January 30, 2010

Rabid Reads: "Halifax Haunts" by Steve Vernon

Title: Halifax Haunts: Exploring the City's Spookiest Spaces
Author: Steve Vernon
Published: Nimbus Publishing (2009)
Genre: Historical nonfiction; Ghost stories
ISBN 978-1-55109-707-7

I enjoy a good ghost story. I have ever since I was a little kid and got freaked out whenever someone told a really intense one at night, whether at a campfire or holed up in a tent in the backyard. Growing up the woods, it was easy to let the imagination run wild when things went bump in the night ... mainly because half the time there really was something, albeit corporeal, responsible for said bump. Turns out the city of Halifax is full of its own share of ghost stories, and Steve Vernon has diligently compiled a slew of them in this collection.

If you don't know where Halifax is, it's the capital of Nova Scotia, Canada, is in one of the most historic cities in North America. And it turns out that a good deal of that history has clung to present day in the form of ghost stories and legends.

With a tinge of Maritime humor--you'd have to live here to truly appreciate it, I think--Vernon presents this collection with topographical maps and even the GPS coordinates under each story's title. If you're ever in the city and want a more macabre walking tour than your run-of-the-mill tourist marathon, consider carrying around a copy of this book and hitting a corner of the city. You aren't likely to visit every site mentioned in this book within a day, but there are clusters of sites all within walking distance, which could give you a chance to witness a fair amount of what is discussed in the book.

Growing up, I had been aware of the Fairview Lawn Cemetery and its connection with many of the victims of the Titanic, as well as reported ghost sightings on George's Island. I had no idea, however, that the city was littered with apparitions and ghostly folklore. It's an old city, so it stands to reason that it should hold several local legends. But to read this book, it's apparent the city is overrun with ghostly encounters.

I'm a skeptic, myself, and haven't seen a ghost or experienced ghostly phenomena. That doesn't diminish my appreciation for the history and the mystique that comes with each of these tales, though. Heck, half of these tales carry their own fable with them warning against such things as lust, revenge, greed, cowardice, and more. And again I reiterate, this is strictly within the confines a single city. If Halifax is emblematic of the rest of Canada and its paranormal past, I curious to see what Steve Vernon will dish out to readers in the years ahead. He's already put out two previous titles I plan on reading in the future, Haunted Harbors and Wicked Woods.

Whether you're a Haligonian, Maritimer, or just a lover of the paranormal, I think there's enough in this book to wet your appetite for the less conventional side of the city's history. You may end up doing a bit of followup research on your own if you come across a particularly gripping yarn. I know there are a couple that have perked my interest.


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