The Mystery Of The Amherst Poltergeist

In August 1878, a 19-year-old woman named Esther Cox went on a drive with a young man named Bob McNeal. Unbeknownst to her at the time, she was about to experience a year of torment and unexplained phenomena that some believed was in direct relation to the events of that afternoon. The date turned sour when McNeal turned a gun on Cox, but she escaped to the home she shared with her sister's family and in-laws. 

A month later, unexplainable events began to plague the Amherst, Nova Scotia, home: strange noises, invisible creatures moving things, and ghostly apparitions. Over the course of a year, Cox dealt with these poltergeist activities that seemed to be inextricably tied to her. The events spurred the interests of Walter Hubbell, who stayed with Cox for three months to investigate what became the most famous Canadian haunting to date, and he later wrote a book about the ordeal.


  • The Trouble Began When Esther Cox Had A Date With Bob McNeal

    Esther Cox lived with her sister; Olive Teed; Teed's husband, Daniel; and their two children; as well as the brother of Daniel and his wife and family. Bob McNeal was an employee of Daniel who Cox took a shine to, with the suitor visiting the Amherst cottage regularly. On August 28, 1878, McNeal took Cox on a carriage ride through the countryside, but the evening quickly turned sour. 

    McNeal stopped the ride and pulled a gun on Cox, ordering her out of the vehicle for likely nefarious purposes. After she refused, Cox's shocking interaction with McNeal ended when another carriage happened by, prompting McNeal to return to her home. Cox cried herself to sleep and kept the events of the day hidden from her sister for a month, with no one pushing the clearly traumatized woman to share her burdens.

  • The Disturbances Started In The Bedroom Cox Shared With Her Sister

    Jane, who was Cox's and Teed's sister, also lived in the Amherst cottage, and Cox and Jane shared a bedroom. On September 3, after an admonition from her sister for whining about McNeal, the siblings got into bed, only for it to move as though a mouse was inside of it. The pair searched the bedclothes for the animal and found nothing, although the mattress itself kept moving as though something was inside. 

    The next night, a box holding pieces of fabric under one of the beds appeared to harbor something moving about and making noise. The women moved the box into the room, where it allegedly shot up a foot into the air before landing on its side, prompting screams from Jane and Cox. Daniel rushed in to check on his sisters-in-law and kicked the box back under the bed, telling the women they were dreaming. No one believed their story.

  • Cox Became Very Ill, And Her Family Started Hearing Loud Booms Around The House

    On the third night, Cox retired to her shared room early due to a fever. In the middle of the night, Cox woke Jane, saying she was dying. When Jane shone the lamp on her sister's face, she saw that Cox's body was swelling up. Her face was red, and her eyes bulged from their sockets as the rest of her body grew larger and more distended. Cox's skin turned pale all at once, and then, with most of the family in the room, a clap of thunder sounded.

    A booming noise filled the room three more times, supposedly emerging from beneath the bed, before Cox's body returned to its normal size and color. She fell asleep while her family members retired back to their own rooms, confused about what they had just witnessed. The next day, Cox only suffered from a lack of appetite.

  • The Family Called A Doctor, And The Paranormal Activity Worsened

    Cox suffered another incident four nights after the swelling, but this time, the bedclothes shot from the bed, and Jane fainted from the occurrence. Cox screeched that she felt electrocuted, and her family simply placed the covers back over her as she began to swell and show signs of a fever. The sheets flew from their spot atop Jane and Cox once again, with the latter's pillow also flying across the room and striking John. He voiced his annoyance with the "deviltry" and left the room.

    The family held the sheets over Cox until she once again returned to normal after a series of loud bangs sounded in the room. Daniel called Dr. Caritte to the house, and Cox received a diagnosis of hysteria followed by morphine. The loud booms sounded again, prompting Dr. Caritte to check outside for their origin, but he found nothing. The physician also witnessed the moving pillow and sheets and saw "Esther Cox, you are mine to kill" etched in the wall above the afflicted woman's bed.

    This ordeal led to the public's knowledge about the happenings in the cottage, and the bangs became so loud that neighbors heard them.

  • During A Seizure Episode, Cox Revealed What Happened On Her Date With McNeal

    Dr. Caritte became fascinated with the case, and for three weeks, he attempted to assist Cox during increasingly disturbing and regular paranormal occurrences. During this time, Cox had a seizure and revealed her unfortunate experience with Bob McNeal back in August. She told her family about him pulling a gun on her and trying to assault her before another carriage's approach saved her. Upon coming out of the seizure, Cox confirmed the story as true. 

    Dr. Caritte attempted to speak with the spirit, as did the rest of the household. Taps and knocks communicated that the name of the spirit was "Bob Nickle," as well as other voices eventually revealing themselves as Maggie Fisher, her sister Mary, Peter Cox, Jane Nickle, and Eliza McNeal.

  • Townspeople Began Visiting Cox To See The Paranormal Phenomenon For Themselves

    Different members of the clergy visited the home and shared their opinions concerning the ailment plaguing Cox. One stated that the incident with McNeal likely turned Cox into a human battery, and the thunderclaps were emitted by her. Another called the young woman a scam artist, and another attempted to provide spiritual counseling and assistance. Allegedly, a bucket of cold water boiled when Cox got near it during one of the clergy's visits. 

    Multiple visitors from all over came to the Teed home to witness the activity taking place in the home. As with the clergy, there was a division between those who saw the supernatural as a hoax, those who saw it as genuine, and those who had no answers whatsoever.