From time to time, large ships came over to the island to pick up lumber, which Stella says was taken to “the old country”. On one such visit, the captain of the ship was from New York. He had two teenaged daughters. The two young women had made the trip up from New York to see their father for a few days before he sailed with his cargo. On Sunday, the family was crossing to New Mills to attend mass and receive communion, as they did as often as they could when the weather permitted. The captain’s two young daughters joined them. It was a beautiful day, and everyone was in high spirits. The young women boarded the ship with their father that afternoon. One of them was more adventurous than the other. She wanted to see the view from the Crow’s Nest. As she climbed high on the mast, she began to lose her grip. She began to yell for help, but couldn’t hang on until someone could reach her. Her hands slipped away from the mast and she plunged to the deck and fell off the ship into the water. She was dead before anyone could get to her.
Several times afterwards, she again saw this ball of light dancing in the same spot, but George simply refused to look.
She never asked any of the other islanders if they had seen what she had because she was afraid that they, too, would say she had an overactive imagination. Or worse, that they would not say anything, just think it.
Heron Island and the area around New Mills has had more than it’s share of strange phenomena.
Stella had seen this ball of light once before, when she was still single and working in Montreal.
This time, it had been in the early hours of the morning. She had taken the Maritime Express from Montreal to visit for a while with her parents and relatives.
She arrived in New Mills just before daybreak. She was afraid to walk along the tracks, so she went up the hill, where, she says, the minister lived. Somehow, the fact that a minister lived on that road made her feel safer. She was following that road until she could cross the byroad where her mother and father lived.
Suddenly, in the dark, she saw her own shadow. It was a rather cloudy night and quite moonless. Her shadow was in front of her. She turned to see what had caused this to appear.
There, behind her in the middle of the road, was a large, bright red, shining ball of light. When she stopped walking, it stopped. She broke into a run, but then it was gaining on her.
She ran back down to the tracks, and now it was in front of her, blocking her escape. She ran back up the hill, and finally, making it to the byroad, she ran home as fast as she could, with her shadow always in front of her.
She pounded on the door, and the ball of light stood at the road behind her. It seemed like an eternity before her mother finally opened the door and let her in.
She didn’t feel that anyone believed her incredible story. Those who conceded that she may have seen something put it down to phosphorus gathered in the bogs and disturbed by her footsteps in the night. She felt that it was more than that.
Other strange sights were seen by Stella over the years.
On a winter’s night, when the moon was bright, you could look out of the window and everything would be lit up almost like broad daylight. The crisp air hung cleanly over the snow and everything stood in sharp focus.
One night, in the dead of winter, the family dog, Scott, was in the yard. There was a heavy fence between the yard and the barn area.
A strange dog appeared in the yard. Stella had seen this dog a few times before, but no one on the island could say who owned it.
Scott didn’t look too kindly on a strange dog hanging around his territory. He began to give chase to the black dog. They circled around the yard, and the black dog headed straight for the fence, and easily slid right through it. Scott sent himself cartwheeling through the air when he attempted to glide through the thick fence that the other animal had melted through in front of him. Stella and a few of the children were taking all this in at the window. They had a hard time to believe their eyes. They never saw the strange dog again.
In the Pettigrew yard, there stood a large flat rock. When any of the children walked near it, they could hear the sound of a man coughing. This happened without fail. They were too frightened to investigate this very closely.
One night, when the whole family was in bed and drifting off to sleep, they heard the sound of feet or hooves running on the roof of the house. It sounded very much like a human being up there running back and forth. The children were all frightened as the sound went on and on. Stella just quietly said “I know what that is”, but did not speak another word, as they lay in the dark listening in fear to the strange noise on the roof.
The so-called Indian Burial Ground on the island must be considered a sacred area.
Some say it is a burial ground. Others say it is merely the area that the Indians inhabited when they were the residents there.
One of the island men decided that he would check the area out. There was a very large rock which he felt covered some secrets. He hitched his horse up and took it over to the area. There he tied ropes to the rock and had the horse pull the rock forward out of the hole. Once he started to go into the hole, the horse began to back up. He managed to climb out of the hole just before the rock crashed back in place. He tried several times, but each time, no matter how he was tied, the horse would begin to replace the rock. He finally took the hint and gave up.
The location of the burial ground was known, but most of the islanders had decided, perhaps because of some superstition, not to disclose its whereabouts. Stella denied it’s existence, yet some of the children professed to know where it was.
A former islander said that it does exist, and where it is, but it was immediately denied by another.
Some of the children sometimes sneaked off and went to the area. They found arrowheads and even some cannonballs. They “sneaked off” because they were always kept under a very tight rule of where they could and couldn’t go on the island.
Mainly they were supposed to stay on a grassy area near the road, unless they were with Stella or George. Their safety was the main reason for this. On a small piece of land surrounded by water, and with so many young children to watch, they had to be kept in sight or it would be a case of courting disaster. Also the fact that no other family on the island had small children made Stella worry about the children wearing out their welcome if they began to visit the neighbours too frequently. The best way to avoid this was not to allow it at all unless invited.
According to some people who are familiar with the area, there is one other strange thing that is not often mentioned by anyone. It seems that a strange monster has been seen in the waters around the island by some, including George and Stella.
They had been told of this monster by others, but felt that this must have been a whale.
Until they saw it for themselves.
They were out fishing when they heard a great “whoosh” and felt the boat begin to bob up and down in the water. They looked around toward the sound, and there they saw it.
It was at least as big as a whale, but it did not resemble one. It had a barrel-shaped head and, as it rose out of the water and slowly slipped back under the waves, they could see that it had a row of many fins on its back, unlike those of a whale. They left the area as fast as they could row.
This was the only sighting they ever had of it, but they never forgot it and what it looked like.
They remembered how they had laughed when others had told them about “it”, but they weren’t laughing now. They were quite amazed. Perhaps it is still around today, no one has ever men- tioned it. Maybe Heron Island has a cousin to the Loch Ness monster and to the beast, Ogopogo, that has been reported by many over a period of many years in Lake Okanagan on our own west coast.