NL·Food 'n Fun

Summertime ghost stories at the haunted cemetery in Julie's Harbour

Less about food, more about … ghosts? Contributor Andie Bulman hit the road to visit Julie's Harbour, a resettled community where it's rumoured there's a haunted graveyard.
Mike Roberts, who owns and operates Badger Bay Boat Tours, says the stillness on Julie's Harbour is eerie. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, I call this story: The Haunting of Julie's Harbour.

I've always wanted to begin a story with that opening line from Who's Afraid of the Dark? — the popular '90s TV show in which teenagers told a different spooky story each week — but the opportunity has only just now presented itself.

I was lucky enough to have a ghostly encounter with skipper Mike Roberts, owner and operator of Badger Bay Boat Tours, when we visited Julie's Harbour.

Roberts is based out of beautiful and colourful Triton — a hidden gem of a town in rural Newfoundland — where he takes folks on ocean adventures.

His isn't an overwhelmingly touristy experience where you feel far from the ocean; in fact, it's downright cosy. I could feel the splash of the waves, the choppiness of the sea.

Depending on the time of year, a crab boil-up on the beach might be on the menu during a tour to Julie's Harbour. (Submitted by Mike Roberts)

Depending on the season, you can scoop capelin, catch lobster, or jig a cod or squid, and request a beach boil-up added to your excursion. Roberts also tours folks out to mussel farms, waterfalls, shipwrecks, and a giant sea cave that's poetically called Nanny's Hole.

All of the adventures he advertises sound inviting, but the one that caught my eye was the visit to Julie's Harbour.

The history of Julie's Harbour is hard to trace, but when it was occupied, it had a population of around 100 people, before the residents of the town moved to more central locations after being encouraged to resettle in more populous areas in the early 1960s.

Roberts takes tours out to a giant sea cave poetically called Nanny's Hole. (Submitted by Mike Roberts)

The town of Julie's Harbour was originally called Saint Augustine, Roberts says, but was later renamed Julie's Harbour after a pregnant unwed teenager, named Julie, who drowned in knee-deep water.

Over the years, spooky happenings occurred to those who continued to visit the site. Roberts told us tales of phantoms interrupting card games, swamped boats and other frightening pranks the locals attribute to Julie's ghost.

See for yourself: before the COVID-19 pandemic, Andie Bulman headed out to Julie's Harbour for a quick sandwich and cup of tea on the beach before visiting the haunted cemetery.

Summertime ghost stories at the haunted cemetery in Julie's Harbour: Food 'n Fun, Ep. 5

3 years ago
Duration 2:52
It's the year of the staycation, and for anyone who's a dark tourism enthusiast, there are options at home, says contributor Andie Bulman. To prove it, she visited Julie's Harbour, a resettled community where the only thing still standing is a haunted cemetery. Check it out in the fifth episode of on-the-road series, Food 'n Fun. (Filmed by CBC's Mark Cumby before the COVID-19 pandemic)

In fact, teenagers and 20-somethings in Triton today will trek out to spend a night on Julie's beach. Roberts's own son plans an overnight trip out there each summer, but our captain is superstitious and refuses to sleep on the haunted shore.

Instead, he keeps an eye on the party from the safety of his boat, and told us, "No, I wouldn't dare sleep on that land."

I love a good ghost story, so I was eager to visit. Roberts tied the boat to the dock and we stepped onto a beautiful, small sandy beach. It was a warm day and everything was lush and green.

Enjoying beach tea and sandwiches, before visiting the haunted cemetery of Julie's Harbour. (Mark Cumby/CBC)

I'll admit, I was a bit skeptical. I had great fun on the boat trip and marvelled at the beauty in the area, but it was hard for me to take his ghost stories seriously.

But as the sun crept behind a cloud and we entered the dark forest, I'll admit to being a little creeped out.

The houses have long since eroded and fallen prey to the creeping trees. You can almost make out the foundation of the church, but even that is less than a skeleton — just an indentation in the ground.

All that remains of Julie's Harbour is a graveyard on a hill in the forest. Most of the graves are covered in thick green moss, and many of the deaths mark the same year; it turns out the community, when populated, was also home to a terrible tuberculous outbreak.

We decided to roll the cameras and try to get some of these ghost stories on camera, but something cut into our sound and interrupted our take. I was thrilled — my first ghost encounter!

In previous years, without a global pandemic, the Julie's Harbour tour has proven to be pretty popular. (Submitted by Mike Roberts)

Folks, get out of your big towns and your comfort zones this summer and visit the beautiful bays and inlets of rural Newfoundland. There are small businesses and tourism operators that are counting on you to visit.

More than that, there are all kinds of weird and fun adventures to be had — plus, you might even scare up a ghost.

Food 'n Fun is a series all about food — and fun — as Andie Bulman takes viewers to places in Newfoundland to talk about delicious things.

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