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Trains and fiery horsemen: Ghost stories still haunt New France

Many people, according to Hal Theriault and Stacey Doucette, feel the presence of a mysterious energy at the New France site.
Many people, according to Hal Theriault and Stacey Doucette, feel the presence of a mysterious energy at the New France site.

NEW FRANCE, NS - Several ghost stories have floated around the New France area, also known as the Electric City, since mid-twentieth century.

Hal Theriault and Stacey Doucette shared their insight while walking around the site, which now consists of trees and building foundations, showing the layout of the village-turned ghost town.

“People began camping here during the 1940s and 1950s, when the buildings still took,” said Theriault.

“The main things they’d hear would either be a train engine or the sound of a horse galloping.”

Read other ghost stories from around Southwest Nova Scotia here

The horseman

Other campers and site explorers around the same time period also claimed to have heard a horse galloping through the woods.

When seen, this ghostly horse carried a man, dressed all in black, wielding a cutlass.

Some claimed to have seen both the horse and man with fiery eyes and hair, while others claimed to have even seen the man holding its head to one side.

“There are many stories about this fiery horseman,” said Theriault.

“Many people would see it appear differently, but everyone always saw it with the large sword.”

Reports allege the horse would gallop and stop in the village square – which had been based on European village designs – and then move towards the Big House, where the site’s founding family, the Stehelins, had lived.

“The man and horse would then go inside and a duel would commence. You could hear the fighting when it happened, but no one ever saw the opponent,” said Theriault.

The train

Large stones from a building’s foundation remain at the New France site, where the buildings were torn down in the 1950s and ghost activity has been reported for decades.

When the New France lumber mill was operational, it had its own train to transport the wood to neighbouring sites and across the province.

The train and its tracks are long since gone, but the memories remain.

“While sleeping, many campers would feel vibrations and then hear the sound of a train coming towards them,” said Doucette.

“They even said they felt as though the train was coming straight for their building. But when they’d stand up and open the door, the noise and vibrations would stop,” said Theriault.

The site today

These two ghost stories are by far the most commonly reported by site visitors, according to Theriault and Doucette.

“It’s not surprising that when people come to this place even today to camp, fish or hunt that they are so in tune with the nature around them,” said Doucette.

“That happens when you’re alone in nature, and you hear things.”

More ghost tales and also interesting stories based on recorded events are told in written records of the site, including a story of a Stehelin family member that died in Weymouth – and the mysterious horse factors into the tale as well.

The horse apparently went missing after the man’s death. His son, who had gone to New France to fish, later found the horse. It had travelled back home and was found dead in front of the barn.

“It’s like he returned there to be with the father, to die,” said Theriault.

He doubts whether a link between this true story and the ghost story of the fiery horseman exists, since this event happened after the ghost story already existed.

Both agree that the site, considered one of the premier ghost towns in Nova Scotia, is a mysterious place.

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