AMHERST – A festival, celebrating Esther Cox and the Great Amherst Mystery, is going ahead this fall, albeit a little smaller than expected.
Various groups and organizations have come together to put together the town’s first festival commemorating the Cox legend. Events will be held throughout the community beginning Oct. 24 and running through Oct. 29 with Halloween fun, a podcast, readings a Haunted Scarefest and other activities.
“The town is still considering exactly how they want to move forward with the project, but a group of us, with the support of the town’s recreation department, figured we’d get started and do a small version of Esther Fest this year. Then we’ll see what it can possible grow into moving forward,” Charlie Rhindress said.
In 1878, Esther Cox, a young woman in Amherst, became the centre of a bizarre series of events that became known as the Great Amherst Mystery. For close to a year she was tormented by ghosts and demons who threw objects into the air, started fires and physically attacked her.
The events were supposedly witnessed by hundreds of town residents and the story has subsequently been told in plays, books and TV shows and is generally considered the best documented case of poltergeist activity on record.
Maclean’s magazine called it Canada’s most famous ghost story as well as a classic poltergeist case.
Rhindress was hired by the town last year to investigate the potential for an Esther Cox festival.
John Warner of the Amherst Artisans Gallery has supported the project from the beginning. He said the gallery’s co-founders, including himself, Gil Collicott and Ted Evans, supported the promotion of the visual arts, but also local music, theatre and history.
“The Esther Cox story is part of Amherst and should be told,” Warner said. “It helps tie together some of the history of our beginnings. Esther Fest is a fantastic start and it needs to be developed and encouraged.”
Artist Chris Brown has created several images inspired by the Great Amherst Mystery and these are being used to promote the festival. One has been made into a T-shirt that’s for sale at Maritime Mosaic.
Kelly Brine, who works at the Amherst Centre mall, said Esther Cox has been incorporated into the second Haunted Maze, while there will also be a haunted hayride behind the mall to a firepit where Rhindress will tell some famous Amherst ghost stories.
Other events include a reading by Laurie Glenn Norris from Haunted Girl: Esther Cox and the Great Amherst Mystery on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at the Four Fathers Memorial Library and a staged reading of the Charlie Rhindress play Guilty: The Story of the Great Amehrst Mystery at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre on Oct. 25.
The very popular Night Time Podcast will release its latest episode, all about the Great Amherst Mystery, during the festival while there will be movies, activities for kids, a dance and more.
“We gathered together all the scary events that were already happening in Amherst this year, added some Esther-related stuff and created a festival,” Rhindress said. “Amherst has no shortage of special events and we’re really hoping people see it as the place to be to get your fright on this Halloween.”
For more information, check out Esther Fest on Facebook or go to fundysoft.ca/estherfest .
Esther Fest Schedule
Tuesday, Oct. 24
7 to 8 p.m. Haunted Girl: Esther Cox and the Great Amherst Mystery reading by author Laurie Glenn Norris at the Four Fathers Memorial Library. Sponsored by Libraries 150 and the Canada Council
Wednesday, Oct. 25
7 to 9 p.m. Guilty! The Story of the Great Amherst Mystery staged reading with author Charlie Rhindress at the Community Credit Union Business Innovation Centre, 5 Ratchford St., Amherst. Sponsored by Amherst Recreation.
Wednesday, Oct. 25 to Saturday, Oct. 29
Haunted Scarefest Maze at the Amherst Centre mall.
4 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 25 and 26
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 27
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.
(10 a.m. shows for children age 12 and under).
Thursday, Oct. 26 and Friday, Oct. 27
6 to 8 p.m. Amherst Ghost Stories. Take a ride behind the Amherst Centre mall for local ghost stories with Charlie Rhindress.
Thursday, Oct. 26
8 p.m. Radio broadcast on CFTA 107.9 of stories from Haunted Nova Scotia by Darryll Walsh (read aloud by Charlie Rhindress).
Friday, Oct. 27
10 to 11:30 a.m. Halloween Spooktacular at Four Fathers Memorial Library.
6:30 to 9 p.m. Scary Movie Night at the Cumberland County Museum featuring Poltergeist.
Saturday, Oct. 28
10 a.m. to noon at West Highlands Elementary, Halloween Fun Day, hosted by Maggie’s Place with games, art, snacks, songs and trick of treating.
12 to 2 p.m. Zombie Walk for Cancer in the South Albion Street area. Proceeds to the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. For more information, go to http://bit.ly/2zsDyqh .
Saturday, Oct. 29
7 p.m. Music at Trinity featuring the silent movie Phantom of the Opera with well known organist Shawn Whynot. For more information, go to https://tussuc.com/music-at-trinity .