Nova Scotia·Audio

A look back at the mysterious haunting of an Antigonish County farm, 100 years later

Sudden fires, paranormal phenomena, and a young girl who was branded a poltergeist: Author Monica Graham tells the story of the haunting of the MacDonald family farm in Antigonish County, just ahead of its 100th anniversary.

Sudden fires, paranormal phenomena and a teenage girl branded a poltergeist

The MacDonald homestead was abandoned in 1922 after the 'hauntings' and later burned. (Antigonish Heritage Museum)

It's been nearly 100 years since a family farm in Antigonish County, N.S., was plagued by inexplicable fires, moving furniture and freed animals — all baffling circumstances that eventually forced the MacDonald family to flee their home, along with their daughter who was branded a poltergeist. 

Alexander and Janet MacDonald, and their adopted daughter Mary Ellen, lived in Caledonia Mills, a small community about 25 kilometres south of Antigonish.

On a stormy night in the winter of 1922, reports say small, blue fires started appearing in the home with no cause. By the end of the night, the family had put out 38 fires on the property.

The supposed haunting was deemed the fire spook and newspapers from as far away as Boston documented the troubling events.

Mary Ellen MacDonald was only 14 or 15 when the unexplained events occurred at her family's farm. This portait was taken after she left Antigonish. (Antigonish Heritage Museum)
A newspaper clipping from a United States publication is seen, detailing accounts from Walter Prince's investigation of the farm. (Antigonish Heritage Museum)


Walter Prince, a psychic investigator from Boston, even travelled to the farm to investigate.

"His conclusion was that Mary Ellen McDonald was a poltergeist and all the activities that had happened at the farm were spirits that had channeled through her to create the fires and everything else that had gone on," Monica Graham, the author of Fire Spook: The Mysterious Nova Scotia Haunting told CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia on Thursday.

From then on, the popular theory became that Mary Ellen, who was only 14 or 15 at the time, was possessed and causing the fires.

To hear more about the alleged haunting and what happened to Mary-Ellen, listen to Rose Murphy's full interview with Graham below.

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning Nova Scotia