When Moncton resident Craig Wood tried to snap a quick picture of his daughter Abby, her sister Jenna and some other tourists exploring one of the caves in picturesque St. Martins last summer, he captured someone else in the shot - a pale apparition of a man who Craig says just wasn't there when he snapped the photo with his cellphone.
"At first I thought I took a reflection of myself somehow," he says. Indeed, the silhouette does bear some resemblance to the man who took the photograph, but it's not conclusive by a long shot.
In the old days of photography on film, it would simply be some kind of classic double exposure, but in a digital pic taken on a mobile phone?
Of course, the apparition doesn't turn up in any of the more mundane places he took photos of Abby in the days before - parks and playgrounds and the like.
Instead, in classic ghost story fashion, it shows up in a cave in a picturesque coastal fishing village that drips with history the way water drips from the ceiling of the cave itself.
According to information provided by the village, St. Martins was first settled in 1783 by a group of loyalist soldiers known as the King's Orange Rangers. The original name of the community was Goolwagagek, a Mi'kmaq word meaning "haunt of the hooded seal," according to the DeMoulles map of 1686.
From the looks of things, the place may be haunted, but that's no hooded seal in the photo.
"I hate calling it a ghost, but the farther I go with it ..." Wood says, the thought trailing off.
"Maybe I got a shot of Elvis in his fat years," he says with a laugh, at a loss for any other way to explain it.
Craig has been back to St. Martins five or six times since, talking to locals and trying to learn about local ghost lore.
"In St. Martins nobody knows me by name. They know me as 'the ghost guy,'" he says.
The key ghost story from the area is The Burning Ship of St. Martins, essentially the same phenomenon sometimes seen on New Brunswick's Northumberland coast, what appears to be a burning sailing ship with people aboard who can be heard screaming for help.
It's said to appear every few years, usually on or about July 1. Craig snapped his shot last July 3.
That's enough to get folks in the seaside community talking about the possibility the figure is the ghost of a ship's captain, perhaps looking for survivors after his ship has wrecked. Possibly, whatever that thing is that is in his hand is a lantern from a bygone era.
Others think it's the ghost of the pirate Captain Kidd, said to have explored the Fundy coast. Is the ghost looking for treasure left in the cave years ago?
That camp says the figure in the photograph is wearing a coat from that era and the rear leg of the figure is a peg leg.
Still others say it's just some contemporary dude wearing shorts.
Craig says he's found in some ways the spectral image is a form of Rorschach inkblot test. What you see might say more about your own interests than anything about the image. He's found a local historian in St. Martins who's convinced it's a sea captain from the glorious era when tiny St. Martins was the third-largest shipbuilding community on the east coast. Craig's brother says it's clear the figure's holding a bag of money. A woman he knows says the man is carrying a small child.
The television show Ghost Hunters doesn't know what to say about the photograph, but its producers are interested. The problem is the production costs that would be involved in shipping a film crew from the Seattle-based show out to the Bay of Fundy. Possibly, the producers haven't looked at the Village of St. Martins website and realized what a videographer's dream Canada's most picturesque village is.
At any rate, they wanted Craig to ship the phone to them for analysis, but he's refused for fear of it being lost in shipping.
Craig doesn't even use the phone anymore for fear he will somehow accidentally erase the image, now carrying one phone for calling people and the other just to share his mysterious story. He won't even take the smart card out of it in case that somehow breaks the spell - be that spell either the hocus-pocus kind to the technical gremlin kind.
"I don't know what to do with the picture next," he says.
But of one thing Craig Wood is certain.
"I've had a ball with it."
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