Status: Natural Wonder (Beach); Burial Ground; Only Accessible by Boat
This beach is on the biggest island in Halifax Harbour.
The island was used seasonally by both the Mi’Kmag and Acadian aboriginal tribes previous to the arrival of the Europeans. The French were the original invaders whose Navy was looking for a place to building a fortified harbour; they would eventually choose where Louisburg now stands.
By the time Halifax was founded by the British in 1749 the island – then known as Cornwallis Island - was being used as a base of operations for fisherman.
In the 1780’s Peter McNab purchased the island and so began many generations of the McNab family living on the island as well as a change to the island’s name.
Maugher Beach is more commonly known as Hangman’s Beach because the British Navy – in the Napoleonic Wars (early 19th century) – would hang the bodies of executed mutineers on this beach. This served as a warning to crewmen on board the naval ships what would happen if they didn’t behave.
The bodies of at least 200 victims of cholera who died on the SS England were also buried near Hangman’s Beach. The beach is where the island’s lighthouse was built.
The ruins of numerous British fortresses can also be found on the island as well as the remains of houses, an abandoned picnic ground, a pop factory, an abandoned Victorian garden and the graves of the island’s early settlers.
In World War II gun batteries and searchlights were installed on the island and an anti-submarine net was strung between the island and the mainland to prevent enemy submarines from entering Halifax Harbor; which was a major staging area for convoys to Britain.
Fort McNab – the former World War II emplacement – National Historic Site on the island remains a possession of the Federal Government. The rest of the island – less a small area privately owned – functions as a Nova Scotia Provincial Park.
Transparent apparitions of both the mutineers and the cholera victims are seen walking on the beach and in the forest beyond.
These apparitions are occasionally reported elsewhere on the island and even include reports of them entering the homes of the island’s few residents.
The apparition of a full horse and carriage is also reported racing across the beach.
Other Reported Activity: disembodied voices; light anomalies; feelings of being watched, not being alone and not being wanted.