By Pamela Ditchoff
Liverpool, NS, Canada
Nova Scotia is a province whose land and people are shaped by the sea. Its rugged cliffs, crashing waves and rock-strewn shores have seen hundreds of shipwrecks throughout history, hundreds of lives lost in storms. Sometimes, the fog breathes and expands, filling coves and settling on rooftops to the mournful cry of a lighthouse foghorn. And ghostly tales are told.
Tales are told to frighten children into good behavior, much like the tales of the brothers Grimm. The tale may be of The Grey Lady who walks at night with a lantern, peering in windows looking for her son, a cabin boy lost at sea. If a child’s eyes are not closed in sleep when the grey lady peers in the window, she will see the child awake and take it in place of her son.
Tales are told amongst teens on dark nights, when they’ve driven to the lighthouse to share a case of beer. They watch the horizon for the bright golden glow of The Burning Ship, a three-masted schooner; sailing at lightening speed across the horizon, smoke circling, flames crackling. The sound of men screaming is heard on a still night before the ship disappears from view.
Tales are passed between old folks to pass the time and stretch the yarn. A favorite is hearing the rowing dory. Standing along a shore on foggy evenings a person may hear the sound of a small boat being rowed toward shore. The sound dies away, and no boat is ever seen. The story goes that sometime in early 1900’s a dory full of fishermen overturned in the fog and drowned. Their restless spirits are said to spend eternity seeking a shoreline they will never find.
I believe there is something about the atmosphere that invites spirits to stay, for the pirate to find the treasure he buried centuries ago, for the soldier to keep watching from the fort tower for enemy ships, for the captain who knows he will see his wife on the widow’s walk. The ocean roars and murmurs but is never quiet, the hurricanes whip the winds and the gentle wind carries the scent of sea roses, but it is never still. The fog drifts and encompasses and holds memories. Some ghost stay hundreds of years, some only a few moments.
I was driving home from a reading in a neighboring town. It was mid-October and the day had been so clear, the sky so sharply blue that everyday objects stood out as if being seen through a View Master. The road home is full of curves hugging the coastline around Western Head. It is little traveled at night, not because it is especially dangerous, but rather the population on the head is especially small.
The fog rolled in at 10PM and I switched on my brights in case a deer stood in the road around the next curve. That’s when I saw a man appear in my driver’s side window. His face was covered with blood and his expression was frantic. He wore a denim jacket; bloody khaki pants and his eyes were bright blue. His mouth was shouting words I could not hear as he slammed his hands against the glass. There was a gold band on his wedding finger. He was trying to stop me; he was running beside my car. I looked down at the speedometer and it read 70 kilometers. When I looked up, he was gone.
I slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road. As my heart began to return to its normal rhythm, I heard sirens behind me. I turned my car around and drove back in the direction from which I’d come. I’d traveled two kilometers when I saw the red flashing lights of the RCMP cruiser and the ambulance. I saw the crumpled car, rear end on the rocks, front end crumpled, one headlight beam pointing skyward like a lighthouse beacon. I saw the man’s wife, her body being place on a stretcher and his in the middle of the road when he had begun his run for help.
Pamela Ditchoff's profile at Stay Thirsty Publishing
Pamela Ditchoff is an award-winning writer. Her novel, Mrs. Beast, consistently ranks in the top 10 most popular Amazon Kindle “Beauty and the Beast” books.