Newfoundland unexplained -
During the last week of July, storytellers from all over the world will be congregating in St. John's as part of the annual Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada conference. There will be storytellers from Newfoundland and Labrador telling tales alongside storytellers from Canada, the United States, the U.K., Ireland, Denmark, Holland, Israel, Korea and Italy.
One of the featured storytellers will be Margaret Bennett from Scotland, who will perform at Folk Night at the Ship Pub July 28. Bennett is no stranger to Newfoundland, as she is the author of "The Last Stronghold," which documents the Scottish Gaelic traditions of Newfoundland's Codroy Valley.
Starting in the 1840s, a large number of Scots from Cape Breton settled in the valley, and brought with them the customs and traditions of Cape Breton and their Scottish homeland. In her book, Bennett talks about the strong storytelling traditions of the valley. She also includes a note about a rather intriguing ghost light.
On the north bank of the Grand Codroy River is a spot known as Gale's Island. Local tradition holds that the first settler of the valley was a man named Gale who arrived in the 1770s with an English crew of shipbuilders. When the crew left for England in the fall, Gale opted to remain in Newfoundland.
A gravestone located near the Grand Codroy River is dated 1815 and bears the name of a John Gale. Whether named for Mr. Gale or not, Gale's Island was the focal point for strange pyrotechnics for a number of years. In fact, it was said that the lights were seen, on and off, for around 25 years.
The ghost lights always followed the same routine. A ball of light would appear which would hover close to the ground for some time. After it had remained there for a while, it would start to rise into the air. The light would rise up about 20 feet, would then burst, shimmer, and change colour to red.
After this display was complete, the light would return to ground level and start over once more. The light would start to rise up again, getting brighter as it rose, but never changing size.
Margaret Bennett's informant told her that people in the area were so used to the strange happening that they paid no mind to it at all. The display was seen in the same place for many years, and then vanished. It was not seen again.
Many people in Newfoundland have stories of strange lights, oftentimes reported flickering over marshy ground, and, it is said, over churchyards. This strange phenomenon is known most commonly in Newfoundland as the jacky lantern. It was also known as a corpse light and as the corpse candle.
Strange lights were seen in the Codroy Valley in the 1980s as well. One evening in July of 1984, a group of friends were playing softball. One of the ball players happened to look over his shoulder. As he did so, he caught sight of something very odd. There, over the hill behind him, he saw two dark grey objects cutting though the evening sky.
The first object was similar to the classic "flying saucer" descriptions of an unidentified flying object, with the typical UFO disc shape. The second craft was following the first, and while somewhat circular, it featured large panels at regular 90-degree angles, much like the sails or arms of a windmill.
Both of the discs were tilted slightly towards the observer, so he was able to view their top surfaces. The more circular craft had a raised upper portion or deck which followed the contours of the disc. The windmill shaped object had a raised upper portion, but it was square instead of circular.
Due to the distance, no windows or other details could be made out.
The two objects moved silently and appeared to be one or two kilometres distant from the astonished ball player.
They were observed in flight for a period of approximately two minutes, and then vanished below the hills not to reappear.
Were the Codroy Valley sightings ghost lights or UFOs? Either way, they give something for storytellers to talk about.
Dale Jarvis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.