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Haunted Locations: Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Halifax Explosion: Haunted Edition

Welcome to another Weird Wednesday where we cover everything from spooky, to mysterious, to downright morbid and devastating.


It is said that when someone dies suddenly and/or violently, their ghost may become imprinted on their place of death. Meaning, that because either they can’t accept what happened to them, or they aren’t even aware that they died, they stay tied to the location.


On December 6, 1917, at 9:04am the clock on citadel hill in Halifax, Nova Scotia, stopped. Marking the time of death for over 1,600 people who all may have become imprinted ghosts. 19 minutes earlier, the S.S. Imo, a Belgian relief ship, collided with the Mont-Blanc, a French munitions ship in the Halifax Harbour causing the largest accidental man-made explosion in history.


With World War I underway, the harbour was alive with activity that fateful morning. The Imo, a Belgian relief ship heading to New York to gather supplies to bring back to occupied Belgium and the Mont-Blanc a French munitions ship passing through Halifax on its way from New York to France suddenly found themselves face to face in tight quarters in the harbour. The pilot of the Mont-Blanc signaled for the Imo to alter course, but the pilot of the Imo refused. Generally, a munitions ship is required to fly a flag advising all other marine traffic of their dangerous cargo but to avoid becoming a potential target of a German submarine on their trip back across the Atlantic, they had opted to sail undercover. So, the Imo, unaware that the Mont-Blanc held over 2,925 metric tons of explosives stayed its course, which resulted in a collision so catastrophic it became the largest man-made explosion until the Atomic Bomb was dropped on Japan in WWII and remains the second largest to this day.


The speed of the initial blast travelling at the rate of 3,300 feet per second, blew out the windows of every building in its path before completely levelling the structures. The windows of the buildings that withstood the blast bent inward until the glass broke into spear shaped shards, cutting through curtains, and walls, leaving 41 people completely blind, with over 900 suffering eye injuries, or partial blindness. When they heard the commotion of a ship on fire in the harbour people ran to the shore and to the windows to watch. Many either didn’t understand the extent of the danger or they didn’t believe they were in immediate harm’s way from a ship on fire out in the water and that is why there were so many brutal fatalities.


Almost everyone who stood close to the shore were thrown so far and so fast smashing into trees or buildings, killing them instantly. Their internal organs were crushed, and their lungs exploded from the sheer force of the blast.


Most of the people who stood at the windows were decapitated, blinded, or brutally maimed by the shards of glass that were blown inward at a horrific speed.


Which brings me to the first ghostly tale from the Halifax Explosion. There is a window at St. Paul’s cathedral with the blackened profile of a man superimposed in one of the panes of glass. There are two theories surrounding this phenomenon. The most widely believed story tells of a deacon who was standing facing out toward the ships watching the fire at the time of the explosion. The heat from the blast was so intense that it copied the man’s silhouette onto the glass. The second less told story is that of a sailor’s decapitated head flew so perfectly through the glass it left a perfect cut out and when the window was repaired, something supernatural was at play, causing the form of the face to appear in the glass. Whatever the cause it is a mystery that remains today. Over the yeas church members have cleaned the glass with different products, nothing will take the mark off.


One of my favourite haunted locations is the former funeral home: Snow and Co. For weeks after the explosion, the funeral home was so jam packed that they held 30-40 funerals a day and coffins were stacked on top of each other and lined the streets outside the building. They kept bodies in fields, in the armouries, anywhere they could until space freed up in the funeral parlor. Now, it is a popular seafood restaurant, and I’ve heard their menu is deadly. The waitstaff claims the place is so haunted that they don’t even flinch when the glassware and cutlery fly off tables and shelves, or when they hear their names whispered in their ears while working a night shift.


Some of the more intense encounters include that of a waiter who was working one day at 3:00pm before the restaurant was open. As he was bringing things from one level to the next through a set of swinging doors and on one trip down, he heard a loud crash behind himself at the bar. He continued down and dropped off his load before returning upstairs to investigate the sound. He found a large glass ashtray smashed on the floor behind the bar but couldn’t figure out what had caused it to fall. He bent down to gather the broken glass and when he stood back up, he saw in the mirror by the bar, the reflection of an old man with long grey hair wearing an outdated coat walking away from him. He knew he was the only one in the place so he was startled and turned to check out who it might be, only to find now one there. What makes this account even more credible is that a few years later, a manager was alone in the restaurant at 3:00pm on the phone with a customer. He looked down and saw an old man standing on the landing. He told him that he would be right with him and hung up the phone. He went to help the man but discovered the place was empty. The doors were locked, and he couldn’t figure out how anyone had gotten in, or where they had gone! Later that evening he was told the other staff about his experience and the waiter who had seen the reflection of a man after the ashtray broke, spoke up to ask if it was an old man in an olden-times coat with long grey hair. Sure enough, he matched the description to a T.


There are many more accounts from the staff at the Five Fisherman who claim to have experienced ghostly encounters. They mainly happen during the late night or when the restaurant is closed, but they do occur during open hours from time to time.


We have many haunted locations in Halifax, for one reason or another and I have gone on local ghost tours myself. No wonder I sleep with a nightlight!


So, if you ever come visit Halifax, Nova Scotia, I dare you to make a reservation at the Five Fisherman (but be sure it’s after 3:00pm)! And be sure to stop by and visit the man in the window at St. Paul’s.


And as always, if you chose to go hunting, remember the rules:






Thanks for tuning in, see you next week!








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