To hear Canadian storyteller Steve Vernon share a story is to be transported back to when he heard it for the first time while hitchhiking across Canada.
He rolls into a tale about a married Irishman in P.E.I. who was spending the weekend in Charlottetown with a young woman named Mary. Things didn’t go too well for the Irishman named George. After killing a man, being jilted by his lover, and surviving two botched hangings, George finally met the end of his rope.
Regardless of the tragic end, Vernon’s way of relaying the story is captivating, much like a mariner sharing his song of the sea.
“Maritime Haunting” producer Jeff DeEll was drawn in by that captivating quality of Vernon’s storytelling when he worked with Vernon on a Nova Scotia tourism project focused on the Annapolis Valley area.
“(Steve) came down to the beach and lit up a bonfire and told some stories,” DeEll said. “I was blown away because I had read some of his work before but to see the storytelling aspect versus reading it …”
DeEll finished up the tourism piece and was left wanting to revisit Vernon’s stories. After connecting with Phantom Effects Special Effects, based out of Kempville, Nova Scotia, DeEll pulled together re-enactment scenes from Vernon’s various tales, peppered in the expertise of paranormal investigator Adam Myles and then sat down with Vernon voiceovers of his own stories.
Once finished, DeEll happened to come across the Paraflixx website and submitted his six-season show online.
“It was in no time that (Natalie Jones) got right back to me,” DeEll said. “She said it sounds interesting when you have something together, we’d love to have a look at it.”
That was in the summer, and now six episodes later, with the first one featuring the White Point Beach Resort in Hunts Point, Nova Scotia, the team is ready for its premiere on Paraflixx.
For Vernon, this is a continuation of his storytelling tradition. He had just retired from his government job and was tickled to share his stories with a new audience.
“I’ve picked up a lot of stories. Not just ghost stories,” the 65-year-old said. “People are different in every province you cross.”
Cross the country he did as his mother lived in Nova Scotia, his father lived in Alberta and Vernon himself was raised by his grandparents in Capreol, Ontario; 30 km north of Sudbury.
The first story that was shared with Vernon was by his grandfather and it was titled The Raven and the Mountain. His grandmother used to tell him a ghost story, the Tale of the Golden Arm, that left an impression.
“She scared the heck out of me,” Vernon said, with a chuckle. “I think she’s the one who warped me for life.”
Storytelling is in the blood on the East Coast, and Vernon attributes it to the sense of mortality that is right on the surface of everyone’s skin.
“The Maritimes are crammed full of ghost stories and the reason why we like to tell them and other people don’t is because we live on the edge of what is the biggest abyss on this planet. The Atlantic freaking Ocean,” he said. “People in the Maritimes had to get used to the idea that their family was going to sail on out and do some fishing, or whatever they had to do, and they might not make it back.
“They had to make friends with that whole idea of the afterlife; they had to learn how to believe in ghosts, or at least they believed in the possibility of ghosts.”
“Maritime Haunting” premieres as part of Paraflixx’s Halloflixx on Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. Vernon’s books on Maritime ghost stories can be found at Nimbus Publishing.
Photos courtesy Jeff DeEll/Steve Vernon