Settle in and get cozy for some spine-tingling Canadian folklore. Featuring stories of ghost ships, supernatural beings, larger-than-life heroes, mysterious spirits, and national myths. Host David Williams will tell you a tale, then bring you on a deep dive into its history and cultural significance.
The Sourtoe Cocktail
"You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow, but the lips have got to touch the toe." So goes the prime directive of the Exalted Order of the Sourtoe, a cocktail club dreamed up in the 1970s to celebrate Discovery Day in Dawson City. Essentially a shot of liquor garnished with a preserved, severed human toe, the Sourtoe Cocktail is one of Canada's most legendary (and disturbing) traditions that has been served to over 100,000 curious drinkers in a Dawson City bar. This is its story.
For show notes and more, visit FiresideCanada.ca
Charlie Redstar: Manitoba's Friendly UFO
For period of 16-18 months between 1975 and 1976, a mysterious red light was routinely seen flying through the skies of Southern Manitoba. The unidentified flying object appeared so often and to so many people that it was given the name "Charlie Redstar." At the time, the event was one of the biggest UFO flaps to have ever occurred, yet few people have ever learned about the sightings or ever heard the name of "Charlie Redstar." In this episode, we'll piece together some of the stories from various interviews, newspaper articles, and police reports, and consider what the this strange phenomenon...
The Murderer and the Mind Reader
On Monday, July 9, 1928, four cold-blooded murders were committed on the Booher family farm, just outside the small village of Mannville in central Alberta. The crime shocked the nation, and the police made headlines when they decided to employ a self-proclaimed "mind reader" to help them find the missing murder weapon. It has been called the first criminal case to have ever been solved by a psychic or clairvoyant, but that's not entirely true. In this episode, blending true crime and folklore, we'll look at the legend, the history, and the facts of the case that show how the truth...
The Myth of the Minks
It's the plot of a 1996 Hallmark movie, the focus of a few paragraphs in history books, and the subject of countless social media posts: the tragic story of James Mink, one of early Toronto's wealthiest citizens, and his daughter Mary, sold into slavery by her own husband. It's a great story that's found in history books and Black History Month features across the country. There's just one problem: it's all based on one malicious lie.
Ogopogo / nx̌ax̌aitkʷ
It's one of the most famous and best-documented lake monsters in the world, and predates Nessie by over 80 years. It's mentioned in centuries-old journals and modern-day reports, and appears in grainy film footage, razor-sharp photos, and cheesy tourist t-shirts. But long before there was Ogopogo, there was nx̌ax̌aitkʷ, the Syilx name for the sacred being in the lake. In this episode, we'll hear the legends, explore the evidence, and discuss the cultural impact of one of Canada's most famous mysteries.
See the entire show notes and more at FiresideCanada.ca
"The best man in Ottawa was Mufferaw Joe," according to the famous song by legendary Canadian singer/songwriter Stompin' Tom Connors. "Big Joe Mufferaw" is often regarding as Canada's answer to Paul Bunyan: a family-friendly lumberjack whose monumental feats of strength literally changed the Ontario landscape. But the lovable, larger-than-life character is based on a real person: Joseph Montferrand, a French-Canadian folk hero whose exploits made him a living legend in 1800s Montreal and Ottawa. In this episode we'll look at the man, the myth, and the legend, and explore how one man went on to inspire a series...
The Fireship of Chaleur Bay
For centuries, people in the Maritime provinces of New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia have reported seeing a full-rigged sailing ship, engulfed in red flame, sailing against the wind in the waters of Chaleur Bay and the Northumberland Strait. Some say that it's just an illusion, but the "fireship" has been seen by people of all ages, cultures, and employment, in all kinds of weather, in all seasons, and at all times of day and night, for generations. What are the stories behind these strange spectres, and what can we learn from them about our history, our cultures, and...
Two Winter Legends of the Canadian North
Grab a hot chocolate and settle in by the fire for two tales of supernatural wonder from Canada's frozen north: one from the Yukon Territory, one from the coast of Labrador. The first is a long-forgotten, supposedly "true" tale about how a mining engineer from Alaska was saved by a stranger who appeared to him in a dream. The second is well-known story of a phantom trapper said to roam the wilds of Labrador. Both are deeply set in the snowy wilds of the north, and deal with themes of the supernatural and salvation—perfect for sharing on a co...
Lost in the Fairies
When most people think about "fairies," they picture beautiful, magical, human-like creatures with butterfly wings who live in mushrooms, collect children’s teeth, and sprinkle fairy dust on orphans and teach them how to fly. But that's the safe, romantic, child-friendly version of a creature that has been feared for thousands of years, to the point where simply saying the word "fairy" can be taboo. This episode is about the dangers of going alone into the wilderness—the realm of the fairies—and what you can do, according to folklore, to protect yourself if you're taken by "the good folk."...
The Haunted Lighthouse of Gibraltar Point
The lighthouse at Toronto's Gibraltar Point is one of the city's oldest landmarks. It also has a dark secret, if you believe the legends. For over two centuries, people have shared the story of J. P. Radelmüller, the lighthouse's first keeper, said to have been murdered, chopped to pieces, and scattered across the island one cold winter's night in 1815. They say he was a bootlegger. They say his killers were never convicted. And they say the ghost of Radelmüller still haunts the lighthouse, having never been put to rest. But what's fact, and what's fiction? In this ep...
The Coleman Frog
Tall tales are an important part of the Canadian cultural landscape, and this one's a whopper. In this episode, we'll hear the legend (or is it a lie?) about a massive 42 lb bullfrog and the man who loved it. Part 19th century advertisement, part local legend, this somewhat controversial tale asks us to think about the nature of storytelling, and the difference between fact and truth. Learn more and read the show notes at FiresideCanada.ca
The Devil at the Dance
It's a centuries-old folktale—a story about one evening when the devil came to town to dance with an unwitting partner and steal her soul. Found in nearly every province across Canada, the story of "The Devil at the Dance" is perhaps best known as a quaint French Canadian legend meant to caution the young about the dangers of drinking and dancing. But is it just a Catholic morality tale, or is there more to the story?
Learn more and read the show notes at FiresideCanada.ca
The Haunting of the Fort Garry Hotel
Winnipeg's Fort Garry Hotel is considered by many to be, not just one of the most haunted places in Canada, but one of the most haunted hotels in the world. Join me as we explore its stories—from local legends to national headlines—and consider the history, meaning and impact of the hotel's most notorious story: the ghost of a suicide bride said to haunt Room 202.
Read the complete show notes and learn more at FiresideCanada.ca
The Horn of the Unknown Shore
In 1577, an English privateer and explorer found a "unicorn horn" on the shore of what we know today as Baffin Island, Nunavut. The find would become a cherished posession of Queen Elizabeth I. Hear the legend and explore the hidden history and complex cultural ties of this legendary and lost treasure from two different worlds.
Read the complete show notes and learn more about the podcast at FiresideCanada.ca
The Vampires of Wilno, Ontario
In celebration of the 125th anniversary of Dracula, we'll look at Canada's own vampire legends set in the quaint village of Wilno, Ontario. Hear how an earnest investigation into local folklore mixed with pop culture to inspire brand new stories that combine legend, lies and lore. See the complete list of show notes at FiresideCanada.ca
The Lost Cache of Granite Creek
Granite Creek was at one point the third largest settlement in British Columbia. Now there's nothing left but rotting wood, rusted metal, a few great stories and, perhaps, a long lost treasure buried somewhere close by. Join me for tales of lucky finds, incredible feats, wild west weirdness and buried treasure from one of BC's countless forgotten ghost towns.
Learn more and see the sources and show notes at FiresideCanada.ca
The Demon of Sainte-Émélie
According to a forgotten newspaper article, a Quebec farmer once did battle with a fearsome flying monster, and had the body to prove it. The story should have made headlines around the world. Instead, it was swiftly forgotten. In this episode we'll analyze this cryptozoological story that never got its moment in the spotlight, and consider what it takes to make a legend. See all the show notes at FiresideCanada.ca
The Crucified Canadian
In April of 1915, the body of a Canadian soldier was found crucified near the city of Ypres...or so the legend goes. Follow the tale of the Crucified Canadian as it transforms from a rumor of the trenches, to a tool for propaganda, to a national myth and symbol of heroism and sacrifice, and finally to the subject of an international scandal. In this episode, we'll take a close look at a mostly forgotten trench myth of World War I that once made headlines around the world, incited Canadians to war, and inspired a legendary brutality on the battlefield.<...
The Old Hag of Newfoundland
A strange and terrifying phenomenon has been plaguing humans for millennia, walking into bedrooms at night, looming at bedsides and, in the worst cases, attempting to suffocate or strangle its paralyzed victims. It has many names throughout the world, but in Newfoundland they call it "The Old Hag," where it has connections to centuries-old beliefs about witchcraft and the occult. In this episode, we'll learn about the cultural phenomenon of "The Old Hag" and what Newfoundland folklore can teach us about the cause, the cure and the culture.
The Phantom Bell Ringers of PEI
One chilly October morning, a church bell unexpectedly rang through the streets of Charlottetown, PEI, guided by the hands of four ghostly women. Hours later, a ship would sink halfway between Charlottetown and Pictou, Nova Scotia, killing four women. In this episode we'll explore this classic ghost story of PEI together with the historic account of a mostly-forgotten shipwreck. We'll learn how ghosts can foretell a disaster, how the truth can often be scarier than any legend, and how a ghost story can sometimes be a comfort in trying times.
The Baldoon Mystery – Part 2
Part 2 of 2 continues our examination of the Baldoon Mystery with a look at the history and culture of the people who lived there. We'll also review of all the various theories about what was behind the strange events, and what ultimately brought them to an end. You'll hear about rumours of Faustian deals, about "little people" of Indigenous oral traditions, and about one of my favourite Canadian folk heroes of all time.
La Chasse-Galerie – Part 2
A doomed French lord, ill-fated lovers, and the Wild Hunt all play a part in this episode focused on unpacking and examining the origin and the legacy of La Chasse-Galerie. Listen to a long-forgotten legend of La Chasse-Galerie from old Detroit, and get a better understanding of this classic Canadian legend and its connections to other, older folklore.
The Legend of Qu’Appelle
Mowhawk author and performer E. Pauline Johnson made The Legend of the Qu'Appelle Valley one of Saskatchewan's most popular folktales, but it's not the only story about "The River That Calls." Learn about the history of the legend, the theories on what made Johnson's version so popular, and the legacy that has made it somewhat controversial today. Then listen to a more modern tale inspired by the various elements of this iconic legend. Note: This episode discusses and quotes some antiquated and racist ideas and language in order to provide some context and aid in understanding its history. Discretion...
The Baldoon Mystery – Part 1
The Baldoon Mystery is an odd bit of Canadian folklore. It's supported by recorded eye-witness accounts, has ties to real people and real history, and has the strange distinction of being one of the few ghost stories in the world that doesn't actually feature a ghost. At least, not in the way you might expect. It's a prime example of a Settler Gothic folktale, and it deserves a closer look. In this episode, Part 1 of 2, you'll hear a retelling of the legend based on a book written by one of the survivors.
La Chasse-Galerie – Part 1
Every Christmas or New Year’s Eve, some say, several men in a birch bark canoe will soar through the skies over Montreal and beyond. It’s known as “la chasse-galerie,” and it’s essentially the Canadian version of the Wild Hunt. It’s a tale that has been told since at least the 17th century, and the story may have influenced, or have been influenced by, actual strange events that occurred in the mid-1600s. The story was shared around campfires of the courriers de bois, the voyageurs, and then among anyone who likes a good ghost story, and might be...
The Pirate Edward Jordan – Part 2
Edward Jordan was the first person to be tried and executed for piracy on Canadian soil. In Part 1, we heard about the mysterious vessel "Three Sisters", the odd behaviour of her crew, and their ultimate capture by the British navy for murder, piracy and robbery. In Part 2, we'll learn the rest of Edward Jordan's story, and the fate of those involved. Part 2 of 2.
Dungarvon Whooper – Part 2
In Part 2 of my look at the Dungarvon Whooper, I'll tell you my version of the classic legend of a murdered cook whose spirit is said to haunt the wilderness of northern New Brunswick. We'll also take a closer look at the stories you heard last episode, try to understand the historical context of these tales, consider the legacy of the legend, and discuss what might actually be stalking the shadowy forest "where the dark and deep Dungarvon sweeps along."
The Thing of Annapolis County
One night in the early 1900’s, two men encountered a strange and terrifying creature. Their story is now a classic part of Nova Scotian folklore. This episode explores some of Nova Scotia’s most iconic stories about “forerunners” (supernatural omens of impending death), including one story that was later adapted for the best-selling spooky kids’ book Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.
The Pirate Edward Jordan – Part 1
Edward Jordan was the first person to be tried and executed for piracy on Canadian soil. That fact has made him something of a legend, with many imagining him cruising the Atlantic and plundering vessels before being captured. The truth is far less romantic, but still an intriguing story from Canadian history. Part 1 of 2.
The Curious Creature of Yale
One summer's day in the 1880s, a number of railroad workers stumbled upon a mysterious creature sleeping on the track. After a brief chase, they captured the beast and carried it to town, where it was examined by the local doctor and declared to be a new species of ape. That's the legend, at least. The story of Yale's "wild man" or "Jacko," as he would come to be called, caused a slight stir in 1880s British Columbia, but that would pale in comparison to its rediscovery in the late 20th century by cryptozoologists. Could this forgotten story be...
Dungarvon Whooper – Part 1
The Dungarvon Whooper is perhaps the most popular ghost story and folk legend in New Brunswick. But while many know the tale about a murdered cook named Ryan, few realize that, long ago, it was just one of many. In this episode, we'll take a trip to the lumber camps of the late 1800s and hear four different legends, all shared in an attempt to explain a terrifying sound that once echoed through the wilderness of Northern New Brunswick.
The Phantom Train of Medicine Hat
In 1908, two trains collided just outside of Medicine Hat, killing seven men. The event has since become part of a classic piece of Canadian folklore with elements of fortune telling, forerunners, and fate. Today, over a century later, the lines between history and legend are starting to blur. In this episode you’ll hear the original story told by a man who narrowly escaped the crash, and learn how one man's ghost story has become a true Canadian legend.
The Screaming Tunnel
It has been called one of Ontario’s most haunted locations, and it has hosted a right-of-passage for Niagara youth for decades—some say for over a hundred years. Go at night, they say, light a match, and face the ghost of a murdered girl, then hear her scream as she blows the match out. It’s a wonderfully creepy ghost story, and a fascinating study for those interested in the evolution of urban legends.
Welcome to the Fireside
Welcome to Fireside Canada, a new podcast focused on exploring and explaining Canadian folklore.