic episode, Margaret Hudson took a rather unusual step for an English gentlewoman in the mid-1800s. Having "promised to devote her life to church work and helping others," she decided to become a nurse.
Although her obituary suggests that she entered a hospital "under Florence Nightingale," this is highly implausible. Margaret Hudson was only one year older than the Lady with the Lamp. If she nursed for 18 or 20 years before marrying Bishop Medley, she would have had to begin this work in the 1840s when she was in her early twenties - at which time Florence Nightingale was still touring Europe with her sister and only dreaming of an independent career.
Where and how Margaret Hudson did her nursing training is an interesting question. Before Florence Nightingale opened her famous school in 1860, there were only two training institutions in England. One, founded by Elizabeth Fry in 1840, was the Institution of Nursing Sisters, which accepted Christian women of any denomination, and the other was St. John's House Training Institution for Nurses, which operated under auspices of the Church of England. Juliana Horatia Ewing did "not think she has ever belonged to any order of Sisters," so, if she did have formal instruction, it was most likely at Elizabeth Fry's school. But the reality is that the majority of 19th-century nurses learned their trade on the job from the other hospital nurses. Moreover, before Nightingale made nursing a respectable profession, the women o turned to nursing were generally not from the middle classes or the gentry. Nurses, especially those known as "pauper nurses," were uneducated, lacking in skill and poorly paid. They were frequently depicted in the English press as drunken and immoral. Nursing would have been a giant step down for most young ladies.
Margaret Hudson may have accompanied Florence Nightingale to the Crimea; Mrs. Ewing mentions that she "nursed in the King's Cross Hospital in London - the Hotel de Dieu in Paris - & somewhere else abroad - I have forgotten where." But what makes her an intriguing figure is that her personal development so closely mirrors Nightingale's own. In other words ds, instead of responding to Nightingale's impassioned call to middle-class women to take up nursing in the 18606, she was already quietly pursuing the profession at the same time as Nightingale and probably even earlier. She was a professional career woman in an age when most unmarried middle-class girls stayed home and nursed their parents.
John Medley and Margaret Hudson met long before his trip to England in 1863. Ketchum describes her in his biography as "a close friend of the Bishop and (the first) Mrs. Medley" who "kept in touch with them by correspondence" and even "took charge" of Christiana's grave. From the start, their union appears to have b: been extremely comfortable and close. The new Mrs. Medley embraced the climate of New Brunswick with the same enthusiasm as her husband, and their wedding trip consisted of a walk about Campobello Island and a week's stay at the home of its resident clergyman. In May of the following year, the bishop purchased Bishopscote on Church Street where the two resided until their deaths in 1892 and 1905, respectively.
Our most intimate glimpse of Bishop and Mrs. Medley is found in her friend Mrs. Ewing's letters to her mother, collected in Margaret Howard Blom's and Thomas E. Blom's Canada Home: Juliana Horatia Ewing's Fredericton Letters, 18671869. The 26-year-old Victorian children's author and her husband, Captain Alexander Ewing, were much taken with their. "Episcopal Family," and the feeling was mutual. "We see them constantly," Mrs. Ewing writes to England: "they ask us in perpetually to wittles of some kind, & send us vegetables and flowers."
Of Mrs. Medley, she says, "She is almost as great a character as he is & in a way as clever. She is a great gardener & a botanist & lithographs a little & seems generally clever & well educated," adding that Mrs. Medley "horrified the natives here by administering chloroform on her own responsibility when she 1st came but now she says the doctors ask her to come & give it for them during operations &c. &c. She considers herself a good ladies' doctor & is amusingly professional." In another letter, Mrs. Ewing writes, "She was a confirmed pickle & tomboy in her youth - grew up a beauty, a rider, skater &c. before the 20 years in hospital. She mayn't skate here as she is Bishopess, but I think she regrets the fact! I told you how she bolted over the churchyard gate one day?" Later, she calls Mrs. Medley (who would have been 46), "a dear old thing & very amusing & as lively as 10 larks."
The picture of the Medleys that emerges is that of a caring, if occasionally indomitable, partnership. Mrs. Ewing writes, "They are such a good, funny, quaint looking pair!" yet comments in another letter that "the Medleys are rather severe critics, if anything." Captain Ewing pu this quality of severity in a rather less flattering light when he glibly sums them up as "very `tribey' and like ourselves."
The Medleys certainly appeared to think and act as one mind, occasionally causing Mrs. Ewing some minor irritation. Complaining of the bishop's "little despotic way," she recounts how the two attempted to deter her from holding a choir tea for fear that it might make her ill. "Having been a nursing sister for 20 years," she remarks, "poor Mrs. M. does not take easily to `parties' They generally knock her up, I believe, & so the Bishop, who knows nothing about it, thinks a plain choir tea is the most awful undertaking. He says it takes 3 women & Mrs. Medley."
Margaret Medley, in particular, seems to have viewed the younger couple as a project. She promised to keep a "motherly eye" over Juliana who was of a frail constitution, showering her with flowers, food and drives in the country. She even lent her a scarlet petticoat for winter and helped her wallpaper a room in her rented home on George Street. But Mrs. Medley had many projects. As Mrs. Ewing's letters reveal, she was forever attending the sick, delivering food to the poor and instructing Fredericton's young. Indeed, this native practicality, along with deep religious commitment and a love of church music, was what she shared most with her husband.
John Medley was a high-church Anglican whose feet were firmly on the ground, as"expressed in his many writings about the "practical truths" of Gothic architecture. He changed the look of New Brunswick's Anglican churches but with an eye to the pragmatic value of creating spaces that would bring congregations closer to God. Both Medleys, in their way, can be seen as proponents of new Victorian sciences. While the bishop spread ecclesiology (the practical science of church architecture) throughout his diocese, his wife instilled the practical teachings of her 20 years in the relatively unheard-of profession of nursing. This sense of their twinned missionary purpose must have bound them together ever more deeply.
Of all Mrs. Medley's projects, the Sunday school mission at Morrison's Mills was the most far-reaching in its effects. According to the present rector of St. Margaret's Church, Rev. Canon Jon Lownds, Mrs. Medley was very concerned about the families of mill workers who lived in company housing along a stretch of the St. John River known as Salamanca or "The Mills." In the early 1870s, John Medley bought her a schoolhouse and she began giving Sunday school lessons to mill children who would otherwise have had little exposure to scripture. A stockadestyle building originally used as a post office, the "Old School House by the Side of the Road," quickly became the heart of the mill workers' community, and before long Bishop Medley was sending his trainees and curates down to preach Sunday services. Gradually, over time, Mrs. Medley's Sunday school mission became a Chapel of Ease and ultimately the parish church of the parish of St. Margaret's.
St. Margaret's (affectionately named for its first benefactress) has moved twice since its founding, but the school house Bishop Medley purchased is still visible on the side of the Lincoln Road. In the new St. Margaret's Church on Forest Hill Road, Rev. Lownds points to a weathered wooden plaque with the painted message "God Bless Our Sunday School." On the back, it reads: "Given by Mrs. Medley to the Sunday School of Morrison's Mill, Fredericton, November 1874."
Mrs. Medley's many good works beg the question: why would a happy, active woman like the wife of Fredericton's first bishop need to haunt Christ Church Cathedral? If there is any substance to this ghost story, the answer must lie in Mrs. Medley's final years.
Margaret Medley outlived her husband by over a decade, and for the last decade or so of his own life, the bishop was in very poor health. Rev. Barry Craig, rector of St. Mary's Church and a professor of Philosophy at St. Thomas University who did his doctoral thesis on Bishop Medley, explains that Rev. Tully Kingdon was brought over from England to be a coadjutor bishop in the expectation that John Medley would soon retire. Bishop Medley, however, kept delaying his retirement. Rev. Craig says that Bishop Kingdon made "some tart comments" in his correspondence about Mrs. Medley meddling in church affairs, and that he eventually concluded that the bishop's wife was the one running the diocese. There was, Rev. Craig remarks, "no love lost" between Mrs. Medley and Bishop Kingdon.
Rev. Craig also suggests that Mrs. Medley was quite disappointed with W.C. Ketchum's biography of her husband, which appeared the year after his death in 1893. Although she supplied Ketchum with many of his primary sources, she apparently felt the book failed to highlight Bishop Medley's connections to "the big wheels of the Victorian world." Rev. Craig explains that most colonial bishops did their stints in the "wilderness" only to return to England where they were lionized for the rest of their days. Bishop Medley sacrificed all this by staying in New Brunswick, and his widow wanted future generations to appreciate what a celebrated figure he would have been if he had gone home.
And so another image of Mrs. Medley emerges - that of a lonely old woman, fiercely protective of her late husband's ' reputation and frustrated by her loss of influence over the practical affairs of her world. Certainly, it's easier to picture the spirit of this Mrs. Medley returning to the Cathedral after dark to minister to the needy or deliver her own sermons from the pulpit.
Canon Jon Lownds of St. Margaret's Church says he likes to compare Mrs. Medley with the saint she was probably named for, Saint Margaret of Scotland. He observes that the unconventional saint who "made almsgiving into a high art" had a concern for the poor and sick that was as practical as Margaret Medley's own. "One thing is certain," Father Jon muses: "If there is a ghost of Mrs. Medley, she'd be carrying someone a plate of food rather than just hanging around an empty building." `
Lisa Alward is a Fredericton freelance writer. She would like to thank all those who helped with the research for this article, including Twila Buttimer. of the Provincial Archives and Margaret Pacey of the Legislative Library. Word count: 3,586
Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:44 pm
From the Dungarvon Whooper, to burning ships and Acadian
whirlwinds, New Brunswick hasn't exorcised its Ghosts.
by Alison Hughes
My family lived in a classic Victorian Saint John home with a steep, peaked roof. One night when I was twelve, I awoke from a sound sleep in my attic bedroom, aware that someone else was there.
Across from me, rocking peacefully and knitting, was a grey-haired woman in a high-necked dress. She glanced over without ceasing her work and smiled directly at me so reassuringly that I went calmly back to sleep. In the morning, the rocker had been moved from its normal place to a spot several feet away.
To this day I am convinced she was not a dream.
I am far from alone in seeing - or at least believing I saw - a ghost. Strange stories come from the most unexpected people.
One credible man, a curator, told me of the sweetly scented lilac lady who wafted through rooms in his Sackville home and once brought a drink to his daughter in the night. A professional photographer I know rented a house in Hampton where keys, cups and other small articles constantly shifted locations, or disappeared. Another friend, a no-nonsense Fredericton businesswoman, became so accustomed to unexplained thumping and knocking sounds in her old home that she regularly failed to answer the door for her flesh-and-blood visitors.
New Brunswick seems particularly rich in phantom folklore. Headless women, phantom boats, hellish hounds and singing spectres apparently frequent every corner of every county. Some are old ghosts, more entertaining than eerie, preserved in the oral tradition through folksongs, poetry and tall tales told to terrify the young. Others carry the weight of first-hand experience recalled by seemingly credible witnesses.
Fiction, or fact, phantoms haunt our history. While researching New Brunswick ghost stories, I have been by turns both skeptical and scared. I have searched for ordinary explanations of extraordinary events and the many tales that persist and defy them. It is a search down a long blackened hall that piques your curiosity and quickens your pulse.
HAMPTON author Dorothy Dearborn has published several books of supernatural stories, including New Brunswick Ghosts! Demons! ... and things that go bump in the night! Her research, combined with some unusual experiences, has convinced her that spirits manifest themselves in some strange ways.
"There are other dimensions. As far as I'm concerned, it's just another dimension and every once in a while it overlaps," she assures me.
"This happened one night when I wa all alone in the house. That doesn't bother me at all - I'm used to being alone in this big ark of a place. About two or three o'clock in the morning, I woke up with a start and the door to the bedroom just opposite mine was creaking back and forth, back and forth creak, creak.
"Now that might not sound like a strange thing to happen, - but that door has never creaked. I've slept for years next to that door. It was really eerie because it would start for a while, then stop for a while. I'd doze off to sleep and then I'd wake up with this door going creak, creak, creak, open and closed, as if somebody was going back and forth into the room.
"I'm lying there thinking about it, wondering what is going on. Who's going in there? And then it dawned on me. A neighbour, who grew up in Hampton, was on his death bed at the time - really, literally on his deathbed As a young man, he had spent a lot of time in this house when it was owned by the McAvitys.
"The room across from my room used to be a sleeping porch. When the young people were all here, they'd all pile into that sleeping porch, crowds of teenagers and kids and that's where they would all sleep over. It wasn't glassed in, as it is now. It was just a screened-in sleeping porch. And I got thinking, 'Gee whiz, I wonder. It's almost as if he was on his way out and had stopped over just to visit with the ghosts of the other people who used to play, or hang out, on the porch when he was a boy.' I thought, 'I must check and find out tomorrow whether he died.'
"You know what? He had. And you know what else? That door has never squeaked since. It doesn't squeak when you move it now and it didn't before. It was just doing this on its own. It was just moving back and forth, back and forth, squeaking." To skeptics, Dearborn recommends an open mind.
"You've got to have that first-hand experience to believe in ghosts," she reflects. "I always think of the story about a Miramichi family sitting around in their big old kitchen after their father's funeral, when all of a sudden the floorboards start to creak up over their heads. One turns to the other one, nods and says, 'Ali, Dad's back."'
The branches of the Miramichi River claw deep into the interior of the province and into the darkness of memory.
The Dungarvon River is a branch of the Main Renous River and joins it above the settlement of Quarryville once known as Indiantown. According to a story related by historian W.F. Ganong, the river got its name after a log drive got hung up below the mouth of the river and the crew amused themselves by dancing and stamping in their heavy boots. During the dance, a big Irishman shouted: "Come on, boys, we'll make Dungarvon shake!" perhaps because some of the crew hailed from the town in Ireland. In any case, the name clung to the river.
Along this branch resides the Dungarvon Whooper - probably the most famous of New Brunswick ghosts. Some still claim to have heard the hair-raising, high-pitched howl that gave the ghost its name - it is the howl of murder, the smell of bacon, the echo of lumber camp injustice.
Roy MacRae lives handy to the Dungarvon Road, in Blackville. Seventy-one years old next month, he hasn't been back to the Whooper Spring for almost five years now, but he still recalls the way.
"It's an old mud road back of the Dungarvon for ten mile, or so, and then you have to turn off to an old woods road. Then you go so far and you have to walk the rest of the way. The first spring you come to is what they call the Dead Boy's Spring. Some people think you're there but you're not. You have to walk a piece further, maybe half a mile, through a kind of a woods trail.
"There at the site you're at Whooper Spring they call it, an old logging camp site. There was kind of a cleared place and still is. Nothing ever grew there much. And there's a stand with a plaque with the Dungarvon Whooper song that Michael Whelan wrote back years ago under glass for anyone to read."
MacRae is none too sure that there ever was a ghost, but he's been known to convince a few others. Years ago, he entertained groups at the spring with the tale of the young cook, murdered by his lumber camp boss, whose ghost terrified local hunters and lumbermen with its spine-tingling whoops. The storyteller even recorded a few of his own unearthly howls to play as tourists came down the path to the clearing.
"You don't know what it sounded like?' MacRae queries, giving a sample blood-curdling howl. "Woooooo! It would have sounded something like that, all night."
He figures there must have been a murder to start the tale in the first place.
"I suppose this story here was being , wrote to tell you they thought he was murdered at the time."
The tale of the Whooper is buried deep in the nineteenth-century mythology of the lumber camps, but it survives in part because a Fredericton-to-Newcastle train, which ran until 1936, was indirectly named after it when a conductor was confronted with rowdy lumberjacks. But mainly it persists because it was written down in song by Michael Whelan and published in a local newspaper in 1912.
Michael Whelan, the Poet of Renous was born in 1858 in Renous and died in ,Chatham in 1937. He taught school and kept books at a local lumber mill, but his vocation was writing poetry celebrating Miramichi, which he sold in pamphlets. He had known of the legend of the Whooper since he was a boy.
This is his version of the The Dungarvon Whooper, sung to the tune of Where the Silvery Colorado Sweeps Away:
Far within the forest scene,
Where the trees forever green,
Form a contrast to the beech and birches grey,
Where the snow lies white and deep,
And the song birds seem to sleep,
And cease their sweetest singing all the day.
Where the mighty monstrous moose,
Of limbs both large and loose,
Through the forest sweeps with strides both swift and strong,
Where the caribou and deer
Swim the brooks so crystal clear,
And the mighty deep Dungarvon rolls along.
Where the black bear has his den,
Far beyond the haunts of men,
And the muskrat, mink and marten swi the stream,
Where the squirrel so light and free,
Swiftly springs from tree to tree,
And the lovely snow-white rabbit sleep and dreams;
Where the sounds of toil resound
Far across the frozen ground,
And the thousand things that to the woods belong,
Where the saws and axes ring,
And the woodsmen wildly sing,
And the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.
In a lumber camp one day,
While the crew were faraway,
And no one there but cook and boss alone,
A sad tragedy took place,
And death won another race,
For the young cook swiftly passed to the unknown;
From the day of long ago,
Comes this weary tale of woe,
The sad and solemn subject of my song,
When this young man drooped and died,
In his youth and manhood's pride,
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.
When the crew returned that night,
What a sad scene met their sight,
There lay the young cook silent, cold and dead,
Death was in his curling hair,
In his young face pale and fair,
While his knapsack formed a pillow for his head.
From the belt about his waist
All his money was misplaced,
Which made the men suspect some serious wrong,
Was it murder cold and dread,
That befell the fair young dead
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon rolls along?
When they asked the skipper why
He had made no wild outcry,
He turned away and hid his haughty head;
"Well, the youngster took so sick,
And he died so mighty quick,
I hadn't time to think, " was all he said;
A tear was in each eye,
Each heart it heaved a sigh,
While through each breast the strangest feeling throng;
When each reverent head was bared,
As his funeral they prepared,
Where the mighty deep Dungarvon rolls along.
Fast fell the driven snow,
While the wild winds they did blow,
Till four feet deep upon the ground it lay,
So that on the burial day
To the graveyard far away
To bear the corpse impossible was found.
Then a forest grave was made,
And in it the cook was laid
While the song birds and the woodsmen ceased their song;
When the last farewells were said
O'er the young and lonely dead
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.
When the crew returned at night
Their dear comrade still they mourned,
While the shades o'night were falling o'er the hill,
All that long and fearful night
All the camp was in affright,
Such fearful whoops and yells the forest fill;
Pale and ghastly was each face,
"We shall leave this fearful place,
For this camp unto the demons does belong,
Ere the dawning of the day
We will hasten far away
From where the dark Dungarvon rolls along."
Since that day, so goes the word,
Fearful sounds have long been heard,
Far round the scene where lies the woodsman's grave,
Whoops the stoutest hearts to thrill,
Yells that warmest blood to chill,
Sends terror to the bravest of the brave;
Till beside the grave did stand,
God's good man with lifted hand,
And prayed that He those sounds should not perlong
That those fearful sounds should cease,
And the region rest in peace
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.
Since that day the sounds have ceased
And the region is released
From those most unearthly whoops an screams and yells,
All around the Whooper's spring
There is heard no evil thing,
And round the Whooper's grave sweet silence dwells
Be this story false or true,
I have told it unto you,
As I heard it from the folklore all life long,
So I hope all strife will cease,
And our people dwell in peace,
Where the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along.
Whether the tale was a response to an alleged murder or to the screech owls and panther howls heard in the woods is now impossible to determine. But according to Louise Manny, author of Folksongs of the Miramichi (1968), Whelan's version is only one of many.
"It now has among its attributes ever-blooming flowers on the grave, a ghost which rises screaming if the grave is disturbed, a feu follet type of apparition, or rather sound, which entices the hearer into the woods, where he is lost, or sometimes lures him with the smell of frying bacon, or a shrieking spectre which comes nearer and nearer to the unlucky person who answers the sounds. Finally, in this last version, the scream is heard directly over the answerer, in the open air, and he is too terrified to answer it again."
The story was taken seriously enough by the turn of the century that Rev. Edward Murdoch, a Roman Catholic priest from Renous, came up the Dungarvon to perform an exorcism on the site. According to Dr. Manny: "It is said that after this the evil spirit which was responsible for the horrible sounds was heard no more. But people say they still hear the Whooper, and they fear to visit the grave by Whooper Spring."
These days, the story's fame has spread so far that MacRae has had calls from all over. One woman from the Southern United States phoned convinced that the Dungarvon Whoope was a monstrous fish. She wanted MacRae to describe it so she could knit it into a sweater for her husband.
RONALD LABELLE is in charge of the folklore archives at the universalé de Moncton. Part of the Centre d'Études Acadien, the archives has many Acadian oral histories taped over the past 30 years, including stories of the supernatural. He suggests that a strong belief in Purgatory helps to explain why so many ghost stories come from the Roman Catholic Acadian, Irish and Scots cultures.
"There is the example of praying for the souls of deceased people, or they will come and haunt you, and stories of ghosts coming back to ask for prayers, he points out. "Often when les revenants [the ghosts] appear, it's because their souls are wandering and they won't be able to get into heaven because of something they did wrong and they're trying to come back to set it right."
In the course of collecting local histories, Labelle occasionally interviews those who reluctantly share a mysterious experience. That was the case with one Acadian man, a merchant, still living in the location where it happened, who prefers that his identity not be revealed.
"He hesitated for quite a while before telling me this story because just to reminisce, to go over a story like that, is terrifying;" recounts Labelle. "There are some people who have a whole repertoire and tend to tell stories with a lot of exaggeration, but this is just a fellow who is not that way at all.
"This story stayed in my mind because it was told to me by someone who actually experienced it. You tend to think of ghosts appearing at night, in the dark, but in this story, what actually happened was in broad daylight, about forty years ago.
"There was a merchant in a little village in Northeastern New Brunswick. A young man who lived in the village was going off to go fishing on the coast for several months and asked the merchant to supply groceries from his store for his aged parents. He told the merchant that when he came back after working he'd be able to pay back the whole debt.
"So the merchant supplied this couple with groceries for a few months. When the man came back after the fishing season, he didn't pay back the debt but spent his money on buying a car instead. The merchant had kept all the bills ready in a box to have them reimbursed. When he saw that the man had bought a car instead of paying the bills he said in anger, 'He can go to hell and take my bills with him!'
"Just about a week later, the young fellow went out fishing in a small boat. The boat got tangled up and the water was rough and he fell overboard and drowned.
"Not long after, the merchant was out in his fields, cutting down some hay. While he was working, a big wind came up all of a sudden. In the middle of this whirlwind, the drowned man appeared to him. His hair was blowing around in the wind and his face was very clear. He was even wearing clothes and rubber boots that came from the man's store. The merchant could describe them exactly.
"He got quite a fright seeing the dead man. He called to a fellow working at the other end of the field and said, 'I've got to go home right away.' So he went home, and he took the box with the bills he had kept and he threw them in the wood stove and burned them.
"That very night, the father of the man who had drowned came to the merchant's house and said, 'I was out today with my dog and the dog was howling and howling like there was something there. I felt strange and my dog wouldn't stop howling all day. I decided I just have to pay back those bills that we owe you."And the merchant replied, 'You can, forget about those bills I just burned them in the woodstove today."
"Later on, the father went to see the parish priest to tell him and ask him what he thought. The priest said that if the son's soul was in Purgatory, he probably had to make right the debt that he owed in order to get into heaven."
This is a theme common to many ghost stories in areas where priests appealed to the popular imagination to help keep their parishioners in line. Labelle recounts another story from the archives where a priest was leading a November 1, All Saints Day candlelight_ procession through a rural cemetery. He offered to raise the spirits of any family members buried there so their relatives could discover if they were damned, or in heaven, but his flock was far too frightened to take him up on the offer.
Of course, this was partially due to superstitions completely unrelated to the Christian religion. Prior to adopting the Roman calendar, the Celtic year ended on October 3 1, the night when spirits would return from the dead to roam. It later became known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween.
"It's a very interesting custom, Halloween, because its origins go back directly to ancient times," says Labelle, "There are other holidays that might have indirectly some ancient origins, but the practices that came from the old pagan beliefs of the spirits returning from the dead on the eve of November 1 have been maintained all the way till now."
Halloween witches, bonfires and Jack o' Lanterns derive from these ancient traditions.Witches were evil spirits riding straw brooms associated with the harvest season. Firelight was one way to protect against these forces of darkness, whether in large bonfires, or placed in homes. Apparently the Scots originally carved faces and placed candies in hollowed out turnips, with pumpkins being a later North American adaptation.
Because people were afraid to go out on the night of October 31, it became a perfect time for the less timorous young people to play tricks on their neighbours. There were some particular favourites among the Acadians, going back to the nineteenth century. The more ingenious the prank, the prouder the participants were.
One popular trick in Southeastern New Brunswick was moving outhouses. A group would get together and put the structure up in a tree, or move it to another location completely. Ox carts and farm wagons might be painted red and suspended in a tree, or put in someone else's barn, while livestock could be found the next morning at the other end of a village.
Even a hundred years ago, events would sometimes get out of hand. One story reported in the newspaper L'Evangeline happened around Cocagne in the 1880s. A man making outhouses for a school under construction suspected that Halloween would be too much temptation for local pranksters. He and his son stood watch and caught a group trying to carry away the outhouses in the night. While discharging a warning shot into the air, the man tripped, shot a fellow in the arm and subsequently was taken to court. Another newspaper account records a lawyer pressing charges against vandals who uprooted his newly planted trees.
"Things like that I find interesting because, in general, people back then wouldn't have done any harm. Usually what they did could be fixed up the next day, maybe with a lot of work, but it wouldn't cause any hardship," says Labelle.
Around the middle of the twentieth century, however, the practice of burning down abandoned buildings in gigantic bonfires caused some serious loss of equipment. A movement against the pranks ended the fires and most of the tricks.
Quite apart from spirits associated with people and places, is the maritime phenomenon of the phantom ship. While ghostly vessels are often found a omens of disaster in European folktales in New Brunswick they usually portend nothing worse than a coming storm. In Stuart Trueman's collection, Ghosts, Pirates and Treasure Trove: Phantoms that Haunt New Brunswick, he quotes more than a dozen eye-witness sightings in modern times, from St. Martins to Shippagan. By far the most famous spectral vessel is the phantom ship of the Baie des Chaleurs. For over a hundred years, everyone from a locomotive fireman to an entire Sunday school class with clergy have sighted the flaming vessel floating offshore.
"Smoke was billowing up through the rigging. Figures were rushing to and fro on her decks. I called the engineer and he said 'Hell, that's just the Burning Ship,' " reported Richard Jefferson of Grand Anse, in 1892.
Those who believe it is a supernatural ship call it by different names. To some, it is the John Craig, wrecked in a gale in the 1700s. Others cite shipwrecks during the 1760 Battle of the Restigouche, when the Seven Years War culminated in the destruction of French warships that sought refuge the Baie des Chaleurs. The phantomship phenomenon is intriguing in its persistence. Something recurs on these waters, usually preceding a storm. Many believe it is St. Elmo's fire, a luminous electrical discharge that occasionally glows on steeples, or even around people's heads, during thunderstorms. Phantom ship witnesses describe balls of fire in the masts, likening them to lanterns or flames. Others see figures working on the flaming decks in such detail that it is difficult to account for the sightings as mirages.
Other scientific explanations include the sea fogs that can make islands appear to float above the water, or the microscopic creatures that sparkle with bio-luminescence in salt waters.
Yet, science rarely seems convincing in its explanations of the supernatural; psychology is only marginally more so. Ghosts - whether they are crewing phantom ships or cooking bacon in the woods - reside somewhere just beyond the rational grasp, somewhere within the twilight fog of our personal experience and the rising smoke of the campfire story.
Increasingly, they are beyond our grasp too. The lumber camps are no more and the small communities where many ghost stories were told are no longer so insular. There are few people who will attest to hearing a whoop in the woods or fire on the water, fewer families living in homes old enough to have housed generations of life stories before them.
That New Brunswick ghost stories are tied to the woods and to the sea - places where men worked and died - is hardly startling. The further we get from the woods and the sea - from a way of life tied to the wilds and the elements - the less we fear them. Yet we cannot totally exorcise our dread of being lost in the forest's dark; or feel, in every widow's walk, the presence of something lost and a spirit that remains.
The only explanation of the rocking-chair spectre I saw from my attic bedroom as a child came from my mother. She told me it could have been my grandmother who died before I was born and had come back to watch over me.
Perhaps New Brunswick ghost stories have become like this childhood vision almost too familiar to be scary. Almost comforting in their innocence and therefore more an acknowledgement of the presence of our ancestors than the manifestation of our fears.
Yet, as suredly as Dungarvon sweeps along, peaceful waters can deepen and darken. If I were to research the history of my childhood home, what murderous tales might I turn up? What scars are hidden under that high-necked dress of my rocking spectre? What weapons could those knitting needles have become?
All I know is what I saw and what I believe.
Alison Hughes is a reporter with the Telegraph Journal.
Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:47 pm
Come all ye fellow citizens
With pity lend an ear
To the sad and mournful story
You are about to hear
By Peter Little
from The New Brunswick Reader
This is the opening verse of The Sad Tale of Maggie Vail, a come-all-ye" popular in lumber camps earlier in the century and passed on orally from one person to another and indeed from one generation to the next.
Unlike many old ballads, where the truth of the story is lost in time or the origins are fanciful, this sad tale was meticulously detailed in newspaper reports from a sensational trial. It is a of love and greed, of lust and shame. But mainly it is a story of murder -murder on a Halloween Saturday on the Black River Road in Saint John.
It is said that for many years after the murder, a white handkerchief was tied to a tree to mark the spot of the crime and horses would shy away from the lonely flat when passing by through the woods. And to this day there is talk of teenagers dared into a local cemetery to the murderer's gravestone on Halloween night. On this night, the legend has it, it glows from underneath.
The sad tale of Maggie Vail first became public on September 14, 1869. Two days earlier some children from the black community near Ben Lomond had been picking wild berries in a wooded area between the Black River Road (now the Garnett Settlement Road) and Loch Lomond Road when they made a grizzly discovery. One of the children, Carolyn Thompson, had spotted some clothing protruding from under a small pile of rocks and brush. Upon further investigation they discovered the skeletal remains of an adult and an infant. The children beat a hasty retreat and two days later, the discovery was reported to authorities.
Brown hair carefully styled in a braided knot with a long heavy curl hanging from one side, known as a waterfall - was still attached to the woman's skull. There was a black alpaca dress, straw hat, heavy tweed cape and other clothing. A few yards away were the remnants of a child's white dress, an infant's boot with a sock in it. The coroner for St. John County, Dr. Sylvester Earle, examined the remains and determined that they were the bodies of a woman and young child, that they had been partially eaten by animals and that they had been dead for about one year.
The coroner also determined that they had met their deaths by foul means. However, without further clues or help from the public, the authorities have little chance of making a positive identification.
The investigations into the deaths began immediately and shortly thereafter a man named James Kane from Portland (now Saint John's North End) was arrested and held for questioning. It's unclear why Kane was a suspect but the Crown, not being able to build a case against him, was forced to release him.
An inquest quickly followed, but there were few clues unearthed until a coachman named Robert Worden came forward. He said that the previous fall he had driven a woman and her infant on two occasions from the city out to the Black River Road. Each time, they were accompanied by John A. Munroe, a rising architect in the city.
Munroe confirmed to police that Worden's story was true and that the woman who accompanied him was Sarah Margaret Vail of Carleton, now West Saint John. He insisted that he had taken her out there to meet a friend, but that two days later, he waved goodbye as she boarded a steamer to Boston. He informed police that he understood that Maggie's sister, Phileanor Crear, had received a letter from Maggie postmarked from Boston.
On September 29, a most damning piece of evidence arrived from Boston, or to be more accurate, returned from Boston. The steamer New York, on one of its return trips to Saint John, off-loaded travelling trunks belonging to Sarah Margaret Vail. The trunks had been sent to Boston one year earlier in October 1868, but were unclaimed by their owner, so after a time they were shipped back to their owner's address in Saint John. The trunks contained not only clothing belonging to Maggie Vail, but a picture of John A. Munroe.
The sheriff was also informed that the baby's name was Ella May Munroe, the illegitimate daughter of Maggie Vail and a local carpenter and architect named John A. Munroe.
Munroe was an "architect of repute and a young man of good standing in the community" and was also a married man with two children. He was born in Ireland and moved to Saint John with his family as a boy. In the 1851 census, Munroe was twelve years old and living in the uptown area with his parents John and Mary, three-year-old sister Mary and ten-year-old brother George. His father was a carpenter by trade. After finishing school young John went to work in the office of his father's lumberyard.
Munroe was also a talented artist and painted as a hobby. Many of his paintings were given to family and friends; it is not known whether any survive to this day. It was his talent for painting that spawned his interest in architecture. Buildings designed by Munroe include the Wiggins Orphans Asylum, the Germain Street Baptist Church, both of which were destroyed in the great fire of 1877, and the Carleton Masonic Hall. He also designed several residences; at least two examples of his talent survive to this day. 0ne is owned by the Hughes family of Algonquin Place on the West Side and the other is owned by the Grant family in Rothesay.
Suspicion then had fallen on me
And I could not prevail
'Things went so hard against me
That I was sent to jail.
On October 2, he was arrested for the premeditated murder of Maggie Vail and their daughter Ella May. Judge Allen had set the trial date for December 7 and because of the interest in the case and his desire for an impartial jury he issued a publication ban on all evidence relating to the case until the trial.
From the evidence amassed at the coroner's inquest, reliminary examination, grand jury and trial, a clearer picture of the events leading to the murder of Maggie Vail emerged.
According to Vail's sister, Phileanor, Monroe first met Maggie at a picnic at McCarthy's grounds in Carleton in the summer of 1865. At first he insisted he was not married and she fell deeply in love with him. He visited her frequently, especially after her father died. She was despondent after she became pregnant with his child, but when she chided him for seducing her, he grabbed her, sat her on his lap and said: "Maggie, if I get the poison will you go and poison my wife?"
In his will, Maggie's father left property in Carleton to Maggie and she sold it for $600. She gave at least some of this money to Munroe to hold.
About a week before the murder, on Friday, October 23, Maggie Vail, calling herself Mrs. Clark, and her nine-month-old child were taken to the Brunswick House on Prince William Street in Saint John, run by a Mrs. Lordly. The hotel owner did not really believe that she was married, but said Mrs. Clark appeared very uneasy Saturday night wondering why her husband didn't come.
"She waited until almost twelve o'clock when she went into her room. At half-past two, I saw a bright light in her room and had difficulty in waking her up. I asked her about the light and made her open the door. I asked her what the blind was up for and and put it down after observing a man walking up and down on the other sidewalk."
On Monday morning, Robert Worden came to pick up Maggie Vail at the Brunswick House. Munroe was in the coach but did not get out to greet her. They travelled to Loch Lomond, east of Saint John, past the Ben Lomond Inn run by Horace Bunker, and then turned about a quarter of a mile down the Black River Road.
"We'll walk the rest the way," Munroe said to Worden. "You can turn about and go back to Bunker's and feed your horse and get your dinner."
When they returned to town, Maggie Vail was dropped off at the Union Hotel on Union Street. Worden fetched her trunk from the Brunswick House.
Maggie Vail and her child were booked to go to Boston - apparently to start a new life - on Thursday, October 29. But the weather was stormy and Munroe convinced them to stay for another few days. Munroe went to Fredericton with his wife on the Friday. The next morning he contacted Worden, who drove them to the same spot on the Black River Road.
That Halloween day in 1868 was damp and cold. Horace Bunker recalled that Worden had come into the inn and ordered a meal; about thirty minutes later, the accused entered in a very agitated state. He bought a brandy, drank it quickly and ordered Worden to get up and go with him. When Worden protested that he hadn't finished his meal, Munroe thrust some money at Bunker, much more then the meal was worth, and pulled Worden from the inn.
Worden and Munroe placed Maggie Vail's trunks on the steamer on November 2.
The character witnesses at the trial said they knew Munroe to be a man of calm countenance. However, it was revealed that when sufficiently aroused, he was known to have a violent temper. The last witness called by the defence was Munroe himself. He swore that Miss Vail had returned to the United States and had changed her name to Clark in an effort to hide the shame of having a child born out of wedlock. He also testified that he did indeed take her to the Loch Lomond Road and left her there where she was to meet a man who was going to marry her.
The trial concluded on December 17 and Judge Allen spent more than four hours delivering his charge to the jury. The jury, however, deliberated for only an hour-and-a-half before returning a guilty verdict. Most of this time was spent debating the issue of capital punishment and in the end the more liberal members of the jury won out and they recommended the Crown show mercy on the accused.
Throughout the trial, Monroe had remained stolid and calm, but the verdict crushed him. His head bowed, his body doubled, he sunk to the floor with great sobs shaking his body.
During the days that followed he took little food, nor paid much attention when he was sentenced to die on the gallows on Valentine's Day, 1870.
On the fourteenth day of February
By the neck you shall be hung
May God have mercy on your soul
For the awful deed you've done.
While his son awaited his fate, Munroe's father gathered signatures on a petition to spare his son's life. The petition was presented to the governor-general in Ottawa, but the Queen's representative agreed with the trial judge and the death sentence was upheld. The elder Munroe returned to Saint John in one of the worst storms of the year.
It was after this that Munroe began to accept his fate and made preparations to meet his Maker. He repented for his sins and in the last few weeks of his life he appeared to become a devout man, praying often and reading the Bible daily. On the eve of his execution, he met with Rev. Lathern and Rev. Stewart, the local Methodist preachers, for prayers and exhortations.
That same night, of his own free will, Munroe prepared and signed a confession to the murders. It was released after his death:
"The first time I went out with Miss Vail it was only for a ride. We had no quarrel and our going was at her wish. We got out of the coach, at or near the place described on the trial, she had a satchel, and we walked along the road, I cannot say how far, sat down, and had a bite to eat. We both fired at a mark, she using a pistol I had given her - one of a pair - a breech loader, same as my own. The mate I gave to a friend. I had learned her to use it. There was no intention on my part to harm her at that time. We came back and I left her at Lake's. She was to have gone to Boston on the Thursday after our first going out, but it was too stormy, and I went with my wife to Fredericton on that day, and came down again on Friday night. It was during that trip to Fredericton I first thought that the spot I had visited with Miss Vail on the Monday previous was a suitable spot to commit a bad act. I went out again with Miss Vail the Saturday following. We went the same road as before and to about the same place. The morning was frosty, the moss crisp and hard. There was no wet on the barren. The road was a little muddy. We went off the road a little way together and sat down. I went into the bushes, the child cried, I came out again, was angry, and strangled the child. I do not know if it was actually dead. As she was rising up, I shot [Miss Vail] in the head - I do not think on the same side as shown in the court. I threw a bush over her face and some over her hands. I found the pistol in her pocket, or just fallen out of it, a common handkerchief and a wallet with only a few dollars in it. I threw the handkerchief and wallet away and left at once and have never been back since. I had previously had some of her money - cannot say how much - perhaps half or a little more. I cannot say that money was not one of the reasons of the motives for the act committed. I do not say it was in self defence I killed Miss Vail. It was the money, my anger with her at the time and my bad thoughts on and after the trip to Fredericton working together, caused me to do the bad act. The letter written to Mrs. Crear [Maggie's sister] was written by me, and mailed in Boston by a friend of mine living in or near Boston. I never killed any other person or child."
The day of the execution, Munroe met again with the clergy early the next morning at which time he appeared calm and prayed for strength. Before they pinioned his arms to his side, he took off his gold watch and chain and requested that they be given to his wife. He was dressed in black cloth pants without braces, white shirt and leather boots. Partially drawn over his face was a white cap which rested on his nose.
Before going to the gallows the condemned man thanked the sheriff for kindness shown during his confinement and hoped his fate would be a warning to others. All present then sang the hymn Rock of Ages and walked together to the place of execution.
"I hope you will all see me in heaven."
Public executions had been ended a few years before, but crowds began to gather early in the morning vying for the best vantage point from which to watch the hanging in the courtyard behind the Sydney Street courthouse in Saint John. There were hundreds of people in the street and the Old Burial Ground, while scores of others climbed trees or peered down from rooftops and church steeples for a view of the hanging. At precisely eight o'clock, with the sound of the first gong from the bell tower, a black flag was run up the flag pole to half-staff and the gallows trap door swung open. A press report of the time says:
"For a moment there was no motion save the swaying of the body, then the hands began to work, the fingers clutching and then closing with a grip. The legs were not drawn up, but by muscular contraction were turned over across the other somewhat. The neck was evidently not broken, death resulting from strangulation."
Twenty minutes later, John A. Munroe was dead. Rumours spread that his neck had not been broken because he had wrapped something around it under his high-necked collar to prevent it from being marked.
His body was taken down at 8:30 that morning and later in the day he was buried in Fernhill Cemetery with only his wife and clergy present.
Following the trial and execution, his wife, to protect her sons from the stigma of having a murderer for a father, changed the family name to Potts. One of their sons, Frank, went on to become mayor of Saint John serving from 1924 to 1926.
There are two local legends that arose after the execution. The first is that the words to the come-all-ye ballad, The Sad Tale of Maggie Vail, were penned by the murderer as he awaited his fate.
The second story that began to circulate was that a couple of years previous, Munroe, trained as a carpenter, was contracted to build a new gallows behind the courthouse. During the construction it is said he remarked to a fellow worker, "I wonder who will be the first s.o.b. to swing from this?"
As it turned out, it was he.
Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:48 pm
Jack the Quack
Did Jack the Ripper visit Saint John and was here that he claimed his first victim?
By Daniel F. Johnson
from The New Brunswick Reader
In the year 1888, citizens of London, England, particularly those of the poor district of Whitechapel, were terrorized by a villain whose ghastly deeds have notched his bloody name forever - Jack the Ripper.
The Whitechapel community was reeling from severe economic recession. The stark reality of starvation forced women into the streets as prostitutes. Here they became vulnerable prey. As each victim fell beneath the Ripper's bloodied knife, the hideous mutilations of the bodies horrified the most seasoned investigators. When the British tabloids printed the gruesome photos, shock and fear turned to anger. Vigilante mobs roamed the streets while Scotland Yard desperately scoured for a man who disappeared into the shadows of the night.
As suddenly as the murders began, they ended - but the identity of Jack the Ripper has remained one of the greatest mysteries of the nineteenth century.
For a century later, these mysteries have given rise to unending speculation. Stewart Evans, a police officer with the Suffolk Constabulary and Paul Gainey, a press officer for the Suffolk Police, believe they now have the answer. Their investigation began with the recent discovery of a letter typed by a former inspector of Scotland Yard naming one Dr. Francis J. Tumblety as the prime suspect of the Ripper slayings. The police, unable to hold him on suspicion of the Whitechapel crimes, succeeded in getting him held for trial under a special law. The elusive Tumblety quickly raised bail, slipped through the tight police surveillance and escaped to France. He travelled to New York, followed closely by a team of detectives from Scotland Yard. In The Lodger: The Arrest & Escape of Jack The Ripper Evans and Gainey, present a well-argued case of how Tumblety fits the place, time and circumstances surrounding the slayings. Drawing from contemporary American newspapers, probate and judicial records, Evans and Gainey have reconstructed the life and times of the doctor in North America previous to and following his daring escape from England. Among the highlights of his fascinating career was Tumblety's arrest as a conspirator in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. As well, he was once ousted from a hotel in New York City. There were two persons evicted from the hotel that day, the other being Charles J. Guiteau, who three months later assassinated President James Garfield.
For a New Brunswick audience, the most astonishing aspect of Tumblety's career is that he lived in Saint John and may have claimed his first victim there.
It was a late evening in October, 1995, when I received a telephone call from a friend who had heard that two Suffolk policemen purported to have uncovered the identity of Jack the Ripper - a Dr. Francis J. Tumblety. Six years ago, I published the story of a medical quack by the same name who had briefly visited Saint John before fleeing to the United States to escape manslaughter charges. According to my files, the doctor was subsequently involved in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln. It was also reported in contemporary New York newspapers that Tumblety had been engaged as a surgeon of General McClelland's personal staff during the American Civil War. The last reference to Tumblety placed him in Brooklyn, New York, where he had raised the wrath of the Greenwood Cemetery officials in 1865. 1 had wondered what became of Dr. Francis Tumblety after that. Now, I was able to contact Constable Stewart Evans in Suffolk to compare our findings.
That Dr. Francis Tumblety and Jack the Ripper were the same man seemed too incredible to be true. Obviously there was a twenty -eight-year gap between the time he visited Saint John and when the Ripper performed his gory deeds in Whitechapel. But given the small likelihood of two men sharing such a rare alias warranted further investigation. Ron Keith of Saint John was able to provide the documented proof. It was a letter acquired by his father, the late Gerald Keith, some years ago. On December 1, 1888, William Smith, the Deputy Minister of Marine in Ottawa wrote to his colleague James Barber of Saint John:
"My dear Barber.... Do you recollect Dr. Tumblety who came to St. John about 1860 and who used to ride on a beautiful white horse with a long tail, and a couple of grey hounds following after him? Do you recollect how he used to canter along like a circus man? And do you recollect that it was asserted that he killed old Portmore, the Carpenter who built the extension to my house and fleeced me to a large extent? Do you recollect how he suddenly left St. John, circus horse, hounds and all, and afterwards turned up at different places in the States and Canada? He was considered by Dr. Bayard and others an adventurer and Quack Doctor. He is the man who was arrested in London three weeks ago as the Whitechapel murderer. He had been living in Birmingham and used to come up to London on Saturday nights. The police have always had their eyes on him every place he went and finally the Birmingham Police telegraphed to the London Police that he had left for London, and on his arrival he was nabbed accordingly. He must now be 58 or 60 years of age as he left St. John about 1860. He was a tall handsome man and a beautiful rider. When I was in Eastport in 1860 detained by a storm, I met him there and spent part of the day with him. He was very agreeable and intelligent. I do not think he could be the Whitechapel fiend. He now spells his name Twomblety. I believe his original name was Mike Sullivan."
FRANCIS J. TUMBLETY (also Tumilty or Tumuelty) was born in Ireland about the year 1833. He accompanied his family to North America in the early 1840s, residing with an older brother, Lawrence, who first appears at Rochester, New York in the year 1844. They were joined a few years later by his sister's family, the Fitzsimons. According to The Lodger, Edward Haywood, a former acquaintance once told an interviewer:
"I remember him [Frank Tumilty] very well when he used to run about the canal in Rochester, a dirty, awkward, ignorant, uncared for, good-for-nothing boy. He was utterly devoid of education. He lived with his brother, who was my uncle's gardener. The only training he ever had for the medical profession was a little drug store at the back of the Arcade, which was kept by Doctor Lispenard, who carried on a medical business of a disreputable kind."
In 1851, or shortly thereafter, Tumblety departed Rochester, but re-surfaced about two years later. According to the unpublished chronology, Stewart Evans places him in London, Canada West (now Ontario) in the year 1853. This is supported by the testimonial advertisement which appeared in the Daily Spectator & Journal of Commerce of Hamilton, Canada West, in May 1856, undoubtedly placed by Tumblety himself, but purportedly signed by the editor of the London Atlas, who gives " . . . testimony as to the very great measure of success which has attended your labours here as a medical practitioner during the few months you have resided among us ... and the high reputation which you brought with you from Rochester."
As early as 1856, Tumblety had polished the skills of his trade. He had adopted the title of the Indian Herb Doctor and made extensive use of local newspapers as his marketing tool. After a stop in Hamilton, he set up shop in Toronto in November, 1856. A month later he announced that "after traversing the United States and Canada [he] has concluded to make Toronto his home for the future." The decision to settle down is puzzling: it appears out of character and it conflicted with the nature of his chosen trade. Although evidence subsequently emerged exposing his deep hatred for women and his preference for young men, his death certificate of 1903 states that he was a widower. Could this have been connected to his decision to settle in Toronto?
On April 22, 1857, Tumblety claimed to have discovered a new herb, "the medical properties of which were hitherto unknown to the medical faculty that will cure any case of fever and ague in 24 hours by applying it externally."
Although maintaining his Toronto office, Tumblety made sojourns to Quebec. By June, Tumblety had begun a practice in Montreal. His activities, however, did not escape the eye of the police and he was arrested for attempting to induce an abortion with his medicinal herbs Tumblety successfully raised bailed and returned to Toronto. He was subsequently cleared of the charges by the Grand Jury of Montreal.
On December 7, 1857, Tumblety placed a curious notice in the Montreal Commercial Advertiser in which he declined the invitations made by political figures in Montreal to stand for Parliament in opposition to Thomas Darcy Magee.
In 1859 he departed Toronto.
Captain W.C. Streeter, an old resident of Rochester recalled in 1888:
"He returned to Rochester [about 1860] as a great physician and soon became the wonder of the city. He wore a light fur overcoat that reached to his feet and had a dark collar and cuffs, and he was always followed by a big greyhound. When a boy he had no associates, and when he returned he was more exclusive and solitary than ever. I don't remember ever having seen him in the company with another person in his walks. When I met him on his return, having known him quite well as a boy, I said, 'Hello, Frank, how d'ye do?' and he merely replied, 'Hello, Streeter' and passed on. He had become very aristocratic during his absence. The papers had a great deal to say about him and he created quite a sensation by giving barrels of flour and other provisions to poor people. Afterwards he went to Buffalo and did likewise, and I understand visited other cities."
It is uncertain what drew Tumblety to the port of Saint John on or about the 28th day of June in 1860, just prior to a much-publicized visit by the young Prince of Wales. The port was easily accessible by steamer and the barques and schooners which regularly travelled the Atlantic coastal waters from the ports of Boston, New York and Eastport, Maine.
As he made his way from the docks to the steep incline of King Street, Tumblety would have been an impressive sight. Unlike the dark, furtive figure of the Ripper whose features were hidden by a scarf and black cloak (as depicted in the English tabloids), Tumblety presented a dashing figure. His attire was immaculate, tailored to attract attention. He rode a great white horse followed by his faithful grey hound.
Tumblety's immediate destination was the American House which fronted King Street, just downhill from the corner of King and Germain streets. The American House was considered one of the finer hotels of the town. Although recently established, its proprietor, Samuel B. Estey was well-known hotel operator. A staunch Baptist, Estey insisted on the adoption of temperate habits while lodging at his establishment.
Having engaged two rooms at the hotel, one to be used as an office, Tumblety applied to the common clerk's office for a licence to practice. In completing the document, Tumblety recorded that he was a native of Ireland, 28 years of age and an Indian Herb Doctor.
When the application was delivered to the assistant common clerk, it was decided to cross out Indian Herb Doctor and substitute the word druggist. This document was later used as evidence against Tumblety. Unfortunately, Wumblety's application was destroyed in the Great Fire of June 20, 1877. It otherwise would have provided a rare opportunity to compare Tumblety's signature with that of the man arrested as Jack the Ripper.
Within a few days, Tumblety appeared in the offices of various newspapers, including the Morning News, the New Brunswick Courier and the Morning Freeman, buying advertising space for weeks in advance.
On July 3,1860 the Morning Freeman announced, "The Indian Herb Doctor from Canada has arrived and may be consulted free of charge at his Rooms in the American House, King Street. The Doctor will describe disease and tell his patients the Nature of their Complaints or illness without receiving any information from them."
Readers were attracted by his flamboyant headlines such as, "Given Up By All Doctors," and "Pulmonary Consumption Cured in Last Stage." On July 26, Tumblety's favourite motto appeared in the Morning Freeman.
We use such Balms as have no strife With Nature of the Laws of Life; With blood our hands we never stain Nor Poison men to ease their pain. Our Father - whom all goodness fills Provides the means to cure all ills; The simple Herbs beneath our feet Well used, relieve our pains complete A simple Herb, a simple Flower, Culled from the dewy lea These, they shall speak with touching power Of change and health to thee. - F. Tumblety, M.D.
Tumblety knew his market well. In the weeks following, the Morning Freeman advertised the incredible personal testimonials of local inhabitants. Among them were John F. Toland and Miss A. Levin, both cured of consumption. A block maker at Peter's Wharf had his hearing restored. Peter Hart testified that he was cured of blindness. Alexander Johnston found relief from inflammation of the liver.
While Tumblety attended his duties, the city was making preparations for the arrival of the Prince of Wales. In all directions flag staffs were erected. A large fountain was under construction at Market Square intended to jettison the water to great heights. An assortment of Chinese lanterns illuminated the city. Despite the destractions, Tumblety's activity had not escaped the attention of the Saint John Medical Society.
The small but well-knit medical community was aghast by the outrageous testimonials which appeared in the advertising sheets and were appalled that Tumblety, whom they considered a quack, should be allowed to prey on the fears of the seriously ill.
On Monday July 30,1860, Tumblety, accompanied by his counsel, David Shanks Kerr and A.R. Wetmore, Q.C., appeared before the police magistrate. The Indian Herb Doctor, was charged with falsely represented himself as doctor of medicine. The magistrate gave the following written judgment:
"That the Indian Herb prefixed to the Doctor is nothing but a delusion and fraud, while at the same time the word Doctor and letters M.D., falsely assumed by the Defendant are admirably calculated to deceive the weary and unsuspecting."
While the Indian Herb Doctor continued his practice, his lawyers pursued an appeal through the courts. The matter came before Supreme Court Judge Robert Parker and he ruled that the onus rested with the plaintiffs to prove that Tumblety was not a doctor and the decision was reversed with costs.
Tumblety, ever ready to seize an opportunity, was quick to curry public favour. The amount of the fine (20 pounds 30s 6d) he announced would be distributed to the poor. On September 27th, his advertisement begins:
"The peculiar circumstances under which Dr. Tumblety is situated forces upon him the necessity of placing a few of the many certificates before a candid public, whose appreciation of his abilities has opened to him a vast field of philanthropic usefulness and undeniable benefaction. There is indeed, as much room for reform in Medical Jurisprudence as in the Science of Politics. Facts are stubborn things, read them."
Tumblety, with the help of good lawyers, had escaped his second brush with the law, but his troubles did not end there. On September 17, a letter was submitted to the Morning Freeman by a local physician which read:
"Mr. Editor - Having understood from various parties that a report is in circulation to the effect that a person known as Dr. Tumblety has stated that he cured my son Francis from being lame - which statement I most positively contradict as being without the least shadow of truth, my son never having been under his treatment, nor that of any other person except myself. - T.W. Smith, M.D."
On August 25, 1860, the following testimonial appeared in the Morning Freeman, purportedly written by Thomas W. Robinson:
"Dr. Tumblety - Dear Sir: For upwards of two years, I have been troubled with a bad cough, night sweats, debility, emancipation, etc. I got so bad that I at times raised large quantities of matter mixed with blood. This frightened me for I thought I had a short time to live. Night after night I used to sweat so that when I came under your treatment I was little better than a withered bud. I have had no distress from my cough since I commenced using your medicine; in five weeks I was completely restored. I have gained upwards of ten pounds of flesh and I am still on the gain."
These testimonies attracted the attention of James Portmore, a carpenter by trade.
When only six years of age, James Portmore had emigrated from Ireland to Saint John in 1807 with his parents. In 1847, when the number of Irish immigrants arriving at the port of Saint John had reached its peak, James Portmore had been engaged to build a pest house at the quarantine station on Partridge Island situated in harbour. Yet so many were the deaths that the boards intended for the pest house were used instead to build coffins. James had been ill for ten years but early in September, 1860, was unable to attend to his work as a carpenter.
Suffering from the intense pain and complications brought about by a diseased kidney and bladder, Portmore was induced by the testimonials to visit the Indian Herb Doctor from whom he purchased two small bottles of herb mixture. He would take a teaspoon from each bottle, mix it with water and swallow the contents three times daily. The first time he took the dose he exclaimed to his wife, "Oh, that would burn the heart out of a man!" but continued the treatment for a week. As time progressed, Portmore complained that his stomach was burning. He could no longer eat and his bladder condition worsened.
He again visited Tumblety who proscribed another mixture of herbs. Still, Portmore suffered from an inflamed stomach and two days later retired to his bed having lost his appetite entirely. Alarmed at her husband's deteriorating condition, Mary Portmore sent for Tumblety who arrived at the Sheffield Street residence on the following day. She later testified at the coroner's inquest:
"When I first saw him, I said to him, 'You have killed my husband.' He asked me how he killed him. I said by giving him wrong medicine. He asked deceased how he was. Deceased said 'I am a dead man.' "
Before Tumblety's arrival at the their residence, Portmore had warned his wife to keep the bottle of herbs for other physicians to examine. Nevertheless, she witnessed Tumblety pick up the bottle from the bedroom table, smell it and put it down. He sent her for water to wash his hands. Upon her return, Tumblety departed the residence, saying that he would return at 4 o'clock with balsam to create an appetite. Tumblety never returned. A few minutes after he left, Mrs. Portmore discovered the bottle missing. Portmore bitterly remarked, "Let the villain take them."
The Portmores sent for Dr. William F. Humphrey who had visited Portmore in June and had diagnosed a liver ailment. Dr. Humphrey had visited the household occasionally until the first of September. He did not place Portmore under any treatment, believing that removal of a stone he had detected in the bladder would cure him. He arrived accompanied by Dr. LeBaron Botsford and they found Portmore in bed in a semi-conscious state. He was suffering from severe pains in the stomach, excessive thirst and headaches.
Thereafter Dr. Humphrey visited Portmore daily. The treatment included the application of leeches to the stomach. Portmore was administered cold drinks, small pieces of ice, but could not retain the prescribed purgative pills. It was apparent to the visiting physician that Portmore would not survive. On Tuesday September 25, James Portmore died.
Botsford testified three days later: "I believe the acute inflammation of the stomach to be the immediate cause of the death of the deceased. He would ultimately have died of the disease in his kidneys and bladder, but the symptoms immediately prior to his death were not such as would necessarily be consequent upon his disease. Disease of the kidney and bladder does not terminate in inflammation of the stomach."
On Friday, September 28, Dr. William Bayard, the county coroner convened his jury. Among those examined were Estey, the hotel proprietor, and one James Hamilton. Hamilton had been engaged by Tumblety as a clerk, receptionist and errand boy. The inquest was adjourned to the following morning, but resumed with the noticeable absence of one key participant - Tumblety
It was the testimony of young Hamilton that provided the whereabouts of the Indian Herb Doctor. It was between 10 and 11 o'clock the night of the first sitting of the coroner's jury that young Hamilton last saw Tumblety. Wearing a cloak, cap and grey pantaloons, Tumblety stopped briefly at the opposite end of the suspension bridge which spanned the Reversing Falls to give last minute instructions to the clerk. Tumblety said that he was on his way to Calais, Maine, but instructed Hamilton not to tell any person which way he went. Thus the Indian Herb Doctor who paraded so elegantly into Saint John was last seen galloping away into the shadows of the night towards the American border, followed only by his faithful hound.
On the September 28, 1860, the coroner's jury returned the verdict: "That Francis Tumblety on the 25th day of September did feloniously kill and slay one James Portmore." There was no effort by the Saint John police to pursue the matter.
But the citizens of Saint John had not heard the last from their summer visitor. On October 2, 1860, the Morning Freeman published the following letter.
"I have received notice of the result of the Coroner's Inquest. I shall return when my business here is finished, earlier if the Authorities desire. I am innocent and anyone charging me with the offence is a liar and a scoundrel. -F. Tumblety, M.D., Calais, 1st. Oct."
The inhabitants of Saint John, however, were never to see the Indian Doctor again - for Francis J. Tumblety had found greener pastures to peddle his wares in the land of the free.
Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:50 pm
by F. A. Dincorn
Robbie MacBride was in his last year at Mount Allison University. He didn't have any real friends as most students considered him a 'nerd'. Each week he would receive a long newsy letter from his mother, Rose. Robbie, and Rose, and his cousin Elizabeth were all that was left of the family. His mother had been in a wheelchair for five years now, the result of Muscular Dystrophy, but she remained cheerful, and her letters were full of news of Elizabeth. Apparently she had met a man in the library, and she was crazy about him. Rob looked forward to the holidays when he could go home for a visit. Elizabeth didn't consider him a 'nerd', to her he was always prince charming, and he loved her for it.
He read the letter again, and then went back to his studies. He was studying Business Management. Rob intended to go into business for himself one day. It would have something to do with music, but he hadn't decided on exactly which branch it would be.
Rob's brown hair was shoulder length, and he had grey eyes. He wasn't what you would call good looking, but he was attractive. He could play a guitar, and sing reasonably well, but he wasn't going to be a musician. He enjoyed business too much for that, and that is what he would do.
Back home in Saint John things were changing, and Robbie didn't realize that they would never be the same again. The mysterious new man in Elizabeth's life would change all their lives for ever.
Rose MacBride smiled at her niece as she came through the door. "Elizabeth, your glowing," she said. Elizabeth's blue eyes sparkled, and she ran a hand through her thick dark hair.
"Now, Aunt Rose," she said, "you know I'm always smiling, and happy."
Rose was in her wheel chair. She had short brown hair, and grey eyes like Robbie. The chair didn't make her a bitter person, as she was always cheerful, and full of jokes. She teased Elizabeth about the new man in her life, one that Rose hadn't met as yet.
"When are you going to introduce me to this mysterious guy," Rose chided. "Is there something wrong with him?" "No, Aunt Rose, he's perfect," Elizabeth said. "Just perfect."
Elizabeth met Victor Drake in the library over a week ago. She had never seen him in the daytime, as he was out of town during the day on buying trips. Ever since they met they were attracted to one another, and Elizabeth was falling in love with him. She knew he, and his butler, Hugo, lived in the old Corbet mansion, and he was never married. victor bought the run down house two weeks before, and was planning to renovate it in the future. Elizabeth hadn't been there yet, but he was going to take her to the mansion soon.
"Why don't you bring him over for dinner soon, so I can meet him?" Rose asked her. "I like to know who you are seeing. Are you sure you know enough about him?"
"I know all I need to know, Aunt Rose." "He's single, and I'm crazy about him."
"That I can see, but where does he come from?" Rose enquired.
"He said he lived in England for awhile, and before that Germany." "His job takes him all over the country, but he's decided to settle here."
"I see. Would you have anything to do with that? Rose asked.
"No, he decided that before I met him. That's why he bought the Corbet mansion.
"Have your supper now, and we'll talk later," said Rose. "Are you going out tonight?"
"I'm meeting Victor at seven," Liz answered. "You don't mind being alone, do you?"
"No, you have a good time, but invite him to dinner soon."
Elizabeth hurried down the street after supper. She couldn't wait to meet Victor. She had a feeling that he would be waiting for her outside the library, and when she got there he was. Victor stepped out of the shadows, and opened his arms, and Elizabeth went into them. He held her that way for a few minutes, not speaking, just enjoying her warmth. "I knew you'd come," he finally said.
"What shall we do tonight," she said. "Do you want to do anything special?"
"I thought maybe you would like to see my house." Victor looked down at her, and waited.
"I would love to see your house. Do you have a car with you, or should I get mine?"
"I have my car over there." He pointed across the street to a black Ford Thunderbird.
Victor took her arm and they walked across to the Thunderbird. He opened the door and got her comfortable. Then he got behind the wheel, and started the car.
"It's only ten miles to the house," he said. "It won't take long, and I told Hugo to put a fire in the fireplace to take the chill off."
"These fall nights get chilly," Elizabeth smiled at him to let him know that she appreciated the gesture.
When they arrived at the Corbet mansion Hugo was at the door. He must have heard the car pull up. He came out and opened the door for Elizabeth as Victor introduced them. "This is Hugo, Victor said, a very important person around here. He looks after me, the house, and the car."
"Hello Hugo, Elizabeth said, I'm glad Victor has someone so handy to look after him."
Hugo just nodded, and he walked back to the house with them. "The fire has been started Sir", he told him as they entered into the spacious entrance.
The house was very run down, and damp as it hadn't been lived in for many years. It still showed some of the splendor it once had. The ceilings were twelve feet high, and great dirty chandeliers hung in the hall, and the setting room where Victor asked her to sit down by the fire. Elizabeth sat on the old-fashioned settee, and held her hands toward the fire.
"Hugo is making a late lunch for us tonight," Victor said, "I know you ate supper at home earlier." "In the meanwhile we could have a glass of wine - you do drink wine don't you?"
"Yes, wine would be lovely," Elizabeth answered. "I don't think I could eat anything though."
They sat and sipped their wine, and chatted about the house, but Elizabeth knew that there was something on Victor's mind. She suspected that it had something to do with her, and she was right.
"Elizabeth, he said, I think I'm falling in love with you." "I'd like to know how you feel about me, is it too soon?"
"No, it's too late, I'm already in love with you." "I was hoping you felt the same way."
Victor took her in his arms, and kissed her lips, and eyes, and neck. He lingered at the curve of her neck and felt the warm pulse. He had to tell her now. He had to trust her.
"There's something I have to tell you," he said, but Hugo came in just then, and asked to see Victor in the kitchen. "I'll just be a minute," he said as he got up to go with Hugo.
In the kitchen Hugo asked Victor if it was wise to tell Elizabeth anything yet. He had only known her a week, and maybe he should wait until he was sure. Victor decided he could wait another week or so, and he went back into the room. She sat there looking into the fire. She was so beautiful to him in the firelight that he almost regretted his decision to wait, but his life was on the line and he decided it was best to wait a little longer.
"So, Elizabeth said, what is it you were going to tell me?" "You seemed pretty mysterious."
"It was nothing, it was just that I will be away for awhile, and won't be able to see you for a few days."
"Oh", said Elizabeth, "I will miss you terribly." "It must be very important."
"I have to tie up some loose ends in the business, as I won't be doing as much as I used to." Then I can devote more time to you."
"In that case, I forgive you," she smiled. "Please don't take too long." "By the way you have to come to dinner before you go. Aunt Rose will hound me if I don't bring you home so that she can meet you."
"In that case, I accept, but it will have to be tomorrow night after seven, okay?"
It was after midnight when Victor and Elizabeth kissed good night. She went into the house feeling happy, but there was something in the back of her mind. She didn't think the trip was what Victor wanted to tell her about, it was something else. He would tell her in time. She went into the bedroom and found Rose sleeping peacefully in her bed. She would tell her the good news in the morning.
Rose was very excited about Victor coming to dinner. She cooked all day, and cleaned the house with the help of Elizabeth. Rose was very capable around the house in spite of her wheelchair. The only thing she needed help with was reaching the higher shelves. They had a girl who came in once a week to help with the heavy work. Linda was just sixteen, but she was a big girl, healthy and strong. Linda came in on Fridays, and that was two days away so Rose and Elizabeth did the work themselves.
At promptly seven o'clock, Victor knocked on the door. Elizabeth ran to open it, and greeted Victor with a smile. "I'm so glad your here, aunt Rose has been looking forward to meeting you all day." She ushered him in like royalty. "Aunt Rose meet Victor Drake." "Victor, this is my only Aunt Rose." "You now have met two-thirds of my family." Victor took Rose's offered hand, and smiled at her. "I see the family resemblance, but how is it you have the same last name?"
"My Father and Rose are brother and sister," Elizabeth replied. "Aunt Rose never married, although she's Robbie's mother, her fiancé died in the war, and never even knew that Robbie was born."
"What a pity," Victor said, it must be hard to bring up a boy all by yourself? How long have you been in a wheelchair, if I may ask?" I don't mind at all, and yes it was hard, but Elizebeth was always there to help me, and I had her father when he was alive." Rose looked sad for a minute, then she said, "let's go in now and eat."
"I hear you are a buyer, what is it you buy," Rose asked Victor half way through the meal.
"I buy antiques for a large chain, they collect antiques from all over the world, and sell them in their stores in New York, and other large centers, but that is about to stop. This is my last trip away. I'm retiring. That is why I bought the Corbet house." "You must come and see it when I get back from London." "It's a cold, dismal place right now, but maybe you and Elizabeth can give me some pointers."
"Are you old enough to retire?" Aunt Rose laughed, "you must be older than you look."
"Well, I'm thirty-six, but I never had to work, it was just a way to make use of my time." "I've decided there are better ways to spend time." He looked at Elizabeth, and she blushed. Rose noticed it, and knew Elizabeth would do anything for this man. He was tall, dark, and handsome, as they say, and wealthy too. Rose herself was taken with him, and even though there was an age difference of fourteen years, it didn't seem to matter. Rose would give her, and Victor her blessings when the time came.
The rest of the evening flew by, and Victor had to leave. He was going to London early in the morning he said, so he went home at eleven, giving Rose a hug, and a long good-night kiss to Elizabeth. He told her he would be back in a week, and that he would hurry.
When Victor got home he spent the rest of the night in front of the fire. Hugo offered him something to drink, but he declined. He felt very alone. He would have a week to plan how he would tell Elizabeth his secret, but how would she react? Would he lose her for ever? How could a young beautiful woman live a life of solitude? Maybe her love for him was strong enough, but it was a chance he knew he had to take.
In the morning just before daybreak, Victor got up off his chair, and went to his room in the basement. A hateful place where he was condemned to spend his days. Hugo would usually take the car away each morning, and bring it back each night, but this morning he would take the car and leave it in a private garage for the week. If anyone came by, it would look like Victor had been away. Everything had to be planned ahead. It was the only safe thing to do. Victor went down the stairs, and opened his coffin. At least he didn't have to think when he was sleeping. "Good-night, Elizabeth, he thought, I hope it isn't good-bye."
Hugo went out and climbed in the car, and started it up. He would take it two miles up the road, and store it in a garage that he had rented months before. He had been with Victor Drake for many years, and he felt sorry for the cold, lonely existence he had, but not sorry enough to let a woman come between them. Hugo had control of Victor's assets, and did everything for him. A woman would only complicate things. After all he had done too much planning to let a woman spoil it now.
Robbie was very disappointed, he couldn't go home for Thanksgiving as he was failing an important exam, and he had to spend the time studying. He received another long letter from his mother telling him that Victor Drake came to dinner, and she was as taken with him as Elizabeth was. Rose would be disappointed also, but his studies came first. Robbie began a letter to his mother explaining his absence, and assuring her he would be home for Christmas.
Elizabeth tried to fill the long week the best she could. She went shopping for a new dress, but ended up with a beautiful white nightgown. She blushed when she realized it was more for Victor than herself. Then she wondered if he would ever see it.
Victor sat by the fire every night of the week he was supposed to be away. He was putting the story together in his mind. The more he thought about it, the more depressed he became. Finally he went to find Hugo. "I'm going to tell Elizabeth the truth on Monday night," he was saying to Hugo. The look on Hugo's face made him stop talking. "What is it?" he asked.
"Sir, your making a terrible mistake, no woman would understand about you, and no woman would live like you, knowingly."
"Your wrong, Hugo, Elizabeth is different, she loves me, and that will help her to understand it wasn't my fault that I'm the way I am."
"Well, it was my duty to warn you, and of course I will serve her as I serve you."
"Thank you Hugo, I'll say good-night.", Victor went back to the fire, and sat down. He felt better now that he made up his mind. Then he pictured Elizabeth beside him in the cold dark cellar, and he panicked. My God, how can I do this to her? But he knew in his heart he would.
When Monday night came Victor sent his car for Elizabeth, but she told Hugo she would drive her own out to the house. It would be more convenient for him, as he wouldn't have to be on call all evening. Hugo figured she would probably need her car after the story she was going to hear, and he laughed out loud at the thought of it. People were really stupid he thought to himself. One born every minute. He drove back to the mansion alone. Maybe Victor would give him the night off so he could be alone with his soon to be x-girlfriend.
Elizabeth arrived at seven-thirty, and hurried up to the door where Victor was waiting. He was so handsome she thought, and she had missed him a lot during the time he was away. "I'm so glad your back, she said as she reached him, next time take me with you."
Victor ushered her in, and told Hugo he could have the night off. He wanted to be alone when he told Elizabeth his story. "Can I get you anything?" he asked her when she was comfortably sitting in the setting room. "No, darling, just you." "Please come and sit down with me, and tell me about your trip."
Victor sat on a chair across from Elizabeth. He didn't want to be too close when he told her his story. "Elizabeth, he began, I have something to tell you, and I want you to listen." "There is something I've been keeping from you that could make a difference in how you feel about me."
"Victor, there is nothing that could change my feelings for you, I love you."
"Maybe you should hear my story first, then decide."
"All right," Elizabeth said as she settled back on the cushion, and relaxed. "Go ahead, tell me your story."
It all happened fourteen years ago when I first met Hugo. My father and I lived in London, England then. My mother had been dead for ten years, and father and I traveled around together a lot. One night father and I decided to see some of the colorful sights of London itself. We walked along the streets, and even entered one of the most famous bars, called the Vampire's Nest. All the people there dressed in costumes, and drank colorful drinks, such as 'Bloody Marys's', pretending it to be blood. We had one drink each, and then left. When we reached the corner of the street we realized that someone was following us. Father turned around too late, he was hit by a large man in a black cape, and flung against a wall. There were two men, and the other one did the same to me. He then bent over me and bit my neck. I passed out from hitting the wall, and never came to until four days later.
When I woke up I was in a shack, the windows were boarded up, and a man was sitting by my bed. It was Hugo. He asked me how I was feeling, and I told him I was ill. My head ached, and I was very thirsty. He told me that was understandable, as I had been dead for three day. I thought he meant dead to the world, but he meant literally dead. He told me his name was Hugo Gruber, and be found me and my father in the alley near the Vampires Nest. My father was dead, and buried, but he saved me because he knew I would be all right in three, or four days.
I was in shock at the news of my father's death, and I asked him for a drink. He gave me a glass of red liquid, and told me from now on I would have to drink this if I was to stay alive. I didn't understand what he meant, so he told me. The men who attacked me were real vampires, not the pretend ones. The one who attacked me made me drink his blood, and I was now one of them.
I actually laughed at him, but he was serious. He pointed at the windows, they are boarded up to keep the daylight off of you. You must never see the sun again, or you will die. I drank the drink he gave me, and I felt much stronger. I began to wonder if he was right. He then told me that he would help me, and get me to a safe place out of the country.
My father had holdings in Canada, and Hugo thought that was a perfect place to hide. It was necessary to be away from people who knew me, as they would become suspicious when I was no longer available in the daylight hours. So I let him take charge of my life. I no longer cared if I lived or died. Hugo made all the arrangements for me, and himself, using my father's passport, to come here to New Brunswick. The story about being a buyer is just a cover story Hugo made up. He told me I would never have to prowl for victims, as he would see to my nourishment, and my safety.
When Victor was finished, Elizabeth sat for a minute, and then she laughed out loud, "My darling Victor, that is the worst story I have ever heard, and I don't believe a word of it. If you wanted to get rid of me, just say so."
Victor got up off his chair, and took her hand, "come with me," he said. "Come see what's in the cellar, and maybe then you'll believe."
Elizabeth, still smiling, went along with Victor to the cellar. They went down the darkened stairs together. There in the corner was a long black coffin. Victor pointed at it, "that's where I sleep each morning."
She went over to the coffin and lifted the lid, there inside was earth laid along its beautiful white satin lining. "Oh my God, Victor, is it really true?
Victor went to Elizabeth, and took her by the arm, "Let's go back upstairs where its warmer." "Are you afraid of me now?"
"No, your still Victor, the man I love. Lets just go up and talk about this."
Elizabeth and Victor talked for hours. He sat close to her on the settee, and she laid her head on his shoulder. I don't see how I can live without you, she told him. So I guess we'll have to work around it some how. Oh my darling, Elizabeth, I love you so much. I want to marry you. Do you think you could live with my terrible secret?
"Yes, Victor, I will marry you, but I must become like you. What do I have to do?"
"Oh my God, never." Victor looked at her shocked. "It doesn't have to be that way for you."
"Not right away, but after we are married, I want to be as you are." Elizabeth put her arms around his neck. III think after fourteen years, that you have waited long enough, can we go upstairs?"
Victor stood up and pulled her to him, "are you sure your ready?" he asked, and when she nodded he picked her up in his arms, and carried her up the wide staircase, and into the master bedroom, where he had never slept.
The room was spacious, and it was kept clean. Victor had Hugo get it ready just in case Elizabeth stayed over. He stood in the door way with Elizabeth in his arms. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure, but will you get my overnight bag out of the car? I want this to be perfect."
Victor hated to leave her even for a minute, but he went. He got the bag out of her car, a little red Golf. He couldn't believe his good fortune - she actually loved him enough to sleep with him. He carried the bag up the stairs and found her there sitting on the bed. "It's a lovely room isn't it?" she said.
Victor gave her the bag, and bent over and kissed her, "please hurry, I can't wait much longer now that I know your mine."
Elizabeth put on her new nightgown that she bought in anticipation of this night. She had a lot to think about, but not tonight, tonight would be for Victor, and herself. She went back into the bedroom, and Victor walked up to her, "Your so beautiful," he said, as he led her to the bed. "I love you with all my heart."
The night was magic. They made love over, and over again, until they fell asleep.
Elizabeth screaming, "Victor, Victor, wake up, the sun, the sun", awakened Victor.
Victor sat bolt upright in the bed, the sun's warm rays lay on his left arm and shoulder, it was coming through the East window. He looked down at his arm in wonder. It didn't burn him. It felt wonderful. He got up out of bed, and went to the window. He stood there letting the warm sunshine lay on his body like a comforter. Then he began to cry. Elizabeth, seeing his shoulders shake, ran to him, and put her arms around him. "What does this mean?" she asked him.
When Victor could speak he said, "I think this means I have been had." "I'm going to kill Hugo."
"Are you sure this means your not a Vampire?" "Why would Hugo do such a thing." She looked up at him hopefully waiting for his answer.
Victor led her back to the bed, he had to sit down as his legs felt weak. "I didn't tell you everything," he said, "Hugo was wanted by the police when I met him." "That's why he was hiding in that shack, he was wanted for murder, and he said it wasn't his fault, but the police wanted him anyway." "I didn't care after what he had told me about myself, and I needed him, so I just forgot about it." "He used my father's passport to get himself out of the country, and I was just the patsy he needed to help him. I think that was his motive, what else could it be?"
"It is so wonderful that your not a Vampire, but that was despicable of Hugo. He should be punished, but not by you, let the authorities take him. I want you safe with me not in jail for murder."
"I guess your right," Victor said, "It is wonderful, after fourteen years just to see the sun." He went back to the window. "Can you get me a cellular phone?" he asked, "so I can call Scotland Yard in London, they are the ones who were looking for him." "I'll send him to London on some pretext, and have them waiting at the airport." "Whatever they do won't be enough, but it will have to do."
"I want you to leave now, Elizabeth, before Hugo gets back." "Come back this evening, and don't let him see the phone." "I'll talk to him about going to London, he won't like it, but I'll be firm about it. Then I'll call ahead and tell them when his plane gets in. That should do it."
"I hate leaving you like this," she said to him, "Are you sure you will be okay here with him?
"Don't worry, I'm going down into the cellar, and await his return just as if nothing has changed, but first I think I'll check and see what it is he has been giving me to drink all these years." "You had better leave now before he gets back." Victor hugged, and kissed her good-bye. He waited for her car to pull away, and then he went into the kitchen to find out what it was he had been drinking. It didn't take long as the cupboards were filled with tomato juice, and the fridge was full of bottles already made up with whatever he had been putting in it. Victor took out two bottles, and poured them down the drain rinsed the sink, and headed for the cellar.
When Elizabeth got home she was very excited, she went to her aunt and asked to borrow her cellular phone. Rose knew that something had changed, and asked her what was going on. Elizabeth told her she would tell her everything later.
"Victor asked me to marry him, and I said yes." "He told me quite a story about his past, but he found out that it wasn't true, and he's going to fix it." "I'll fill you in tomorrow." Elizabeth was walking around, checking the phone, and placing it in her club bag.
Rose looked at her, "are you going to tell me why you didn't come home last night? Or should I ask?"
Elizabeth blushed, "You shouldn't ask, but I'll tell you anyway we talked half the night then I spent the rest of it in the guest room." "With Victor." "After all we are going to be married."
"What do you need the phone for? Doesn't Victor have aphone?
"No, he doesn't," Elizabeth replied. "He has to make a call to London, but he will pay you for it."
"I wasn't worried about the cost," Rose said. "I was just curious about why he needed it."
"Like I said, I'll tell you everything tomorrow, please don't worry." Elizabeth kissed her aunt. "I'm going back to the mansion at seven, and I may not be home until tomorrow, but don't worry I'm in safe hands with Victor."
Elizabeth helped her aunt get lunch ready, and they made small talk. She asked Rose how Robbie was getting along.
"I received a letter from Robbie, and he isn't coming home for thanksgiving, but he will be home for Christmas." "You can't get married before he gets home."
"I wouldn't think of it," Elizabeth said, "after all he's the one that has to give me away." "I'd wait for whatever time it took."
"I'm going to write him right away, and tell him the news right after you tell me the rest of it."
"That will have to wait until tomorrow, Aunt Rose, but I will tell you everyhing."
At one o'clock Hugo arrived at the Corbet mansion. He walked in and noticed that nothing was out of place. She must have gone home. Probably scared to death if Victor told her the story. He went into the kitchen and checked the refrigerator. Two bottles of his special blend were gone. That meant that Victor was in the cellar. Hugo then went up stairs to check the bedroom. He found the bed had been slept in, probably Elizabeth stayed the night. Alone he hoped. It was puzzling that she would still stay after Victor told her his story. Maybe she didn't believe him. He then went into the cellar. Better make sure he thought. He lifted the coffin lid, and Victor was right there where he should be. Hugo signed with relief. He then went about the business of cleaning the house up, and preparing more of his famous blood.
At nightfall Victor opened the cellar door, and asked Hugo for a drink. He said, "Hugo I have a favor to ask of you, when you bring in my tonic, I'd like to talk to you."
"Anything you ask, Mr. Drake," Hugo smiled at Victor. He went into the kitchen to get the blood, and then returned and handed it to Victor. "Please sit down," Victor said, "I want you to take a trip for me." "Elizabeth has consented to be my wife, and I want you to get my mother's wedding dress from our house in London." "Do you think you can do that without anyone finding out?"
Hugo was shocked, he couldn't believe she was actually going to marry Victor. He looked at Victor with his mouth open for a minute. Then he said the only thing he could. "Congratulations, Victor. Of course I would be glad to go back to London for you." "When do you want me to leave?"
"There's a plane leaving for London tomorrow night, I hope you can make it, as I am anxious to get the dress." "I want you to go into town, and make sure there's a plane leaving, make a reservation, and come back and let me know. I'll tell you how to get into the house, and what I will need." "Very well, I'll leave first thing in the morning, and come back and pack." Hugo resigned himself to going, and then he started to look forward to it. He might have some time to spend with his friends at the Vampire's Nest. He used to hang out there with his friends when he was hiding from the law. The police never came near the place as long as nobody complained. And usually no one did.
Victor thought everything was going smoothly, and anxiously awaited Elizabeth's return. He couldn't wait for her to arrive, and he hoped she could spend the night again. He didn't think he would ever be this happy again, but he was very careful not to show it to Hugo. He made plans in his head. He would call Scotland Yard, and alert them to his arrival time. They would pick him up, and hopefully he would get what he deserved. It was all Victor could do to keep from choking him to death, but he didn't let Hugo see his anger. He wouldn't call London until Hugo's reservation was confirmed.
Elizabeth arrived at seven-thirty with her over night bag. She threw her arms around Victor, and whispered in his ear," I got the phone."
Victor held her tight, and said "thank-you, I knew you could get one." "Come in and sit down." When they were settled he told her Hugo was going to London on the following evening, and he was going to get his reservation in the morning. "I hope he can get a seat on such short notice," he said, "I want everything over and done with as soon as possible."
Hugo came into the room and congratulated Elizabeth on her upcoming marriage. He asked if he could get her anything, and would she like a fire in the master bedroom, if she was staying overnight.
"Yes, that would be wonderful. I was a little chilly last night there by myself," she said. A glass of wine would be nice we could have a toast.', "You can have the rest of the night off," Victor said to Hugo, "after you light the fire, and get the wine, we will be fine." "Just make sure you get to the travel agency in the morning I can't wait to show Elizabeth my surprise."
After Hugo left for the night, Elizabeth said to Victor, "I've never been to London, it must be nice there, do you suppose we could go after we are married?"
"Oh course we can," Victor answered, "we can go anywhere you want to go." "Thanks to you I now can go out into the beautiful sunlight." "Only one more day in that dreaded coffin, and I'm free." "We could live in my London house if you want to, it's a beautiful place."
"I'd like to see it anyway. It must be really nice." "Do you think you can trust Hugo to go to London with the police looking for him?"
"He has my father's passport, and can travel around freely." I think the only reason he stays with me is the money." "I will have to make sure he can't touch any more of it. I'll call my lawyer tonight."
Victor and Elizabeth went upstairs. They spent most of the night together, but Victor made sure he was in the cellar when Hugo returned. He didn't want anything to go wrong now, and if Hugo found out what was happening he may try to kill them both.
Elizabeth came down stairs in the morning fully dressed and ready to go home. She encountered Hugo coming out of the kitchen. "Did you sleep well," he asked her.
"Yes, the fire made it cozy, and warm, but I must get back to my aunt now. Have a nice trip to London."
"Miss. MacBride, if I may say so, you are taking a great risk in marrying Victor. After what he told you, do you think its wise?"
"I love Victor, Hugo, and he's worth any risk I have to take." "So, please don't worry, it will all work out."
Elizabeth went out, and got into her car. She had given the phone to Victor, and he took it to the basement with him. By tomorrow everything would be over. She hoped.
When Hugo got off the plane in London, he knew right away that there was something wrong. He could see men standing around looking unnatural to him. He was used to seeing men from Scotland Yard, and he was sure they were some of the Yard's idiots. He went into the men's washroom and stayed there for awhile. Then he slipped out and edged along a wall, watching carefully to see if anyone was looking in his direction. There was a woman heading for the door, and he fell into step beside her, and acted like he was with her. No one noticed him at all. He just walked out and up the street. Then he ran. He figured that Victor had set him up, and probably by now Victor knew he wasn't a vampire. He headed for the Vampire's Nest.
Hugo sat in the back of the Vampire's Nest drinking heavily. He had been there several hours thinking of what he could do. He didn't have a safe place to hide, and he only knew a few people that hung out in the Nest. His luck was with him when a man walked up to him and said, "Well, if it isn't Hugo, my friend, where have you been hiding all this time?"
Hugo looked up to see who was taking to him, and it was Carl, his friend for many years. He only knew Carl from the bar, but they hung out together there. Carl was usually a private person, and never met anyone outside the Vampire's Nest. He wasdressed in costume, a black cape, and his sharp teeth. It was quite ridiculous the way some of these guys dressed. Who did they think they were kidding anyway?
Hugo said to Carl, "Just the man I wanted to see." "I'm looking for a safe place to hide, can you help me?"
Carl sat down across from Hugo, "where have you been for the last fourteen years?
"I've been in Canada, with a friend, but I can't go back again, as the friend got my number, if you know what I mean?"
"Well, I guess you could stay with me for a short time, until you can find your own way." "Come along, I'll show you where I live."
Hugo staggered along after Carl, and up the street, and into an alley. There was a basement apartment door at the foot of some steps. "This is where I live with my friends," said Carl. "Come in and join us."
When Hugo stepped through the door he was attacked by four people. They jumped on him and bit into his neck, fighting over him. He knew his mistake, and with disbelief written on his face, he died.
Robbie got a long letter from Rose. She told him about Elizabeth getting married at Christmas, and how she wanted him to be there to give her away. He thought how ordinary everything was at home. His life was so full of books, and classes, and teachers. He felt sorry for the humdrum existence Elizabeth would lead in the old run down house. Rose said she would tell him everything that happened after he got home, and that he wouldn't believe it. Robbie knew there was nothing that could surprise him. But he was looking forward to going home anyway.
Rose, and Elizabeth, and Victor sat around Victor's fireplace, talking about the events that happened. Rose was really shocked to think that Victor could live like that for fourteen years. They worried about Hugo. The police called and said they lost him. Victor didn't think he would come back to Canada, as it would probably occur to Hugo that Victor set him up.
Elizabeth asked Rose to take charge of redecorating the house while she, and Victor were on their honeymoon. They were going to hire full time help to stay with Rose, and do the running for her. Rose was happy for them.
The phone that Victor had installed since Hugo left rang. When Victor picked it up, it was Scotland Yard. They told him Hugo had been found, he was quite dead, drained of blood, and someone had claimed the body. Victor sighed with relief. What a fitting ending for Hugo. He couldn't have thought of a better one himself.
A week later Victor was walking around the grounds looking over his property, and enjoying the crisp evening air. He beard a rustling noise in the near by bushes.
"Who's there?" he called. There was no answer, and Victor started to walk toward them. Suddenly, from behind, a voice said, "That wasn't very nice of you Victor, setting me up like that."
Victor wheeled around, and there was Hugo, alive. "I thought you were dead?" Victor said, in utter surprise.
"You can't get rid of me that easily," Hugo snarled at him. "Now your going to pay."
Hugo jumped on Victor, and they wrestled to the ground. Hugo seemed more powerful than he ever was. He had the strength of two men. Suddenly Hugo bared fangs that were white, and sharp as razors. He tore into Victor's neck, and Victor was too overcome to stop him.
Hugo dragged Victor's limp, lifeless body to the side entrance, and into the cellar. The black coffin hadn't been removed as yet, so he dumped Victor in, and closed the lid. "When I say your a vampire, your a vampire," he said, and he laughed quietly. "Now maybe your lady friend will join you."
Hugo stole quietly upstairs, remembering his own demise, and miraculous recovery. Of course now he would live a life like Victor had for all those years, but he would be in good company. Victor and Elizabeth would have to do their own killing, but they wouldn't care once the thirst came over them. Hugo went to search out Elizabeth.
Rose was in the dining room admiring the work that had been started. The room had been cleaned thoroughly, and the chandeliers were sparkling like diamonds. She didn't hear the man enter the room behind her.
Hugo was on her in seconds, and after she was depleted of blood he dragged her into the basement, and left her on the floor beside Victor's coffin. It was getting late so he locked the cellar door, and remained inside with his two victims. Time enough tomorrow night to meet Elizabeth.
Elizabeth retired early as she had a long day preparing for her wedding, and overseeing Aunt Rose's plans for the house. She knew Victor would be up later, and he would wake her up when he did. So she slept soundly, and in the morning when she arose, she found herself alone.
She called out to Victor, but there was no answer. She then got dressed and went downstairs. There was nobody around. The car was gone also. So Elizabeth thought maybe Victor had gone to town. She moved about the house looking for Rose, but only discovered her wheel chair in the dining room. "That's strange," she thought, Rose must have gone with Victor.
Elizabeth waited all day for Victor, and was getting very worried. She phoned Rose's house, and received no answer. "I'm going to shoot him," she said out loud.
At nightfall Elizabeth was upstairs looking out the window anxiously awaiting Victor's car. A voice from behind her said, "Hello Elizabeth, waiting for your lover?"
She turned around, and looked into the red eyes of Hugo. They were filled with hatred.
"Hugo, it can't be you, what have you done? Where is Victor?"
"Victor is sleeping with Rose in the basement, and soon you'll join them." Hugo moved closer as he spoke.
Elizabeth looked for a way out, but Hugo blocked the door. She threw a lamp at him, and he just brushed it off, laughing. "Fiesty aren't we? he said, and laughed at her. When Elizabeth tried to run past him, he grabbed her and threw her across the room. "All this is your fault," he said. "All of it," Victor was in my control until you came along, now he's in my control again. We'll be a big happy family." He reached out for her. Elizabeth was dazed, and didn't struggle when he finally bit into her neck.
Robbie knocked on Rose's door, and when no one came he looked for the spare key. He found it in a flower pot, and opened the door. The house smelled of disuse, and neglect. He went through the rooms, and found dust on everything. Where was she he thought. Then it hit him, she was out atthe Corbet mansion, staying there with Elizabeth andVictor.
It was late when his train got in, so he decided to have a snack and go to bed. He would surprise them in the morning. Robbie hadn't heard from his mother in three weeks, and that was unusual, because Rose wrote every week faithfully.
He opened the refrigerator, and the smell of rotting food filled the air. He stepped back, and closed the door again. This wasn't like his mother at all.
Robbie didn't get up until ten the next morning. He had a shower and dressed in clean clothes before he left for the nearest restaurant. At one o'clock he pulled in the driveway of the mansion.
It was big, and old, and badly in need of paint. it also looked as if no one was living there. Where was everyone? He got out of the car that Rose had used. It had special equipment built in so that Rose could drive it. That was another thing - Rose would never go anywhere without her car.
Robbie walked up to the door and knocked. No answer. He knocked again, and called out, "anyone home?" Still no answer. The door was locked. He went around to the side and found another door, but it was locked also. He bent down and peered into the cellar window. It looked like someone was down there. He tapped on the window, but nobody answered.
Robbie just stood there deciding what to do. This was strange. He went to the garage. Elizabeth's Golf was there, and also a large black Thunderbird. He was really concerned now, and decided to break in.
He walked to the side door and threw a shoulder against it. It took four hard blows before it let go. When it did Robbie almost went headlong down the steps. The door led to the basement. He went down into the damp room below. When his eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he noticed that there were four coffins in a row against the wall. He crept over to one, and lifted the lid. A man was in it, sleeping. He wasn't dead, but there was blood on his face, and his eye-teeth protruded from his mouth. He closed the lid, and opened the next one. It was his mother. She had blood on her face and clothing, and she too was sleeping. He put a hand on her face, and she opened her eyes and hissed at him. He jumped back, and she went back to sleep. Robbie opened the other two coffins and found Elizabeth and Victor. He was horrified. "What the hell happened?" he said out loud. "They're all vampires."
He ran up the cellar steps and closed the door. "What am I going to do, they're VAMPIRES," he repeated to himself.
Robbie drove home, as he had to think. Then he decided to talk to the neighbours.
Mrs. Billings answered the door. She was surprised to see Robbie, and invited him in right away. "Your back from Mt. Allison," she said. "How are you?"
"I'm fine, Mrs. Billings, but I'd like to ask you a few questions."
"Oh, is something wrong? she asked.
"I don't know for sure, but have you noticed anything strange going on since I left?"
"Well now that you mention it, there have been a lot of killings lately. More than usual for a city this size."
"Who was killed?" Robbie asked her..
"There were four people in one family murdered on the same night. The police said that they had bled a lot, but not much blood was found." "Doesn't that sound strange?"
"Yes it does," said Robbie. "I hope you keep your doors locked at night, and don't answer if anybody knocks."
"My, what's the world coming to?" she puckered up her fat face in concern. Mrs. Billings was seventy-five and a widow. She was short and chubby, with redish brown hair, mixed with grey. She would be defenseless against monsters like those at the mansion.
Robbie thanked her for the information, and was about to go when she said. "How is your mother these day?" I haven't seen her for three weeks?"
"Mom is away for awhile," Robbie answered. "Visiting friends."
"Oh, isn't that nice, she said, tell her hello for me when you see her."
"I will Mrs. Billings, and don't forget to lock up."
Robbie left the Billings house and went straight home. He went down the driveway to the garage, and opened the door. He found what he was looking for. A five gallon can of gas sat in the corner under the work bench. He picked it up it was full.
Robbie looked at his watch, and it read four-thirty. He had to hurry, as it grew dark early in the winter.
Robbie knew all about vampires, he heard the other students talking about a girl getting bit by one, and how she became one herself. They said a stake through the heart or fire was the only way to kill a vampire, and that's what he was going to do burn the house down with them in it.
He thought of his mother, but that thing in the coffin was no longer his mother. He had to do it.
Robbie drove out to the old Corbet mansion. He arrived as the sun was getting quite low in the West. He got out and opened the trunk, and grabbed the gas can. Hurrying, he went to the house, unscrewing the cap as he went. He started pouring gas on the front door, and walking toward the cellar door, leaving a stream of strong smelling gas as he went. After he circled the house as far as he could, he went back to the cellar. The sun was almost down. He had to hurry, but he had to see his mother one last time.
Robbie went down the stairs, and opened the lid of his mother's coffin. While he was looking at her, he heard the lid of the coffin next to him start to open. Too late, he thought, I'm too late.
He ran upstairs, and reached in his pocket for a match. He didn't have any. He ran to the car. His mother kept a gun in the glove compartment, and when he opened it it wasn't there. Frantic now, he looked around, and then he found a lighter in the back of the seat. He couldn't believe his luck.
Robbie ran back to the front door, pulling paper out of his pocket as he ran, he lit the paper with the lighter, and touched it to the gas at the front door. It burst into flames.
"Thank God", he said out loud, and ran to the corner of the house to see if they were still inside, and he heard them shuffling around. He didn't think of them as family any more, just monsters.
The fire took hold of the house, and roared along it's perimeter. They were trapped before they knew what was happening to them. Victor took Elizabeth in his arms. "Good-bye my love, this is for the best," he said. Robbie knelt in the grass beside his car, and covered his ears. The screams from the basement were almost more than he could bear.
The noise of the fire engines could be heard getting closer, and closer, but Robbie didn't hear them. He was in a world of horror in his own head. He sat and rocked with his hands over his ears.
A little later, someone said, "Take this guy to a hospital, he's not responding."
Robbie remained in a catatonic state for days until he died of an aneurysm in his brain.
The firemen found only the bones of four people near the cellar steps. Two had their arms wrapped around each other in a final embrace.
Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:52 pm
Was This Madame La Tour's Ghost?
by Stuart Trueman
In all of Canada's beginning history there is no more heroic -nor more poignant-chapter than Madame la Tour's defence of her husband's fort.
Francoise Marie Jacquelin had two careers. She was a scintillating actress in France, the toast of the aristocratic Parisian stage-door set. When she feared at thirty-eight her youthful radiance was waning, because she wasn't getting the choicest lead roles, she accepted a marriage proposal by proxy and sailed over the seas to become the bride of a French seigneur and fur trader in Acadia, Charles St. Etienne de la Tour. His pallisaded wooden stronghold was at the mouth of the St. John River.
La Tour's arch-competitor was Sieur d'Aulnay Charnisay across the Bay of Fundy. Their rivalry escalated into outright war, one of the few instances in New World history where French fought French-raids, reprisal raids, ambushes, pursuits, blockades, furtive midnight escapes, desperate appeals from both sides to Versailles for help.
Through these drama-filled scenes moved the dynamic and oft imperious personality of Madame la Tour-demanding, insisting, daring, improvising, brushing aside protocol, refusing to be dominated for long. It's easy to imagine the pent-up fury she felt when, after one of her trans-Atlantic voyages to England in quest of aid-a trip made under threat from Versailles of execution if she left French soil-she sailed homeward with six months' supplies on a chartered ship, only to discover that Captain Bayley was blandly scorning her instructions. Instead of proceeding directly to the Bay of Fundy, he made a leisurely passage up the St. Lawrence River, bartering with the Indians. Nor later could she do anything but keep vehemently silent with her maids in the depths of the vessel's hold when Charnisay's patrol vessels halted Captain Bayley at the entrance to the Bay of Fundy. The master asserted he knew nothing of Madame la Tour- he was only a law-abiding trading ship heading for Boston.
Was she properly grateful and submissive when he reached Boston? Not Madame la Tour. Raging, she stormed ashore, sued the captain for violating his charter, and was awarded E2,000 by an English colonial jury after a four-day trial. Immediately she chartered three New England vessels with food and armaments- and boldly penetrated the Charnisay blockade to sail into St. John harbour to a gala welcome.
But the event for which Madame la Tour is indelibly remembered was her gallant stand against heavy odds in the climactic siege of the St. John harbour fort, when her husband was away seeking more aid from Boston. It was a stand that held rock-firm until the fourth day when the attackers bribed a Swiss guard to let them scale the walls.
Although Charnisay at the last moment promised the lives of the fifty defenders would be spared if they laid down their arms, he promptly hanged the garrison-every man but one weak-spined soldier who agreed to hoist his fellows at the end of a rope. Obviously seething with hate, Charnisay forced Madame la Tour to watch the grisly proceedings with a noose around her neck.
What made Charnisay so diabolical? Perhaps it was that this attack cost his force twelve men killed and many wounded-on top of the fact that in an abortive assault two months previously he was repulsed by Madame la Tour with the loss of twenty killed and thirteen wounded and his own ship was nearly sunk. (This incidentally was the most sanguinary of all the 100 battles in New Brunswick's recorded history-and the victor was a lady who, though she didn't know it, was far in advance of Women's Lib.)
Such humiliations would be doubly noxious to a vain man like Charnisay. They may account for why he brushed off his veneer of chivalry and gloated over the heartpangs of his prize captive as she saw her faithful retainers, one by one, swinging in the Fundy breeze.
She died within three weeks-of a broken heart, her admirers said; of the overexerted fury of a temperamental actress, her detractors said; of poisoning administered by Charnisay, the realistic English Bostonians said.
Fort la Tour itself was razed. Its location was lost in the fogs of history. With it, unfortunately, disappeared any knowledge of the resting place of Madame la Tour, who has often been called "Canada's unknown heroine." She is believed to be buried near the fort site.
Throughout 1898 two prominent historians, Dr. W.F. Ganong and James Hannay, waged a polite and scholarly but bitter debate in the public prints of New Brunswick. Dr. Ganong cited old maps and quoted Nicholas Denys' early descriptive writings to prove Fort la Tour was "behind Navy Island" on the east side of the harbour. Mr. Hanny did the same to prove it was "behind Navy Island" on the west side of the harbour. "They continue relentlessly to argue the exact meaning of the old English word 'behind'," a contemporary account straight-facedly said.
Mrs. Huia Ryder, an authority on New Brunswick furniture who is also an historian, recalls an old West Side man who claimed he had incontrovertible proof Madame la Tour was buried on his side of the harbour and so the fort must have been there too.
"I've seen her ghost walking any number of times around the foot of my garden, on the point of property leading down toward where Navy Island once stood," he told Mrs. Ryder in the 1950s. "She wears an old-fashioned grey gown, and is quite a familiar sight to my family."
On the other hand, historical researchers in recent years excavating on the east side of the harbour have unearthed ancient wall foundations and chimney bases and artifacts which convinced them Fort la Tour was there, in the shadow of today's great curvaceous harbour bridge.
Meanwhile the whereabouts of Madame la Tour herself is still a mystery.
Just possibly, however, significant clues have come to light.
Mrs. Ryder relates a strange story which she heard around the year 1965, but which cannot now be verified by its original source.
It concerns a respected Saint John merchant, a man we both knew, who died a few years ago.
"He told me, on the promise I wouldn't disclose it while he lived, that an aged man came into his store and offered to show him the coffin of Madame la Tour if he would observe utter secrecy."
The merchant agreed, and the old man took him in a taxi over to Main Street, just above Portland Point.
Then, though it was pitch-dark, the old man insisted on blindfolding him and led him through several streets and flnally into a house and down into a basement, where the blindfold was removed.
"Now, just look," the old fellow said excitedly, "when I take out some of these bricks in the wall." The merchant stared as the end of a mouldering pine coffin was gradually revealed; it bore the name of Marie la Tour.
He kept watching in disbelief as the old man pulled off the end of the coffin and reached in and drew out some human bones.
The house had unknowingly been built right beside the ancient grave.
That, in any event, was the story.
When the old man was blindfolding the merchant again for the return walk to Main Street, he predicted confidently the bones would make him a fortune, though he didn't know exactly how.
Some time later, when a huge urban renewal project was launched in the Portland Point district, the merchant again happened to meet the old man, who told him the house had been demolished.
What did he do with the remains? Got a great big sack, he said, put the bones and the end of the coffin in it, lugged it to his new rooming house, and put the sack under his bed.
It's possible to conjecture, then, what may have happened when the old man died: the landlady, finding a bag of bones and a piece of musty wood under the bed, would dump it into one of those dark green plastic bags, twist a tie on top and put it out at the end of the alley for the garbage man.
But the old man's tale was not necessarily authentic, in the opinion of veteran boatmaker Grenville Ring of Millidgeville, a fourth-generation descendant of a family of United Empire Loyalist shipbuilders.
"My father and my uncle were supervisors for James S Gregory at Portland Point when wooden ships were repaired there. There were only three houses on Acadia Street below the railway track in those days, and when the boss bought the properties he had excavations dug to put water pipelines into the houses.
"I remember very well the day-I was about sixteenwhen we dug up an oak casket back of Acadia Street. We took the side off, and a woman with long hair was lying inside. Her clothing was quite well preserved, at least until it was exposed to the air.
"The older men, whose memories went back to the 1840s when there were still Loyalists walking around, said they never heard of any burial ground there. So they came to the conclusion it must be the grave of Lady la Tour."
The workmen closed the casket, shovelled the earth back in again. If they were right, Canada's early heroine may still rest today somewhere down by the river at Portland Point-"she's part of what we used to call Green Hill," comments Grenville Ring.
He doesn't think much of that other story about the coffin being disclosed by a man taking bricks out of the cellar wall.
"Those old North End houses were all built on posts," he points out. "They had cellars, but no brickwork."
On the other hand, as Huia Ryder remarks, the brick wall could be a modern-day installation. Or it might have been really an old stone wall, not brick at all.
So it's conceivable Madame la Tour's grave has been rediscovered twice on the East Side.
In which case the ghost lady in grey, who promenades the foot of a West Side garden, must be haunting somebody else's family.
Sat Mar 18, 2006 5:53 pm
The Ubiquitous Captain Kidd
by Stuart Trueman
If Captain Kidd really buried as much treasure around New Brunswick as they say, he would have spent all his life digging holes and had no time to sail the seven seas.
Practically every coastal cove and river has its Captain Kidd legends. Some stream banks are today still scarred with pits that are inverse monuments to man's eternal hopefulness.
The anomaly of it is that controversy still swirls over whether William Kidd was a pirate at all. The Scottish-born seadog was commissioned by the Governor of New York, the Earl of Bellomont, as a privateer to protect English vessels in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean–in short, he was given a license to prey on suspected ships. After his return to New York he was arrested in 1699, sent to London to be tried on five charges of piracy and one of murder. In vain he pleaded his captured booty was lawful–they convicted him on the murder charge and three of piracy, which were more than enough. He was hanged in 1701.
There are Captain Kidd fans, now as then, who insist that his trial was unfair, that he was railroaded because his swashbuckling career had caused political discomfiture to several lords who earlier supported his expeditions.
But it's known that a rich hoard of loot–legal or otherwise–was unearthed on Governor's Island, near Long Island, after his return from the Indian Ocean. The resulting waves of avaricious public excitement spread all over North America and the Caribbean.
Down through the generations, rigid ethics for treasureseeking evolved. Absurd and grotesque they may seem to day, but men abided by them implicitly. The rules, which varied in details, always included observing absolute silence–else the hoard might vanish in an instant and the sentry-ghost of a slain pirate might appear, or the whole pirate crew itself might bear down on them in a spectral ship to wreak vengeance. It was all slightly terrifying, but chillingly fascinating too.
At Belleisle Bay we asked Harold G. Bond about treasure fever. A spare, lean man, he wears braces over his tan shirt and reminds one of the solemn farmer in the painting "American Gothic." He lives just above Earle's Wharf, which we reached by crossing Belleisle Bay from Long Point on a picturesque cable ferry. The Bonds' substantial white house has multi-windowed verandahs, and they keep everything around the place as pin-neat, as spotlessly polished, as if they were expecting the Governor-General to drop in any moment. Even the stump-ends of the hardwood sticks piled under a shelter on the back lawn make symmetrical mosaic patterns, they're piled with such mathematical neatness.
"I split all my own wood," Mr. Bond explains, "and I'm well past seventy-five."
Why yes, he says, he certainly has heard of ghosts guarding buried treasure.
"Just below Earle's Wharf on the Belleisle shore, a few yards from where you came off the ferry, a group of men dug handy to a creek.
"The first night–Father told me it was a still, calm, beautiful evening–up came an unexpected gust of wind and blew out the lantern. Everybody ran. Old Lame Dave Willigar was leaning on a cane as he watched–he'd been a cripple all his life–but he ran right past the rest of them. He just sailed–it sure brightened him up."
But treasure-hunters are never discouraged easily.
"Somebody told them if they'd only plowed with a rooster and harrowed with a hen, they might have got the money. So they made a little plow and a collar for a rooster, and a harrow and a collar for a hen, and that night they shoved the rooster along while he plowed the sandy beach-but they found nothing."
Some people found more than they bargained for.
One night Obijah Willigar had a dream that Mr. Bond's father, George Bond, was helping him dig up money at Brown's Cove Point, across from Erb's Cove. He saw a vision of a heavy iron wagon-tire hanging from an oak tree.
"Sure enough, when they followed the shore, there was the tree on the widow Phoebe Brown's land on the point, with the tire hanging. Obijah's son held the lantern, and they had quite a hole dug by one a.m.
"Suddenly a white form floated up out of the hole. They never went back."
Mr. Bond believes the diggers saw what they claimed they saw. His father, a Kars parish councillor for twenty years, was "a man of conscience who was hardly likely to exaggerate or mislead anybody."
On the St. John River below Woodstock in the vicinity of the old Pokiok Falls, a scenic attraction since inundated by the Mactaquac Dam project, two men many years ago went through the most grisly night of all, if their story can be credited.
They were silently digging in the sand for Captain Kidd's treasure at the spot where they were sure their forked witch- hazel twig had divined its whereabouts.
Abruptly and alarmingly, they found a man was standing between them and placing a bony clammy hand on their arms. He was a gaunt stranger clad in a mildewed red jacket, knickerbockers, a sou'wester hat, and bearing a sheathed sword at his side.
As he turned to face them, they recoiled–for the countenance was shrunken and shrivelled, the skin a ghastly gray- green, the eyes lifeless, the long hair and beard matted with mould. He seemed to be trying to speak, but couldn't move the long-stiffened lips; no words came out.
After a moment of shock, the two ran for their canoe, and from far behind heard a shrill cackling laugh.
For a long time after, it is said, they refused to talk about the encounter.
To get an idea of the elaborate ritual followed by treasure hunters in the 19th century–whether they were looking for Captain Kidd's plunder or less romantic riches-listen to an Apohaqui man who wrote anonymously in 1894 about a boyhood expedition to the grave of Major Gilfred Studholm.
One autumn night in the early 1800's, he reminisced, a man who lived some distance away, but never knew where Major Studholm was interred, had a vivid dream. He saw the prominent government official burying his personal for tune on a high eminence flanked by tall evergreens.
Greatly agitated, he gathered some friends, came to Apohaqui and hired the local boy as a guide.
The carriage drove around a winding road to the base of the hill. Then the silent group, their way illuminated by a lantern, plodded up a hillside pasture, through a woods path to a clear enclosure.
The leader produced a mineral rod, or divining rod–"A short hollow rod, wrapped in whalebone. It had two pliable handles attached to one end, by which the operator held it. The contents of the rod were unknown, though quicksilver, I believe, was one ingredient. The closed palms of both hands were turned upwards, with the rod in an erect position between them; anything that attracted the rod caused it to deviate from the perpendicular. If the attraction were in the ground, the rod would twist about in the man's hands and point straight downward."
This man, a country blacksmith, was the only one who could make the mineral rod perform. It ignored commands from the other young farmers.
Now the blacksmith strode out into the enclosure, holding forth the rod with great expectations-but its gyrations soon made it clear that the attraction was back down the hill. They retraced their steps until they reached a giant scraggly pine in a buckwheat field. The rod pointed straight down.
"Eureka!" a farmer shouted, and they prepared for the meticulous ceremonial of treasure-digging.
From somewhere–startlingly–the blacksmith drew forth a sword, and marched out past the others.
He began to inscribe a vast circle around them on the ground with the weapon. The tension increased, for all understood that once the fateful circle was completed, not a single word could be uttered, nor could any earth from a spade be permitted to cross the circumference.
(This was the abridged version of the protocol, the leader explained, he having dispensed with the requirement that the blood of a black hen be sprinkled around the circle).
"Are you ready?" he asked loudly.
"Ready," echoed the chorus-and the swordsman closed the circle.
It was an eerie scene on a bright starless night-three panting men unearthing a hole with spades, pick and iron bar, a chill autumn wind moaning through the pine branches on the lonely hillside, and the swordsman "stalking grimly about, cleaving the air with his naked blade, as if defying the spirits of Earth or Air to pass the boundaries he had set," and motioning by energetic hand- signs that the deeper they dug, the stronger the attraction was getting.
Three men digging, one brandishing a sword-and one frightened little boy standing by with nerve-tingling folk tales creeping through his mind-the rumours he had heard of previous diggers fleeing in panic before a phantom horseman riding down the wind ... of a spade clanging on a strong box, whereupon an awful clattering of chains was heard and the box disappeared in a twinkling ... of a former digger being bodily tossed out of the hole by a Presence of hideous visage....
The boy was jolted back into reality when the iron bar hit something–a hollow sound.
A quick exchange of glances, and the digging began again frantically. Several feet farther down, their hopes fell–solid rock. In dismay one man exclaimed:
"I don't believe it's there at all."
"Now you've done it!" shouted the swordsman, almost savagely. He grabbed up the mineral rod–it calmly pointed skyward.
"Yes; we'll get the attraction again in a little while, but for heaven's sake remember: keep absolutely quiet."
Within half an hour the rod began to twitch violently–the attraction was only half a dozen yards away.
"We've got it again!" shouted one, swinging his pick and penetrating the soil deeply.
" There! 'The swordsman yelled. "What made you break ground before I had the circle drawn? You've done it again!"
The diggers hung their heads. They knew only too well that no self-respecting treasure would tolerate repeated bungling on the part of the seekers.
As he anticipated, the divining rod now pointed quietly skyward.
Soon, however, only a few yards farther away, it began to quiver again.
The silence was taut.
Then the boy, trying to pluck out a stubborn root, tumbled backwards–and the gnarled fragment flew from his hand and landed beyond the range of the circle!
Everything was undone.
It was a weary, half-dozing group of men who kept persevering as dawn approached. They were beginning to worry about the possibility of the owner of the buckwheat field happening along and discovering them. "We'll locate it just once more," the leader said–one more definite fix and they would go for the night.
But the erratic travelling course of the hoard had now veered almost directly under the roots of a huge tree. A tunnel would be needed.
At least, there was no doubt now about its exact posi. tion, the party assured themselves with silent nods. As additional proof, it was noticed that the divining rod could be attracted by a piece of silver or coin beyond the zone of the tree; however, at the base of the tree, silver could be placed within a half-inch of the rod and it wouldn't even show a spark of interest.
But for some inexplicable reason, having successfully located the treasure for the fourth time, the blacksmith and his friends decided to let it rest in peace.
They never went back.
Oft-told ghost stories on Indian reservations, like white men's tales, carry the tacit warning that those who forget to obey the strict treasure-digging ceremonial are inviting trouble. The stories are also threaded through with that persistent bogey, the revenging ship.
Dr. Peter Paul tells of several men who were excavating at the point where the Nackawic stream joins the St. John River. The chief digger was a big strong hulk of a fellow. When suddenly the top of a metal pot came to light, one man shouted, "There it is!'–shattering the basic code of silence.
Immediately the pot started to descend out of sight. In desperation the huge man grasped the handle in his great hands and dug his heels in.
His feet gradually sank six inches into the soil as he strained and pulled and sweated, his arm sinews bulging out.
Then–snap!–the pot broke away and vanished downward, leaving the stunned man holding the broken bail.
Below Nackawic on the other side of the St. John River, a church still stands on high ground but a nearby road and once- popular digging site have been submerged since the river level was raised by the Mactaquac hydro-electric dam.
"A golden image was buried by some old French settlers at the time of the exile of the Acadians," recalls Peter Paul. "Many people tried in vain to locate it.
"One day a man who had gone over to Presque Isle, Maine, for a job hand-digging potatoes, got word that his daughter was very sick back home at Pokiok. So he returned by the first train.
"The train always stopped at Hartland for ten or fifteen minutes; so this passenger went over to see a blind man who had a little store. The blind man was reputed to be a sort of seer; he had remarkable powers–for instance, you couldn't fool him on the denomination of dollar bills. He'd just feel the bill and give you the right change."
The passenger asked the seer how his daughter was now. The blind man kept thoughtfully slapping his knee for a few moments, then said, "She is on the mend-much better than when you got the message."
While he was at it, the traveler asked where the treasure was that he had heard so much about; and the blind man told him.
Accordingly a party of four or five men set forth for the spot. First, to comply with the neighborhood etiquette of digging, they killed three chickens and formed three circles of blood around the spot. Then, all inside the circles, they started to swing picks and spades.
"One of the men thought he heard a boat landing on the shore, and harsh voices threatening what they would do to these men who were disturbing the site. Then suddenly he discerned the boat itself–half a dozen men were scrambling up from the beach toward them!
"He shouted a warning to the others in the circle-just as one of his companions pushing a rod down realized he had struck something solid, and was busy measuring the width and length of the object...
"With that shout, everything disappeared in an instant–not only the supposed treasure chest, but the strange men and also the boat on shore."
Ghostly craft ply the waters in many stories recalled by old- timers on the Upper St. John River.
Near Florenceville a large freight canoe of the type used in pioneer days has occasionally been reported seen gliding by, paddled by white men–and, whenever obstructions were met, passing right through them!
A few miles above, we were informed, "Old Mr. Giberson used to recall he saw the raft and the men on it before it was upset at the turn of the river just above Bristol, with all hands lost, sixty years or more ago." On one day of the year, the tale goes–presumably the anniversary of the disaster-you can see a ghost raft coming down stream and the men on it poling their way.
Strangest craft by a wide margin in the Bristol area's legends was the one reported seen where the big Shiktahawk flows into the St. John. It happened in the early years of this century. A party of men were digging for treasure one midnight on a river- bank plateau across from the mouth of the Shiktahawk. Their shovels had just thudded on a wooden object when they heard strange loud sounds across the river.
Up to this point the story follows a familiar patternimpending disappointment at the very moment of triumph.
But the surprise is yet to come–
To the wide-eyed incredulity of the diggers, a Viking ship was sailing down the Shiktahawk toward them, its elevated prow slicing swiftly through the waters and sending out waves on both sides!
In a split-second, before the men bolted down shore, they saw and heard enough to remember the figurehead dragons rearing up their fearsome visages fore and aft, the round shields fastened to the long boat's sides, the bearded chieftain in winged Norse helmet with long hair streaming behind him, the raucous foreign voices chorusing out a battle song...
Speaking of strangers interrupting a treasure quest, here's another in which the ghosts were apparently not ghosts–yet it's still a puzzler to this day.
Up at Jacquet River on the North Shore there's a place traditionally called The Island, though it's now linked with the mainland. Since a century and a half ago, for some unfathomable reason, people have repeatedly dreamed of treasure being dug up on The Island.
Early in the 19th century two brothers, James and William McMillan, both staunch God-fearing churchmen, went to find out for themselves. They discovered the spot that James had evidently envisioned in his own dream, shovelled down a few feet, found a small aperture or cave, and then–
A silent boat was cresting toward the shore where they stood! The two uprighteous brothers hurried to fill in the pit, more out of embarrassment than anything else.
Incredibly, the boat kept coming, though propelled neither by rowers nor by canvas. Even more incredibly, when it reached a sandbar it just sailed across the barrier as if it wasn't there.
The craft beached itself near the brothers, and the six men aboard–foreigners speaking a language definitely not French–indicated by signs they wanted food and shelter.
For several days thereafter they stayed at a Jacquet River boarding house and inn. Everyone saw them; but no one ever knew where they came from or why ... or how they crossed the sandbar ... or when or how they left.
And the brothers, perhaps understandably, never returned to the scene.
The haunting bugaboo of an avenging ship has become so entrenched in New Brunswick coastal lore that it's easy to understand what happened on the Kennebecasis River during the construction of the European and North American Railway in the mid-1800s.
A gang of off-duty rail workers rode the supply train to Saint John for a few quick ones at a tavern, but missed the return trip to Rothesay.
Rather than trudge ten miles, they hired a small boat with an auxiliary sail, and when the night wind died down an hour later they bent to the oars. As the boat rounded a sandy spit jutting out into the river they noticed the twinkle of lanterns ashore, and dark figures moving about, digging.
Curious, the boatmen headed for the beach.
Suddenly a vociferous yell rent the air:
"Run, boys-they're coming after us!"
Instantly the shore party scattered and fled.
The lark-loving railway gang gathered up lanterns, coats, picks, spades and dumped them into the partially-dug pit.
In the days that followed, they relished the fast-spreading stories of how treasure-hunters were on the verge of finding Captain Kidd's gold when they heard a faint sound on the river–and beheld a ghostly boatful of ugly-looking bloodthirsty pirates rowing in to kill them.
Fri Nov 20, 2009 6:57 pm
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