Ghost stories haunt Walsh
Tales of the paranormal just seem to find author
By Bruce Erskine
You can take the parapsychologist out of the boy, but you can’t take the boy out of the parapsychologist.
“I’m not just a parapsychologist, I’m still that 10-year-old boy who enjoys listening to a story”, says Darryll Walsh, 39, author of Ghost Waters, Canada’s Haunted Seas and Shores.
Ghost Waters is a follow up to Walsh’s best-selling Ghosts of Nova Scotia and takes a pan-Canadian look at water-related legends and psychic phenomena.
Walsh said the theme for this new book came to him in a moment not unlike those that, in all probability, led to the creation of some of the legends he recounts.
“It just came out of the blue,” said the Halifax Native who lectures on parapsychology at the Nova Scotia Community College and is head of the Centre for Parapsychological Studies in Canada, which he founded.
“Literally, I was walking down the hallway thinking about what I was going to do as a follow-up to Ghosts of Nova Scotia, because it was doing so well two years ago, and all of a sudden – I knew I wanted to do another ghost book – it came to me, ghosts and water.
Walsh said he took a national, rather than regional perspective on the subject because Canada’s history is inextricably linked to water.
“Canada was discovered by water, we were explored by water, developed by our water and we also developed these folkloric traditions of ghosts and water,” he said.
“Water is really quite the unifying force in Canada.”
And he said the book’s theme was a natural for a Nova Scotia parapsychologist, since so many Maritime legends and psychic phenomena are related to water, whether it be lakes, rivers or the sea.
“In many cases, even today, water is seen as having a will of its own, or a mind of its own, and plus it’s romantic and dangerous and mysterious, and so many different things. Especially around here, around Nova Scotia, there are so many ghost ships or sea monsters, or women that wander the lakes.”
The collection includes well known marine legends, like the recurring appearance of the Teazer, a ship burned by the British in Mahone Bay in 1813, and British Columbia’s Ogogpogo, the Lake Okanagan monster that began as a fearsome native legend and has been transformed into a local tourist attraction.
But its real appeal is the many fascinating legends and instances of psychic phenomena collected from across the country that will be unfamiliar to many readers.
“I was able to find some really cool stories, even out West,” Walsh said.
“It was more than just on a full moon, you see a ship sailing across the bay, so to speak. I was able to look up some different stuff too – the ones that had a little bit of a different ending to them, or twist to them.”
“I knew Ogogpogo and most of the lake monsters, and you have to put those tried and true ones in there,” he said.
“But it was fun to look up and find some of the new stuff – the ghost well in Newfoundland or Pelly’s Crossing in the Yukon – that story where the trapper saw these ghosts appear to him and the lady ghost helps him get out (of the muskeg).”
“Not that I actually believe that it happened that way, mind you, but I can see psychologically how it happened. The fact is, it’s a cool story.”
Walsh said he was particularly taken with the aboriginal legends he uncovered during his extensive research.
“The ones about the Adlet, the little creatures or the really devil creatures up north, I really, really enjoyed learning about them.”
Legend has it that the Adlet are half-human, half-wolf, resembling the Sasquatch, but with nastier dispositions, who stalk the Arctic shores looking for their favourite food – humans.
Ghost Waters includes 10 entries from Nova Scotia – almost as many as those compiled from Ontario, which contributes 14 tales and British Columbia, which contributes 11 stories.
Apart from the Teazer legend, the book contains familiar Nova Scotia stories like the Oak Island treasure mystery, the legend of the Mary Celeste, and the Shag Harbour UFO sighting along with lesser known stories from NcNabs, Scaterie, Pictou and Sable Islands.
Walsh is working on a sequel, More Ghost Waters, that will include some legends he uncovered while the current book was bring printed.
“It’s funny, as soon as a book goes to press, when you can’t add anything to it, you find all these excellent stories,” he said.
“I found out some really cool stuff about Halifax Harbour in particular.”