Updated: May 1
When it comes to the history of Canadian culture, people sometimes think it all started with the process of Confederation as early as 1867. When those in Ottawa figured “hey, it must be time for westward expansion?” Although that’s a fair assumption (and a joke) we should remember that human civilization actually existed in Canada for about 12,000 years before European settlers sailed across the Atlantic Ocean made contact in the 1500s.
With it being known the Natives were here first, it’s not exactly surprising that many Canadian urban legends actually stem from First Nation culture of the past.
For instance, “An estimated 200,000 Indians (First Nations) and Inuit were living in what is now Canada when Europeans began to settle there in the late 16th century.” (Canada- Native Peoples | Britannica.https://www.britannica.com/place/Canada/Native-peoples)
Interestingly, Canada’s landscape and countryside is somewhat underrated in comparison to other places around the world.
Canada wasn’t born out of revolution or a sweeping outburst of nationalism. Instead, it was created in a series of conferences and orderly negotiations, culminating in the terms of Confederation on 1 July 1867. The union of the British North American colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Province of Canada (what is now Ontario and Québec) was the first step in a slow but steady nation-building exercise that would come to encompass other territories, and eventually fulfill the dream of a country A Mari usque ad Mare — from sea to sea. (The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Confederation, 1867”)
The Wendigo is a mythological creature part of Algonquin legend that speaks of an evil spirit that could possess the minds of men mad with grief and despair, driving them to commit gruesome acts of murder and cannibalism.
Such a creature is alleged to exist somewhere around Fort Kent, with a chilling legend that goes back nearly 100 years ago. (https://lakelandconnect.net/2020/10/31/the-haunting-of-the-lakeland-the-legend-of-the-fort-kent-wendigo/)
However, Canada offers a vast land area that’s filled with places we have not even touched. As the second-largest country (by land mass) in the world, Canada is filled with dense forests and arctic tundra which offer their own haunting stories.
Photo by: Amanda Frank
Something to think about: urban legends and creepy stories existed in Canada long before the white settlers got here. First Nation stories would have been around for the 12,000 years these peoples were already here, so the arrival of white settlers only added to fascinating stories that already existed.
So, what led me to writing this article series? Well, I started my B.A. at Memorial University of Newfoundland in 2014. When the winter of 2015 came around, it was my first time taking a folklore course.
Over time, I declared folklore as my minor and completed by B.A. in December of 2020. Throughout the five years of taking folklore courses at my Alma Mater, I came across many stories that corresponded with Canada’s long history and haunted past.
For example, one of my favourite urban legends (even though it’s a ghost story) takes place in Canada. I’m referring to the story of the “Dungarvon Whooper”, but we’ll talk more about that when we really dive into Canada’s horror in the north.
(c) Canadian Broadcast Company. The New Brunswick ghost story of The Dungarvon Whooper is featured in Canada Post's latest collection of Haunted Canada stamps.
As the story goes, lumberjacks returned from work one day to their camp in Renous to find the young camp cook was dead and his money belt was missing — apparently the work of their boss. With a snowstorm blowing in, the cook was quickly buried.
In the night, whoops and wails were heard coming from the shallow grave, causing the lumberjacks to flee in terror and never return. (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/canada-post-stamp-dungarvon-whooper-1.3754760)
Since I grew up in Newfoundland and Labrador, I believe that’s a fair place to start with this project's content. Newfoundland and Labrador officially became a part of Canada in 1949, although plans for this to happen date back to the 1930s.
Yes, the acquisition of Newfoundland by Canada really put this island on the map- there’s no denying Newfoundland’s rich cultural history was known by people around the world for as long as it has existed.
Newfoundland is the place I grew up, but I’m certainly not going to romanticize the island. Instead, it’s my goal to begin this project with the most significant urban legends this island has to offer.
(c) The Independent. Fairy, also spelled faerie or faery, a mythical being of folklore and romance usually having magic powers and dwelling on earth in close relationship with humans. It can appear as a dwarf creature typically having green clothes and hair, living underground or in stone heaps, and characteristically exercising magic powers to benevolent ends; as a diminutive sprite commonly in the shape of a delicate, beautiful, ageless winged woman dressed in diaphanous white clothing, inhabiting fairyland, but making usually well-intentioned intervention in personal human affairs; or as a tiny, mischievous, and protective creature generally associated with a household hearth. (https://www.britannica.com/art/fairy)
What are your thoughts?
Thank you, and stay safe
The Modernist Son, 2020-
The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Confederation, 1867”.