The mystery of Jerome takes place at a time in Maritime history ripe with legends. Tales of shipwrecks, rumrunners, buried treasure, pirates, mermaids, ghosts, witches and supernatural phenomena of all sorts abound in the 19th century and at the turn of the 20th century. Well-documented by folklorists such as Helen Creighton, these legends helped both form the identity of Maritimers, as well as shed light and some understanding on to the often inexplicable world in which people lived.
Author of classic books such as Bluenose Magic and Bluenose Ghosts, Creighton spent over 50 years collecting Maritime oral traditions, including the mystery of Jerome (see her text here). Her research into folktales of the Maritime provinces shows that there are recurring themes regardless of time and place. Whether referring to legends as specific as that of the Marie Celeste ghost ship or Cy à Mateur the Acadian sorcerer from Baie Sainte-Marie, similar characteristics permeate the vast folklore repertoire of these provinces from the remotest Cape Breton fishing outposts to the streets of downtown Halifax.
The mystery of Jerome poses somewhat of a problem, in that it is not quite a legend in the same sense as these others. It does not fit all of the criteria. It is simply the story of one man’s struggles and the mystery surrounding his circumstances and his identity. Elements of Jerome’s story do not easily match up with corresponding
legend traits as outlined by specialists defining categories of the legendary throughout the world. Yet it is not difficult to see how Jerome’s story feeds the imagination of locals at the time and rapidly became intertwined with tales of pirates and high-seas intrigue, taking on a life of its own. What we have here is real history that is transforming into a legend-like story.
Whether or not historians deem Jerome’s story a bonafide “legend”, the mystery of Jerome has a solidly-anchored place in the collective identity of Southwestern Nova Scotia Acadians and Digby Neck residents as an enduring and favourite legend. Jerome’s story has a secured place in Maritime folk history, much more than any other unsolved mystery.
Creighton, Helen. Bluenose Ghosts. Halifax: Nimbus Press, 2000.
Doucet, Alain. Littérature orale de la Baie Sainte-Marie. Yarmouth : Sentinel Peinting, 1965.
Dupont, Jean-Claude. Coutumes et croyances. Sainte-Foy, Québec : Éditions GID, 2002.
Dupont, Jean-Claude. Histoire populaire de l’Acadie. Montréal : Leméac : 1977.
Dupont, Jean-Claude. Les trésors cachés : Québec et Acadie. Sainte-Foy, Québec : Éditions J.-C. Dupont, 1999.
Robichaud, Lise A. Le diable et le cordonnier. Vie et légende de Cy à Mateur. Clare : Les Éditions de la Piquine, 2001.
Oral History or Interview