On my way into town on Friday night, I passed a sign that said “Kentville Ghost Walks Fri- Sat.” My interest was piqued. I love cemeteries and graveyards. In a lot of ways, they reveal a lot about the town you’re visiting or the city you live in. Of course, it goes without saying, cemeteries also reveal a lot about the people who built the town or city.
When I got to a computer, a couple of minutes of internet searching turned up the details for a series of ghost walks in Wolfville and Kentville throughout October, and, as luck would have it, there was going to be a walk on Saturday night in Oak Grove cemetery in Kentville, the Kentville Gravely Walk. A quick email exchange with Jerome the Gravekeeper secured my reservation.
I had no idea what to expect. My best case scenario was a pleasant guided walk through a cemetery. My worst case scenario was people jumping up from behind headstones and taking years off of my life.
Luckily, for me, it was more the former than the latter. Simply put, it was extraordinary. Meticulously researched, my group of 55 or so were led around the cemetery by the previously-mentioned Jerome the Gravedigger. We learned during the tour that Jerome has been kicking around the cemetery for centuries. Which makes his handiness with email all the more impressive.
Each stop on the tour is an extraordinary story of a local resident, some dating back hundreds of years. At most of the stops, the stories are told by the characters themselves (okay, actors in period costume), which gives life (pardon the pun) to the people of Kentville and the surrounding area who were not only pillars of their community, but builders of the country.
I have no intention of spoiling the stories, so don’t ask. The short, spoiler-free version: I was entertained and surprised by stories of scoundrels and scandals, royalty and heroism.
The tour was full of facts about the town, all of which were new to me even though I was born there. Over the course of two hours, we covered a lot of Oak Grove, but there is still plenty to discover. The cemetery is immense, situated on a steep hill (which provides an element of danger if you’re walking around in the dark).
As I was driving home, I started thinking. We are in an era of unprecedented documentation. There is very little these days that goes unmentioned on Facebook, unTweeted, unblogged or otherwise posted online. In addition, there is more information about our past online than every before. Here’s the thing, all of that is information on a screen. Going to see the same history performed, the obvious result of a lot of research gives it life in an unexpected way.
Philosophical distraction aside, I enjoyed the tour immensely and look forward to experiencing more Valley Ghost Walks in the future. I understand they have one in the summer in a local vineyard, which means I could combine my interest in cemeteries with my love of wine. It’s a plan!
Ghost Walk Tips
Oak Grove Cemetery has been around since the late 1700s. It’s built on a steep hill and, for the ghost walk, participants are walking around in the dark. To maximize your fun, take a flashlight or camping headlamp. There were some antique, thematically appropriate lanterns, so you may want to look in your garage for some spookier lighting.
Second, dress for the conditions. It’s October in Canada, which means layers, gloves, and footwear suitable for climbing steep hills and walking on uneven surfaces. The tour goes rain, shine, or whatever, so you’ll want to make sure you’re prepared for the elements.
There are still plenty of opportunities to commune with the ghosts of the Annapolis Valley. Throughout October, there are ghost walks in Wolfville (October 18, 27, 30 and 31). The Kentville Downtown Ghost Walk is happening again on October 19 (though I hear it’s sold out) and the Kentville Gravely Ghost Walk is on October 20. For those with mobility challenges or like the idea of an indoor ghost experience, there are special presentations of the Kentville walks at CentreStage Theatre on October 21 and 28.
To learn more about the ghost walks and to reserve your spot, check out Valley Ghost Walks, send Jerome the Gravekeeper an electronic mail with a computing machine or call him on a newfangled telephonic device at 902-692-8546. They’re also on Facebook, if that’s your preferred social medium. See what I did there?