Thursday, February 17, 2022

HGB Ep. 423 - Halifax, Nova Scotia

Moment in Oddity - Mooning Men

Most of us are familiar with gargoyles on buildings, which are said to ward off evil and are also used to direct rain water away from the building structure. But how many of you have seen gargoyles that are carved to look like naked men? These are known as the Mooning Men. They can be found at various locations in England and France. One of the most well known locations is that of Easton-on-the-Hill in Stamford, England. Legend has it that the mason carver created these men in protest of being underpaid. All but one of these under clad gentlemen have their derrieres facing towards Peterborough Cathedral and they are carved in such a way that the rainwater exits out of a particular orifice. Many also have unmentionable body parts on display as well. Be that as it may, the origination seems to be more urban legend than fact. Actually there are several churches that also have Mooning Men that don't face Peterborough Cathedral and typically, building churches was not paid for by the Diocese but by wealthy benefactors of the area. Interestingly, it is said that at the time of the building, many people were plagued by constipation, which may have been connected to this preoccupation. Regardless of the truth behind the origination story of these unique gargoyles, seeing naked men in a bent over position on a building, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - Supreme Court Rules 19th Amendment Constitutional

In the month of February, on the 27th, in 1922, the Supreme Court declared that the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was constitutional. The Amendment stated that "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex." Suffragists had worked for nearly 100 years to get women the right to vote and in 1916, both major political parties agreed that it was time that women have that right. The 19th Amendment was passed by Congress on June 4, 1919 and it was ratified by 36 states, so that it reached the three-fourths majority required to add an amendment to the Constitution. Millions of American women exercised that right on Election Day in 1920 thanks to the work of Alice Paul, Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frances E.W. Harper, Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell and Susan B. Anthony.

Halifax, Nova Scotia (Suggested by: Mieke (Meeka) van Vulpen)

Nova Scotia means "New Scotland" and is known for its coastal views, lobster, fish, blueberries and apples. Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia, Canada and the largest municipality in the province. Being one of the largest harbors in the world, this city has been witness to two tragic maritime accidents. There have been battles waged here and whole groups of people were driven out when Britain settled the area. For these reasons and others, Halifax has quite a few haunted locations. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Halifax!

Hunter-gatherer groups were the first to hunt and traverse the area that would become Halifax. The first known indigineous group were the Mi'kmaq People and their territory which stretched from Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia was called Miꞌkmaꞌki. The coastal area where Halifax would be established was called Kjipuktuk, pronounced "che-book-took" and this meant "Great Harbour" in the Mi'kmaq language. Colonel Edward Cornwallis would bring the first group of settlers from England to Chebucto in 1746. The British wanted to keep the French out of the area and they planned to build a harbor, which would be the second largest in the world at the time. They changed the name of the settlement to Halifax in honor of the Earl of Halifax who masterminded the settlement. These settlers, which numbered around 2,500, were ill-prepared and few homes were built before the first winter. Nearly a thousand of the settlers left for Boston and other places in the colonies. 

Cornwallis managed to recruit New Englanders to come up and as that population soared, relations with the Mi'kmaq deteriorated. The Mi'kmaq felt that they were being pushed out of their land, which is exactly what was happening and when that didn't work, Cornwallis set a bounty on Mi'kmaq scalps and he brought in several war ships. And that started a war. This was known as Father Le Loutre's War or the Micmac War. Cornwallis declared Halifax as the new capitol of the British colony and the Mi'kmaq said this broke any treaties that had previously been established. The war lasted from 1749 to 1755. There were multiple skirmishes and Halifax endured thirteen raids by the Mi'kmaq and Acadians who had joined forces. When the war ended, the Acadians were driven out of Canada. The Mi'kmaq eventually signed a peace treaty in 1761. By the time the American Revolution brought Loyalists flooding into Halifax, the Mi'kmaq were pretty much run out of the area. 

The Golden Age for Halifax would come in the mid-1800s. The railroad would come, as would industrialization. Around this time, a Black community dubbed as Africville was established at the edge of the Bedford Basin. Black Nova Scotians lived here for decades, but by the 1950s the neighborhood was in serious neglect. The city had never run water or sewage services to Africville and even built a dump nearby. So in 1961, the residents were forced to vacate and the neighborhood was razed. Today, it is a National Historic Site. 

Before the sun rose on the morning of April 15th, 1912, the grand "unsinkable" RMS Titanic sunk after sideswiping an iceberg.  The collision punched holes in five of the sixteen watertight compartments causing the ship to take on more water than it was built to handle.  More than 1500 people met their final fate that morning in the icy waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.  In the aftermath, rescue ships were sent to recover the bodies of the dead: CS Mackay-Bennett from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the cable ship Minia, lighthouse supply ship Montmagny and sealing vessel Algerine.  On board the CS Mackay-Bennett was embalmer John Snow.  He owned a funeral parlor in Halifax and several victims were taken there rather than to the curling rink.  The building was a two story wood and stone building on Argyle Street and  John Snow and Co. Funeral Home hung on a sign outside the building.  Several coffins were hoisted up to a second floor room, one holding John Jacob Astor IV, and there they sat until burial. We'll talk more about this location later.

The sinking of the Titanic was not the only maritime disaster connected to Halifax. One of the greatest maritime disasters in Canadian history took place in December of 1917. A French cargo ship named the SS Mont-Blanc collided with a Belgian Relief vessel called SS Imo. This took place between upper Halifax Harbor and Bedford Basin in an area nicknamed "The Narrows." After the vessels crashed into each other, there was a huge explosion. And when we say huge, we mean massive. This was the largest artificial explosion next to a nuclear bomb going off. The Richmond District of Halifax was hit the hardest by the explosion. Nine thousand people were injured and two thousand were killed. This came to be known as the Halifax Explosion.  

Halifax is the cultural center of Nova Scotia and has a great history. Many of the locations in Halifax have ghost stories connected to them. Our first site is connected to a lighthouse and interestingly, hits on our Margaret/Peggy nickname topic. This place is called Peggy's Cove.

Peggy's Cove

Peggy's Cove is a quaint fishing village about 45 minutes from downtown Halifax that is home to Peggy's Point Lighthouse. This is one of the best known and most photographed lighthouses in Canada. The waters here are very dangerous. The place is named for Margaret who moved to the village with her husband after a tragic accident claimed the life of their children. Margaret would walk the dangerous rocks along the cove, day and night, as she grieved her children. One day, Margaret's husband joined her on the walk. He suddenly broke into a dance trying to cheer her up and in his exuberance, he fell off the cliff. Margaret quickly followed him as she threw herself off the cliff and into the ocean as well. It is now said that her spirit still walks the cove. Her apparition is seen wearing a blue dress and sometimes standing on the rocks above the ocean. They also will sometimes witness her jump from the cliff and disappear. Of course, there are skeptics who point out that this is at the mouth of Margaret's Bay, so it was named Margaret's Cove and then shortened to Peggy. The site was featured on Creepy Canada.

McNabs Island

McNab's Island was originally named for Cornwallis, but was later named for the man who initially bought it in 1782, Peter McNab. It is the largest island at the entrance of Halifax Harbor. This made it a strategic military setting, but before that indigineous people and fishermen made use of it. The McNab family owned it for a long time. Over time, pieces were sold off with the final bit of land being sold in the early 1930s. In 1866, the steamship S.S. England carrying 1202 passengers from England to New York had an outbreak of cholera and asked to dock at Halifax. The city had its own outbreak in 1834 that killed 600 people, so they told the ship to dock at McNab Island. The dead were buried in two locations: Little Thrum Cap and Hugonins Point. There were around 200 who died and the graves at the Cap eventually washed away. Conditions on the island were horrible with little food and when shipments of food did arrive, only the strong got it because they could fight for it.

In 1797, the H.M.S. Tribune ran aground off McNab Island when the Captain tried to proceed through the Halifax Harbor without the customary escort. The ship drove up on Thrumcap Shoal damaging its rudder and hull. The Captain would not let anyone off the ship and managed to get the ship free with some assistance, but then it just drifted helplessly. It was taking on water faster than the pumps could get it out. The ship foundered and 200 men, women and children drowned. The location is now called Tribune Head.

There are a number of strange stories told about this island. The island is full of ruins, particularly old forts like Fort McNab and Fort Ives. No one has lived here since the 1950s. The first strange story is just fun. Nobody gets in and out of the harbor without passing through Captain George's legs. Captain George was a former lighthouse keeper who had to have a leg amputated. This was buried near Fort Redoubt on the Halifax side. When Captain George died, he was buried on McNab Island. So now he has a leg on either side of the harbor.

There are tales of abandoned mines full of gold. Some believe that buried treasure was left on the island. In 1845, two men were observed near Finlay Cove using a mineral rod and they were very secretive of what they were looking for. They claimed they couldn't find what they had been looking for and left. Later, a hole was found at the base of a cherry tree at a spot marked with five stones. People claimed that they had found a treasure there. Peter McNab, Jr. claimed to see a sea serpent off of Ives Point in 1853. He claimed it was 20 feet long and resembled a large eel with a small head that was raised three inches off the water and it moved with an undulating motion. Hangman's Beach is also here where supposedly the British hanged enemies during the Napoleonic War, pirates and mutineers. The bodies would be left for a while to serve as a warning against criminal activity. Occasionally, ghostly hanging bodies are sometimes seen. And a former resident who drowned on the island is said to be seen as an apparition. 

St. Paul’s Anglican Church

St. Paul’s Anglican Church is the oldest building still standing in Halifax. The church was built in 1750 and modeled after St. Peter's Church in London. The bricks were made locally and timbers were shipped from Maine. Reverend William Tutty was the first minster. When the Halifax Explosion happened, a deacon was standing in front of a window on the right side of the church and it is said that his profile was forever etched into the glass. When people look up at the upper-level rounded window from the sidewalk, they can see his shadow behind the window.There also was a window frame from another building that got lodged into the wall during the explosion.

Halifax Citadel National Historic Site

The Halifax Citadel started out as a wooden guardhouse on the hill that overlooks the harbor. This was a small redoubt and was completed in 1749. This first citadel had fallen into poor condition by 1761 and so plans were made to build a new one, but this was delayed by the Seven Years War. The second citadel was built in 1776 and this was the first major permanent fortification. The center was a three-story octagonal blockhouse with a fourteen-gun battery and 72 mounted guns with multiple lines of earthen redans and a large palisade wall around it. The spot where it sat was named Citadel Hill. By 1784, this citadel was in ruins and it was decided to build a third citadel. Construction began on this in 1796. Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and fourth son of King George III was the Commander-in-chief at Halifax. He inspired much of the design of this new citadel that was completed in 1800. This had four bastions that were surrounded by a central barracks and magazine and there were also earthwork walls. Prince Edward also commissioned the building of the Halifax Town Clock on the eastern slope of Citadel Hill. This clock still works today.

And once again, despite any kind of attack on the citadel, by 1825 the citadel was in ruins except for the powder magazine. The final citadel was built in 1828 and this is the one that still stands today. This one was built over 28 years and was completed in 1856. This is a star-shaped fortress with armored ramparts and an internal courtyard. Portions of the hill had tunnels so that they could be packed with dynamite to blow up the fort if needed. During World War I, the Canadian government considered anyone who had not become naturalized British subjects to be enemy aliens. These people were held as prisoners of war in 24 camps across Canada and some were held at the Halifax Citadel from 1914 to 1918. These were mainly German reservists.

The Halifax Citadel became a National Historic Site in 1935. Despite that, the citadel started to fall into disrepair, especially after World War II. Downtown businesses wanted to level the hill for more parking. Thankfully this didn't happen and the community raised funds to restore the citadel. It was restored to its 1869 Victorian era appearance. Today, Parks Canada runs the site and you can tour the grounds and visit the on-site museums. And you may run into a ghost or two.

Eric Nielsen of Parks Canada told CBC news in 2011 that he had never seen a ghost at the citadel, but he had heard plenty of stories. Warrant Officer Edwards died tragically and his heartbroken lover haunts the citadel looking for him. Claude Valiquette, a security officer, has seen her full-bodied apparition. He describes her as wearing white and says that she has appeared quite often. The garrison prison cell is the most haunted location on the property. A soldier was murdered and his body was thrown down into a well. He now walks the grounds as well. The Cavalier Building plays host to the Grey Lady.

One employee saw on her monitor that there was a man in the Tides of History Theater and there was not supposed to be anyone in there. She searched the entire theater and found no one. Hal Thompson, who was the visitor experience officer in 2011, told The Hamilton Spectator that a woman once saw a uniformed man enter a room and then vanish. She couldn't figure out how he was able to leave the room so quickly since there was only one exit. She told Thompson about this and described the uniform. No one at the Citadel was wearing that kind of uniform. Thompson told the woman that it probably was a ghost. He said, "It doesn't make any sense. There should not have been anyone there wearing that uniform and disappearing into thin air like that. So that's a fairly convincing story."

Alexander Keith’s Brewery

The Alexander Keith Brewery is named for the man who founded it. Keith immigrated from Scotland to Halifax in 1817. In 1820, he founded the brewery. In 1928, the brewery was sold to Oland Brewery and then Labatt Brewing Company. Keith's beers were made with high levels of hopping and all-malt mash ingredients with no corn used. The most popular offering they have is Alexander Keith's IPA, although it isn't a true IPA because this is very lightly hopped and has a lower alcohol content. It has won awards in the Golden Ale category. The brewery offers tours and you just might run into the spirit of Alexander Keith himself.

Keith built a tunnel from his home to the brewery so he could check on things no matter what the weather was like. Disembodied footsteps have been heard coming from the tunnels. In the hallway, the squeaking of a handcart is sometimes heard as though a big keg of beer is being wheeled around. Keith's spirit has been seen standing at the bar several times. And a female ghost has been seen dressed in 19th century attire and she usually disappears into a wall. Paranormal investigators have come through and caught temperature drops and had their EMF meters go off. This happened many times as they tried triggering activity by playing music.

Five Fisherman Restaurant

The building where the Five Fisherman Restaurant is located started out as a school. The parishioners of St Paul’s Church of England thought that Halifax needed a school with an emphasis on both religious studies and general education for the poor of the city. Their school opened in 1818 and was the first school in Canada to offer a free education. The building has been protected as a Heritage site since it was the First National School. Over time, the population outgrew the school and it moved, so the building was sold to a woman named Anna Leonowens. You might recognize that name. Ever seen the movie "The King and I" or read the book "Anna and the King of Siam?" This is THAT Anna. She was the former governess to the children of the King of Siam. After her adventure there, she moved to Halifax. She opened the Halifax Victorian School of Art in the building. 

The art school later moved and the building was bought by the Snow family and things got really interesting because they opened up John Snow & Co. Funeral Home.It would be John Snow who was tasked with the recovery of the dead from the sinking of the Titanic. Many of us know the story behind the building of the Titanic and its maiden voyage that ended in tragedy and we know what happened to Rose and Jack, but very few know the story of recovering the dead. It was a monumental task. Halifax had received word by 10:00 p.m. on April 15, 1912, that the Titanic had sunk and that there were hundreds believed dead. The White Star Line had a partner in Halifax, A.G. Jones and Company, and they asked them to charter a ship to help in recovery. This ship was the MacKay-Bennett and John Snow, Jr. was asked to head up the task since his funeral business was the largest and most successful in Nova Scotia. Snow quickly asked every undertaker and embalmer in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to help.

A woman named Mary Dodosky Walsh was asked to join to help embalm the women and children and Canon Kenneth O. Hind was asked to join so burials at sea could be conducted. Several tons of ice, a hundred wooden caskets and tons of embalming material were loaded onto the MacKay-Bennett and it was off. Each embalmer was given his own room on board. The ship arrived at the scene at daylight on Sunday, April 21st and 51 bodies were immediately recovered. One of those victims was a blond haired two-year old who would never be claimed or identified. The crew had been instructed to do the same thing for every body. Each was marked with a piece of canvas that had and identifying stenciled number and these were logged in a book. The bodies were identified by scars, birthmarks, hair color and so on and any items recovered on the body were also documented. Unfortunately, people were embalmed in order of class, so the First Class got embalmed first. The rest would have to wait until they arrived in Halifax.

That evening, a couple dozen bodies were buried at sea, mostly crew members. They got back to work the following day and recovered another 27 bodies, one of whom was Colonel John Jacob Astor. John Snow, Jr. described the bodies they brought in, "Everybody had on a lifebelt and bodies floated very high in the water in spite of sodden clothes and things in pockets. Apparently people had lots of time and discipline for some had on their pajamas, two or three skirts, two pairs of pants, two vests, two jackets and an overcoat. In some pockets we {the embalmers} found quantities of meat and biscuits. In most every man’s pocket were found quite a bit of tobacco and matches and vials of whiskey. Many people had keys to their stateroom and lockers." There were more burials at sea that evening. 

By Tuesday, the Captain of the McKay-Bennett was sending out for more help. The embalmers were exhausted as was the crew. An additional 87 victims had just been recovered. A ship called the Minia was prepared back in Halifax and John Snow Sr. contacted casket manufacturers that more caskets needed to be made. He also gathered more embalming supplies. His son Will Snow boarded the Minia along with the Rev. H. W. Cunningham and they left Halifax at midnight. They arrived on Friday, April 25 and joined the MacKay-Bennett in gathering more bodies. The McKay- Bennett headed back to Halifax that evening with 190 bodies on board. The Minia would stay out until Tuesday, April 30th and then it came home too.

The Mayflower Curling Rink was set up to take the bodies. Any bodies that still needed embalming were done here in canvas-enclosed cubicles. Family members were brought in to identify loved ones. Many bodies were shipped home with Canada and America waiving all fees. The rest of the victims were buried at Fairview Cemetery and Baron de Hirsh Cemetery. The little blonde hair boy we mentioned earlier had his funeral furnished for free by the Snows. There were 75 officers and crew from the MacKay-Bennett at the funeral and they all chipped in for his monument. It reads, "Erected to the Memory of an Unknown Child Whose Remains Were Recovered After the Disaster to the Titanic, April 15, 1912."

As if the Titanic disaster had not been enough, just a couple years later, the Halifax Explosion occurred and the Snow Funeral Home was called again to take on a huge task with 2,000 victims. Rows and rows of coffins were lined up outside the building. After the business shut down, the building became a warehouse. In 1975, it was restored and refurbished and turned into the restaurant that it still is today, 5 Fisherman Restaurant. And with the history that the building has, it is no wonder that it is apparently very haunted. Employees and guests claim nearly daily odd occurrences. Shane Robilliard was the Five Fishermen's general manager in 2011 and he told The Hamilton Spectator that cutlery moves on its own, disembodied voices are heard and shadowy figures have been seen. One evening, some diners were trying to send a text message while dining and instead of the intended message, only the word death appeared in the text. The water turns itself on all the time.

A waiter was in the restaurant by himself late one night and heard the swinging doors leading into the kitchen start moving. He was sure he was alone, so he went to see if someone else had come into the restaurant and he found no one else there. A server was there on another night and as she approached the host stand, she saw a gray apparition that looked like a foggy mass and it moved down the staircase. She decided to lock up and leave. Another waiter was at the credit card machine ringing up a bill when he felt a tap on his shoulder. He mumbled to hang on and then he felt another tap on his shoulder. He yelled "What?!" as he turned around to see that no one was behind him.

One evening a hostess was leading a couple to their table and when she got to the salad bar she stopped to show them the offerings. She suddenly felt a brush across her face. It was not overtly violent feeling, but when she returned to the hostess stand, a co-worker asked her what happened to her face. There was the mark of a hand on her face as if she had been slapped. The salad bar seems to be a center of activity for some reason. A worker was setting up the salad bar one day when he heard a loud crash. He set down what he was carrying and went to find out what had happened. When he looked around the corner of the bar, he found a broken glass ashtray. He picked up the pieces and stood up facing the mirror and saw the reflection of an old man walking away from where he was standing. The man was wearing a long black coat and had long gray hair and he was tall. The worker was surprised because he was the only person who was supposed to be at the restaurant setting up. He spun around to question the man and didn't see him. He looked back at the mirror and the man was gone from there too. 

Another staff member encountered this same ghost. Several years later, an assistant manager was standing at the salad bar and talking on the phone. He saw an elderly man standing on the landing below him, looking up at him. He told the man he would be right with him. He wrapped up his phone call and went down to meet the man and could find him no where. The manager checked the doors and they were all locked, so there was no way this man could have gotten inside the restaurant. He was telling the employees about the experience and the one who had seen the older man in the mirror asked the manager to describe the man. The manager said that he was an older man with long gray hair and a long black coat. They had seen the same spirit. 

The Captain's Quarters is a private room behind the salad bar. One night after closing, a waiter heard a couple arguing loudly in the private room. He opened the door and the voices immediately stopped. There was no one in there. A few nights later, another server was checking everything and getting ready to lock up when she saw someone go into the private room. She was the only one at the restaurant, so she opened the door to see who had gone in there and she found the room empty. The only exit was the entrance and no one went passed her. 

Other employees claim to have heard their names whispered. Some say that they feel cold spots and even that it feels like a spirit has passed through them. A waitress was setting up a station when she heard a tapping on the window. She looked up and saw nothing, so she went back to work. She heard the tapping again and thought it was really weird since this was a second story window. She walked over towards the window and saw a misty gray shadow outside the window. As she got closer, it dissipated.

Halifax is a beautiful maritime location. This spot has seen its share of disasters and history. Are these locations in Halifax haunted? That is for you to decide!

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