DartMyth Episode 1
Listen to episode 1 of our new podcast on Spreaker or Spotify
Check out the transcript below:
[Host, Melanie Muroe:]
Hello, welcome to the very first episode of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum’s podcast, DartMyth: Tales from the Dark Side. We are recording in the beautiful historic home of Evergreen House. I’m your host, Melanie, and today we’ll be speaking on experiences of forerunners, omens, and premonitions. Before we get into the content, the DartMyth team would like to acknowledge that we are on big Mi’kma’ki, the unseeded and ancestral land of the Mi’kmaq people. We acknowledge our privilege in our upbringing, and we would like to offer our recording space to any First Nations groups who may want to record, free of charge.
That being said, let’s get into our first segment.
A forerunner is a sign of something yet to come, usually connected with impending death or misfortune. These warnings can come in many forms, the most notable being the three knocks of death.
In Helen Creighton’s book, Bluenose Ghosts, she covers many others, such as the man who walks with himself, hearing the sounds of funeral processions, and multiple stories of sailors hearing or seeing something wrong with their ships, only to find them lost at sea, the sailors spared after leaving the ship before it had even set sail.
These strange circumstances are not just one-offs; there have been many different types of these signs throughout history. The Gaels, who predominantly settled in Nova Scotia between the years of 1773 to 1850, had their own forerunners, things like the howling of dogs, birds flying into houses, and seeing strange unknown lights in the darkness with no explanation. The lights, known as dreagon in Gaelic, were seen as warnings of impending death, the most notable being when a light was seen over Antigonish Harbour, and the next morning, a little boy was found drowned in the exact spot where the light had been seen.
In Mi’kmaq culture, Elders would be visited by birds, animals, or maybe even become witness to a peculiar incident. These would be considered forerunners by the Elder, and in some cases, they would even be able to tell who the recipient was based on the context of the message.
So what makes these supernatural signs and warnings so universal? Is it the shared human experience, or a higher power deeming us worthy to know our fate?
An excerpt from Bluenose Ghosts claims that:
“Many people are deaf to forerunners. Of six people sitting in a room with the body of a man who had just died, only three heard him call the name of his wife.”
This suggests that while it is possible for people to experience forerunners, they’re just as likely to not. So if you are listening to this and getting worried that you might have one in your future, just remember, you might also never receive one.
I don’t know which is worse, to be honest.
So what does it actually like to experience a forerunner? Let’s explore some firsthand accounts. The first story in our first segment comes from the Gaels, on Museum Nova Scotia’s website.
There was a man in Iona who was going out with a local girl, and it seems that they went together for a long time. It was the girl’s greatest hope that he would ask her to marry him, but it turns out that he was not interested in marrying yet. He was always traveling to and from Sydney and back.
This one time, he asked the neighbour if he might like to travel with him that night, and he agreed. So they set off with the horse and wagon and on the way there, around Northside East Bay, they met with a pig. The horse seemed rattled, and fearing that she might bolt, the neighbour got down and grabbed her by the reins to steady her. They continued on to Sydney.
Later, back in Iona, the two resolve to head into Sydney at night. But this time the neighbour would bring with him a whip, which he would use to scar the other-worldly pig. Sure enough, they met the pig on the road around the same place it was the first time. The man took out the neighbour’s whip and struck the pig with it. She went flying off into the woods.
Some days later, the man went to visit his girlfriend, but her brother told him that she wasn’t well and was in bed. The man went to her room to check on her.
“What’s wrong, Mary?” he asked.
“You know very well, what’s wrong! You struck me, the other night on the road.
“I swear I didn’t!” said the man.
She then showed him the deep red welt that had been inflicted on her by a whip.
That concludes our first segment. Now we’ll have a brief intermission.
[Intermission song: A Maid I Am In Love, sung by Amy Lou Keeler]
This next story is from Helen Creighton’s world-renowned book, Bluenose Ghosts, on page four, paragraph two.
Mr. Thorne is a man of medium height with blue eyes, an aquiline nose, and a rather sensitive mouth. Now probably in his sixties, he can still dig a garden or ditch in a way that would shame many a younger man. Yet with work to occupy him, and an excellent wife to care for all his needs, he appears to be a singularly nervous man. This is little wonder, considering the experience of his youth which we had come to hear.
We had a short period of conversation until the proper atmosphere was established, and then we asked Mr. Thorne if he would tell his story. After a little hesitation he began.
“I hope I’ll never have to go through that racket again.”
“Well I’ll tell you. I had just come home from the States and I had a friend whose name was Joe Holmes. We were always together when I was home, but Joe wasn’t very strong. We were young men then, about twenty, and one evening we were together and I had a letter to mail. We hadn’t been drinking. I don’t want you to think we had because we hadn’t, and we didn’t imagine what we saw. About ten o’clock we took the letter to the post office. It was in the Riordens’ house, the way people often have them in the country. I lived at Thorne’s Cove this side of it, and Joe lived two houses away on the other side.
“Well, we mailed the letter, and then we sat alongside the road opposite the house and talked. It was a bright night with a full moon, and it was too nice to separate and go home so early. The Riordens’ grass was about three feet high at that time, and there was a turnip field behind it. We heard a hoe strike against a rock and it attracted our attention. We sat forward then and looked and, to our surprise, we saw a Thing come crawling on its hands and feet from the southeast corner of the house. Then it stood up and we could see that it was a man. We were on the lower or south side of the road, and it was on the upper or north side. Then it went out of sight.
“In the country we often think a lot without saying anything, and anyway there’s often no need of words between friends. So we just sat there and didn’t say anything, and before long it came out again. We didn’t move an inch, but we watched, and this time it came half-way across the road. The time for keeping quiet was over now, so I said, ‘Joe did you see that?’ He said yes, he did, and by this time it had gone back again. You might think we’d had enough, but we kept still and it didn’t keep us waiting very long.
“The third time was like the others. It came out and went back. We still sat there and in a second’s time it was back and it went under the cherry tree. There were more apple trees on our side of the road then than now, and they took to shaking and the apples fell to the ground. I was frightened by this time and I said, ‘Joe, I’ve got to go home.’ That would have been all right if we’d both lived in the same direction. Probably we’d have left even before that, but we were braver together. We decided to go to Joe’s house and we started to run. Joe wasn’t very strong as I said, but he always thought he could run, and he could, and I was afraid I couldn’t keep up with him. I guess the fear got into my feet because I ran just as fast as he did.
“When we got to his house, we stood in the road and talked. We were young men and curious, and we didn’t like to leave there because it would always pester us and we would never know what we’d seen. It didn’t seem like a prank, but if it was, we wanted to settle it. Finally I said, ‘Let’s go back; I’m not afraid.’ I wasn’t either, so long as Joe was with me. Nothing was gonna hurt the two of us and besides, it’s easy to be brave when you have company. ‘We’ll see what it is,’ I said. So we walked back and pretty soon we saw it and it was coming to meet us. It was halfway between the Riordens and the Cronins, and that’s the next house, the one in between. I said, ‘There it is; don’t leave me.’ As I said, I figured that with two of us it couldn’t do much harm and I wanted to find out what it was. I meant to touch it and then I’d know for sure if it was real. When we were within 20 feet of it I said again, ‘Joe, don’t leave me,’ and then I walked up till my face was close beside it. I’ll never forget that moment as long as I live.
“It had on black pants, a white shirt with a hard bosom front, and black braces. Its head was bare and he was of medium size. It looked as though its eyes were deeply sunk in, and they were very bright and penetrating, and the only thing it looked like was a skeleton. I didn’t touch it, although I would have even then, but Joe gave a scream and ran, and I was scared. I wasn’t long overtaking him and from that time Joe had a hard time to keep up with me. It followed and kept 20 feet behind us. There were bars on the Holmes fence. We jumped them, and the Thing cut across the field to head us off, but we got there first. We stood in the doorway and watched it for half an hour. There was a stone wall with a rotten pole on top of it, and it stood on the pole. In the morning I went out on felt that pole and, do you know, it was so rotten it just crumbled up in my hands. Why, that pole was so rotten, it couldn’t have held a bird.
“As I said, I’ll never forget that racket as long as I live, and as for Joe, he would never talk of it except to his mother and to me. A year later he was taken sick and a while later he died, and he always claimed this was a forerunner for him. We’re both sure it couldn’t have been anybody playing tricks because the moon was full, and we could see everything as plain as in the day.
“Then a strange thing happened. Joe died of tubercular throat, and he died hard, but he never rambled in his mind. It was always clear right to the end. But one day not long before his death, Joe said to his mother, ‘My throat won’t hurt me anymore. He (the apparition) was here and rubbed it.’ The pain had been almost more than he could bear, but from that moment it stopped and he never felt it in his throat again. I sat up with him every night, and do you know what he looked like when he died? He looked just like that man, for he was pretty well wasted away.”
Was this then the explanation? Had Joe seen his own apparition as he was to appear in death? Was that the meaning of it all?
When Mr. Thorne was through, we sat quietly and after a while, I said jokingly that he would be telling me soon what color the man’s eyes were. To my surprise, he took this seriously and pondered the matter. Finally, he said, “No, I can’t quite do that.” But his hesitation showed how vivid the experience was even to that day, which would be 40 or more years after the event.
When the story was over, Mrs. Thorne gave us a hot drink and some cookies. And we started back to Victoria Beach. The country road was very dark that night, and there was no moon to comfort us, nor to show us this unwelcome figure either. As we came to the Riorden house Miss Thomas said, “Now that is where they sat,” pointing to the bank on the side of the road, “And that is where they saw it,” pointing north.
“Yes, Martha,” I said, pressing the accelerator a little harder.
“And this,” as we approach the Cronin house, “is where it stood in the road and they saw it clearly.”
“Yes, Martha,” I said, driving faster still.
“And that is where it must have stood on the wall,” she said as we reach the Holmes property. I relaxed a little then, glad enough to be away from that district, for I wanted no more of the supernatural that night.
The next story is from page 12, paragraph two, of Bluenose Ghosts.
Forerunners come sometimes as a kindly form of preparation where the shock of sudden death might be too great. An Amherst couple, for instance, lived happily together and both were in excellent health. There was no reason to suppose any change would come to alter their unruffled lives. The house they lived in was very old and had bolts to fasten the doors. One night, Rachel and her husband went to their room and he bolted the door as he always did. They were no sooner settled than she asked him to shut the door. He said, “I did.” She said, “it’s open.” So he got up and closed it a second time. Once more they prepared themselves for sleep when once again Rachel pointed out that the door was open. This time after closing it he got back in bed but crawled in beside her And shivered and shook. She said, “What did you see?” but he refused to tell her. Finding him so greatly upset, and not being able to discover the reason she appealed to her brother for help. “No,” her husband said, “I won’t tell you now, but if it ever comes to pass, I’ll tell you then.”
The next day Rachel took sick and a few days later she died. And it was all very sudden and distressing. She was laid out in a white dress and when her husband saw her like this, he said,
“There, that’s what I saw. Yes, I saw her laid out in her grave clothes.”
Our last story comes from page 16, paragraph three of Bluenose Ghosts.
Mrs. Allen Morrison was deeply attached to a neighbour’s baby, particularly as she always felt that had been born blind. One evening between six and seven she was milking and had the milk pail in her lap. While the milk was flowing in the pail, encouraged by her gentle, competent fingers she saw a round red ball of fire coming in the barn door. She watched it and it came towards her and finally lodged in her lap. She freed her hand to push it to one side, but at that moment it floated away. She waited, recognizing it as a forerunner, but for whom was it meant? She expected to see it go to her own old home where her elderly parents lived, but it changed its course and went to the Munroe house where the baby lived.
She finished milking and went home. She put on a clean dress and then went to the Munroe’s house. They were accustomed to having her come in like this, particularly then, because the baby had been ailing. She said nothing of the forerunner but picked the child up and held it in her lap, ready to do anything that was required. The little one’s short life was closing in, and in an hour the child stopped breathing. Who can say that in her loving kindness Mrs. Morrison was not guided to that house to care for that baby in his last moments? The mother, not realizing the seriousness of the illness might well have let it die unattended in its crib. Surely some higher power must have directed the course of the red ball to the one person who would recognize its purpose and would have the courage and greatness of heart to do its bidding.
Thank you for listening to DartMyth: Tales from the Dark Side. The podcast is produced for the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, in the historic Evergreen House in downtown Dartmouth.
Your host today was Melanie Monroe. Stories were read by Cassandra Curtis and Melanie Monroe. All stories were used with permission of the Creighton Family. Resources also include the Nova Scotia Museum website. The intermission song was used with permission from Big Turnip Records, and it’s called A Maid I Am In Love by Amy Lou Keeler. All resources used are copyright of their respective owners.
We want to thank everybody who’s tuned in today to listen to our first episode of our podcast, and look forward to creating more for you in the future. The podcast will be released once a month, near the end of the month.
Please make sure that you check us out on social media at the Dartmouth Heritage Museum so that we can update you on future episodes of the podcast. Thanks for listening!
Bluenose Ghosts – Helen Creighton