These spooky spots to visit are simply #travelghouls.
Strange things abound in New Brunswick if you believe the many ghost, witch, monster and headless nun stories passed down from generation to generation. There are haunted theatres, ghost ships that blaze, lumberjack murderers, and haunted tombstones.
Many of these stories are older than the written word in Atlantic Canada but some have their origins just a few decades ago. From flying spectres to island apparitions to even witch corpses crawling out of their own graves, the ghost stories of New Brunswick touch a wide variety of locations, communities and spooky styles.
We drove to some of the places considered haunted this month just to see what it looked like and just to feel what it must have felt like to be a person from another era, without Google, television, or telephones when something seemingly unexplainable might arise or visit you. We found that even in some somewhat populated rural areas of the province today, the ghost stories got the better of us momentarily and our hearts and thoughts raced, wondering if we had stumbled across a haunted grave yard or worried what might happen to us if our car broke down in the narrowest, bumpiest of dark, swirling wood roads.
For instance, we are convinced we encountered ghost cows possessed by the spirits of the dead while we went looking for a haunted grave at a small, rural cemetery. This group of ghost cows emerged from out of nowhere, into a graveyard off a busy street, stared at us menacingly for several long, slow minutes before vanishing down a hill into the woods. There were no farms nearby. When we looked down the hill only seconds later, the slow-moving group of cows were nowhere at all in sight.
It was a bright, sunny afternoon and these cows just suddenly appeared in a small village cemetery and then they just disappeared. Cows, big cows, and four of them. Add that to the list of eerie and unexplainable things found in this Atlantic province. They must have been guarding the graves, knowing we were looking for one that is said to be haunted.
With inspiration from spooky stories from Stuart Trueman’s Ghosts, Pirates and Treasure Trove: The Phantoms That Haunt New Brunswick, as well as some choice bits of guidance from the internet, we went looking for ghosts – and we just may have found some.
“Uncommon natural phenomena are common in New Brunswick and inspired countless Indigenous ghost stories,” writes Trueman.
“Places like Saint John’s Reversing Falls where the Maliseet believed a perpetually spinning log in a giant whirlpool represented a demon and tried to appease him by shooting arrows bearing tobacco pouches into the log.”
Trueman continues to list other natural phenomena that would have gone unexplained even just a century ago. Tobique County’s Bald Mountain where rivers flowing north, south and east all take their source and make subterranean growling and gurgling noises. It was known as Rumbling Mountain for this reason. Or, for instance, the world’s greatest tidal whirlpool at Deer Island’s Old Sow. Additionally, at least two New Brunswick lakes are thought to shelter sea serpents – Lake Utopia, home to “Old Ned” (the town still advertises the monster in its tourism literature) and Lake Pohenegamook’s monster Ponik.
If you, like us, want to venture out this fall to explore some haunted sites, scare your pants off, and find your own ghosts, here is a list of 13 haunted New Brunswick tourism ideas. We advise you to not venture out alone, be sure to bring a flashlight and some holy water, and please, what ever you do, keep an eye out for four haunted ghost cows that want to steal your soul with just their big brown eyes.
The Black Dog and other apparitions of Partridge Island
Partridge Island can be a spooky place. Historically, the location was used as a former quarantine station and wartime fortress outpost. Of course it would have several haunted sightings. The Black Dog ghost has been considered “a great beast” of a black dog, according to Trueman. It is said to have haunted Partridge Island, for over 150 years. This black dog is believed to run up and down the island, upsetting people and sowing chaos.
As well, Partridge Island is known for a Headless Woman, whose head does actually exist, but carried under her arm. Legend has it that a first world war sentry fired at her three times before fainting. Apparently the headless woman vision was associated with an old lady who would stroll the island day and night and had fallen off a cliff behind the old marine hospital years earlier.
The Call of Malabeam in Grand Falls
An old legend says that at Grand Falls, you may be able to hear the ghostly cry of Malabeam, a captive Maliseet heroine. She had died at the falls as a self-sacrificing act to save her tribe’s Fort Meductic from destruction, Trueman writes. She guided hundreds of invading Mohawk in rafted canoes over the 74-foot cataract. Many have heard her echoing cry at this spot.
Disappearing Acts in Albert County
A couple tales likely inspired by land-fog illusions come from Albert County. One legend says that a man who was hiking saw a carriage approaching from behind. He turned and waved to the driver for a lift, and just as it neared him, vanished completely. In another tale, a covered bridge at Bennett Lake would often lure a headless man, emerging from the shadows.
Rebecca Lutes’ Concrete Grave just outside Moncton
According to legend, Rebecca was a young witch who was hanged after crop losses and animal mutilations occurred in the area in the 1800s. It is believed that her grave was covered in concrete to ensure she could not rise up from her grave and continue her mischief. New Brunswickers have, for a long time, said she continues to haunt Gorge Road on moonless nights, near Moncton, on what used to be her family’s farm land where she was buried. When you see a slab of concrete by the side of road, just before the old quarry and cement factory, that is the spot.
According to local blog My New Brunswick, there used to be farm buildings in the distance but have since fallen. Some people claim to see a black cat that sits atop the grave, only to disappear moments later. Others report bloodstains on the concrete only to return with other witnesses and find it gone or odd lights passing over the grave. She was buried upside down, the story goes, so she would not climb out.
Naysayers will say she likely died of TB and there were no witches killed in New Brunswick in the 1800s. Medical records do indicate a Rebecca Lutes died of tuberculosis… but maybe that’s what they want you to think!
Dungarvon Whooper in Blackville
The story of the Dungarvon Whooper actually inspired the name of a later train, as well as a poem. Young, tall, black-haired settler Irishman, most often named Ryan, with a last name of Dungarvon, worked as a cook for a logging camp in the 1860s. It was, according to legend, both his first and his last job in New Brunswick. The winter logging camp was located on the Dungarvon River, which empties in the Miramichi River.
When the other lumberjacks went out to fell timber, Ryan was left alone with the boss, one of the versions goes. He was wearing a “money belt” at the time, which is basically a glorified Victorian fanny pack. The boss, greedy as he was, legend has it, could not resist the potential fortune in the young cook’s fanny pack. He then slashed Ryan’s throat and proceeded to bury the body in the camp’s stable. According to the legend, the other lumberjacks discovered the murder because even thought the boss said Ryan must have quit and left the camp, they could not see any footprints in the snow leading out.
In another version of the story, New Brunswick poet Michael Whalen wrote a melodramatic piece about how the boss killed Ryan in such a way to make it seem like he had died from a seizure. That night, the campers mourned in fright as they heard “shrill, unearthly whoops” that echoed throughout the stormy forest. Even as new crews came in to replace the last lumberjacks, “stout-hearted men were reduced to numbed, unreasoning, panicky creatures with only one overwhelming impulse: to flee.”
If you hear the Dungarvon Whooper (pronounced “hooper”), you should never respond to it. If you do, you better run- it’s coming for you. Much later, a priest came to bless the area and the haunted whooping became rarer.
Phantom Ship of Baie de Chaleur
A ship appears ablaze far off in the distance. Countless people have seen the phantom ship of Baie de Chaleur, according to Sister Catherine Jolicoeur of the Assumption Order in Trueman’s collection of New Brunswick haunted stories. She alone has documented over 1,000 sightings of phantom ships across the world. A phantom ship is not a concept specific to New Brunswick, but it does manifest differently here than it does, say, in Europe.
In New Brunswick, a phantom ship is on fire. For that reason, it is also known as “The Burning Ship.” A whole family watched the fire ship in September 1969. A New Brunswicker, Bert Wood, described the Phantom Ship of Baie de Chaleur as “brilliant and spectacular… more like a building on fire than a ship.” He said it would flare up and then die down to a glimmer, but the ship was travelling fast at about 60 miles an hour. Whole Sunday school classes and their clergy have seen it and some New Brunswickers have actually chanced upon it twice in their lives.
Some folks along the coast between Campbellton and Miscou Island believe it to be a haunted ship that was wrecked at Green Point in the 1600s. Others, like locals of Shippegan Island, refer to it as the John Craig Light, after a boat that was beached there in the 1700s. Some people even believe it to be a boat from the 1760 Battle of the Restigouche, the last naval encounter of the Seven Years War in North Atlantic waters.
No matter which ship, or if the apparition is just a mirage result related to the science of electricity or what sailors call, “St. Elmo’s Fire,” seeing a fiery ghost ship on Baie de Chaleur just might tingle your spine.
Capitol Theatre in Moncton
While it no longer operates as a movie theatre, the Capitol Theatre in Moncton’s downtown Main Street is believed to be haunted. Not by one ghost, but two. A girl fell to her death on the stairs and is believed to appear behind the ticket booth at night. In 1924, a firefighter named Alexander Lindsay died while putting out a fire when the stage fell on him. You can say his ghost is a pretty cool guy – according to the legend, he sits in the auditorium and causes chilly winds to blow inside.
The Ghosts of the Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrews
Some tell of a vanishing spectre bell hop who helps visitors to their room, telling them stories about the town and the hotel. When they turn around, he has vanished and they have to go leave his tip at the front desk. There are various ghosts seen in rooms 308 and 373, according to the My New Brunswick blog, but there are many other ghostly stories about the hotel. Items have gone missing or doorknobs turn on their own. As one of the oldest hotels in Canada, it is no wonder this hotel has so many scary stories.
The Headless Nun of French Fort Cove in Nordin
A nun has appeared on an old bridge across the upper end of French Fort Cove. She has been described as a French lady or a nun, carrying her head in her hand. According to the late Dr. Louise Manny, an historian and expert on traditional music, the Headless Nun offers travellers a thousand guineas to take the head back to France for her. One man who saw her, ran away, terrified but she kept returning to him even at his home. Only when he moved to New York, did the Headless Nun stop returning to him.
According to the late William Fenelon, the Headless Nun’s origin story is that one nun came from French Fort Cove’s settlement to go deliver a baby at the “Newcastle Indian Camp.” When she was returning, a mad trapper ran out of the woods and killed her, slicing off her head with a sharp knife. He ran off to the woods and buried her head. When her body was found later, her head was was not with it. So even though her body was sent back to France to be buried, her head remains in New Brunswick, which is why she stops passersby to ask them to send her head back to France.
She is known as Sister Marie Inconnue. In Nordin, there have been Headless Nun sightseeing tours available to the public. Near the area at French Fort Cove today, there is a park and zip line.
The Ghost of Edmond Chatfield on Grand Manan Island
On an 1824 evening, a young couple who intended to marry the next day took a small skiff for a paddle off the Maine Coast. Edmond Chatfield and Desilda St. Clair thought they would have a romantic little boat ride that evening but soon a powerful current starting sweeping them out toward sea. As Chatfield wrestled with the waves, an oar broke so the small skiff was pushed closer to Grand Manan Island’s rocky cliffs at Dark Harbour.
At sunrise, they staggered ashore only to find that they were interrupting pirates who were in the process of burying their loot, according to the legend. Chatfield was hanged and St. Clair was tied to a tree, unconscious after fainting.As the story goes, St. Clair cunningly convinced the pirates to untie her and somehow managed to take turns seducing each one before killing them. The last man apparently fled but tripped off a cliff and died.
Two fishermen are believed to have watched the whole thing play out and were later visited by Chatfield’s ghost, walking along the beach, head in hand. You might be able to too if you go to Dark Harbour, Grand Manan Island. You might also happen upon the ghost of St. Clair, who is described as having such a “satanic countenance” that any passersby would recoil in horror. The ghost calls out, “Edmond! Edmond! Edmond!”
Old Ned in Lake Utopia
The legend goes far back, all the way back to the 1800s. But even just in 2019, Jack Kelson, a New Brunswick man, told CTV News that he had learned about Old Ned from his grandfather when he was a child. He also happened to meet the creature when he was 13 years old, fishing off Cannonball Island with his father. “You could see the big black rolls of the thing going up like that,” he told the reporter last year.
Since Lake Utopia connects to the Magaguadavic River and it has been spotted over the years in some nearby locations, some locals say that there may be more than one of these sea creatures, or that it travels. It looks similar to Nessy and other classic slithery sea serpent monsters.
The Ug Wug of Saint John’s Reversing Falls
New Brunswick has several sea monster stories, some more credible – or documented – than others. For instance, the Ug Wug sea monster of Saint John’s Reversing Falls appears to have been invented in the 1950s in order to attract tourists to the Reversing Falls if you believe a detailed CBC investigation on the topic early this year.
In Julia Wright’s article, she writes that the head of tourism may have concocted the story to lure in visitors. Among other research, she also writes that Frances Helyar, a “history buff and former Saint Johner” was known as “the Ug Wug Lady” in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She had written a popular children’s song about the creature which was used in many schools at the time. The lyrics go: “Once upon a time many years ago / Lived a creature, so they say / hidden in the caves of Reversing Falls / Who knows? He could still be there today / Ug Wug, Ug Wug, lies in the sun or he goes for a swim / Ug Wug Wuw Wug, oh how I wish I could see him.”
It became a popular story and Ug Wug even had his own mural on a city building. Why not check it out for yourself at Reversing Falls this Halloween? By the way, he is a pretty ugly beast – so keep your eyes peeled for a sort of salamander, serpent, salmon type of amphibian monster hybrid.
Champlain’s Gougou off northern New Brunswick
Another quite old written account of a sea monster legend comes from the settler Samuel de Champlain. He had collected tales about the Gougou, a creature found in water at the north of the province that could swallow a ship up in just one bite. To be clear, when Kelson was interviewed by CTV to speak about the sea monster he came across at the age of 13, he mentioned that his father believed it to be just a group of eels mating. Have they always just been eels? Or are there many different sea monsters hidden in the depths who only show themselves to those who dare look?
With these 13 haunted places in New Brunswick listed out for you, if you try your hand at ghost-hunting this Halloween, you’re likely to get goosebumps. You might even find the supernatural where you weren’t expecting it. I know we did with those eerie cows at the graveyard who suddenly appeared, stared angrily at us for 10 minutes and then suddenly vanished. Sometimes a landscape or a setting can be the thing causing our trepidation, especially when there is an abundance of unpredictable nature.
And is it really any wonder in New Brunswick, when, to one side, you look out to distant sea and, to the other side, vast expanses of hills, woods and fog still left taking up much of the province even today? Towns are far apart and sparsely populated in comparison with other Canadian cities. So many forests and bodies of waters separate. But we’re never really that far apart if you count the phantoms between us.
All photo credits: Courtney Edgar