Dark Secrets

Possession on the Island

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This abandoned church was built by prolific Island architect William Critchlow Harris’ nephew, James Edward Harris, in the 1930’s. It closely resembles his uncle’s construction of St. Mary’s in Indian River.

In the middle of the cemetery you’ll find a slightly crumbling stone memorial altar for Father Edward Walker. Fr. Walker presided over St. Alexis in Rollo Bay, Prince Edward Island for 46 years until his death in 1932 and was the first resident priest.

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In 1910, in the middle of his tenure, the quiet village of Rollo Bay found itself attracting international attention when eerie, supernatural phenomena was reported around a young woman in the nearby town of New Zealand (not the country) named Chinene.

Chinene was 20-years old, and since the death of her parents a few years earlier, had been keeping house for her brothers. Just before the alleged possession, her eldest brother announced his engagement with a local girl in town.

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Chinene burst into a violent fit of rage and reportedly warned them that she would “as soon as have a devil in the family than that girl.”

On that night, the brothers were woken by booming loud noises which seemed to mysteriously travel all over the house. When they heard a girl shrieking in agony, they rushed to Chinene’s room fearing an intruder. Instead they claimed to find Chinene floating several feet above her bed in the air. She was speaking incoherently in a language they didn’t recognize.

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Eventually, she sank back onto her bed and fell peacefully asleep. The next morning the shaken brothers confronted her. Chinene claimed to not remember anything and her brothers concluded they it must have been they who suffered the delusion.

That was…until it happened several more times. Once news of Chinene’s reaction reached the village, the locals suggested that she had given herself to the devil. Despite their initial fears, most of her neighbors nipped into Chinene’s home to satisfy their curiosity; and many of them attested to the same phenomena her brothers reported.

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Soon, Chinene appeared to develop clairvoyancy. Sitting in the house in a hypnotic trance she could tell visitors what was hidden in their pockets or how much money they had with them.

The sizable Acadian population in the area believed in the Catholic superstition that Chinene must be possessed by the devil. They pressured Fr. Walker to perform an exorcism but he refused to feed to the growing hysteria.

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That’s just fog in the window right?!

Several local doctors were called to examine Chinene instead. They also could find nothing medically wrong. Prayers by the parish priest also didn’t solve anything but Fr. Walker issued a notice to his parishioners that forbade any further curiosity seekers to Chinene’s home.

All of this did not stop the local farmers from blaming several fires that destroyed barns and livestock on Chinene and her alleged possession.

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I took the interior photos by pressing my camera against the window.

Spurred on by the growing hostility towards their sister, her brothers sent for Dr. Peter Conroy, chief of staff at Charlottetown Hospital (Charlottetown is the capital of PEI) and the most respected doctor on the island. Dr. Conroy failed to discover anything medically wrong with Chinene too.

He advanced a more modern theory that Chinene was an auto-hypnotic with obsessive influences. Meaning, she obsessed so thoroughly over one idea (possibly her brother leaving the family home to be married) that she entered an involuntary hypnotic state and created delusions in the minds of others near her.

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The brothers dismissed Dr. Conroy’s theory and instead invited, through the newspapers, anyone trained in psychology or occult sciences to examine Chinene.

Citing a successful exorcism by the Catholic Church several years earlier in nearby Caraquet, New Brunswick, Canada, some of the townspeople advocated for the same ceremony for Chinene.

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Distressed by their sister’s failing health and no diagnosis, the brothers sent Chinene to the Falconwood Hospital for the Insane.

The Falconwood Hospital was badly damaged during a fire in 1931. Today the site is used by the Hillsborough Hospital, the only mental health facility in the province.

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St. Alexis shut its doors for good in 2015 and was deconsecrated after a leaky roof, dwindling attendance and financial troubles left the church no longer viable.

See a great drone video by Clear Sky Productions of the abandoned church here:

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10