There is nothing better to get to know a city than a ghost walk. Inevitably, there’s historical context included, you’re able to get oriented, and you come away with the name of a reputedly haunted restaurant. That’s a win. In the case of Halifax, the ghost walk included all three on an incredibly atmospheric night.
Try to imagine this–you’re in a small port city, and it’s dark. A heavy fog is rolling off the harbor waters, creepy up the notorious hills until it’s roiling about the Halifax Town Clock, where the tour is slated to begin. You know the turret clock, situated high above the town, was ordered by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, in the very late 1700s to keep his garrison running on time. And you know that there’s a Citadel ghost tour you want to attend later in the week–so there are clearly ghost stories associated with the Citadel itself. Maybe even the town clock.
You climb the wooden stairs to the clock, fog thick enough that the turret is a hazy glow–and there, at the landing, are shadowy figures milling around. A man in a suit shines a flashlight your way: “Are you here for the ghost walk?”
And so begins the evening. And don’t think I wasn’t thinking about The Fog and its 2005 remake.
No Citadel ghost stories, per se… although we did get one about an officer sent to investigate the hereabouts of the Francis, which had–like so many other ships–been dashed to bits off Sable Island, only to meet the ghost of a woman who had survived the shipwreck but was murdered by brigands for the ring that they cut off her finger.
My favorite story, though, was told on a pier on the waterfront, with the St. George Island lighthouse gleaming in the soup behind us, waves lapping off the pilings–the ghost walk leader’s own story about seeing a fetch in his youth as a way to introduce the final story of the night, this one about a man who spent the night sharing a room with a ghost.
Of course, as you might expect, there were stories involving the Halifax Explosion of 1917 and the Titanic sinking in 1912, two events that are still important in Halifax for various reasons. While I’ve been to Halifax before, I never entirely understood why so much Titanic history centered around the city–the simple fact is that it was a case of proximity: Halifax was the closest port city to the wreck site, and the ship sank 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland.
The more you know.