OLD GHOSTS IN OLD PLACES (April 4/97)

Moccasin Hollow lies west of Kentville, opposite the industrial park. There, historians say, a great battle took place in 1747, when the French and their Indian allies ambushed and massacred a large number of British troops.

Eaton’s History of Kings County mentions the Moccasin or Bloody Hollow massacre. There is a brief reference to the clash as well in Murdock’s History of Nova Scotia. Other writers have referred to the so-called Legend of Bloody Hollow, exaggerating the number of soldiers killed there as being in the hundreds when it seems that only a few were slain.

Minor as it apparently was, the skirmish at Moccasin Hollow gave birth to a ghost story. The Hollow is said to be haunted by the dead of the British or French troops, depending on who is telling the tale. Years ago I asked an elderly resident about the Hollow. When she was a young girl, she said, it was common on certain nights to see lights in the Hollow and hear the sounds of fighting. The area was avoided by everyone after dark. W.C. Milner (in The Basin of Minas and its Early Settlers) writes that the “battle of Moccasin Hollow” took place on the old French road near the railway and the area was commonly believed to be haunted. “It was observed,” Milner wrote, “that the boys of the neighbourhood never sought for cows or stray cattle (in the Hollow) after night fell.”

It’s a given that ghosts eventually appear in places where there have been tragedies. Recently, I heard a ghost story that was new to me. A cave along the Fundy shore near Black Rock is believed to be haunted by a maiden who was buried alive.

The details are sketchy, but a pirate hotly pursued by a British Man of War was forced to run ashore with a young woman he had captured on a raid. The pirate hid the woman in a cave he blocked up with rocks and she perished there. At high tides and the obligatory full moon, the maiden’s screams can be heard echoing along the Fundy shore.

The adventures of the notorious Captain Hall, after whom Hall’s Harbour is named, gave birth to another ghost story that, like the tale of the Black Rock maiden, is not well known.

The story of Captain Hall is well known and has been retold ad nauseam. But who has heard of the Indian maiden, the sweetheart of a young member of Hall’s crew, who perished with her lover during a skirmish with the local militia?

Writing about Hall in the manuscript mentioned above, W.C. Milner says that the maiden died when trying to warn her lover that soldiers were waiting in ambush for Hall and his crew. This is probably factual. The story that the cries of the lovers can occasionally be heard on stormy nights obviously is fiction, right? While it won’t be found in the ghost story collections that have been published, it occasionally makes the rounds.

The tale of Kentville’s Gallows Hill ghost is another story that never made it to the published collections. It’s forgotten today, but years ago I heard it told that a murderer named Bill or Powell, hanged on Gallows Hill in 1826, haunted the woods now used for a roost by crows.

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