Campfire frights

At the Library with Jenn Calder

Published on July 18, 2014

There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire on a cool summer evening, roasting marshmallows, and scaring your friends (and yourself) with a great ghost story. Whether you‘re looking for a terrifying tale to share around the bonfire or to read by yourself on a dark and stormy night, check out these creepy collections of true ghost stories from your local library.

Did you know that over the years, many people right here in the Maritimes have encountered supernatural forces?  Nova Scotia author Steve Vernon researched these stories by visiting public archives and listening to local legends. The results of this research are published in his kids’ books, Wicked Woods: Ghost Stories from Old New Brunswick and Haunted Harbours: Ghost Stories from Old Nova Scotia. There’s even a story set right here in Cumberland County - The Weeping Cave of Parrsboro. Vernon (who visited Cumberland Public Libraries last year) is a very talented oral storyteller, and he writes in a way that make you feel like you’re sitting across the campfire from him, listening to him tell each tale.

The problem with reading local ghost stories is that they have the potential to make you scared of your own backyard. If you’re looking for real ghost stories that don’t take place so close to home, check out the Haunted Canada series (by various authors). These short, but terrifying, books will take you on a tour of the most haunted places in the country, from British Columbia to the Maritimes.

And of course, we can’t forget Alvin Schwartz’s classic collection of ghost stories – Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. This book and its follow-up – More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – are full of ghosts, witches, and other creatures from American folklore. The stories themselves aren’t very scary, but the illustrations by Stephen Gammell will make you want to sleep with a light on. These books have been among the most banned and challenged titles in America over the years because adults have felt that they are too scary for children. As a result, the books have been republished with tamer illustrations, but Cumberland Public Libraries has the original books with the spine-tingling illustrations. If you’re looking for a good scare, check them out!

There are also lots of great ghost story collections for adults. If you’re looking for local tales of the supernatural, check out Bill Jessome’s Maritime Mysteries, More Maritime Mysteries: Everyone Has a Story, and Stories that Haunt Us. For these books, Jessome traveled around the Maritimes, listening to and recording ghost stories that have been passed down for generations. The aforementioned Steve Vernon has also published a couple of local ghost stories collections for adults. In Halifax Haunts: Exploring the City’s Spookiest Spaces, Vernon records some of the most hair-raising Haligonian tales of the supernatural.  His latest book, The Lunenburg Werewolf, documents 25 ghost stories from around the province, including the Great Amherst Mystery.

Speaking of the Great Amherst Mystery, the library has several books on this local supernatural event: Haunted Girl: Esther Cox & the Great Amherst Mystery by Laurie Glenn Norris, The Haunted House: a True Ghost Story and The Great Amherst Mystery, both by Walter Hubbell. If you’re unfamiliar with the haunting of Esther Cox, be sure to check out these books! It’s a fascinating and chilling part of our local history.

For these books and more, check out your library. You can see what we have by visiting


Jenn Calder is the youth services librarian for the Cumberland Public Libraries.