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Telling scary tales in a spooky setting helps Western Bay’s Charis Cotter share her books with young and old
The lights are dimmed, and the curtains have been drawn. All that emanates from the room is the greenish glow from an old ship’s light.
“As I tell my stories, I want to scare the children if I can, but not to traumatize them,” says Charis Cotter, writer and storyteller of all things macabre in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“The children all get into the ghost stories. They love it. Adults too. You can see it in their eyes as they perk up listening to the stories."
Cotter is embarking on her 11th year of touring schools across the province and reading to children in Grades 4-6, and hopes to add to the thousands of goosebumps she has produced over the years.
She will start the session with a reading from her latest book, “The Ghost Road,” then move to an old story about a ghostly longboat glimpsed in the fog near Baccalieu Island, and describe an unsettling experience she had on the barrens one dark Newfoundland night.
She completes her reading with an account of ghostly footsteps in Bay de Verde in the 1920s.
At the end of the presentation, Cotter talks about her books and answers questions about writing and ghosts.
“My latest book, 'The Ghost Road,' is completely set in Newfoundland and Labrador,’’ she said.
“The landscape of it is inspired by the Western Bay area where I live, and Branch. It is the setting for the imagery of the imaginary community of Buckle, where two cousins — Ruth and Ruby — set out to explore their family history.’’
That exploration includes an old cemetery where they discover a curse. The premise is there are twins in each generation of the family and they all die in their 20s due to a curse that followed their families from Ireland.
Finding answers to that dilemma are vague. Every set of twins in the family was found to die young, leaving the children without mothers. In addition, one of the twins always has “The Sight” and can see the Ghost Road that leads to the mysterious lost settlement of Slippers Cove.
This leaves the question as to what happened there and how does it affect the girls’ family, and who is the apparition that keeps visiting Ruth late at night?
According to Cotter, Newfoundland has more ghosts than anywhere else. Ghosts in the ocean, ghosts on the barrens, ghosts in lighthouses and ghosts at kitchen parties.
“For some reason, this province has a history of ‘being haunted,’ more so than other places and cultures,” Cotter said.
“My theory is that life was so hard here, death was everywhere, and the ghosts came out of that.’’
These ghost stories have been passed down through generations, many dating back hundreds of years, indicating a variety of events, including the tale of the “Old Hollies,” which is said to be the victims of shipwrecks who are heard screaming in the wind just before a bad storm.
All schools on the Avalon Peninsula will receive notice of Cotter’s plans this week, and she hopes to add to the two presentations she has already booked for Chapel Arm.
Cotter is booking now for schools throughout October leading up to Halloween. Those with an interest in having her attend their school can contact her at email@example.com or on her website at www.chariscotter.ca.
In addition, she is hosting a fundraiser in support of the Western Bay Lighthouse Trails titled "Baccalieu Trail Ghost Stories with Charis Cotter" on Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Ronnie Johnson Centre in Western Bay.
Tickets in advance can be obtained at the Western Bay Lighthouse Trails Facebook page or at firstname.lastname@example.org.