Gray’s Island Cemetery and the Gray’s Island Ghost

Grey Island Ghost Headless Statue

I’m going to tell you an ghost story today. Not an old tale but rather an urban legend style creeper perfect for tweaking and retelling in just about any graveyard with a suitable statue. This legend comes with two names; the more common, and the one I know it by, refers to the location as Gray’s Island, but the setting is really Gray’s Island Cemetery in Hillsborough.

There’s a statue found there; a white, stone replica of a lady long dead. At first glance, you might mistake her for a traditional Catholic grave marker as she quite resembles a Virgin Mary icon. That’s not the case; rumour has it that she was carved to match the lady buried beneath her. As distraught husband with more money then sense had her made to keep his wife alive, if only in a statuary sense. In the years since, one of her delicate hands has gone missing, no doubt taken as a ghoulish souvenir by one of the many haunted places pilgrims who’ve trekked into the cemetery after dark with plans to challenge the semi-famous ghost. 

Gray Island Monument With Head
Photo: CBC News New Brunswick

Our lady of the graveyard is also noted for her empty eyes. Perhaps shiny, decorative fakes have been removed or maybe she was carved with deliberately vague eyes; this long after the statue was placed it really is hard to be accurate about her history. In any case, the eyes as the essential feature of this reputed haunting, but then again I guess it depends on the story teller since I was sold an entirely different version in my teens. Here’s the tale as you’ll most often hear it:

“As the legend goes, close your eyes, walk circularly around the base of the statue three times [It’s always three times in these stories, isn’t it?] and you’ll get a very special surprise. When you open your eyes and catch the stone lady’s gaze, she’ll be looking right back at you with eyes as human as yours. All the better, she’ll be crying tears of blood for added effect.”

A nice – if slightly over dramatic – little ghost story to spur a late-night drive to Hillsborough among bored friends, no? I like the story I was told much better, even though it ended in that nights designated driver (read that as the one among us who had access to her parent’s SUV for the weekend) turning back for home just as we arrived at the Hillsborough town limits.

“Years ago, a man whose wife was murdered cried and cried until he was all lout of tears and then he decided he couldn’t live without his wife. Since he couldn’t bring her back, he did the next best thing and had her statue carved and placed in his back yard. He spent hours alone with the statue every day, but passers by would see him talk then pause and respond, as if he was having a conversation, but there was no one visible in the yard, only him seated on a bench alongside his dead wife’s statue. A few years later, the man’s grief took over. His body was found curled at the statue’s base. 

Statue Head
Photo: CBC News New Brunswick

“After her husband died, the dead woman’s statue was relocated to the family plot in the cemetery. Years ago, her hand went missing, but that’s ok, the trick will still work. Cover your eyes and walk three times around the statute. Stand with your back to the Gray’s Island lady and she’ll reach out and tap you on the shoulder. That’s why her hand was taken; too many people were frightened so bad they were taken away to the hospital. The cemetery staff thought that if they removed the hand, no one would be tapped on the shoulder but it didn’t work, did it?” 

Story by Bouncingpinkball

Update from CBC News: The head mysteriously reappears after two decades.

17 thoughts on “Gray’s Island Cemetery and the Gray’s Island Ghost

  1. My mother is a Steeves from Hillsborough, and she told me the version of the pirates stole the rubies that were there as eyes. I’d love to watch that documentary. I think I’ll have to go ask my grandparents their take on this as well. They still live in the area.

  2. The correct spelling of the location is Grays’s Island Cemetery. It was named for Joseph Gray, an early landowner in the Hillsborough area.
    The monument referred to was erected for Jennie Steeves who as a died young girl. Her family purchased this statue as a memorial to their beloved daughter/granddaughter. I am a relative and must say that the family members and the community at large deeply regret the vandalizing and damage done to this beautiful grave marker.

  3. Sandra. There was a recent article on CBC about this place. The head of the statue was stolen many years ago and someone recently returned it. They interviewed the Lady’s decendants and they are possibly planning to restore the statue. They also tell you who the Lady was and who built the statue. I beleive they said it was built in the 1930’s.

  4. Loved going here with my friends as a kid, we would go in in the dark for a evening of scary moments… never bothered anything just liked the thrill… and yes it was creepy

  5. I am doing a documentary on this place of anyone would like to join or help if interested please message me on Facebook Ryan Paul Labonte

    1. Hi. I’m from Moncton, currently in Alberta. I visit the grave yard everytime I’m home. Beautiful place. Is your documentary completed? I’d love to see it.

  6. I’m so intrigued with this ghost story, i want to go there and see this grave, and hopefully be brave enough to walk around it three times with my eyes closed, i would love to go there close to Halloween.

  7. i went in that cemetery once at daytime and as it says you need to close youre eyes and walk circulary around the base etc… but the time i went there there i was alone and i just had the sudden feelling to walk behind her and i just had this weird sad feeling so then when i left i felt a hand touch my shoulder and i felt a hand on my shoulder the entire time that i was there until i got into my car and left the cemetery … it really scared me but i would love to go there again

  8. If you are an empath like myself, this statue both intrigues and scares you… I have always been drawn to her, even as a child. I feel like this woman is not at peace with her soul somehow. If you put your ear up to the statue, you can hear two things: a woman’s screams, like for the loss of a loved one and also a faint child’s laughter, like she’s enjoying herself at a park. Perhaps the man left her eyes that way as though she couldn’t judge him in the afterlife, perhaps never having felt worthy of her love. Either way,way tragic story, intriguing mystery, and still a cherished memory of mine having long since left Hillsborough. I can still feel her despair. Haunting really…
    It to me is definitely worth checking out, if you have an open mind for this sort of thing.

    1. Her name was Jennie Steeves. She died in 1900 at 15. Her mother commissioned the statue and this vandalism is disgusting.

  9. I haven’t heard this one in a long while! The tapping hand is the version I’m familiar with, and I also remember a version where the lady had rubies for eyes that some fools stole. If you lingered in the graveyard when the fog rolled in you might see two red eyes shining through the mist.

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