A few years ago I conducted an interview with my grandfather, and we discussed his upbringing in out-port Newfoundland. Towards the end of the interview, I asked my grandfather if he believed in the supernatural and paranormal. Growing up in St. John’s, I recall folklorist Dale Jarvis coming into my school, and reading a selection from his new book at the time (this was around 2006/2007). With respect to Dale Jarvis, his line of work introduces a modern take on the paranormal within St. John’s, as well as the island of Newfoundland as a whole.
Check out a recent book from Jarvis:
Although my grandfather claims to not believe in the paranormal, he tells me the story of “a man with neither head”, which he told me about during the interview from a few years ago. In relation to the concept of a headless ghost, Washington Irving’s 1820 gothic novel The Legend of Sleepy Hollow features the “headless horseman” as the main antagonist. Within this novel, the “headless horseman” serves as a supernatural trope within gothic literature, which also reflects the obsession Victorian society had with "darkness".
(c) "Ichabod and Mr. Toad" (1949)
Newfoundland's Headless Ghost:
My grandfather told that he and his friends would go down on the beach in Round Harbor, smoking cigarettes as teenagers, and calling out to the “man with neither head”. After a few minutes of waiting, no one appeared. So, my grandfather does not believe in anything supernatural because of his lack of experiences.
I have heard many stories of the paranormal in Newfoundland, especially from my uncle who is also from Bonavista Bay. Drawing from my own experiences, I personally believe in the paranormal- at least to an extent. Keeping that in mind, I’m more so entertained by supernatural experience memorates than actually believing in it.
(c) LMN/ "Celebrity Ghost Stories". "Here's a look at Celebrity Ghost Stories where Tom Green spends the night in a museum and witnesses a ghost walking the halls."
This element of ghost stories and story-telling in general, seems to be both of high popularity in an out-port setting, as well as in a city setting. In the book Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador by Edward Butts, the author tells a story of “The Headless Captain”. Interestingly, this story is quite similar to the story my grandfather told me:
Of all the apparitions that have found their way into lore, legend, and literature, perhaps none have been more unnerving than a headless ghost (27)
This emphasizes the supernatural belief behind the story my grandfather tells. In an out-port community of Newfoundland, many people believed the story of “the man with neither head”- although my grandfather didn’t. Nevertheless, stories of a headless ghosts proves to be an interesting concept.
Ghost stories from out-port communities are often related to those which originated in England, since Newfoundland was once owned by the English before Confederation. As a child, I have heard many ghost stories that are affiliated with St. John’s, however, the stories that stood-out would likely be from the out-port communities because they seem to have a deeper connection with the island itself- they had been isolated communities for much longer than the city of St. John’s.
Many of Newfoundland’s ghost stories are based on the roots of the island as a country (this was a long time ago), with such stories concerning the fishing industry for example. Ghost stories originating in out-port communities are a great example of Newfoundland tradition, because many years ago when there was lack of entertainment due to isolation- ghost stories became a favorable pastime.
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