Thursday, February 5, 2009

Kelly’s Cross, Prince Edward Island, Canada 2.7.1983: Mustard Pickle and Haunted Houses

I arrived Wednesday evening to find the house locked. Since there was confusion between Fr. Kelly and me over my arrival date, he was not expecting me, so I walked across the churchyard to the house of a neighbor.

As I approached, I could hear the sound of a fiddle. An elderly, but spry, lady came to the door. One could see that she hesitated between an innate hospitality and a fear of strangers—a natural enough fear, in a small island community overwhelmed by tourists.

She invited me in, and turned out to be a Mrs. Kelly, 85 or 86 years old. Her husband, Joe Kelly, 92, was the fiddler. After a bit of conversation, she fed me a tea of homemade bread (white, but with a chewy, tough crust, as I’ve found much of the bread here so far to be), canned pressed ham, some preserved mustard pickle and strawberry jam, and homemade cookies. Since I had eaten only an egg and toast in Moncton, NB, that morning, this stood me in good stead.

As we realized that Fr. Kelly might be late (he was at a Charlottetown wake), I asked if we might try the key they had mentioned to me. We did, it worked, so I went into the house.

It’s a large old country rectory—I would imagine late 19th-century. It sits facing south, where one may see a tuck of seacoast, if one climbs the hill north of and behind the house.

It’s a huge old place—gloomy, with many windows covered by shades, and staircases and doors appearing, it seems, at every turn. Mrs. Kelly had alluded to some tragic murder of a priest. I discovered yesterday that a Fr. Roche was murdered here two years back, by three men (two teenagers and a young man, actually) who broke in at night. I gather that the murder was gruesome. I don’t want to know the details because, frankly, I’m jumpy and nervous in the house—spent a sleepless night after hearing of the murder, in fact, with dreadful visions going through my mind.

I hope to God—and pray devoutly—that these fears will be allayed. Most of all, I fear that I’ll be alone here some night, but must cross that bridge when I come to it.

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