Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Ghostly Gray Lady in New Brunswick, by Diane Scott Lewis

I've learned a lot about Canada in writing my novel, due out in January 2017. On a Stormy Primeval Shore is set in 1784. Englishwoman Amelia Latimer sails to the new colony of New Brunswick in faraway Canada. She’s to marry a man chosen by her soldier father. Amelia is repulsed by her betrothed, and refuses to marry him. She is attracted to a handsome Acadian trader, Gilbert, a man beneath her in status. Gilbert must fight the incursion of English Loyalists from the American war to hold onto his land and heritage. Will he and Amelia find peace when events seek to destroy their love and lives.

On a rainy, foggy day in 2017 my husband I took a ferry across the Kennebecasis River to Trinity Anglican Church, one of the oldest churches in New Brunswick. It was built in 1788/9 by the Loyalists who fled the American War of Independence. Because of their loyalty to England, their property was confiscated and they were forced north from the new United States.

Beside the church is the Loyalist Cemetery with its weathered headstones, many dating to the eighteenth century.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any ghost tales related to these two sites, but had to use the pictures my husband took.

For the ghost tale, I'll return closer to Saint John on the Bay of Fundy, where much of my novel takes place, and Fort La Tour (long destroyed).
Fort's site discovered in 1950's

The fort was established in 1631 in what was then known as Acadia. (my novel's hero, Gilbert, is an Acadian man born over a hundred years later). The fort was used for fur trading, but the French fought over who controlled the region. While Charles de la Tour, who'd built this fort, was away in Boston, his wife, an actress named Francoise Marie, defended the fort from attack. On Easter Sunday, the fort was captured and Francoise Marie was forced to watch, with a rope around her own neck, her brave soldiers hanged. She died soon after, perhaps from a broken heart.

Since then locals have reported the sightings of a woman dressed in an old-fashioned gray dress who walks along the shore near the fort's site. Her grave was never found. She might be waiting for that event so she may rest in peace, and receive the heroine's burial she deserves.

Madame de La Tour led a courageous life in Canada and France; for more on her click HERE

Diane Parkinson (Diane Scott Lewis) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, joined the Navy at nineteen and has written and edited free-lance since high school. She writes book reviews for the Historical Novels Review and worked as a historical editor for The Wild Rose Press. She’s had several historical novels published. Diane lives with her husband in Western Pennsylvania.

Source: Fort La Tour (haunted place)

For more info on my books please visit my author page: BWLpublishing.
Or my website: dianescottlewis.org

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ghostly and Supernatural Tales from Quebec Province, by Kathy Fischer-Brown

photo © Janice Lang
Our assignment for the month of October on BWL’s “Canadian Historical Brides” blog is ghost stories, tales of haunted places, and other supernatural phenomena related to our books’ settings.

Ask anyone who knows me. I do not enjoy scary books, ghost tales, or frightening movies. Maybe it’s the creepy music in the flick added to augment the buildup to a blood-curdling moment that sends my heart thumping to near lethal levels and my blood pressure rising. My husband and daughter love them. Even coming through a closed door, that sinister music has its desired effect on me.

Not to say I don’t believe in the unexplainable. Two days after our beloved springer spaniel Casey crossed over the Rainbow Bridge at the age of 14, I was watching TV. Something in the periphery of my vision caused me turn away from the Yankees game. Not trusting what I thought I saw, I did a double-take. To my astonishment, there was Casey standing in the open doorway, her head hanging, ears forward, attention focused on me—a familiar posture in life when she wanted something. We made eye contact for a long moment. And then she dissipated like smoke in the wind. Some have told me that Casey probably just wanted to say goodbye.

Years ago, when I was still living in my parents’ home during summer breaks from college, I was having trouble falling asleep one night. Maybe I was suspended on that fragile boundary between dreams and consciousness when something tangible brushed my cheek and rustled the hair falling over my ear. And then a woman’s whispered voice announced (to whom or what?), “She’s asleep now.” Shortly after, a deep, sonorous baritone from beyond my open window began intoning what sounded like “Pil…grim’s…Pri-i-ide.” If I wasn’t 20-something at the time, I probably would have high-tailed it into my parent’s room and begged to let me sleep with them.

OK. This is supposed to be about ghosts, ghoulies, and other bump-in-the-night stuff from Quebec Province. As a Connecticut Yankee, no one deserves a mention here more than Mark Twain. This is from a piece by Mark Abley in the Montreal Gazette (October 17, 2014)

In December 1881, one of the most celebrated writers in North America came to
Mark Twain
Montreal on a lecture tour. Mark Twain … was then near the height of his fame. …

“That afternoon, a reception had been held for him in a long drawing room of the Windsor Hotel on Peel — recently built, and at the time the most palatial hotel in Canada. There, Twain noticed a woman whom he had known more than 20 years earlier, in Carson City, Nevada. She had been a friend, but they had fallen out of touch. … She seemed to be approaching him at the reception, and he had ‘a full front view of her face’ but they didn’t meet.

 “Before he gave his evening speech in a lecture hall, Twain noticed Mrs. R. again, wearing the same dress as in the afternoon. This time they were able to speak, and he told her that he’d seen her earlier in the day. She was astonished. ‘I was not at the reception,’ she told him. ‘I have just arrived from Quebec, and have not been in town an hour.’”

All right. I agree. This is kind of “woo-woo,” but hardly the stuff that inspires goose bumps. But both Quebec and Montreal, with their long and illustrious histories, are rife with tales of the mysterious and macabre. There are so many such stories that I’ll limit them both by time and necessity.

As a writer of historical fiction, I’m drawn to some of these older stories. For example, McGill University is Montreal’s oldest (founded in 1821) and also one of the most haunted in a city of multiple haunted places. Its Faculty Club was once the opulent mansion of the German-born sugar magnate, Baron Alfred Moritz Friedrich Baumgarten. 

Baron Alfred Moritz Friedrich Baumgarten
At the turn of the 19th century, the Baumgarten house was a center of social activity, so much so that it became the favorite stopping place of Canada’s governor-general when in Montreal. The start of World War I ended all that when anti-German hysteria forced him to sell off his assets and lose his standing in society. He died in 1919, a broken man. In 1926, McGill University bought the mansion to house the school’s high chancellor, General Sir Arthur Currie. After Currie’s death in 1933, the building was repurposed for use as a faculty club.

From the beginning, faculty and staff at the club reported feelings of unease when in the building, while others experienced some truly strange happenings. A piano in the basement began playing itself and no manner of trying to stop it succeeded. Doors opened and closed of their own accord. Elevators ran between floors with no one inside to operate them. In the billiard room, balls moved on the table and into the pockets as if a game were being played, and portraits on the walls appeared to follow people with their eyes as they walked past them down the halls. Even its phones had a life of their own, calling college offices late at night when no one was in the building. And then there’s the fireplace, closed off for decades, still emitting the smell of ash and smoke. There are tales of murder, particularly that of a young servant girl whose untimely death had been covered up and whose spirit has been seen wandering aimlessly, apparently seeking justice. Some postulate that many of ghostly happenings are the work of Baumgarten himself, whose restless soul attempts to regain what had been lost.

On the Plains of Abraham in Quebec on September 13, 1759, the battle between France and England for supremacy in the New World ended with the death of the charismatic British General James Wolfe and took his opponent, Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, who died of his injuries the following day. Here some 258 years later, ghosts of the dead from both sides can be seen drifting across the battlefield, particularly one lone soldier at the entrance to Tunnel 1, accompanied by the acrid smell of sulfur smoke and the sound of cannons.

From Montmorency Falls in Quebec comes a sad story and one that seems to have many similarities to other tales of such nature. That of a beautiful young woman whose fiancé was called off to war and died in 1759 during the French and Indian War. Legend has it that the grief stricken maiden donned her wedding dress and went out in the evenings calling his name in hopes that he would return. The Lady in White has often been seen in the mist of the falls, tumbling to her death.

Of course there are more such stories, many more, but for now that’s all folks.

Wishing you all a ghoulishly Happy Halloween...but please keep the music down.


Kathy Fischer Brown is a BWL author of historical novels, Winter Fire, "The Serpent’s Tooth" trilogy: Lord Esterleigh’s Daughter, Courting the DevilThe Partisan’s Wife, and The Return of Tachlanad, an epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers. Check out her Books We Love Author page or visit her website. All of Kathy’s books are available in e-book and in paperback from a host of online and brick and mortar retailers. Look for Where the River Narrows, the 12th and final novel in BWL’s Canadian Historical Brides series, coming in July 2018.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ghosts and Haunted Houses by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

As far as I know, I have never seen a ghost. However, I did live in a haunted house, although without my knowledge. When my husband and I and my brother and sister-in-law first moved to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island we bought a house that had been converted into a duplex. My sister-in-law told me that she was continually seeing a man coming and going from their side. I saw no one on our side.

I returned to Alberta to visit family and friends and was describing where our place was to a friend. She began asking questions about it and said that a friend of hers had lived in that house years earlier. She also asked me if I had seen the ghost who occasionally wandered through the house there. I said no, but my sister-in-law had.

She said that a man had died in that house and her friend had seen his ghost often while living there.
I’m not sure if the reason I did not encountered that ghost nor any others in my life is because I don’t believe in them or because I’ve been lucky. However, if a ghost is reading this, this is not an invitation to come to me and prove you are real.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The First Page "Magnetic Carrot" by June Gadsby

Follow this link to purchase June Gadsby Books
One of the most difficult things to do when starting a new book is creating that magnet on the first page that draws your reader into the story and impels them to turn to the next, then the next. On and on, letting the pace mount and the fascination grow.
I have read so many books by writers where the first page[s] don’t have that magic, magnetic pull, so I’m obliged to throw them to one side. Life is too short to stumble on through endless, scene-setting, meandering prose, wondering when the main protagonists are going to take shape and form and when the action is going to start.
Sometimes the magnet is no more than the first sentence, short and snappy, full of the promise of exciting things to come; and it makes you curious enough to want to read on. I spend as much time creating these first, important words as the whole of the first chapter. Maybe I succeed. Maybe I don’t. However, I give great importance to this tiny bit of writing and most of the time I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.
Here are just two examples, bearing in mind that we don’t all have the same taste in reading matter. I write multi-genre books – mainly historic, romantic suspense around the early 1900’s as well as contemporary. The book I’m working on at the moment, is a contemporary romance. It has only two words of dialogue to kick-start it and give that all important ‘carrot’ to entice the reader to read on.
This affair!” [Which also happens to be the title of the book.] The words hit the heroine like a shock wave as she sits across the breakfast table from her husband, who has just uttered the words. He glares at her above his morning newspaper. She is suddenly drowning in guilt over something that happened five years previously…

My second example is the first page from “To The Ends of the Earth” which I wrote after an inspirational trip to Patgonia:
[Four 5-star reviews on Amazon – here’s just one of them:
I loved this book!
By Pamela Fudge on 2 February 2017
I loved this book. I was pulled into the story from the first page. It is a beautifully written novel, peopled by characters who, quite literally step off the page, it was a most enjoyable read and I highly recommend it

Chapter One
          First, there was the dust cloud. It appeared small on the Patagonian horizon like tumbleweed; a rolling ball of pampas grasses chased before El Pampero. This constant summer wind blew relentlessly across the Andes from the west, until it arrived at the small coastal towns around the Valdes Peninsular.
            But this particular cloud of sun-dried, wind-blown dust that day in 1900 was not caused by tumbleweed. As it grew in size, drawing ever nearer to the scattering of log cabins belonging to the tiny Welsh settlement town of Puerto Daffyd, the cloud took form and shape.  The hollow thud of hoofs could be heard long before watching eyes made out the shimmering shape of a young woman on the back of a sleek black stallion.
            She rode astride, gaucho style, long legs clad in guanaco hide trews. Her white shirt in fine cotton, clinging to her breasts left no doubt that she was female – and shocked the group of Chapel ladies watching her arrival from behind prim lace curtains.
            “Here she comes,” announced the Widow Evans, whose house it was, as if she was the only one to see.
            “Gwyneth Johnns, is it?” One of the other women struggled to see past the heads of the women assembled at the window. “I never expected to see her again, look you; but she still comes, brazen hussy that she is.”
            “Aye. How does she have the face to show herself where all is known of her?”     Cups rattled indignantly on saucers, tea was spilled and no attention paid to it.

So, what does this ‘magnetic carrot’ tell you? Before you have reached the end of the first page you know where, when and who. You know that the heroine is no ‘lady’ in the eyes of the very proper Victorian ladies of the town. The fact that she rides astride the stallion like a man, not caring how she appears, tells us that she is no weakling of a female, but strong and passionate. She is infamous – but for what? This is not a fluffy-pink romance. It’s an adventure sprinkled with danger, violence, betrayal and love, the whole set in the wild plains, breath-taking mountains and glaciers of Argentina and Chile. Ideal reading for armchair travellers.

Unless you have a strong literary bent I suggest you stay away from ‘clever’ writing. Many years ago, I used to think that to become a published writer you had to show the world some kind of amazing grasp of English. Good literary writers are few and far between and the story often gets buried among the beautiful prose. Books that have little dialogue are lacking in characters that have flesh, bones and emotions. My agent, when he took me on before I was published, told me: “You’re trying too hard to be a writer.” I wasn’t sure what he meant back then, but it became obvious when I started writing from the heart instead of the head. Instead of describing in prose my characters, I let them speak to my readers in their own words and then they became more real. They are largely responsible for telling the story. My job is simply to introduce them and a little of their background – and get the readers to turn that all important first page, eager to discover what lurks beyond.

 Forbidden! – Here’s a taste of my latest novel; war, violence, rape, incest, conscientious objectors, prisoners of war; family secrets; and passionate, forbidden love. I can’t wait to get on with it.

Chapter One

The world exploded and went on exploding all around the young British soldier. He had never heard a noise quite like it. It was too loud, even, to hear the cries and the screams of his comrades who seemed to be flying in pieces into the air, just like he was. However, what he thought his saw through dust-filled eyes were dismembered bodies, arms, legs, torsos. Before he hit the ground he imagined he saw the head of his best pal, Rooney, stupid sod that he was, flying past his line of blurred vision, that cheeky grin still fixed on his face. He’d just had his sixteenth birthday and they got drunk on the CO’s secret stash of rhum, which they had pinched while he was having a meeting about battle tactics because they were due to cross No Man’s Land in a day or two, if camp rumours were to be believed.
               “Hey, Rooney, ye daft bugger. Where’s the rest of ye?”
               Did he shout that out loud, or was it just an imagined echo in his head, penetrating the high-pitched whining in his ears as enemy shells exploded all around him?
               An explosion too close for comfort sent Private Jack Williams of the 19th Northumberland Fusiliers, again flying through the air, then he hit the ground hard a second time. The earth beneath him vibrated. Rivers of blood-stained mud poured over the barren incline where once golden maize crops had grown. Rivulets of the rust-coloured liquid coursed towards him, soaking into his tattered battle-dress uniform, finding its way around him and further down the hill he and his comrades in arms had just climbed, full of courage and pride and shouts that they would bring the bastard Germans down, annihilate the bloody Hun.
               That was a laugh, Jack thought as he lay there, unable to move, unable to see or hear. The ground beneath him had stopped vibrating. He supposed that that meant the battle had ended. Either that, or he was dead. He wondered, quite calmly, now many pieces of him were missing. It hadn’t hurt, whatever went off beneath the running feet of his infantry battalion. The force and the speed of it happened too quickly. If he was still alive, he knew the pain would come soon, but for now he was content to lie there, unmoving. Lie there and pray, though he wasn’t a religious lad, not like his mother who was always to be found with her nose in her Bible and on her bony knees by her bedside every night.  

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Ghost Ship of Prince Edward Island by Anita Davison

Whilst doing research of the island for Envy The Wind, I came across a ghost story about a ship which has appeared since 1768 in the Northumberland Strait  the stretch of water which separates Prince Edward Island from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

This ghost ship doesn’t have a name, but is described as having ‘crisp white sails and a black shiny hull’ that are completely engulfed in flames. She is not always sighted in the same place or a specific time, although more often between September and November whe she is believed to be the forewarning of a north easterly storm.

The ship appears so real, that on occasion attempts have been made to rescue the crew. One of these occurred in Charlottetown Harbour around 1900, when a group of sailors reported they could see members of the crew running back and forth to avoid the flames. The sailors took out a rowboat and raced toward the ship which disappeared before they reached it. A thorough search was carried out by divers, but no shipwreck was found.

On occasion,  a large number of people witnessed the ship's appearance simultaneously, all saying it  was moving fast, even on nights when there was no wind. One sighting was described as follows: [paraphrased]

As it came nearer it seemed to lose speed and stopped opposite our house. We got up on the banks to watch but there was no sign of anyone on board and no dory on tow. About ten minutes after she stopped, smoke began to rise slowly over the deck. There were men who seemed to come up from below and run around the deck in every direction as flames spread across the deck. Men climbed the masts, but when they were halfway up, all the sails caught at the same time. The men were no longer visible as the ship was engulfed in flames. We watched it until the flames died and everything crumbled to the deck. The hull gradually sank lower in the water until it disappeared.

Ferries crossing the Strait between Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island before the Confederation Bridge was built, often encountered the phantom ship. A ferryboat captain reported sailing straight through the flames finding nothing, while another claimed to have seen “a burning vessel appeared aglow with fire and was moving fast.” 

In 1885, a group of rescuers attempted to help the burning ship were lost themselves, never to be heard from again – although this could be apocryphal as I couldn’t find any specific evidence of this event.

In January 2008, 17-year-old Mathieu Giguere claimed to have seen the ghost ship, describing it as a “bright white and gold ship” During some sightings, witnesses also claim to hear gunfire, or a ball of fire in the sky.

In 1905, a New Brunswick scientist William Francis Ganong suggested the nature of the light described in sightings could be a natural electrical phenomena on the surface of the sea which rises in columns, and resembled the flaming rigging of a ship. Another explanation is that the ship is a bank of fog reflecting moonlight, or the setting of the moon on the horizon. Not as romantic as a burning ghost ship, but at least it does not have its origins in an ancient disaster.

The stories of the sightings don’t vary much, even though the ship was viewed from both sides of the strait, the south coast of Prince Edward Island, the North coast of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as Caribou Island and Pictou Island.

Some feel this ship might be The Isabella, a schooner which set sail with a cargo of lumber in December 1868 and was lost at sea off Labrador. She was last seen by a lighthouse keeper on Amet Island during a violent storm off Nova Scotia, but no trace of her was ever found.

Other theories are she is an immigrant ship of Highland Scots, lost at sea while searching for new land, or a pirate ship sunk near Merigomish by a British warship during the Napoleonic War. One explanation is she was a pirate ship that pillaged a ship from England, then the crew got into a drunken brawl with another pirate ship over the spoils during which both ships caught fire and all hands were lost.

"There's a burst of flame and a flash of light
And there on the tide is a frightening sight
As a tall ship all aflame lights up the sky
Tales of the phantom ship, from truck to keel in flames
She sails the wide Northumberland Strait
No one knows her name.”

From "Tales of the Phantom Ship" a song by Lennie Gallant

In June 2014, Canada Post issued a stamp depicting the Northumberland Strait ghost ship, issued on Friday 13th as part of a series of Canadian ghost story stamps. 

Envy The Wind - A story of Prince Edward Island will be released in Summer 2018

Personally, I don't believe in ghosts, or the paranormal, and maybe the 'light phenomenon' explanation is feasible. However, islands in general often have romantic tales connected with the sea which are passed down through the years which add to their character.
After all, stranger things happen at sea.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Ghosts, ghouls and other sightings by Victoria Chatham

It’s October, folks. Time for ghouls and ghosts and all things that go bump in the night, culminating with Halloween on October 31st.

As so many festival days do, this one goes back over 2,000 years to the time of the Celts who peopled Ireland, much of the United Kingdom and northern France. On the Celtic calendar, Samhain (pronounce it Sow-in or Saw-in) represented the end of summer’s light and warmth and the start of the cold and dark of winter. To encourage the spirits to help the living and their livestock through this dark half of the year, offerings of food and wine were left outside peoples’ homes, or an extra place was laid at the table. Whether or not the spirits braved the journey through the thin veil between living and dead is a matter of conjecture.

Calgary has several reputedly haunted houses. One of them is The Deane House, in Inglewood. Built in 1906 for Captain Richard Burton Deane, the Superintendent of the Royal North West Mounted Police, the house was moved to its present location in 1929 when it became a boarding house. From then up until 1973 several unfortunate incidents involving tenants occurred.

One man was fatally wounded after falling down the stairs. A young woman jumped from a second storey window. Another man was gunned down on the porch and a depressed, epileptic boy committed suicide in the attic. As if these incidents were not bad enough, a murder/suicide incident was carried out in front of two young children.

After 1973, the house became a gallery and studio for local artists who were the first to report unexplained occurrences there such as the smell of pipe tobacco or cold spots on the stairs. When the house became a restaurant several of the staff reported seeing shifting figures on the stairs, a cupboard door that would not stay locked, and most spooky of all, an apparent blood stain that could not be washed away.

Other hauntings in Inglewood have been reported at the Victorian era Cross House, now a restaurant and renamed Rouge, and the Hose and Hound pub which was once a firehall. Chief James ‘Cappy’ Smart was known to have an interest in exotic pets and it is reputed that the ghost of his monkey now haunts the pub.

In downtown Calgary another of the Fairmont chain properties, the Palliser Hotel, has reports of a ghostly debutante and a haunted elevator. There is also the Doll Block Building on 8th Avenue and the old City Hall. Through the month of October, there are many ghost walks and tours available, some of them lantern-lit for full atmospheric effect.

Whether you believe in ghosts or not, October is the month when you can fully indulge all your flights of fancy.