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The Ghosts of Deadman's Pond

Updated on March 20, 2018
Stephen C Barnes profile image

Stephen has been exploring the history, legends, and folklore of his home province of Newfoundland for the better part of 40 years.

Deadman's Pond on Signal Hill, St. John's, Newfoundland. The hill on the far side of the pond is Gibbet Hill.
Deadman's Pond on Signal Hill, St. John's, Newfoundland. The hill on the far side of the pond is Gibbet Hill. | Source

Deadman's Pond

Deadman's pond is a small pond part way up Signal Hill, in St. John's, Newfoundland, directly across the road from the Johnson Geo Centre. For centuries it was believed that this pond was bottomless. Though resent surveys have shown this not to be the case, it is quite deep.

The hill on the eastern edge of, and overlooking, the pond is Gibbet Hill. For hundreds of years, well into the nineteenth century, this hill was the sight of public executions. Convicted criminals were hung from a gallows on top of the hill, their bodies were then suspended from a Gibbet, where they could be plainly seen from the city and by ships entering St. John's Harbour, as an example to others, as the corpses rotted and were picked apart by birds. Deadman's Pond gets its name from this practice, and the belief, though unsubstantiated, that many of the bodies were later disposed of in the pond.

This pond has also been the site of numerous drownings, and Signal Hill itself has seen many a military battle. There are also legends of pirate activity associate with the hill, and the pond. With such a notorious past it is little wonder that there is many a ghost story associated with Deadman's Pond.

Sketch of a person being gibbeted
Sketch of a person being gibbeted | Source

The Indian Spirit of Deadman's Pond

One of the oldest legends surrounding Deadman's Pond is that of an ancient Indian spirit that is said to inhabit the ponds murky depths. As the story goes the spirit is that of a Native North American chief or tribal elder that had either drowned in the pond accidentally, or had been murder by his own people for some misdoing, and then tossed into the pond. Either way, his dead body ended up in the water, as did his spirit, which is said to have haunted the pond ever since.

It is believed that the old Indian's spirit seeks vengeance upon the living, and is responsible for many of the drownings that have occurred in the pond, grabbing hold of unsuspecting swimmers and pulling them beneath the water's surface, and holding them there as they flail and kick, and gasp their last breath. Or reaching out from the depths below and grabbing hold of those who chance to walk too close to the water's edge, and pulling them in to their deaths.

Guardian of a Pirate's Treasure

Another story tells of a hapless young pirate who, in his haste to to escape the pirate captain to whom he was bound and get away from a life at sea, ended up sealing his own fate and bringing about his own untimely demise.

As the legend goes, a pirate ship laden with treasure arrived in St. John's Harbour. Who the captain of this particular pirate ship was varies from one telling to another but the gist of the tale remains the same. The captain, fearing capture by British forces off the coast of Newfoundland, ordered his crew to offload the ships store of ill gotten gains and bring them ashore at Signal Hill. The crew then proceeded to bury the loot. Once the treasure was safely ensconced in the earth the captain asked for a volunteer to stay and guard the treasure. The young pirate, seeing his chance to escape the pirate life presented himself for the job, at which point the captain drew his sword and with one swift movement beheaded the unsuspecting young man. The body was buried alongside the treasure so that the young man's ghost could guard it until the pirates returned to reclaim it. It is believed that, for whatever reason, the pirates never returned, and the spirit of the young man remains there still.

Many people over the years have reported sighting the headless figure of the unfortunate young pirate wandering around the area of Deadman's pond, appearing whenever anyone got too close to the treasure's secret hiding place.

Source

The Ghost of Frederick Weston Carter and the Two Young Girls He Could Not Save

Perhaps the best known ghost story of Deadman's Pond involves a triple drowning that occurred there on Boxing Day, 1869. On that day Mr. Carter, a young St. John's Lawyer and the son of Sir Frederick Carter, the then attorney general for the colony of Newfoundland, was attending a gathering at his family's home. After dinner he, and two female companions, decided to take a walk on Signal Hill. When they reached the area of Deadman's Pond they heard screams. Carter immediately ran off into the direction from which the screaming originated and discovered that two young girls had fallen through the ice while skating. With no thought to himself or to his own safety he dove into the icy waters in an attempt to save the girls. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful, and all three drowned.

To this day people report hearing the screams of the girls echoing in the night air, especially around Christmas time. Others have reported seeing the ghosts of Carter and the girls in and around the pond. Still others have reported witnessing the drowning scene itself; three spectral images splashing around silently in the water, then disappearing beneath its surface.

Monument in honor of Frederick Weston Carter, on Military Road, St. John's, Newfoundland
Monument in honor of Frederick Weston Carter, on Military Road, St. John's, Newfoundland | Source

Drownings in Deadman's Pond

The drowning of Frederick Weston Carter and the two young girls are just three of the multitude of drownings that have occurred at Deadman's Pond over the centuries (the last being a double drowning that occurred there in 2015), and for every one that is known there are many more that have never been known, or have been forgotten years ago. Many believe, however, that the spirits of some of these unfortunate souls, any number of which may have been lured or dragged to their deaths by the vengeful Indian Spirit that haunts the pond, remain their still.

© 2018 Stephen Barnes

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