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Media Article # 717
Article prepared and posted by Robert Barhite

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stories to give you chills and thrills

Halifax Chronicler Herald

Vernon’s new collection features a rare N.S. werewolf
You can try to scare the willies out of your neighbours, friends, kids or parents this Halloween with Steve Vernon’s latest collection of stories of ghosts and the supernatural.

The Lunenburg Werewolf and Other Stories of the Supernatural is a compilation of 23 tales from across the province. Besides the werewolf story, there are tales involving a Sasquatch, ghosts, phantoms and beasts of various temperaments.

The stories also include the dastardly deeds that led to some of these apparitions stalking the shores and woods of Nova Scotia.

The stories range from an artistic phantom who shared a hotel room with a salesman to a teenager who died of a broken heart after her boss falsely accused her of theft. The teen still cries at times in a Lunenburg cemetery.

There’s also a tale about a Scottish Bochdan lurking around Cape Breton that rescued two boys from three night hags before telling them to go home and grow bigger. In addition, there are stories about demon dogs and spectres guarding the fabled Oak Island treasure.

But while there are plenty of tales of glowing-eyed, evil-intentioned or fanged monsters, there are also stories of friendly creatures as well. The Bigfoot from Cape Breton is described as having kind eyes and is said to have flashed a mischievous grin when he outdid a fisherman who caught fish with his bare hands by catching a bigger fish.

Then, there is there is the ghost of a suicidal artist who spends an evening conversing with a travelling salesman in Kentville and paints him a portrait that can’t be destroyed.

Finding ghost stories in Nova Scotia "is about as hard as finding hay fever in mid-summer," says Vernon. "There is something in the Nova Scotia dirt that just seems to breed and breathe the ‘booga-booga.’ "

The trick is finding a story that has enough to it to make it worth retelling, he says.

"I never want to be that writer who throws together a pack of half-baked half-stories that all sound like ‘don’t go near that house’ or ‘I heard something.’

"A really good story needs to have some character, thought and a motivation that your reader can empathize with."

He said it’s trickier still to find the lesser-known stories that are crucial for any collection of stories.

"When I first stumbled over the yarn of the Lunenburg werewolf I knew that I had to have that story in my collection," he said. "There just aren’t that many werewolf stories around in the Maritimes. I knew right off that a tale like this would help create that diversity of theme that makes for a good collection."

He says the same about the Bigfoot story.

"Nova Scotia is not exactly a breeding ground for Sasquatch stories so when I found a couple of mentions of this Bigfoot-like beast I knew I had to have it in my collection."

Vernon says Cape Breton holds the honour of having the most tales of the supernatural.

"It may have something to do with the long, cold winters. It may have something to do with their isolation. It may have something to do with their Celtic heritage and tradition. It may have something to do with their poor television reception," he jokes.

"Whatever the reason, I can guarantee that on any evening of the year, you are going to find a campfire or a woodstove gently crackling and some old gaffer such as myself holding forth (and saying), ‘Come here till I tells you this tale.’ "

Vernon says the story of a murderous sister is one that should get to anyone.

"If the hair on the back of your neck doesn’t stand up and shiver after you’ve read The Mark of the Fish, then your barber is shaving you way too close."

While there are plenty of ghost stories to be put into collections, Vernon says he is always exploring new directions and new possibilities such as his earlier book Sinking Deeper: Or My Questionable (Possibly Heroic) Decision to Invent a Sea Monster.

"(It) has a ghost or two and even a sea monster but is a whole lot different than any of my collections," he says.

His next book is a collection of historical murder mysteries from across the Maritimes, which is due out next year.

"I believe a writer must be constantly in a state of perpetual evolution or else he risks running his wheels into a rut," Vernon says.

"I do not fear the possibility of the well running dry but rather I am averse to the notion of the well going stagnant."

Ian Fairclough is a staff reporter with The Chronicle He

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