A little while ago, I was asked for some ghost stories from Holyrood. I dug through my files, and came up with this gem.
Towards the end of the 1800s, one enterprising man by the name of William established a wagon business to haul goods and people to and from Holyrood along the Salmonier Line. William invested in a particularly fine horse, strong and healthy, which he had imported from Canada for the purpose of hauling the wagon and its freight.
One night, on his way back into the North Arm section of Holyrood, the wagon driver and his beast of burden underwent a terrifying ordeal. The path that William had chosen took the wagon through the middle of an old graveyard. As the wagon clattered along the road, a strange noise was heard. It sounded as if the wagon was going over a wooden bridge, the wheels making the distinctive noise of rolling over wooden planks. The horse stopped dead in its tracks.
Will got down off the driver’s seat to investigate. As he jumped down from the cart, Will’s leather boots crunched against the gravel of the path. At this sound, he knew that there was no wooden bridge underneath them.
The wind blew through the graveyard, whistling around the tombstones. Much to his horror, the wind was joined by another sound. The clamour of voices, all jumbled together like the unintelligible din of a crowd, began to emanate from the graves on all sides. This noise grew louder, and closer, and then was combined with the sound of people climbing onto the wagon. The wagon rattled and creaked and then grew silent, as if the invisible throng was waiting for their ride to begin.
White-faced, Will decided that they had already dallied too long in the boneyard. He slapped the horse on its hindquarters, and urged it to move along and out of the vicinity of the strange noises. The horse obliged, and started forward. The creature leaned into its yoke, straining against an invisible weight. The wagon creaked to life once more, and started to move.
The horse pulled, hard. Will walked alongside as the horse strained harder and harder. Every so often, the driver looked back in fear at the empty wagon. The beast soldiered on, but it acted as if the weight of the wagon was immense. It would move forward along the dark road only about two wagon lengths before it would stop, drained of energy. Its owner urged it forward again, and the horse would drag itself forward another short distance before grinding to a halt once more.
The horse travelled very slowly under the heavy, ghostly load. Suddenly, the wagon lurched forward with a tremendous jerking motion, as if its intangible passengers had leapt off all at once.
The horse plodded on a little further, but then gradually slowed, dead tired, and unable to pull any more. Taking pity on the horse, and not wishing to remain out of doors any longer than was necessary, William unhitched the horse. He left the wagon behind, and started off, leading the horse by the bridle.
By the time the weary coachman got home, it was very late. The horse looked in poor shape, and by the time it was placed into its own barn, it was two o’clock in the morning. Too tired to do much more, Will went into the family house, woke his father, and asked the father to go feed the exhausted animal.
Will’s father went out to feed the horse, but soon came back wearing a puzzled expression. He asked Will what had happened to the horse, as the beast refused to eat the oats which had been offered. Dragging himself from the warmth and comfort of his bed, Will went back outside to check on the horse.
The horse refused to eat, and simply stood there in its stall, breathing heavily, overcome with the events of the night. William waited by the side of the horse, stroking its mane and talking to it in a soothing voice.
Several hours later, at around
5 o’clock, the horse sank down to its knees, gave a great heaving breath, and died.
Dale Jarvis can be reached