Mount Pearl author releases ‘true ghost stories’ collection
By Mark Squibb | Vol 7 No. 19 (Sept. 26, 2019)
Autumn, with its chill wind blowing, colourful fall leaves crunching underfoot, and jack-o-lanterns grinning from door stoops, seems a perfect time to tell ghost stories.
It’s the memory of crisp fall days and spooky October nights that inspired Mount Pearl author Geraldine Ryan Lush to publish Haunted Towns: Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador, a collection of ghost stories and paranormal tales from across the province.
“I grew up around the bay, when there wasn’t even electricity. There wasn’t electricity until the ‘60s. And we went around with turnips for Jack-O-Lanterns,” reminisced Lush of her childhood in St. Mary’s Bay. “That never left me, that feeling of the mysterious, and the fascinating, and the spooky, and the chilling. It stayed with me. The memories of those times, I’d say they were the happiest years of my life. The memory of Halloween and the fall, and that’s the kind of mood that inspired me to write things like this.”
And though she has written horror fiction before, this is her first collection of true paranormal stories. Ryan Lush spent last fall researching and writing, and meeting with those who claim to have experienced the unexplainable or supernatural. She noted that many people who shared their stories of ghostly apparitions, strange premonitions, and doppelgängers (a person’s exact double) requested to have their names changed to protect their privacy.
“These are intelligent, rational, stable people that these things happened to,” she noted.
Many of the stories are contemporary ghost stories, and those who experience them firsthand still live among us. Others are older stories, such as an account involving her own grandmother, Elizabeth Ryan.
December 12, 1942 found Ryan relaxing at home, listening to the radio, when she suddenly heard a strange, unexplained whistling noise, and then the radio switched off. At the same precise moment, 70 odd miles away, fire was tearing through the Knights of Columbus Hostel in St John’s.
“When the fire started, there was testimony from the survivors at the inquiry after the fire, that they heard a whistling sound,” explained Lush.
Supposedly, the very sound Elizabeth had heard.
“What kind of forces were at work?” Mary wonders.
Another story is an account of a Southern Shore man who was punished for crossing a fairy path.
“According to old Celtic tradition and ferry lore, if you block the path, all these terrible things could happen,” Ryan Lush said.
The story goes that the man, along with some others, had blocked off such a path with a load of timber. While out one night later, the man saw a ghostly apparition of a headless man on the beach.
Upon returning to his cabin, shaken, his left hand was suddenly grabbed by some unknown, unseen force. His cabin began to tremble and shake, as if caught in an earthquake, though it was calm outside, and the next morning, his arm was swollen and infected where he had felt the presence grab at him.
“He recovered, but he never ever forgot it,” said Ryan Lush.
The story which Ryan Lush had heard at kitchen tables all her childhood, was the inspiration for her earlier horror novel, Hannigan’s Hand.
As to whether she believes in ghosts in the traditional sense herself, is another question.
“I’m not going around looking for ghosts or anything,” she laughed. “But there could very well be entities out there that are not proven by rational or scientific method.”
The book was launched Oct. 5 at Element Coffee Bar on Topsail Road. Just in time for Halloween.
“A lot of people will not admit that they saw something, or they experienced something,” said Ryan Lush. “Hannigan’s Hand was a fictionalised account of a true story that I heard growing up.”
Ryan Lush said she enjoys reading about paranormal activity and writing about it. “It turned out to be a worthwhile endeavor, and it’s a genre I hope to publish more of,” she said. “It’s quite popular as well.”