The Mysterious Jerome of Sandy Cove

Nov 24, 2023 1 comments

The story of a legless mystery man known as “Jerome” who turned up one day in 1863 in Sandy Cove is well-known in Nova Scotia. He was found one morning, perhaps in September, by two fishermen on the beach by the Bay of Fundy sitting up against a large rock. He was suffering from cold and exposure. Within his arm’s reach were a tin of biscuits, a loaf of bread and a jug of water. Most notably, the man was missing both of his legs, amputated above the knees. Later inspection revealed the amputation was done by a skilled surgeon and the wounds, still fresh, were properly bandaged. It was evident a passing ship had abandoned the stranger on the beach.

The castaway was carried to the home of the Albright family in the village of Digby Neck, where he was covered in blankets and given hot drinks. It became apparent that the young man could not speak or understand any language that the villagers spoke, including English, French, Latin, Italian, and Spanish. The only thing he did was growl at visitors, although he did seemed to be fond of children.

The villagers began to call him “Jerome”, because when first questioned he had mumbled something that sounded like “Jerome”, and so that was what he became known as.

Jerome’s presence in Sandy Cove became a subject of fervent speculation, sparking curiosity and whispers among the townsfolk, as they grappled with the question of who Jerome was and the mysterious circumstances that brought him to their shores. Perhaps Jerome was a sailor who had attempted a mutiny and was punished by amputation. However, his soft, callus-free hands suggested that Jerome was not habituated to manual labor. Another explanation that was put forward was that he was heir to a fortune and was gotten rid of to make way for someone else seeking his inheritance.

After staying with the Albrights for several weeks, Jerome was passed on to another family, with which he spent a couple of weeks before moving on to the next house. This way the entire village shared the expenses of keeping Jerome fed and clothed. Eventually, the mainly Baptist community of Digby Neck decided from his appearance that he must be a Catholic, and sent him to the neighboring French community of Meteghan, to the home of Jean Nicola. The government of Nova Scotia also voted a special stipend of two dollars a week to support Jerome. Jerome stayed in the Nicola home for seven years.

After the death of Julitte Nicola, her husband returned to Europe and Jerome went to stay with Dedier and Zabeth Comeau in Saint Alphonse de Clare, near Meteghan. The Comeaus used Jerome's relative fame to their advantage, charging admission fees to see the mystery man, living well on this and the government stipend. Jerome stayed with the Comeaus for more than forty years until his death on April 15, 1912. In the nearly fifty years he spent in Digby County, Jerome spoke very little. He neither read, nor wrote. When people came to visit him, he never looked up to them. Most of the time he looked toward the floor. When poised with a question, he made peculiar grumbling noises to show his annoyance. He was never seen to mark with a pen or pencil and never made an attempt to look at a book or any reading matter. He also refused to look at pictures. Jerome led an entirely idle life.

After his death, the tale of this mysterious man swiftly became intertwined with legend and lore, as locals passed down Jerome’s story from generation to generation. Several books were written upon the case, and there is also a Canadian-origin French movie on Jerome released in 1994.

According to one theory, Jerome was an Italian who was employed by a lumber operator in the Chipman district in New Brunswick on the other side of the Bay of Fundy. In 1859, four years before he mysteriously appeared in Sandy Cove, in the middle of winter, the Italian was walking through the woods, possibly having lost his way, when he fell between the logs of a mill pond. Drenched and shivering, the Italian found shelter in a saw mill, where he slept. The next morning, he found his legs so terribly frozen that the local surgeon found it necessary to immediately amputate both limbs above the knee.

When the Italian came to his senses, he started shouting for his “gamba”, which is Italian for “leg”. Thus he became known as “Gamby”.

Gamby proved to be a burden for the people of Chipman, and it was rumored that a passing schooner captain was paid to take him away. The captain could possibly have just sailed to the opposite side of the bay to Nova Scotia, and dropped him off on the beach at Sandy Cove. This story explaining the possible origin of Jerome appeared in the 2008 book entitled Jerome: Solving the Mystery of Nova Scotia's Silent Castaway by local historian Fraser Mooney Jr. But Mooney’s take on the story was criticized by some for perpetuating a fable that has no basis on fact.

In any event, Nova Scotia proved to be a welcoming haven for Jerome, ready to extend its hospitality and care to this fortuitous soul of destiny. The residents of Digby Neck, and later Meteghan, genuinely took care of him, and Jerome lived reasonably comfortably, albeit a bit morose—possibly the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder—until his death.

In 2000  the village of Meteghan erected a memorial plaque dedicated to Jerome over a false grave, as it is not known with any real certainty where the castaway is actually buried.

# Jerome Identified, Canadian Mysteries
# Fraser Mooney, Jerome: Solving the Mystery of Nova Scotia's Silent Castaway
# The legless castaway: one of Nova Scotia's most enduring puzzles, speculatively retold, Literary Review of Canada
# “Jerome” Dead And His Secret Dies With Him, Canadian Mysteries


  1. In other words, "Jerome" was a pain-in-the-neck no one wanted at one time. NO Chinese or foreign language translator was sent to speak to him? The story has missing pieces, or seems to.


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