Old Mother Coo predicted two Nova Scotia disasters, one to the very hour (6 photos)

By Bruce MacNab

Ellen Creighton was born at sea while her family emigrated from Scotland to Nova Scotia.

As she came of age, her people realized she was gifted with Second Sight. Somehow, Ellen could predict future events with frightening accuracy. And the heartbreaking proof can be found in 169 Nova Scotia gravesites.

Ellen grew up in Miramichi, New Brunswick where she married Edward Coo. The couple moved to Stellarton, Nova Scotia and raised six children.

A trusted tea leaf reader, Ellen warned an explosion would devastate the local Foord Pit coal mine on the morning of November 12th, 1880.

Some women hid their husband’s boots that morning. Others broke down crying, begging their men to take the day off.

The miners paid their wives no heed. They ridiculed Ellen Coo’s prophecy, laughing their way to work.

But at 6:30 that morning the Foord Pit exploded, killing 44 men. Miners would never again mock Ellen Coo.

Eight years later, Ellen’s husband died and she left for Boston.

In 1891, by then known as Old Mother Coo, she sent word a mine would explode in Springhill, Nova Scotia.

This time everyone reacted, especially the mine’s manager Henry Swift.

Swift ordered his underground manager William Conway to check the mine from top to bottom with a team of certified inspectors from Pioneer Lodge, the miners’ union.

After the six-hour inspection, Conway wrote, “I received congratulations from these men on the splendid condition of my mine.”

But the miners were not convinced. In his 1891 book about this incident, Robert Morrow wrote: “The miners still retained a germ of their former timidity, on the plea that Mother Coo was generally known to tell the truth.”

Hours later, Mr. Swift brought in yet another expert, this time a provincial inspector. He also gave the mine a passing grade, prompting Swift to write, “All in order so far as I know.”

But the inspectors were wrong.

Dead wrong.

The very next day, on February 21, 1891, an explosion tore through the eastern slope of the Springhill coal mine.

The horrific blast slaughtered 125 men and boys, including the manager Henry Swift. Once again Ellen Coo had made a tragically correct prediction.

Unfortunately, there are no known photos of Mother Coo. She never sought wealth or fame for her remarkable gift.

Around the time Titanic sank in 1912 she suffered a bad fall and fractured her scapula, never fully recovering.

Ellen Coo passed away on November 1, 1912 at the age of seventy-nine and was laid to rest in Everett, Massachusetts.

Thank you to Springhill historian Mary-Willa Littler for sharing her knowledge of Mother Coo. Read more about Ellen Coo in The Metamorphosis: the apprenticeship of Harry Houdini by Bruce MacNab (2012 Goose Lane Editions) and Story of the Great Disaster at Springhill Mines by R.A.H. Morrow (1891)

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