As Retold by Bekah Ferguson
4 min read
Five miles out from Charlottetown, PEI, is two-story white farmhouse called Binstead House. Peering toward the Hillsborough River, and stitched-in by fields and trees, it is many-windowed with a ground-level, columned porch. The back half of the house was an addition built as living quarters for the many farmhands of its time. In 1889, the Charlottetown Daily Examiner published an eerie account by a former resident named Georgina Pennee, describing a haunting there that had lasted decades.
Georgina and her husband were Victorians from England, who first came to dwell at Binstead in early 1856. Within ten days of moving in, the hauntings began: a sudden moving rumble, vibrating the house. A sound, Georgina described, “like that produced by dragging a heavy body.” For many weeks, it happened again and again throughout the house, always sounding in close proximity to whoever heard it each time. In the spring, the noises took a more terrifying turn with the sound of shrieking, wailing, and moaning moving throughout the house as though an entity were being chased around. The disembodied cries seemed to begin and end at the base of a tree outside the dining room window, the branches of which just barely reached the window of the spare bedroom above.
In the late winter, two visiting women came to stay one night and were put up together in the spare bedroom; a fire being lit in a grate which had not previously been used by the Pennee’s. The guests awoke in the dead of night to a bright light. A glowing woman in a checkered shawl stood stirring the fire in the grate, a baby on her arm. She turned to look at them with pleading anguish, and they covered their faces with a blanket in fright.
Later that spring, right before heading back to England for a spell, Georgina had occasion to spend the night in the spare bedroom along with her daughter, who was unwell. Around midnight, her daughter drew her attention to a light shining beneath the closed door. Georgina got up to open it, thinking it was her husband, and came face to face with a glowing woman in a checkered shawl, holding a baby. Without a word, the apparition turned away, walked across the staircase, and disappeared through the wall into the farmhand quarters. None of the dogs barked, and Georgina did not feel alarmed, despite what she had seen.
The Pennee’s returned to Binstead again the next year, to a report from the farmhands that the “creature had been carrying on,” the screaming sounds distressing them the most. One farmhand in particular, named Harry Newbury, had been targeted by the apparition several times and had taken to locking his door each night. While admitting that a ghost with a baby had appeared at the foot of his bed, he refused to give any other details. In the following year, the Pennee’s gave up Binstead house, and Georgina heard nothing more about the hauntings for nearly two decades until she happened to return to Prince Edward Island.
A parish priest approached her with a letter in hand, to question her about her past residence at Binstead. The letter had been sent by the wife of the current owner, asking the priest to “deliver them” from a tormenting ghost. Looking into the matter further, Georgina learned that before her time at Binstead, two sisters had been in employment there, and both had given birth to illegitimate sons. Furthermore, one of the women and one of the babies, had mysteriously gone missing, never to be found. Adding to the mystery, the remaining sister quit her job shortly thereafter and moved to America; but before leaving, left her baby with her parents along with the shocking news that it wasn’t her baby at all. She gave no details, stating only that her baby had died and this was her missing sister’s baby.
The child’s name was Harry Newbury, the very farmhand who as a young man, had been unwittingly hired by the Pennee’s and singled out by the ghost. Georgina deduced that the ghost was Harry’s mother, and the infant in her arms, his cousin. Though whether or not the mother and infant had both been murdered and buried under the tree in front of the dining room, was unknown. It was also unknown why the babies had been switched.
In 1888, Georgina once more stopped by to visit Binstead house, curious to know if the hauntings had ever ceased, and reported the following:
“The tree whence the screams started is cut down; the room where all saw the ghost is totally uninhabited, and [the wife] would not let us stay in it, and entreated us to talk no further on the subject. From the man we got out a little, but she followed us up very closely. He says that since the priest blessed the house a woman has been seen (Or said to have been seen, he corrected himself) round the front entrance, and once at an upper window.”