Haunting Style: Halifax Homes Rich With Witchy Tales

“Legend has it that one of the witches cast a spell on the glass to turn it black so he couldn’t see in. After that it’s said the old fellow went blind and from that moment on, every time anyone tires to change the window because it is broken, it immediately turns black.” — Dr. Darryll Walsh

By Deborah Rent

The air is ripe with tales of murder and mayhem, eerie apparitions, and ghoulish ghostly goings on. It is the time of year to dredge up the past and tell a narrative or two of real, or imaginary, happenings. (insert creepy music here… maybe a creep laugh).

There is something particularly spine-chilling about the thought of a haunting in your very own home. You’re home alone late at night – and a door slams shut. No windows are open, nothing has fallen that may have caused it to close. Or it’s the dog that has suddenly started growling from the bottom of the stairs at nothing in particular at the top of the stairs…and again…no one else is home. Do you call your friends and tell them? No they’ll think you’re nuts. Do you call the police? Same response. So instead, you drive yourself crazy, stay up all night, obsess about every horror/slasher/devil movie you’ve ever seen. When from the corner of your eye you spy it. (creepy music comes to a screeching stop) A. mouse. So much for a hideous evil presence.

Come on, admit it. Maybe it wasn’t a mouse, but it was something that could be easily explained.

But, it’s the ones that can’t be explained that make for interesting stories around the campfire, or on Halloween night. The south end of Halifax is renowned for its rich history, and its beautiful homes. And, sometimes some of these older homes come with more than a heritage designation. Are the stories genuine or not? You decide.

This one is about a wonderful looking home located at the corner of Robie and Jubilee. It appears to have been recently renovated and looks quite charming – inviting even – in spite of its history. It is now home to a doctor’s office and people visit there on a regular basis – oh those brave souls. At first glance the only thing seemingly out of the ordinary about this house is a predominant blackened window , set between two newly painted windows and grand pillars. On the deck below the ominous window, cheerful yellow, blue and orange buckets with seasonal straw like decorations. Hardly a place where anything unusual has happened… or has it?

Dr. Darryll Walsh from Halifax is a parapsychologist, teacher and author of two published books Ghosts of Nova Scotia and Ghost Waters: Canada’s Haunted Seas and Shores.

When the first story about the old house started circulating, it was about 30-35 years ago. In the original version an ol’ prick used to live there who didn’t like children. Back in those days that property was quite large, down to Quinpool, and past Jubilee Road,” Walsh says. “There were lots of trees on the land and the kids in the area loved to play in them.”

“Well, the tale goes that the old codger was looking out the window, yelling at the kids to get out of the tree. He frightened one of the children who fell, hit their head and died. According to this legend the window the old guy was looking out of has been black ever since,”

Walsh says the tale has evolved and in the last 15 to 20 years has changed dramatically. Rene Slaney, of Halifax Ghost Tours, tells us a different story.

“The research I’ve done shows that the house was built for the first mayor of Halifax in 1840. Apparently, it was quite large and he needed four girls to look after it – do the laundry, cooking, etc. Turns out these very girls liked to practice witchcraft,” he explains.

“One night they were going about their business, chanting, dancing and the like when they noticed the old gardener peeking in the window. Legend has it that one of the witches cast a spell on the glass to turn it black so he couldn’t see in. After that it’s said the old fellow went blind and from that moment on, every time anyone tires to change the window because it is broken, it immediately turns black.”

Slaney says the folklore became quite popular with local kids, who would break the glass, and hang around waiting for the owners to replace t to see if it would turn black, which could explain why the current owners have a piece of wood in the window, instead of glass.

A Dr. Gosine purchased the house on Robie and Jubilee a number of years ago. He runs his optometry clinic there. His receptionist is Susan Jordan, who’s been working in the office since 1990. She’s heard different versions of what caused the blackened window – that someone hanged themselves in the room where the window is, or that someone was murdered there. Jordon says shortly after Dr. Gosine purchased the house, he got sick and tired of the kids breaking the glass, so he boarded it up. She says as long as she’s been working there absolutely nothing out of the ordinary has happened, no black windows or eerie apparitions.

Chad Murphy, of Lower Sackville, has been with Paranormal Phenomena Research & Investigation for about seven years. He says their teams have conducted a number of investigations over the years, but haven’t had any real significant findings. He tells about one house in Kentville where they picked up an unusual sound on one of their digital voice recorders, and one of the members saw a ghost like figure in one of the rooms.

To investigate a haunting they like to spend at least one full evening conducting various tests. It’s serious business to these guys, even if it sounds like something out of the movie Ghostbusters. – electromagnetic field readers, instruments that measure temperature drops that would indicate something paranormal, the whole nine yards.

For a man who has dedicated his career to investigating the unusual, Walsh remains a bit of a skeptic. He says he is a scientist first, and it’s his job to find out why strange things are happening in people’s homes. And it does happen. He has been involved in about three dozen paranormal investigations in the local area in the last eight years. Only a couple of them proved to be ‘interesting’.

He sums it up when he talks about an old rocking chair in his bedroom.

“It used to belong to my Uncle Al, from River Bourgeosis in Cape Breton. Family members say when Uncle Al passed away. It was four days until his mother found out about his death, and the chair rocked the entire time. I’ve had that chair beside my bed since about 1998,” he laughs heartily. “And I can’t get anything living in my bedroom…let alone dead!”