Stephen has been exploring the history, legends, and folklore of his home province of Newfoundland Labrador for the better part of 40 years.
Deadman's pond is a small pond on Signal Hill, in St. John's, Newfoundland. For over two hundred years legend held that this pond was bottomless. Some years ago a crew for the CTV Sci-Fi channel, then known as Space, came to St. John's determined to get to the bottom, pardon the pun, of this legend. After plumbing the depths, which turned out to not be that deep, the film crew proved that the pond does indeed have a bottom. Despite this, the legend of the bottomless pond persists.
The hill overlooking the pond on the eastern edge, is Gibbet Hill. For many years, well into the nineteenth century, this hill was the sight of public executions. Captured pirates and other convicted criminals were hung from a gallows on top of the hill, the bodies were then suspended from a Gibbet on the hill, where they could be plainly seen from the city and by ships entering St. John's Harbour, as a warning to other would be miscreants. It is widely believe that Deadman's Pond got its name from the practice of disposing of the remains of the executed in the pond, after they were removed from the gibbet. It could also have gotten its unfortunate handle as a result of the numerous drownings that have occurred their.
The area around Deadman's pond has also seen many a military battle over the centuries, as Signal Hill was the first line of defence against attack from the sea. There are also legends of pirate activity associate with the hill, and the pond. With such a notorious past it is little wonder that there are so many ghost stories associated with this small body of water.
The Indigenous Spirit of Deadman's Pond
One of the oldest legends surrounding Deadman's Pond is that of an ancient indigenous spirit that is said to inhabit the pond's murky depths. As the story goes, the spirit is that of a Native North American chief or tribal elder that had either drowned in the pond accidentally, or had been murder by his own people for some misdoing, and then tossed into the pond. Either way, his dead body ended up in the water, as did his spirit, which is said to have haunted the pond ever since.
It is believed that the old man's spirit seeks vengeance upon the living, and is responsible for many of the drownings that have occurred in the pond. Some stories tell of a ghostly hand that grabs hold of unsuspecting swimmers and pulls them beneath the water's surface and holds them there as they flail and kick, and gasp their last breath. Still others describe spectral hands reaching out from the depths below and grabbing hold of those who chance to walk too close to the water's edge, pulling them in to their deaths.
Guardian of a Pirate's Treasure
Another legend tells of a hapless young pirate who, in his haste to escape the pirate captain to whom he was bound and get away from a life at sea, ended up sealing his fate and bringing about his own untimely demise.
As the legend goes, a pirate ship laden with treasure arrived in St. John's Harbour. Who the captain of this particular pirate ship was varies from one telling to another but the gist of the tale remains the same. The captain, fearing capture by British forces off the coast of Newfoundland, ordered his crew to offload the ships store of ill gotten gains and bring them ashore at Signal Hill. The crew then proceeded to bury the loot. Once the treasure was safely ensconced in the earth the captain asked for a volunteer to stay and guard the treasure. The young pirate, seeing his chance to escape the pirate life, presented himself for the job, at which point the captain drew his sword and with one swift movement beheaded the unsuspecting young man. The body was buried alongside the treasure so that the young man's ghost could guard it until the pirates returned to reclaim it. It is believed that, for whatever reason, the pirates never returned, and the spirit of the young man, as well as the treasure, remains there still.
Many people over the years have reported sighting the headless figure of the unfortunate young pirate wandering around the area of Deadman's pond, appearing whenever anyone got too close to the treasure's secret hiding place.
The Ghost of Frederick Weston Carter and the Two Young Girls He Could Not Save
Perhaps the best known ghost story of Deadman's Pond involves a triple drowning that occurred there on Boxing Day, 1869. On that day Mr. Carter, a young St. John's Lawyer and the son of Sir Frederick Carter, the then attorney general for the colony of Newfoundland, was attending a gathering at his family's home. After dinner, he and two female companions decided to take a walk on Signal Hill. When they reached the area of Deadman's Pond they heard screams. Carter immediately ran in the direction of the screaming and discovered that two young girls had fallen through the ice while skating. With no thought for himself or to his own safety he dove into the icy waters in an attempt to save the girls. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful, and all three drowned.
To this day people report hearing the screams of the girls echoing in the night air, especially around Christmas time. Others have reported seeing the ghosts of Carter and the girls in and around the pond. Still others have reported witnessing the drowning scene itself; three spectral images splashing around silently in the water, then disappearing beneath its surface.
Dead Man's Pond & Gibbet Hill at night
Drownings in Deadman's Pond
The drowning of Frederick Weston Carter and the two young girls are just three of a multitude of drownings that have occurred at Deadman's Pond over the centuries. The two most recent drownings were in April of 2015 and September of 2017, under very similar circumstance. In both instances park officials were alerted by tire tracks leading into the pond, and in both cases the body of a lone female occupant, presumably the driver, was recovered from the submerged vehicle. Were these just tragic accidents or did something else cause these women to drive their cars into the waters of Deadman's Pond.
- Jarvis D. (2016) Getting to the Bottom of Some Bottomless Pond Legends for #Folklore Thursday - dalejarvis.ca/2016/07/getting-to-bottom-of-some-bottomless.html
- Furlong E. T. (1939) The Ghost of Deadman's Pond. Newfoundland Quarterly Vol. 39 (3)
- St. John's Daily News, December 28, 1869
- wikipedia (2022) CTV Sci-Fi Channel. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ctv_sci_fi_channel
- Butts E. (2010) Ghost Stories of Newfoundland and Labrador. scribd.com/book/230095922/ghost-stories-newfoundland-and-labrador
- Galgay F. McCarthy M. (1989). Buried Treasures of Newfoundland & Labrador. Harry Cuff Publications
- Haunted History of Signal Hill, Newfoundland. hauntheads.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/haunted-history-of-signal-hill-newfoundland/
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2018 Stephen Barnes
Stephen Barnes (author) from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador on September 13, 2018:
Thank you, I am pleased you enjoyed it.
ziyena from the Somewhere Out There on September 13, 2018:
Very interesting, thank you