Nfld. & Labrador

Bell Island swamp hag celebrated with Canada Post Halloween stamp

She has lived on in local lore, in cautionary tales and, according to some, in a lonely swamp. But now, the Bell Island Hag will have her legacy extended with a postage stamp.

Local legend one of 15 selected for nationwide collection

The Bell Island Hag has been immortalized in a Canada Post Halloween-themed stamp this fall. Unveiled last week, the Hag is one of 15 haunted tales chosen for the collection. (Canada Post)

She has lived on in local lore, in cautionary tales and, according to some, in a lonely swamp, and the Bell Island Hag is now flying through the Canadian mail system. 

The ghastly girl appears on one of 15 Halloween-themed stamps unveiled by Canada Post last week.

She comes with a tale of wartime intrigue and a really, really bad smell. And now she has her very own postage stamp.

The spooky stamp is a must-have collectible for Henry Crane, chairperson of Tourism Bell Island and a Hag believer.

"I started to piece it together from people all over the island," Crane said in an interview with the St. John's Morning Show. 

"It came from the people of Bell Island."

Fact and fiction: War, murder and a haunting

The story starts before the Second World War, with a bustling island economy propelled by German influence. Sailors, transporting iron ore, would come ashore and spend time on Bell Island.

"They would come ashore and dance with the young ladies," Crane said.

"A lot of the young ladies became quite enamoured with the German sailors."

Among those fancied females was a young girl from Upper Island Cove, a server for an affluent Bell Island family. At the outbreak of the War, the German sailors became soldiers, lurking in the waters offshore.

Bell Island is the location of more than one spooky story, but it's the island's famous hag getting attention from Canada Post this fall. (Submitted by Elbonita Kozhani)

As the story goes, the German sailors would sneak inland on the island's wooded western end. On one such day, the young serving girl spotted them.

Before she could sound an alarm, the soldiers captured her and took her to a swamp near Dobbin's Garden — a piece of farmland used by local families.

According to Crane, the soldiers smothered her in the swamp, where her spirit lives on.

A paralyzing stench

She appears as a young girl dressed in white. As she draws closer, she falls to her knees and begins crawling. Her white clothes turn to tattered grey rags, her flesh falls from her skin.

Worst of all, a stench fills the air and stops victims in their tracks.

"If you could think of an outhouse and rotten eggs combined, it was probably 10 times worse," Crane said.

"The whole stench seemed to paralyze whoever was there." 

Similar to folklore traditions in other Newfoundland communities, the person feels paralyzed and has the sensation that the hag is crawling over them. 

"No one came to help me, now no one will help you," she says. "Taste what I tasted. Smell what I smelled."

Legendary tale for tourism 

The legend was adapted as a play over the summer, and has been used in the tourism group's haunted walking tours. On a tour two years ago, employees of Canada Post were enamoured by the tale, Crane said.

Out of more than 1,000 applicants, the Bell Island Hag was one of 15 winners.

Still, the honour isn't enough to put the old girl to rest.

"She still supposedly haunts Dobbin's Garden today," Crane said.

With files from St. John's Morning Show