Reel 1, No. 4

Collection: Claudine Rioux
Transcription: Claudine Rioux
Informant: Man, 24 years old
Place: Saulnierville, N.S.
Date: March 1, 1982

Old Jerome (The Mystery Man)

Old Jerome, he wasn’t necessarily old. He’d been found one day on the beach of the cape—it was along the cape that he’d been found. He later lived in Mavillette. What happened was, one morning a fisherman was going to go out in his boat, right at the beginning of the lobster season, because lobster fishing starts late in the fall. How is it that a man could have survived in the sea, because it was really cold in those days. Really strange, and he’d found him on the beach with practically no clothes on. So he’d wondered how he ended up there, because usually at night if boats went by someone would’ve seen because fishermen, they go to bed very early and they get up early in the morning too. And no one had seen anything, even the young folk who went to bed late hadn’t seen anything. So the fishermen who got up around 3-4 in the morning would’ve seen and the young folk who went to bed around 2 or 3 didn’t see anything either. They wondered how he’d gotten onto the beach—it was a beautiful day. He didn’t say a thing, they asked questions: What’s your name? Where do you come from? They even brought folks who spoke Spanish, to ask him, and other languages, German, all the different languages; Belgian, Dutch, nothing—he just didn’t answer. So people found that really strange. They couldn’t understand where this fellow came from, it was really… He was a really nice man and he never caused any trouble, never in anyone’s way. They found a house where he could stay with an old lady who was all alone. Her man had died not long ago, and she was very very (how would you say it, she missed her man a lot). So they asked her if she’d take in Jerome and look after him. For her it was company, someone to live with, the house wouldn’t be empty, so she took him in. She had children but they were older. So they lived by the beach. He’d go to the beach every day. He’d walk—he’d spend almost his whole day walking along the beach. He’d walk up and down, up and down. In the evening he’d leave. During the day if the old lady needed something done in the house, they didn’t have to tell him. Like the times she’d try to do something and go away and when she’d get back it was all finished. It was all done—the wood cut, the wood brought in. If a door was smashed, he was there, she came home and she knew he’d done it because there was nobody else. It was always like that, people still couldn’t figure it out. They’d written, back then they wrote to the port of Yarmouth to ask if any boats had passed through the strait on such and such date. They said yes there was such and such a boat and that was something they knew about, they contacted Halifax, they knew the boat had gone by. And then they did everything to try to find out on each boat if they’d lost a man on such and such a date. They never got anything—the boats, no, no, no, they said nothing. Maybe people wonder how he came to have the name Jerome. It was the only thing he said. They’d ask “What’s your name?” and because they kept on asking him he finally said it. It was the only thing he’d said the whole time he was on the beach: “Jerome.” He said no more and no less, just “Jerome”; at least he said “Jerome”. People thought, maybe now we have time to get him to talk and we’d better not push and maybe we’ll get better results. They never got anything more out of him, there was just “Jerome”. But sometimes, everyone went to the beach and they saw that he always had a stick in his hand. And every… now and then, once he was walking and he stopped and people thought he was scribbling in the sand. One day, a young man who’d just gone to walk with him, to pass the time—people thought maybe he was bored so some went to walk with him, they kept him company. So one time the young man—and all the same it was big what he’d written—it was at least 2 feet by 4 feet—it was pretty big, he’d swept his hand through the sand and that erased everything. So the young man wondered what he’d written, making small talk like he asked him, “What were you writing? What was written there in the sand?” Nothing, he wouldn’t answer. People wondered why he’d go to the beach, he’d just sit there and look out at the sea. And he’d look for days, staring at the sea, just looking out past Saint Mary’s Cape, at the cape is how we say it. That’s where Digby Neck ends, then it’s Saint Mary’s Bay and once it ends you enter the Bay of Fundy. The Bay of Fundy’s quite big all the same, about fifty miles wide, and there it was 55 miles wide. He’d sit for the day and he had a good view. And they never found out what he’d do, if he stayed like that the whole time. He’d look, he’d walk, he’d come back, and there was never anything else found out about him. He was named “the mystery man of Clare.” He died. They figured he was 65-70 years old but they could never be sure, they knew he was Jerome, but he didn’t talk, no more than that. He’d never said how old he was, nothing, so in reality he was living off people’s charity, but people found him quite incredible and so interesting just to think, There’s a mystery here, we’ll try to solve it, make him talk. People would go see him and bring gifts, bring clothes so he’d have something to wear, they tried every trick you can imagine to get him to talk. Some said it would take this or that to get him to talk, others said no, just give him time, be a friend and so on, he’d come to be friends with us. Nothing ever worked. Even so, he had one particularity. He liked children very much. He was often with children. Old people, the old folks would come to see him and they became friends. They stayed with him. Sometimes they spoke. He’d nod his head to say yes. Sometimes he’d shrug his shoulders. Sometimes he’d make a sound to say no he didn’t agree—they’d change the topic. But with children he was so kind. He’d play, he’d build small boats, so they figured he was probably a sailor or if he was someone who wanted to save something, and it stayed at that, but the children liked him a lot, because he’d make little boats for them. He died as mysteriously as he’d come. One fine morning he arrived and then he was gone…

Source: Centre d'études acadiennes, Université de Moncton, Archives de folklore, Collection Claudine Rioux, Bobine 1 no 4, Homme de 24 ans, "Old Jerome (the Mystery Man)," Claudine Rioux, March 1, 1982.

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