Legless Mystery Man Took Secret to Grave
By Joe LeBlanc
Aerial view of St. Mary’s Bay as far as Meteghan Centre, with Meteghan in the foreground (Nova Scotia, Canada), D.B. Field, Centre Acadien, Université Sainte-Anne Coll. 3, Série A #43, Div. 4
On a summer morning in 1854, a Sandy Cove, Digby Neck, fisherman named Albright was wandering along the beach on the Bay of Fundy side of the “Neck” when he ran across a man around which local history now records one of the greatest mysteries ever encountered on these shores.
The man in question, later to be known only as Jerome, was either unable or unwilling to speak. Both his legs had been recently amputated, and examination showed they were freshly healed. How he had gotten there has never to this day been definitely established, but residents of that shore recalled having seen a foreign rigged ship cruising up and down the coast line for a couple of days previous to that, and so the natural presumption was that the mysterious stranger had been deposited from that vessel during the night and left to the mercy of local inhabitants.
In Navy Uniform
Naturally, the unexpected newcomer was assisted immediately and taken to a local home, that of a Mr. Gidney, who resided in Mink Cove. It was noted that the stranger, obviously a gentleman, was dressed in the very finest of navy blue serge, apparently a naval uniform, all the buttons, badges and other decorations, if any, had been meticulously taken off, leaving no identification of any kind.
Some time later he was taken across St. Mary’s Bat to the village of Meteghan where there lived a Corsican who spoke several languages. This man, known as Nicholas, was said to have been a deserter from the Napoleon army and had been living in Meteghan for some time. Try as he might, the Corsican was unable to make the stranger converse with him in any of the tongues with which he was familiar. However, when asked his name he did utter some sounds which made those listening believe that his name might be Jerome. At least it sounded like that and so the name Jerome stuck for the rest of his life.
While he wasn’t able to make him speak, Nicholas found out Jerome knew several languages, by watching his expression when he unexpectedly would try out various tongues.
From Meteghan he was taken to St. Alphonse, a neighboring village, where he stayed with the family of William Comeau for the rest of his life. Although he wouldn’t, or couldn’t speak, his actions and quick reactions told his benefactors that he was a very intelligent man, and probably a descendant of some noble foreign family. When first found he was apparently in his middle twenties, good looking, with a fine and robust build. From the time he arrived here until he died, he had spent 54 years on the St. Mary’s Bay shore and only twice had he spoken and then only one word at a time. Or at least, that was what his interrogators understood.
Once, when asked where he came from for the umpteenth time, he answered “Trieste,” and another time when asked what the name of his ship was, he said “Colombo”. But no reason or answer was ever found for his predicament. He did not want sympathy, and on occasions would go into towering rages and remain in those for days at a time. People he did not like he’d scare away by growling like a dog. However, he showed he was fond of children, and he exhibited an obvious love for music.
The appearance of two women to see Jerome one day caused a flurry of excitement, as it was felt that maybe now some identification might be possible. However, while the two visitors and Jerome were closeted behind closed doors, and the latter had apparently joined in the conversation, the strangers left and the nature of their visit left with them. He was just as uncommunicative after they were gone as before they came. It was said that one of the ladies was his sister but this was never verified.
Jerome died in 1908 and was buried in Meteghan, carrying his mystery with him to the grave.