Like a scene out of the AMC series “The Terror”, adventurer and writer Adam Shoalts captures the mythology surrounding Traverspine, Labrador in his book The Whisper on the Night Wind: The True History of a Wilderness Legend with an air of eldritch horror.
Canada’s north is rife with mysteries including the spectral inhabitants of the buried mining town of Frank in the Northwest Territories, the Inuit stories of shadow people, or taqriaqsuit, and the allegations of an abandoned village on the shores of Anjikuni Lake.
The Whisper on the Night Wind is Shoalts’ fourth book. His first three are about his expeditions for the Royal Canadian Geographical Society.
But not so for this recent tale, as Traverspine’s legends have a more anthropological feel to them.
It was the writings of an American living in Labrador that caught his attention. Elliott Merrick wrote about a tale he was told by a Labrador trapper in September 1930. In it, the isolated village of Traverspine was assailed by a creature no one could identify.
“In this case, after reading everything I could in historic sources, I realized I had to make a journey to Labrador,” Shoalts wrote in an October email. “It turned out to be one of the most harrowing expeditions I’d ever undertaken.”
Shoalts and his fellow explorer Zach Junkin paddled wild rivers, bushwhacked through dense forests, climbed a mountain and explored caves all in their quest to uncover the truth behind the Traverspine gorilla.
It makes for a rather Lovecraftian telling of his border-on-cryptozoological pursuit for the truth behind Merrick’s tall tale.
The strangest part of the journey through Labrador, just south of Lake Melville, was when they ventured into the shadow of the mountains.
“My strangest, most uncanny journey by far is my recent one in Labrador’s Mealy Mountains, which are among the oldest mountains on Earth,” the 35-year-old Fenwick, Ont. native wrote. “There are many strange legends connected with them, and after venturing far off the beaten path there, I could certainly appreciate why.”
Shoalts and Junkin were kept awake by strange noises during their nights in the woods, often leaving them to question the existence of demons. Even their cameras picked up strange video anomalies that left Shoalts rambling to himself once they returned to civilization.
But a more grounded Shoalts acknowledged that isolation might have been the demon haunting his and Zach’s slumber.
“Canada is so vast that historically it was the norm that people might not see a single neighbour for weeks at a time,” Shoalts wrote. “I explore the psychological impact this may have had on the fur trappers and lumberjacks of a century ago in Labrador, and whether that played a role in what happened at Traverspine and the alleged sightings.”
And there’s room for another chronicle or two of Shoalts’ adventures: Junkin never got to see a wolverine.
For the time being, readers can get a copy of The Whisper on the Night Wind at all Indigo stores, as well as on Amazon.