St. John’s Haunted Hike returns for Halloween season

The St. John’s Haunted Hike continues to capture the interest of hundreds. Its Halloween events are sold out in advance.

Sarah Antle

Ashley DeMoss stands with her collection of ghost tale books by Dale Jarvis, founder of the Haunted Hike.
Ashley DeMoss stands with her collection of ghost tales by Dale Jarvis, founder of the Haunted Hike. She credits these books for her interest in folklore. Photo by Sarah Antle.

Local folklorist and storyteller Dale Jarvis founded the St. John’s Haunted Hike in 1997, and its popularity continues to grow, with nine events sold out this October. 

The Haunted Hike is walking tour with a ghastly combination of local history and folklore. The hike begins when guides pick up travellers at the Anglican Cathedral on Church Street and tours the streets of downtown St. John’s. 

The group winds through roads and alleys, stopping to hear tales of ghosts, ghouls and crime. The stories each correspond to a location along the way. The Haunted Hike group describes the experience on its website, telling audiences that they will “descend into the dark underbelly of St. John’s and explore its murderous history and paranormal legacy.” 

The Anglican Cathedral on Church Street, where the Haunted Hike starts.
The Haunted Hike begins at the Anglican Cathedral on Church Street. The audience is divided into groups there, and a tour guide begins the night of stories. Photo by Sarah Antle.

Holly Everett, head of the department of folklore at Memorial University, described the stories shared at the Hike as “legends,” saying that while they are supernatural, they have some connection to real history.

“That’s the attraction, what draws them to it,” said Everett. “What if they saw that ghost? What if they felt that sudden chill in the air at some point that indicates a ghostly presence?” 

Haunted Hike stories resonate

Everett says that after Jarvis started the Haunted Hike in Newfoundland, she noticed a spike in tours of the same variety in other parts of Canada, even in smaller places such as Sydney, N.S., and Moncton, N.B. She said that this phenomenon is “recreating these situations for storytelling that a lot of us are familiar with from childhood or going to camp or hanging out at a bonfire.”

Ashley DeMoss, a Memorial University graduate of the folklore department, who has worked in the tourism industry, said events such as the Haunted Hike are culturally important. Because this is a community gathering, it brings together people from backgrounds who know different legends.

“You have people who are guiding these tours, like Dale Jarvis, but you may come across someone who has heard something different, and you add to it,” said DeMoss. “You’re keeping the traditions and stories alive.” 

DeMoss has been an attendee at the St. John’s Haunted Hike and described the experience as positive. She said events like these incited her interest in folklore and local history.

“There is something magical about storytelling and how people portray the story,” DeMoss said. 

Like Jarvis, DeMoss also collects stories of Newfoundland history and folklore.
Like Haunted Hike founder Doug Jarvis, Ashley DeMoss also collects stories of Newfoundland history and folklore. These are some of the documents collected over the years. Photo by Sarah Antle.

The Haunted Hike has returned in time for Halloween after being stalled in 2020 due to the pandemic. The hikes run each night from Oct. 18-30. Each tour is one hour and 15 minutes-long and is suitable for ages eight and above. 

The Haunted Hike group asks that all participants “come with a willingness to believe,” and as DeMoss says, “Who doesn’t love a good ghost story?”

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