By Fred Baumann
On Sept. 14, Canada Post unveiled its second of three sets of Haunted Canada stamps. Recalling popular Canadian ghost stories, this series shines a spectral light on dark tales from throughout the land.
Each of the five stamps focuses on a supernatural site, with images made extra eerie through the use of holographic foil.
“For this second Haunted Canada issue,” says Lionel Gadoury, the creative director of Toronto’s Context Creative that designed the series, “we thoroughly researched each mysterious tale, diving into visual details with illustrator Sam Weber.” Also taking part were Context Creative’s Kammy Ahuja and photographer Peter Bregg.
The 2015 stamps highlight chilling tales from Vancouver’s historic Gastown neighborhood; Fort Garry in Manitoba’s famed Red River Valley; the dark roads and forests near Levis, Quebec; the Yukon Territory’s Klondike-era Caribou Hotel; and the cold, stony parapets of Nova Scotia’s renowned Halifax Citadel.
Keep the room well lit while you take in this unnerving set, where contorted trees seem to shriek, where raucous crows escort a rumbling cart whose relentless driver has eyes of fire and a ruddy scythe, and where Gastown’s railway brakeman has everything he needs — except his head.
“There is nothing more fun, yet unsettling, than ghost stories, and we have a history filled with these memorable tales,” says Jim Phillips, Canada Post director of Stamp Services. “Our hope is that Canadians from coast to coast can continue to discover and pass on these stories, which are sure to give a few spine-tingling chills.”
“Be prepared for a little scare with these legendary local stories and let your creativity take over,” says Joel Sutherland, author of the children’s series of Haunted Canada books and adviser to the stamp series. “The series makes for huddling close to the campfire — or a scary sleepover.”
Here, in brief, are the stories behind the stamps, as described by Canada Post:
“Gastown, Vancouver, B.C. — haunted history: Legend has it the Waterfront Station and several bars and restaurants in the neighbourhood are all haunted - making it home to more dearly departed but persistently present spirits than any neighbourhood in Canada.
“Red River Valley, Man. — the ox cart: In 1903, soldiers at Red River Valley’s Fort Garry claimed to have seen phantoms driving a cart pulled by a team of oxen pass through their post at night.
“Levis, Que. — Marie-Josephte Corriveau: In 1763, she was executed on charges of murder. Her soul was said to walk the road at night, approaching travelers and grabbing anyone passing by with her claw-like hands as she opened her blood-red eyes.
“Carcross, Yukon — Caribou Hotel: Built in the town of Bennett in 1898 at the start of the Klondike Gold Rush, the hotel is rumoured to be haunted by late hotel co-owner Bessie Gideon's ghost. She was supposedly buried in Carcross but a cemetery survey did not locate her grave.
“Halifax, N.S. — the Grey Lady: Legend has it that the spirit of the ‘Grey Lady’ wanders the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, mourning her lost love, strolling the second floor at night, smelling of roses and wearing a 19th-century dress.”
Last year, on June 13, the first five nondenominated (85¢) permanent-rate Haunted Canada stamps in the series brought back to life the Ghost Bride of British Columbia’s Fairmount Banff Springs Hotel (Scott 2749), the Burning Ghost Ship of Prince Edward Island’s Northumberland Strait (2750), Saskatchewan’s St. Louis Ghost Train (2751), the Ghost of French Governor Louis de Buade at Quebec City’s Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac (2752), and the Spirits of Old Fort George at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
But Haunted Canada issues are far from Canada’s first spooky stamps.
Issued 25 years ago, in 1990, the Legendary Creatures block of four 39¢ stamps (Scott 1292a) depicts furry fiends sasquatch and werewolf, and giant sea monsters Kraken and Ogopogo.
These were followed in 1991 by another fearsome foursome: 40¢ stamps recalling Canadian folktales of the Witched Canoe, Orphan Boy, Chinook Wind and Buried Treasure (Scott 1337a). Other ocean-going horrors included a 45¢ great white shark with jaws agape in 1997 (Scott 1641), and the giant squid of Glover’s Harbour, Newfoundland, on a permanent-rate stamp in 2011 (Scott 2485d).
In 1997, Canada Post showcased the supernatural with four monstrous stamps, marketed in 16-stamp panes in a folder Canada Post called “The haunted stamp house.”
The stamps in the se-tenant block (Scott 1668a) depict a vampire, werewolf, ghost, and goblin. The folder cautioned collectors, “Beware! The creatures lurking in these stamps will horrify, terrify, disturb and amaze you!”
The 2015 Haunted Canada stamps were printed by Canadian Bank Note using five-color offset lithography and holographic foil. These five permanent (85¢) domestic-rate adhesives are 32 millimeters square, and are available in two formats.
Some 340,000 self-adhesive die-cut booklets of 10 were printed, yielding 680,000 stamps of each design. These booklets are Canada Post product No. 413990111.
In addition, 125,000 perforated souvenir sheets measuring 127mm by 73mm with moisture-activated PVA gum have been produced, and are Canada Post product No. 403990145.
The souvenir sheet also appears on the official first-day cover, which has an overall photographic design of ravens in flight in a foggy forest, with another raven on the Levis, Quebec, first-day-of-issue handstamp.
Priced at $5.25, 9,000 of these FDCs are available as Canada Post product No. 403990144.
A total of 2,000 uncut press sheets of eight souvenir sheets measuring 650mm by 480mm also will be offered.
Nondenominated Haunted Canada picture postal cards that can be mailed to any international address will be sold individually for $2.50 each, or in a complete set of five as Canada Post product No. 262443. Each of the picture postal cards has an oversize version of the stamp image on the picture side, the text “Haunted Canada,” and a semicircular “CANADA / POSTAGE PAID” imprint in English and in French.
Canada Post also is offering what it calls the Haunted Canada gift set for $29.95. According to the description in Details, Canada Post’s regular publication promoting new issues, the set includes all five stamps and a 25¢ lenticular coin showing the headless brakeman.
Canada Post products are available at the Canada Post shop. Stamps and FDCs also are available by mail order from the National Philatelic Centre, Canada Post Corp., 75 St. Ninian St., Antigonish, NS, B2G 2R8, Canada; or by telephone from the United States and Canada at 800-565-4362, and from other countries at 902-863-6550.
Canada’s stamps and stamp products also are available from many new-issue stamp dealers, and from Canada Post’s agent in the United States: Interpost, Box 420, Hewlett, NY 11557.