PEI phantom ship gets stamp of approval

Canada Post is issuing a haunted stamp collection Friday, a collection which includes legendary Northumberland Strait tale

Dave Stewart
Published on June 12, 2014

Canada Post is launching this stamp Friday, June 13, which depicts the legendary tale of a three-masted schooner ablaze in the Northumberland Strait more than 200 years ago.


“Tales of the phantom ship, from truck to keel in flames;

She sails the wide Northumberland Strait,

No one knows her name.

Tales of the phantom ship, it’s a ship of fire they cry;

Hard against the wind she sails,

No one can say why.’’

- From Lennie Gallant’s song, Tales of the Phantom Ship.

Wilma MacKinnon of Point Prim is certainly a believer in those words.

In the early dawn hours of a crisp, clear morning in 1981, MacKinnon looked out her front yard and saw what appeared to be a three-masted schooner on fire in the Northumberland Strait.


She could see it clear as day. It was a story she had heard tales of many times in the past, a story that has become legendary since the late 1700s in P.E.I.

“It just looked like something burning on the water,’’ MacKinnon told The Guardian on Thursday.

“I’ve heard lots of stories about it from the old fellows. There have been people who have said they could see people on the ship. You could see the mast and burning and the people on it.’’

Canada Post thinks so much of this particular ghost story that it is launching a postage stamp depicting that very ship today across Canada. And what better day to launch this type of stamp than on Friday, June 13.

Jim Phillips, director of stamp services for Canada Post, said people have been writing the Crown corporation suggesting they lighten up and have some fun when it comes to thinking up ideas for new stamps.

“So, we kind of took that to heart and started to dig around and do some research. One of my staff came up with the idea of doing something with a haunted Canada (theme),’’ Phillips said.

Islanders have always swapped ghost stories but the tale of the burning ship is still going strong 200 years later.

Canada Post has created five haunted Canada themed stamps - Fiery Ships of the Northumberland Strait, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac’s Ghostly Governor Louis de Buade, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s haunted Fort George, the St. Louis Light Phantom Train and the Ghost Bride of the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

“The Northumberland Strait is a great story,’’ Phillips said. “People have seen burning ships out in the strait (and) have been going out to rescue the ship and they’re not there. People really like these stories.’’

The stamps are sold in different configurations, including as a stamp and coin gift set, in a booklet of 10, on a souvenir sheet and uncut on a press sheet.

Or people can simply dress it up by having it the postage stamped ‘cancelled’.

“If you just want to get the ‘cancel’ the post offices will give you that ‘cancel’ for free. You can decorate your mail and decorate it with the phantom ship.’’

Phillips warns that the haunted stamps like the fiery ship are going to be hot sellers.

“These are going to disappear fast, just like ghosts.’’

For more information, go to and click on postage stamps underneath products and services.


- Hundreds of shipwrecks have taken place in Northumberland Strait.

- For at least 200 years, residents living near the strait have claimed to see a burning ship on the water.

- Accounts note that the vision can last from a few moments to over an hour.

- Most sightings are reported in September, October and November, months most likely to see storms and rough water.

- Skeptics have tried to explain away the flaming ghost ship by blaming natural phenomena like St. Elmo’s Fire.

- On several occasions, onlookers have tried to rescue the ship, thinking it was real and on fire. As soon as the would-be rescuers get close to what they believed was a flaming ship, it disappears into the mist.

(Source: Canada Post)