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Folklore of Nova Scotia
Chapter VI. Apparitions due to Strong Wishing

It was a popular belief among the Celts that if you wished yourself anywhere at night you were sure to appear there. If harm befell these apparitions, the rash wisher also was harmed. The apparition could be prevented if to the words: “I wish from the bottom of my heart or soul that I was there,” these were added: “but not with a night’s wish.” That these beliefs were common in Nova Scotia the following stories, all of which have been collected from oral sources, will show.

About seventy years ago, at Judique, in Inverness Co., there was a dance at which an engaged couple were present. The young man’s affections, however- had cooled to such an extent that early in the evening he left the house and his fiancee behind him and set out for home. Just at his own gate a slight sound attracted him, and as he turned around he met the girl face to face. She attacked him, catching him by the throat.

He caught her by the arms and tried to hold her off, but as that was not effective and she was getting the better of him, he struck her a blow on the head. She put her hand to her head and cried out: “Oh! my head! I’m dying!” and fell to the ground. He bent to pick her up, but — there was nothing there.

At the same time, in the house where the dance was still going on, this young girl fainted. Her friends crowded around her and tried to revive her. All at once she put her hand to her head and cried out: “Oh! my head! I’m dying!” and actually passed away.

The body was prepared for burial and laid “on the boards” with a veil over the face. The young man went to pray beside her, and when he had done so, according to custom, he raised the veil to view the remains. So horrified was he to see a blue mark on her head just where he had struck her on that memorable night, that he went off into a dead faint. When he revived, he told the story of his encounter with her wraith. Those, who prepared the body for burial, solemnly asserted that there were black and blue marks on her arms also. The people were all convinced that he had caused her death, but as all her friends were around her when she actually died, no action could be taken against him. Yet his position in the community became so uncomfortable that he left the country.

A somewhat similar story comes from Antigonish. Many years ago two families lived on intimate terms on adjoining farms. In one home was a daughter named Mary, in the other a son named Malcolm. When the children were quite grown up, Mary’s family moved to Montreal. Shortly after this removal, Malcolm was lying awake one night when, all at once, he felt great pressure on his chest. What was his amazement to see Mary kneeling on him with an umbrella open over her head. She began pounding him on the chest with great force, and he could not get her away. The next morning he was too ill to rise, and for days he was in a suffering condition from the thrashing he had received. When he was able to do so., he wrote to Mary and asked her what she was doing on that particular night, and told her of his experience. She wrote back that she was walking down a street in Montreal in the pouring rain and carrying an umbrella. She was very lonely in that big city, and she wished with all heart that she was with Malcolm. She surely got her wish with a vengeance.

(Story told by Malcolm’s niece, who heard it from himself).

At Arisaig, Antigonish Co., there lived an old man who was famous for Second Sight. The boys and girls of the place, who used to make sport of his weird stories, teased him unmercifully. One evening a number of them were out in a sail boat in the Gulf, just off the rock-bound Coast of Arisaig. In the spirit of mischief, they said to one another: ‘‘Come, let us wish all together that old Rory may see us going in the boat through his house.” Meanwhile, at the old man’s house, the family were all assembled in their living room. Suddenly the old man arose, made everyone move away from the centre of the room, then,, with a jack-knife, he seemed to be cutting a hole in an object unseen by the others. The next day he met some of the merry-makers. “Ah,” he said, “what were you trying to do last night? I might have drowned you all as easily as not. Your boat came right through the room and I cut a piece out of the sail. If you don’t believe me, go look at it.” Sure enough, they found that a hole had been cut in the sail.

At Antigonish Harbor a young man named William was awakened at a late hour one stormy night by hearing his brother Dan, who was out at sea, come up stairs dressed in his oil skins, and enter his room. “Is that you, Dan?” he asked. “Yes” came the reply. “I’ve walked all the way from Cape George.” (A distance of eighteen miles). “It’s a pretty bad night and you must be tired. Turn right in here with me,” William said. When he saw his brother comfortably settled he went off to sleep again.

The next morning when William awoke he was surprised to find that Dan had already arisen. He dressed hurriedly, went down stairs, and asked his sisters: “Did you see Dan?” “Dan?” they said. “Did he come home?” “Yes,” he answered, “he came last night.” ‘‘Well it is funny he didn’t come near us,” they said.

William went out to the barns, the shed, the shop, in fact every place that Dan might be, but could not find him. When he did not turn up by the afternoon, he began to realize that Dan’s spirit only had visited him, and he became very uneasy; yet he did not want to alarm the family by telling the whole story.

A fortnight later Dan actually came home. William, at the first opportunity, asked him if he wished to be home that very stormy night. He answered: “Yes; when our schooner was rounding Cape George the waves were mountains high and we were in great danger. I wished with all my heart and soul to be on land, and I’d walk all the way home from the Cape.” (Story told by the niece of the two men. She lived on the farm next to theirs).

A half century ago a merchant ship went ashore on the rocks off the coast of Guysboro’, and the goods which were undamaged were put up for sale. Mr. T , of Antigonish town, went off early in the morning with a truck and a span of horses to make purchases there. That night, at midnight, Mrs. T heard the sound of heavy wheels, and her husband’s voice in conversation with some men; then he called out “good-night” and drove on. She jumped up from her bed to meet him, but found nobody. He arrived only the following day. On inquiry, Mrs. T found out that he left Guysboro at midnight, and as he dreaded the long, dreary drive, he wished with all his heart to be home. He stopped in front of a friend’s store, conversed for a few minutes, then called out “Good-night,” as he whipped up his horses for his long, lonely drive. (Told me by Mr. T ’s daughter).

A young woman belonging to Antigonish was visiting her sister, who was married in Inverness Oo. One evening she took sick and longed to be home. Just at bedtime, as she was about to kneel to say her prayers, she said to her sister: ‘‘I wish to the Lord that I was home to-night.” “Take care they don’t see you at home,” came the warning. “I don’t care if they do,” she said, and went on with her prayers.

That same night her three other sisters were sitting in the living room at home. After they had chatted for some time, two of them went to the pantry, carrying the lamp with them, and leaving the third alone in the dark. They had gone only a few minutes when Margaret, the one who was left alone, heard one of them, as she thought, return. She walked past her to the far side of the room, her garments fanning Margaret’s face as she did so. She knelt down, and made the Sign of the Cross out loud and began the “Our Father.” “Good gracious! but that girl prays just like Christy,”- Margaret said to herself, naming her sister who was absent in Cape Breton. When the two girls had regaled themselves in the pantry they returned with the light. “Which of you was in here praying a minute ago ?” Margaret asked. Each declared solemnly that it was not she. They searched around everywhere for the mysterious personage, but with no success. Only then did Margaret realize that her visitor was from the spirit land. (This story was told me by both Margaret and Christy).

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