Touring In: British Columbia (Vancouver Island)

Craft: author

Genre: picture books, junior fiction, YA, non-fiction

Ideal Audience Size: 60-100

Maximum Audience Size: 100

Grades: Grades 4-6

Special Equipment: A dark room


 2015 IODE Violet Downey Book Award Winner
2015 Canadian Library Association’s Book of the Year for Children Shortlist

Presentation Information

Grades 4-6: Haunted Newfoundland: Ghost Stories from the Rock
(Books used in presentation: The Ferryland Visitor, The Swallow: A Ghost Story)

Find the DARKEST place in your school (a library is best) where students can close together on the floor (NO CHAIRS) and prepare to be SPOOKED!

Good ghost stories do more than just give kids a spooky thrill: they speak to the traditions and beliefs of the people who create them. Charis Cotter has created a compelling storytelling performance that introduces students to the culture and history of Newfoundland through its ghost stories. With a background in acting, Charis knows how to engage an audience—students and teachers across Canada have given her rave reviews for her spellbinding presentations.

For some reason, Newfoundland has more ghosts than anywhere else. Ghosts in the ocean, ghosts on the barrens, ghosts in lighthouses, and ghosts at kitchen parties. Using stories she has collected herself, Charis takes her audience on a creepy tour of that very haunted island. These are tales that have been told and told again, and passed down through generations. Some go back hundreds of years, like the Old Hollies, said to be the victims of shipwrecks, who are heard screaming in the wind just before a bad storm. Or the dancing Jacky-Lanterns, ghost lights seen bobbing above the water out at sea.

Charis tells the mysterious true story of The Ferryland Visitor, her latest book, about a family who has just moved to a lonely lighthouse. Then she describes an unsettling experience she had herself on the barrens one dark Newfoundland night. She finishes the performance with a dramatic telling of a story about ghostly footsteps in Bay de Verde in the 1920s.

At the end of the presentation, Charis talks about her books and answers questions about writing and ghosts.

Book List

The Ferryland Visitor (Running the Goat Books & Broadsides, 2016)

The Swallow: A Ghost Story (Tundra Books, 2014)

The Ghosts of Baccalieu. Written by the Students of Tricon Elementary. Edited by Charis Cotter. (Baccalieu Books, 2013)

Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors (Annick Press, 2009)

A World Full of Ghosts. Art by Marc Mongeau. (Annick Press, 2009)

Wonder Kids: The Remarkable Lives of Nine Child Prodigies (Annick Press, 2008)

Kids Who Rule: The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs (Annick Press, 2007)

Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919–1939 (Firefly Books, 2004)


Charis Cotter grew up in a small house in downtown Toronto beside the Necropolis cemetery. She always loved books and reading, and when she was eight her favourite present was a box full of second-hand Bobbsey Twin books her mother found at a thrift store. She trained as an actor in London England, and Toronto, and had a number of interesting jobs along the way, including the role of a murderer on a mystery train across Canada and a very ladylike position handwriting invitations in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite in Queen’s Park, Toronto. After several years as an actor, Charis moved into publishing, and she worked as a freelance editor and writer for more than 20 years.

Her first book, Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1929–1939, won the 2005 Toronto Heritage Award. Since then, Charis has written books about kings, queens, child prodigies, famous authors and ghosts. The Swallow: A Ghost Story won the IODE Violet Downey Book Award and the Silver Birch Honour Award. Her latest book, The Ferryland Visitor: A Mysterious Tale, with artwork by renowned Newfoundland artist Gerald Squires, is based on a true ghost story experienced by Squires and his family when they lived at an abandoned lighthouse in the 1970s.

Charis has worked extensively in schools and libraries across Canada, using drama and storytelling to bring her books to life. Her fascination with ghosts has led her to many far corners of Newfoundland, looking for ghost stories. In 2013 she worked with children at Tricon Elementary in Bay de Verde to create and publish The Ghosts of Baccalieu, a book of local ghost stories, collected by the students from their community.

Charis continues to do writing workshops and storytelling at schools, community centres and book festivals. Her next novel, The Painting, will be published by Tundra Books in 2017. She lives in Newfoundland on a quiet road beside the ocean, in a small house near two old cemeteries.

Facebook Fan Page | Twitter: @CharisCotter


The Swallow: A Ghost Story

  • Winner of the 2015 IODE Violet Downey Book Award
  • Winner of the 2016 Silver Birch Award Honour Book
  • Winner of the 2015 Canadian Library Association Book of the Year for Children Honour Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2016 Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards, Bruneau Family Foundation, Children’s/YA Literature Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2016 Diamond Willow Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2016 Red Cedar Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2016 Rocky Mountain Book Award 2016
  • Shortlisted for the 2016 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award

Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors

  • Winner of the 2011 World Storytelling Honor Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2010 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction
  • Shortlisted for the 2011 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2011 Rocky Mountain Book Award

Wonder Kids: The Remarkable Lives of Nine Child Prodigies

  • Winner 2009 World Storytelling Award Honour Title

Kids Who Rule: The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs

  • Shortlisted for the 2010 Red Cedar Book Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2009 Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award 2009
  • Shortlisted for the 2009 Rocky Mountain Book Award
  • Shortlisted for the 2008 Silver Birch Award 2008

Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919–1939

  • Winner of the 2005 Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence

Praise for Charis Cotter

“Charis Cotter is an exceptional storyteller whose engaging presentation grabs kids’ attention at the very start and pulls them deep into her world of ghost stories.  Both students and staff were absolutely captivated.”
—Amy Westbury, Teacher-Librarian, Bruce Trail Public School  (Milton, Ontario)

“Charis Cotter’s ghost tales are both strangely intimate yet eerily haunting. Her mastery of the art of storytelling created an ambience that had my students riveted from her first word. It is a pleasure to listen to her recount dark stories of the macabre and the supernatural.”
—Quinn Carter, Grade 5 Teacher, Bruce Trail Public School (Milton, Ontario)

“Charis Cotter is a wonderfully engaging storyteller.  She had the students on the edge of their seats with every tale.  She was also very in tune with the needs of the students throughout the presentation.”
—Tanya Panacci, Occasional Teacher with the Halton District School Board

“Charis Cotter visited our school on the day before Halloween this year. She came to present her “Ghosts of Grates Cove” stories. All our grade five children gathered in the school library where Chairs had set up a perfect ghost storytelling atmosphere! She brought a great big, green lighted ship’s lantern, turned the lights down low, and had the children in the palm of her hand while she spun the stories native to Conception Bay North for them to enjoy. We could have heard a pin drop. Quite a feat with nearly 100 ten year-olds in the room!

“Questions from the children following Charis’ stories were detailed and plentiful; not only about the content but about the writing of such stories as well. Needless to say, there was quite a bit of inspiration given and received here on Oct. 30th this year. Her books fly off the shelves and creative writing abounds! Having Charis Cotter here to visit will certainly be an annual tradition!”
—Heather Godden, Teacher Librarian, Beachy Cove Elementary (Portugal Cove, NL)

“Charis has visited our school on a number of occasions to share her writing, and her presentations of ghost stories from around the world have been particularly captivating for the children. In fact, we have enjoyed Charis’s excellent storytelling and theatricality so much that we have had her back to present several years in a row … Charis has impressed me, my colleagues, and many Holy Trinity Elementary School students with her ability to share traditional ghost stories effectively, convincingly, and if I might add, creepily!”
—Leigh Borden, Teacher-Librarian, Holy Trinity Elementary (Torbay, NL)

“Charis’s acting talents, humour, and engaging personality had the students mesmerized, laughing, and inspired from the start … They have asked me repeatedly to get her other books … There is no better praise on the part of young readers.”
—Chantal Bennett, Teacher-Librarian, Jules Quesnel Elementary (Vancouver)