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The ghost pirate of Point Pleasant ParkBy Michelle Brunet | Oct 15, 2012
A noose hung at the mouth of Freshwater Brook (where Pier 21 stands today). The executioner fitted the rope around Edward Jordan’s neck, as onlookers jockeyed for position near the gallows. The trap door fell away with a snap, and the pirate hung to death.
It was November 15, 1809, and Jordan was receiving the rough justice of colonial Halifax. His body was then tarred and placed in a metal cage called a gibbet. “If you were convicted with piracy then your remains would be displayed in a gibbet at a prominent place on the harbour,” says Dan Conlin, Maritime Museum of the Atlantic’s curator of marine history.
The gibbet hung on Black Rock Beach in Point Pleasant Park. It dangled there for many years until the rotting corpse frightened a Lieutenant Governor’s daughter. Workers finally took it down and buried Jordan’s skeleton on site.
In 1844, a young man wanted to see if he could find any of Jordan’s remains. “Mr. Williamson dug up Jordan’s skull, still circled by the iron ring from the gibbet,” wrote Conlin in his book Pirates of the Atlantic. “He gave the skull to the Mechanic’s Institute, the forerunner of the Nova Scotia Museum.” The skull still remains in safekeeping at the Summer Street headquarters.
And that’s why some believe Jordan’s ghost unhappily haunts Point Pleasant Park. “[Jordan] did not rest in peace and is still wandering around Point Pleasant Park,” says Kimberley Lapierre. “Incidentally, he is not very happy about his skull being dug up.” Lapierre is the team leader of Light Workers Paranormal Investigation. They have investigated numerous local historical sites, and are often contacted to inspect private homes, which they do at no charge.
In the spring of 2010, Lapierre and six others, armed with night-vision video cameras and audio recorders, headed to Point Pleasant Park well after dark. They sat around a picnic table, close to the Prince of Wales Tower, and joined hands. One of the members said aloud, “Spirit people, please come forward,” which immediately provoked a chain of frightening events. “I fully admit to people that I have never been scared on an investigation except for that one night,” says Lapierre.
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Originally from Ireland, Jordan, his wife and four children eventually settled in Percé, Quebec. While there, Jordan racked up numerous debts, including one owed to the Tremaine brothers in Halifax. The Tremaines sent Captain John Stairs to seize the Three Sisters, a schooner in Jordan’s possession that the brothers had invested in.
The Three Sisters set sail to Halifax on September 10, 1809, with Captain Stairs, his crew, John Kelly, Thomas Heath and Benjamin Matthews, and the Jordan family on board. “Stairs thought he was doing Jordan a favour by taking him back to Nova Scotia so he could clear his name,” wrote Frank Murray Greenwood and Beverley Boissery in their book Uncertain Justice. “On the other hand, Jordan believed he and his family were being sent to a Halifax debtor’s prison.” The misunderstanding proved fatal.
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As soon as Lapierre’s co-investigator invited spirits to come forward two years ago, some invisible entity responded. “I heard footsteps on the gravel and a hand grabbed my calf with such force that I screamed and I jumped up about a foot off the picnic table,” says Lapierre.
She then recalls the person to her right unintentionally pulling her hand away until she was pulled off the picnic table. “I didn’t make much of it until the same thing started happening to the girl on my left,” says Lapierre. “We could literally feel the strength that was pulling us.” A little later, another participant’s head was pushed forward so quickly that she nearly banged her face on the table.
When they finally left Point Pleasant Park that night, the Light Workers team still had video and audio recordings to analyze. They had yet to learn the details about Edward Jordan. They believed they had the evidence that they had indeed encountered a ghost.
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On September 13, 1809, a few kilometres off Cape Canso, a gruesome scene erupted aboard the Three Sisters. “…While I was in the cabin, Jordan …fired a pistol down the sky-light – the ball grazed my nose, and entered the breast of Thomas Heath…” wrote Captain Stairs in a letter printed in the Nova Scotia Royal Gazette, October 17, 1809.
Captain Stairs ran up to the deck and found Jordan holding an axe and a pistol. The captain managed to wrestle away the weapons and throw them overboard. He then saw crewmember Matthews collapse with blood gushing from a wound. Jordan emerged again with a new axe and beat Matthews with the blade.
Captain Stairs thought Jordan’s wife Margaret and his mate Kelly were co-conspirators and so he threw himself overboard. Amazingly, the crew of the Eliza rescued him several hours later.
Eventually, HMS Cuttle found Jordan and the Three Sisters off the coast of Newfoundland. The Royal Naval ship apprehended the fugitive and returned him to Halifax for trial. On November 15, a court convicted him of piracy and two counts of murder.
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Upon listening to the audio footage from the Point Pleasant Park investigation, the Light Workers realized they had captured several clear EVPs (electronic voice phenomena). “It’s going to sound cheesy, and this is the only reason why we looked in the pirate direction, but on the recording we heard someone rapping on the picnic table and then this deep, growly voice that said, ‘Arrrr’,” says Lapierre.
The recordings additionally picked up a female-sounding voice pronouncing a particular sound, after the spirit was asked how it was connected to the park. It sounded like the English word “kedge,” which is a type of anchor. This led the team to think of the Bonaventure Anchor monument located just down from Black Rock Beach. It also prompted the team to look in the Gaelic dictionary since the voice spoke with an accent. They discovered the similar sounding “clìchd” which means “shut up by means of a hook or hooks,” according to Norman Macleod’s A Dictionary of the Gaelic Language. Could this refer to the gibbet, they wondered.
After some historical research, Lapierre and her co-investigators were certain they had encountered the ghost of Edward Jordan.
Traditional historians are skeptical. “I can say as somebody who has actually handled Jordan’s skull, written about him and worked late hours at the museum, I have never seen a ghost connected with him,” says Conlin.
Did the Light Workers indeed meet Jordan’s ghost that night and are only some able to witness such phenomena? After all, most of the investigators were drawn to the group because of prior paranormal experiences they were once reluctant to share, says Lapierre.
In any case, it appears that before his execution, Edward Jordan was himself haunted—by the memory of his own heinous acts. The November 28, 1809 Royal Gazette article reads, “…in his last moments [Jordan] appeared deeply sensible of the enormity of his crimes, and died sincerely penitent.”