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Bluenose Ghosts

· Fine Book Collecting,Halifax,Helen Creighton,Bluenose Ghosts,Nova Scotia Folklore

I get together with Stuart, a very good friend of mine, every second Friday. We alternate homes. This started as a book event but gradually it became a story telling event, as well. There seems to be no end to stories that come out of the brains’ storage vaults. A week ago, we met at Stuart’s home. The original house was built in the early 1800s, and his daughter built a large extension onto the house, a number of years ago. Stuart lives in the original rooms and last week he mentioned that it was haunted. In a friendly non-threatening way. Noises, books being taken off shelves, and such. In response, I told him about a ghost that frequents our neighbourhood that is a bit more malevolent, so I am told. We have had no experiences in our home, thank goodness. I added that my mother was convinced that in one of her homes, there was a ghost that used to walk up the back stairs and then silence.

Then I asked Stuart – “Have you ever read Bluenose Ghosts?”. Not surprisingly, he said no since he is a relative newcomer to Nova Scotia. I made a few comments about the book, and then we moved on to another story.

Not long afterwards, I decided that I should find a copy of Bluenose Ghosts for Stuart. It continues to be in print, as it is a true Bluenose classic. I went on to Abebooks and searched for a copy figuring one of the Halifax book dealers would have a copy. Sure enough, ABC: Antiques, Books and Collectibles had a copy. They are in Tantallon, 10 minutes away. I sent off an e-mail inquiring about the book and how to pick it up, since the shop is mostly closed this time of year. The shop is owned by Parker and Joselle Barrington. Joselle responds saying she would arrange to open the shop when convenient to both of us. That happened the next day.

When I entered the shop, Joselle has three copies of the book to show me. There were two recent paperbound books and a hardcover, second printing of the first edition. Seeing the latter’s dust jacket brought back so many memories.

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Bluenose Ghosts; Helen Creighton; the Ryerson Press, Toronto, published October, 1957, reprinted May, 1959.

This was only the second book I can ever remember owning. (The first was Uncle Wiggly in the Country.) I read Bluenose Ghosts as a young lad and let me tell you it raised the hair on my head on more than one occasion. These were not made-up ghost stories – the author, Helen Creighton, was a Folklorist Extraordinaire. She went around the province of Nova Scotia, with her trusty tape recorder, interviewing people with stories to tell. Perhaps, her most well-known book, and tape, was Traditional Songs from Nova Scotia. She saved so much from oblivion and is owed our collective thanks!

Memories came flooding back when I saw that dust jacket. I had to get that copy for Stuart. I mentioned that to Joselle, and she responded by saying that she was introduced to Bluenose Ghosts in school – where selected stories were read.

When I got home with the book, I showed it to Glenda. Her memories of Bluenose Ghosts was not from the book at all! She and her sisters used to listen to the stories being read on the radio back in the late 1950s. The girls would gather together in a bedroom and enjoy getting scared to death! Noises like chains rattling, foghorns in the distances, knocks and other strange, frightening sounds. Glenda said that later on a copy of the book appeared in the house, but she never read it, because the stories were so scary.

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Stuart had never heard of the book, but Joselle, Glenda and I who grew up in Nova Scotia were
well aware of Bluenose Ghosts through very different channels. And were all, appropriately, SCARED TO DEATH!

You should read it too.