antigonish-heritage-museumThe Scots who settled the towns and countryside of Antigonish and Cape Breton Island were strong believers in the spirit world and ghosts. There are a number of mysterious events which occurred in the Antigonish area over the years. Each story will vary according to the soothsayer, however there are common points for each tale. Some of the more well-known include:

The Fire-Spook of Caledonia Mills

In the county of Antigonish there is a place called Caledonia Mills. Alexander and Mary MacDonald and their 16 year-old adopted daughter Mary-Ellen lived in a farm house in this small community.

In January of 1922, a fire started in part of their house. Oddly it was not near their fireplace or wood stove. Once extinguished another erupted in an empty room at the other end of the home. The family was totally puzzled. Other fires materialized mysteriously. Wet towels and the patches of wallpaper would burst into flames. It did not take the family long to realize that there was something unnatural occurring. With the help of their neighbors they began to guard the house, hoping to catch an intruding arsonist. Fires continued to appear out of nowhere, but no arsonist was ever caught. In total there were 30 unexplained fires.

Fires were not the only unsolved occurrence at the farm. The MacDonalds would enter their barn to find ashes in the stored milk and all the animals moved to different locations within the barn. Soon the family was persuaded to leave the home while the local authorities investigated. When word of the mysteries got out reporters arrived to get the scoop. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was invited to investigate.

The MacDonald's daughter Mary-Ellen, came to be known as “Mary-Ellen Spook”. She moved to Central Canada and no further incidents occurred.

Ghost Ship & Buried Treasure

Ghost ShipWhere the Sunrise Trail meets the Cape George Mini-Trail, about 19 kilometres (12 miles) from downtown Antigonish, sits the community of Malignant Cove. Prior to the arrival of Scottish settlers this area was Mik'maq territory. No white man had been there until the pirate ship "Malignant" entered the cove to escape a British warship. The ship came to its hapless end within the cove. It is not clear if the ship ran aground or was scuttled by the pirate captain to ensure the British would not take his ill-gotten riches.

Many scuba dive here to try and recover the sunken treasure. Elders claim the moaning of the ocean is the sound of the spirits that guard the ship and its looted goods. Great storms like the one in 1923 expose the hull of the doomed ship. Some have actually seen the "ghost ship" navigating the cove, its sails and masts in flames. Perhaps a last attempt by burning souls to scuttle her one final time.

Many believe that buried treasure can also be found on Pomquet Island. It is believed that Captain Kidd found the isolated spot and buried his pirated treasure. According to locals, Captain Kidd's spirit guards the hidden chests.

Ghost Lake

One mile from the village of Monastery is a small body of water called “Tracadie Lake”. In 1758 the British forces at Fort Louisbourg planned to attack Fort Beausejour in Quebec. Since ships were not plentiful enough to carry all of the troops, some were carried to the Canso Strait and then left to march on foot. These troops were to try and keep the English ships in sight at all times while making their way to Beausejour.

Once across the Strait they marched onward and soon discovered "Tracadie Lake", overlooking St. George’s Bay. Here they set up camp to train. During the day they practiced in their red uniforms and at night their drums and music added an eerie atmosphere to the previously tranquil area.

Local natives were quite fearful of their presence and would have called in Glooscap had the forces not soon departed. However the music and drums of the evenings continued long after the troops had moved on. Native elders claimed it was the evil spirits coming to haunt them. Some believe it was the spirits of the soldiers killed in the battle at Beausejour returning to the sight where they spent their last peaceful night among the living.

Since then, no matter what maps may reveal, the lake is known as “Ghost Lake” to locals and storytellers. 

antigonish crest

Get in Touch

Town of Antigonish
274 Main Street
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Canada B2G 2C4

Phone: (902) 863-2351
Fax: (902) 863-0460 / (902) 863-9201

Town Hall hours: 8:30 am - 4:30 pm