I hope everyone had a spooktacular, fun filled and safe Halloween. In keeping with the season I couldn’t help but talk about ghosts and goblins. Ghosts tourism? Surprisingly ... Yes!
Just over the past decade ghost’s tourism has boomed thanks to an increase in public interest in the mysterious and supernatural. Turn on the television any night of the week and you will find some reality show featuring ghost hunters chasing ghosts and delving into the mystery of the paranormal. A Google search will provide you with listings of haunted attractions near you. Most every city, province, state, country etc... has their own local ‘Tourist Haunted House’ guide and even book store sections featuring the supernatural are growing leaps and bounds.
Let’s face it; everyone loves a good ghost story. People can’t help but be fascinated and intrigued by the unknown. This time of the year, more than any other, people enjoy telling/hearing ghost stories and even taking part in a thrilling tour of a haunted house. Well, believe it or not, your own town or city is probably haunted. Just about every city in the world has some supposedly haunted mansion, house or cemetery, with at least one company offering tours of their spookiest places. In the United States, Americans spend about $300 million each year on haunted house tickets, whether it be a commercial haunted attraction, a charitable one or an amusement park such as Disney World. There are 4500 haunted houses across the country and each one attracts more than 8000 guests each season.
Haunted attractions are a big business here in Canada as well, with every major city and town offering a variety of haunted tours. Some tours are planned to incorporate local scary folklore and ghost tales. For instance, Vancouver locals are all too familiar with several haunted places in the city, such as Blood Alley and Gastown. The Alley actually has a sign that says “Blood Alley”. According to local legend, the side street is named for the buckets of blood spilled on the cobblestones by the numerous butchers who ran businesses there around the turn of the 20th century. These stories have left a horror-filled psychic energy throughout the alley and makes for a very popular spot for tours this time of year. The City of Vancouver offers a “Haunted Trolley Tour” which is a narrated tour of Vancouver’s scariest sites such as the city’s oldest cemetery and the morgue.
I know I’ve been going on and on about the United States and Canada in general and you are probably thinking “what about us...we have scary stories too”. You would be absolutely correct. Newfoundland is no exception to the presence of ghosts and the supernatural. Perhaps, the scariest of all places because it is a land of fog and a land seeped in mystery. Some say that the mystery surrounding our island is something more, something supernatural and something a little strange. Yes, Newfoundland is haunted in more ways than one; it is wrought with tales of terror and mystery. There are stories of bloody duels, strange water creatures, banshee sightings, haunted funeral parlors, spirits from shipwrecks and the list goes on. Some of the ghost tales have been passed down from generation to generation told by the elders, however many have been published in the numerous books sold right here in Newfoundland. These books are not only popular with the locals but with the tourists as well.
It seems that tales of the supernatural are an integral part of Green Bay’s heritage. It has its own collection of ghost stories and mysterious happenings... transparent figures walking through walls, phantom ships docking in the harbour that have been wrecked for years, and eerie wails penetrating the still night. We even have our very own ‘Loch Ness Monster’ which made its first appearance in Crescent Lake, Robert’s Arm back in 1991. Now the monster is simply known to locals and tourists alike as “Cressie”. At one time, a phantom schooner could be seen in Hall’s Bay. It would sail from Long Island to the dock at South Brook. One person, in fact watched it dock and started towards it to help the deck hands tie up, but as he neared the dock the ship mysteriously disappeared. It is said that a schooner from Long Island is the ghost ship. This particular schooner called the “Stanley Parsons”, skippered by Sid Parsons made frequent trips back and forth to St. John’s. While coming back from St. John’s on December 12, 1932 the ship was lost in a storm. Then there is the mysterious hitchhiking ghost of South Brook and the friendly spirits of Coffee Cove that everyone seems so familiar with. We also have a haunted house attraction right here in Springdale every Halloween, thanks to the many youth volunteers of Icecap.
St. John’s has taken its history of the paranormal and incorporated it into tourist’s attractions which are available through the summer and fall every year. The city, being the oldest in North America, is not only steeped in history but is considered to be the city of legends. Often wreathed in fog with its dark alleys and laneways that wind through the heart of historic downtown, in the shadows lurk the unknown. For those brave enough to take part, there is the “St. John’s Haunted Hike”, a walking ghost tour of the dark back alleys of historic, haunted St. John’s. It is a theatrical exploration and Newfoundland’s most popular paranormal event which will leave you shaking in your boots. During the tour you are surrounded by memories of public hangings, duels and horrific murders. You will pass over forgotten cemeteries and unmarked graves, past buildings known to be visited by those who have passed over to the other side...vengeful lovers and murdered soldiers. This is available to all those brave enough to explore the secrets that lie in wait in the city’s darkest corners.
The “St. John’s Haunted Hike” was named “Event Of The Year” by the City of St. John’s. From the creator of this event, along with Parks Canada, comes another evening of ghost stories, historic tales and strange adventures. The “Ghosts of Signal Hill” performance takes place on Signal Hill every Friday and Saturday night from June 1st to September 15th. After walking up Signal Hill in the dark with only a flashlight, you will Join Lieutenant Ranslaer Schuyler by lamplight inside the historic Queen’s Battery and find out what happens on Newfoundland’s most historic hill, after the lights go out. Learn about daring escapes, murdered pirates, ghost ships, buried treasure, tragic drowning and headless phantoms. How cool is that?
According to some professionals, ghost tours can be a very lucrative business. It’s a service with little overhead and start up costs. However it does take a very creative mind, and a good storyteller. Out of the thousands of haunted houses out there, you will find plenty of the same scare tactics and setups; however some of the top-ranked haunted attractions are those that are unique. Some of the more successful ones in the States are those on retired boats, in wooded areas and there is even one in the converted Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, which housed Al Capone and his cronies. Just imagine the possibilities here in Newfoundland, with its retired fishing boats, old fishing stages, retired lighthouses, and endless wooded areas. If you are thinking of getting into the business of scaring people, remember to think outside the box. Happy hauntings to you all.