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Launching a New Book about Newfoundland Ghosts

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June 13, 2013, will mark the official launch of The Ghosts of Baccalieu—a book I’ve been working on with Tricon Elementary School in Bay de Verde, Newfoundland. The students there collected local ghost stories from their family and friends and drew pictures of ghosts and we made a book!

Last November I spent two days a week in the school exploring all the aspects of making a book with the children: storytelling, writing, editing, proofreading, design and publishing. It didn’t take long for us to discover that Baccalieu Trail may be one of the most haunted places in Newfoundland — the Old Hollies scream in the wind, dead fishermen row a ghostly longboat through Baccalieu Tickle, restless spirits lurk on the lonely barrens, and a woman in white appears on a deserted highway at midnight. The students  collected some very spooky tales that have been told and told again through many generations.

The project was made possible by an ArtsSmarts grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council (supported by the Department of Education through the Cultural Connections Strategy), as well as the enthusiastic support from the staff at Tricon Elementary and members of the community who passed on the stories. I really enjoyed my time at the school—the children gave me a rousing welcome every time I walked into a classroom. They were especially fond of the Silky Ghost, and kept begging me to bring her back.

The Silky Ghost will be “appearing” at the launch party at the school at     1 p.m. on June 13. Members of the public are welcome. There will be selected readings from the book and the students drawings and book covers designs will be on display.

But be warned: you have to drive across the barrens to get to the school and there are some very creepy ghosts that hang out there, including a blueberry-picking ghost, a ghost that floats into cars, and a ghost that once scared a man so badly he ran home barefoot and left his new shoes behind.

The Ghosts of Baccalieu is being published by Baccalieu Books, a publishing company I have started to showcase books made by children about Newfoundland.

To buy a copy of The Ghosts of Baccalieu, go to this website: http://www.theghostsofbaccalieu.com.

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May 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm Leave a comment

Ghost Hunting in Newfoundland

I’m on the hunt for ghosts in Newfoundland and I’m hoping you can help me. Have you ever seen a ghost? Do you know someone who has? Can you tell a good ghost story? If so, I want to hear from you.

Every time I go to a school with the Silky Ghost and A World Full of Ghosts, the highlight of my presentation is when we turn down the lights and I tell two very scary Newfoundland ghost stories. The kids can’t get enough of Newfoundland ghosts, and neither can I. So I’m collecting ghost stories from all over Newfoundland to use as the basis of a book of ghost stories for children. I’m interested in traditional tales that have been told again and again as well as stories about apparitions that appeared to you last week: I want them all!

People have been seeing ghosts in Newfoundland for hundreds of years. Ghost ships sailing past foggy headlands, ghost lights dancing on the water, white figures flitting down the stairs, dark forms lying in wait on lonely paths. Since I already have quite a few stories from the Avalon Peninsula, I’m especially interested in ghosts from other parts of the province.

If you have a story, or know someone who does, email me at chariscotter@gmail.com.

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The Silky ghost terrifying children with a Newfoundland ghost story.

June 21, 2012 at 2:06 pm Leave a comment

The Uncanny Students at Holy Trinity Elementary, Torbay

Why uncanny? Because they were exceptionally well behaved, attentive and quiet while I was doing my presentations. So good it was almost ‒ well – unreal! Were they enchanted? I don’t know, but it was a pleasure to entertain four classes of Grade Threes last Friday.

Holy Trinity is one of my favourite schools to go to. They have asked me back every single time I do a tour in Newfoundland, and they always make me welcome. I was at the old school twice, and they told me it was haunted. The new school doesn’t seem to harbour any ghosts, but all those good children did seem a bit supernatural to me. The library is big and full of interesting books and cosy places to sit and read them. I noticed some inspiring quotes on the walls and strangely, a few black crows and a vulture perched on the bookcases.

I usually find that Grade Threes are the perfect age for my presentation, but with these children I caught myself wondering a couple of times if my stories were too scary. They gazed at me with their wide eyes, hanging on every word. One boy sat with his hands over his ears and a look of horror on his face, but I noticed he kept dropping his hands so he didn’t miss anything.

I heard that traffic was bad, because of construction, between Torbay and St. John’s, so I got there 45 minutes early, down almost empty roads. I stopped at a vegetable truck in the rain and filled my arms with huge carrots, parsnips, turnips and homemade raisin bread.

A good day. A fun day. But I still keep wondering, Why were they so good?

Thank you, Holy Trinity, and Happy Halloween to all.

Western Bay, Newfoundland, October 2011

October 23, 2011 at 11:45 am Leave a comment

Newfoundland Ghost Tour: Year Three

There’s a crispness to the wind these days and the meadow grasses are starting to turn orangey-red. And out by the ocean path, where the broken old gravestones stand high above the rocky shore, strange shadows flit from stone to stone. I’m sure I heard footsteps behind me on the boardwalk this morning, but when I turned ‒ there was no one there.

Yes, it’s that spooky time of year again when phantoms are prone to wander, looking for unwary souls or ‒ looking for candy? You might hear an Irish Banshee wailing in the night, or (heaven forbid) hear the knock of the skeletal French Ankou at your door. Or you might see an Indian Brahmadaitya up a tree, or pass by an abandoned house where a Navaho Chindi is trapped forever.

The world is full of ghosts, and I’m happy to be bringing some of them to schoolchildren in Newfoundland during my Third Annual Ghost Tour, October 11‒21. I’ll be presenting ghosts and stories from my book, A World Full of Ghosts, illustrated by Marc Mongeau. The Scottish Silky ghost will be dusting books and children and telling spooky tales from every corner of the world. I’ll play a little Ghost Ball with the students using a haunted globe, and finish it off with two very true and very scary Newfoundland ghost stories.

Turns out that everybody all around the world loves a good ghost story. I’m booking now, so send me an email and I’ll come to your school, just in time for Halloween!

Charis Cotter’s Third Annual Newfoundland Ghost Tour: October 11‒21, 2011

chariscotter@gmail.com

September 21, 2011 at 5:12 pm Leave a comment

Is the Silky Ghost from Edinburgh?

On Saturday morning the Silky stood in for me at Chapters on Kenmount Road in St. John’s, and told spooky international ghost stories to children for a couple of hours.

Everyone had fun! Two groups of children sat for 45 minutes each, picking countries on the Ghost Ball for ghost stories, and the Silky cooperated with tales from Jamaica, China, Finland, Africa and many more. All the books sold out!

One little girl’s family came from Scotland, which made the Silky just a tad nervous. She can be a bit embarrassed about her over-the-top Scots accent. But as the father thanked her and said goodbye, he asked if she was from Edinburgh.

“No!” said the Silky.

“Where are you from then?” he asked.

The Silky laughed again and dropped her voice to a whisper. “It’s a fake accent,” she confided. “It’s not real.”

He shook his head. I don’t think he wanted to believe it. “I could have sworn you were from Edinburgh.”

That got me thinking. Maybe she is from Edinburgh.

November 2, 2010 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

Grade 3s Rock and Rule!

There’s something to be said for finding the exact right age for a school presentation and a book. With A World Full of Ghosts, it’s always been Grade 3 for me! They’re at that magical age of 8, old enough to listen but young enough to see ghosts everywhere.

At Holy Trinity school in Torbay last week, I was treated to a room full of Grade 3s and the presentation just sailed along. I love that when it happens: the kids are with me every step of the way. At the end, when we turn out the lights and I warn them to sit closer to their friends, the room ripples with anticipation and then I tell the them the story that was too frightening to put into the book: The Old Hag, the ghost from Newfoundland.

I met more enthusiastic students in Paradise last week, at Holy Family School, and I also drove to Whitbourne Elementary. That must be a particularly haunted part of Newfoundland, because the kids were bursting with ghost sightings of their own.

On the pretty drive back home along Trinity Bay I saw an old business sign that gave me pause: “Job’s Insurance.” Hmmm. I wonder.

So now my Ghost Tour is finished for another year. It was a great success: I met lots of kids, sold lots of books, had enormous fun scaring them with my extra-scary Newfoundland ghost stories. I went to places I’d never been before (Paradise, Whitbourne, Mount Carmel) and visited wonderful schools with many ghost-loving students.

Just one more event tonight: the award ceremony for the St. John’s Public Libraries Ghost Story Writing Contest. The Silky is rolling up her sleeves. Rumour has it that the dust at the A.C. Hunter Library is shocking.

November 2, 2010 at 10:59 am Leave a comment

Driving through Newfoundland and Rainbows

After a summer perched in my Seaside Blue Happiness Cottage beside the bay, I’ve suddenly started driving. Last week I drove down the Salmonier Line to St. Catherine’s Academy to do my first Ghost Presentation of the season. True to my experience of Newfoundland, it was different than anywhere else! I had consulted maps and Google, but the school suddenly presented itself to me, around a corner on top of a hill. A big school, Kindergarten to Grade 12, with two friendly teenagers in the office who offered to help me lug my stuff to the library. Then my host, Brenda Nolan, arrived with her entire Grade 6 class (about 6 kids I think) to offer me more assistance, so I felt very well taken care of. The kids were responsive and very well behaved, and begged for the Silky ghost to reappear at the end of the presentation. Which she did!

Since then I’ve been in and out of St. John’s to visit Bishop Feild School, which is more than 150 years old and is tucked away on another hill in downtown St. John’s. This was not easy to get to: with the one-way streets and dead ends, I kept circling for about 15 minutes. I could see cars parked by the school but no way in! It was like an impregnable castle… but eventually after I spoke to the school secretary on my cellphone, she revealed where the entrance was… down an impossibly narrow street from another level of the city.

I loved the school: it has big old staircases and cavernous arches leading down to the basement. The library had big tall windows and a huge fireplace. The kids were enthusiastic and chatty and surprisingly fearless: they voted most of my most frightening stories at only a one-skull scariness level. Even my Old Hag story,which usually results in a show of hands for three-skulls worth of spookiness, had them nonchalently voting one skull. I guess living in haunted downtown St. John’s, they’ve seen worse!

The day I drove to St. John’s the sun came out and then the rain swept in and then the sun came out again and then it rained. I love the drive up and down the ribbony highways, with the barrens spreading out ahead of me, and the other cars chugging along through miles and miles of space and sky.

I came back to my little cottage and have been walking to the lighthouse in the mornings, climbing over the wrecked boardwalk (a souvenir of Hurricane Igor), and counting rainbows. This year I have been surprised by all the rainbows in the bay. One seems to start at the same point of land across the water from me. They are often a complete arc, right across the bay, and sometimes the colours are piercingly vivid, but by the time I run to get my camera, they fade.

October 20, 2010 at 7:58 am 1 comment

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