Prince Edward Island (PEI for short) is the smallest Canadian province at 5,686.03 square kilometers. It could fit into Canada’s second smallest province, Nova Scotia, about nine and a half times. It’s not just the size that makes PEI small, it’s the population. Only 146,283 people live on the main island and 231 minor islands that make up the province.
That’s roughly the population of the city of Barrie, Ontario. PEI is one of the three maritime provinces in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and is separated from the other two (New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) by the 225-kilometer-long, thirteen-to-forty-three kilometer-wide Northumberland Strait. The main island is known for its farmland (PEI produces twenty-five percent of Canada’s potatoes), its red sand beaches, seafood, sixty-three lighthouses and a monster or two.
The indigenous Mi’kmaq peoples warned the first Europeans who came to PEI of a gigantic snake that swam “upon the water” offshore of the big island. It didn’t take long for the settlers to encounter the serpent, a twelve to twenty-four-metre-long tube-like monster with short, reddish-brown dark fur, and the head of a horse. Its body was made of humps that rose and fell in the water as it moved.
Sightings have continued to modern times. Local woman Carol Livingston told Julie V. Watson, author of the book “Ghost Stories and Legends of Prince Edward Island,” that her father and great uncle were fishing from a boat near the West Point lighthouse in 1980 when an eighteen to twenty-four-metre serpent approached them. The creature simply raised its horse-like head from the water, stared at them briefly, and swam away.
Per an article from the Island Press Limited newspaper chain, nine people reported seeing the creature between July and August 1992.
One of the last sightings of the monster came in 2002 when Allison Ellis, his grandson and great-grandson, rode ATVs to the beach at West Cape when something rose out of the still ocean waters.
“There was no ripple in the water,” he told Island Press Limited. “Just outside the bar there was a head sticking out of the water about two feet or so.”
They watched the sea monster swim out to sea creating a wake like that of a boat.
“I’m 83-years-old and never seen or heard anything that could explain what I saw then,” Ellis said.
When people settle in new lands, they bring part of their homeland with them in the form of legends. When Scottish settlers came to PEI, they brought with them stories of the Sluagh (nearly 40 percent of the population of the province is of Scottish descent, per the National Household Survey).
The Sluagh is a large flock of black birds that can carry away unsuspecting people. To make this flock more ominous, in each bird was the spirit of a sinner.
The flock could pluck people from their homes at night if the windows were left open, or more often if a person was walking alone outside in the dark. Some victims of the Sluagh never returned, but others did. These would wake as if from a trance in the woods kilometers from home with no idea how they got there.
Many such encounters were near the town of Bayfield in a swampy area the demon birds were said to inhabit. Although there are few modern encounters, some long-time area residents remember stories of locals carried away by the Sluagh.
The Scots not only brought with them stories of the Sluagh, fairies seemed to have come with them from across the Atlantic. A tree on Fairy Hill in Gowanbrae, just a spot on the map, was thought to be the home of fairies on the island. However, people visited Fairy Hill with a warning -- these fairies weren’t Disney, they were wicked.
Fairies weren’t limited to Fairy Hill; they lived in the woods on PEI, their lilting voices and laughter often heard when no one else was around, luring more than one person to their doom. They were also known to torment families in the area, sometimes beckoning children deep into the forest never to return.
Per a 7 January 1983 article in The Island Magazine, the fairies were also capable of stealing a human child from its crib and leaving an ill, weak changeling in its place.
The article references a young family named Kelly who had a beautiful baby boy they left inside one day while Mrs. Kelly went to help her husband in the fields. When they returned, the once beautiful, robust baby seemed pale and sickly. The baby grew, but never regained its health; neighbours began calling it “Kelly’s Fairy,” convinced it was a changeling. The child’s behaviour, often angry and violent, did little to dispel the rumours. When the boy died at 19, the townspeople buried him at night in the cover of darkness.
Although PEI is, at its closest, thirteen kilometres from the mainland, there are stories of the Bigfoot on the island. Musician and PEI native Nathan Wiley claimed a film crew he was with encountered a Bigfoot while shooting a short movie on the island in 2005.
As the movie’s villains were running across a clearing, something unexpected ran with them -- a man-sized furry figure on four legs that stopped and stood on two legs before it walked into the woods. However, things happened too fast for most of the crew to get a good look at the creature.
“The only one there that got any kind of a real look at it was the camera guy,” Wiley told the website The Endangered Left. “The rest of us had to wait to check out the footage.”
Since the largest wildlife on PEI is the Eastern coyote, whatever the crew saw wasn’t a native animal. It’s also unlikely enough a Bigfoot is roaming the fields and forests of PEI, the blurry video has been labelled a hoax.
“I never rule anything out as a hoax,” Wiley told The Endangered Left. “There are a lot of things that we don’t understand; I just don’t get too hung up on naming them.”