Thursday, March 15, 2007
Haunted Harbours Ghost Stories From Old Nova Scotia
Haunted Harbours: Ghost Stories from Old Nova Scotia by Steve Vernon is a collection of twenty-one ghost stories from around the waterways of Nova Scotia. If you've had a hard time telling an author from a story teller this is the book that will set you straight. Steve puts on the hat of a story teller and invites you to sit and listen as he entertains with this book.
So far this is the only book I've reviewed here that is kid safe. You won't find graphic depictions of death. You won't find zombies dining on human flesh. You won't find vampires flying into the windows of young maidens with violent intentions. You will find some great ghost stories though. Perhaps you remember sitting around a campfire as a child and swapping stories. Of course you had the stories that ended with "the bloody hook was in the door!" or "and it was his feet scraping the roof she heard!" but the best stories were the ones told by the normally quiet adult. The stories that had you seeing shapes in the fire and hearing noises in the dark.
Growing up on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico I heard plenty of ghost stories of the sea and was thrilled to see that I had not heard any of the stories Steve tells in Haunted Harbours. The stories here all come from actual ghost stories told in Nova Scotia that are still being told today. I enjoyed the stories so much I ordered a copy of the book for my brother, a boat captain himself.
None of the stories go over ten pages and most are much shorter than that. Steve does a wonderful job of giving us the setting, characters and haunt without overloading the stories with information we don't need. The settings of the stories require the use of some nautical terms but Steve gives enough detail that you don't have to guess at what he is describing.
While you could read through Haunted Harbours, it's only 120 pages, in one sitting I would suggest against it. Take the time to read and enjoy each story on it's own. These are stories you will find yourself telling to people around campfires or in taverns later. Let the stories soak into your system and become a part of you. Then you will become part of the story telling tradition and pass it along to others.
I really like the artwork on the cover by Michael Little and the interior art by John van der Woude. They really help set the mood of each story and spark your imagination. Last week a three masted ship, Stad Amsterdam, similar to the one on the cover of Haunted Harbours spent two days at the Port of Pensacola. Sadly the public was not allowed on the ship but we were able to enjoy some wonderful views of it up close. I had no problem visualizing characters from the book walking the deck and in the rigging of that ship while it was here. The story telling lived on.
It was difficult to come up with a paragraph or two to quote from Haunted Harbours because each story has it's voice that calls out to me. Anybody reading the stories will come up with their own favorite passage. I finally decided on the one below because it shows not only the commitment between a sailor and his captain but the commitment between friends. Big "Thank you!" to Steve Vernon for allowing me to quote the paragraphs below.
John MacNeil was dying. It was his last voyage home from trading in the Caribbean; he was dying of tropical fever and was afraid of being buried away from home - not for himself, you understand, but for his wife, who would worry about where he lay. "Don't bury me in the sea," he begged the captain. "For my bones will know no rest and my widow will weep out an ocean over my empty grave."
The captain was a good and honest man who'd known MacNeil most of his life. He hated to break faith with a sailor and a friend. "I'll do what I can," he promised. MacNeil passed on that night, but not before wringing one more promise from the captian, who swore on his father's good name that he'd see MacNeil's body laid to rest in the Isaac's Harbour Cemetery.