________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 10 . . . . January 11, 2008


The Golden Leg and Other Ghostly Campfire Tales.

Dale Jarvis.
St. John’s, NL: Flanker Press, 2007.
127 pp., pbk., $12.95.
ISBN 978-1-89731-07-5.

Subject Headings:
Ghosts-Newfoundland and Labrador-Juvenile fiction.
Tales-Newfoundland and Labrador.
Legends-Newfoundland and Labrador.

Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4


Several hours later, the man awoke with a start to the sound of a curious humming noise. He looked across the room, which was full of moonlight. As he did, he got an even bigger start. In the centre of the room, some strange object was spinning around and around. It was too shadowy to determine exactly what it was, but to the man’s eyes it looked like, yet not quite like, a giant spinning top. It was like a top in terms of its shape and movement, but unlike a top in that the man could sense it had a pair of eyes. The creature seemed to be watching the man in the bed, gazing upon him with a foreboding, evil look.


Told aloud, these stories could cause goose bumps. Read silently, they cause a little shiver in the imagination. Dale Jarvis’s pick of 26 ghost stories from Newfoundland and Labrador, plus other haunted spots from around the world, are suspenseful and exciting to read. Meant to spook, not to disgust, some of these stories date back to the 1800’s and early 1900’s. “The Thing in the Well” is an adaptation of a 1891 story from the UK. This story has a creepy title and an even creepier plot and ending. An almost headless ghost glides down to a well and drops a wrapped bundle down the hole. After the package is dropped, he sits on the edge of the well and leans backwards until he too falls into the hole. Events turn even darker when some local townspeople decide to explore the bottom of the well. “Jake’s Token” was inspired by a story published in the Newfoundland Quarterly in 1928. In this story, Elizabeth is taken aback when her fiancé, Jake, passes her on an empty path. Not only does he move differently and ignore her call, but he also vanishes before her eyes. Today, people say Elizabeth saw a token or sign of Jake’s death.

     Dale Jarvis lives and works in Newfoundland. He’s an author, a storyteller, and a guide for St. John’s Haunted Hike. He teaches workshops in storytelling, and he is the founder of the St. John’s Storytelling Circle. Although many of the stories in The Golden Leg and Other Ghostly Campfire Tales are from Newfoundland, some come from places such as Scotland, Malta, Ireland, and the United States. Averaging three to four pages in length, all these stories can be referenced in the back of the book in the “About the Stories” section. Jarvis provides such details as where the stories originated, where they were published, the changes made to the originals, background information about various aspects of the story, and the stories’ category of folk literature motif (for example “The Drummer of Turk’s Gut” falls into E402.1.13, “Invisible ghost plays musical instrument”). A legendary and regular storyteller at camp, Dale Jarvis is donating the royalties from The Golden Leg and Other Ghostly Campfire Tales to Camp Delight, a volunteer run camp for children (and their siblings) who have been diagnosed with cancer. 

     Even if you don’t believe in the inexplicable or the unexplainable, the ghost stories from these folk tales, local legends, old articles and forgotten letters are worth the read- or the retelling out loud! The ghostly characters and the reasons behind such mysterious occurrences as the blown out lamp, the ghost ship, the visiting stranger in black, and the “anniversary haunting” are as entertaining to read as they are to share. 


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.