The Old Burying Ground is the oldest graveyard in Halifax. The first grave was dug the day after English colonists arrived in 1749. That first burial was soon followed by thousands more, with the first 100 years of Halifax history represented here. In this graveyard lie the countless victims of epidemics, storms, shipwrecks, wars, and the more mundane tragedies of daily life. Countless. Because as was common at the time, many of these graves contain not just one, but several occupants. The gravestones pay homage to only the most recent arrival.
It seems inevitable that this place would play host to more than a few ghosts.
The most commonly reported ghostly presence is that of Major General Robert Ross. A British veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, Ross went on to command the British forces on the Eastern Seaboard. His opportunity for further military glory soon arose during the War of 1812 when he led an attack on our then not-so-friendly neighbours to the south and burned the original White House along with much of Washington. Shortly afterward, en route to further destruction in Baltimore, Ross was killed while charging into battle. Ordinarily, his body would have been shipped back to Britain for burial. But the army was busy. Further battle preparations were underway. So they carefully preserved his body in a barrel of Jamaican rum and shipped it back to Halifax for burial. And here he remains. In a raised tomb in the shadow of a forked poplar.
And on moonlit nights, the general can still be seen, in full uniform, brandishing a sword and charging at those who encounter him. He may make an appearance tonight, given the significance of the date. Perhaps in an attempt to finish what he started.
Happy Fourth of July!