The Flat Earth Society

Longing for Leviticus

...Do not not not seek revenge...(Leviticus 19)

"I can hardly breathe," said spouse. "There's nothing but rain, drizzle, and fog every day."

She has been down in the dumps lately.

"It happens every year when the House of Assembly is in session," I said. "There is so much hot air that a low-pressure system forms in the center of the city. Sometimes it is so intense that it sucks in all the air from the surrounding area. People who live close to Confederation Building are showing up in droves at the Health Sciences begging for a whiff of oxygen."

"Twice as bad this fall," I continued, "because the Muskrat Falls boondoggle has created another low-pressure system right next door to us which is feeding into the one on the hill. John (I'm a real doctor) Haggie, Minister of Unhealthy Communities, has been warning us for days that we might have to take turns breathing until the politicians have left town."

Sure enough, just as I was talking to spouse, CBC interrupted its regularly scheduled broadcast to announce that the government had introduced emergency controlled-respiration training (ECRT) for city residents to teach everyone how to conserve the air around them. These ECRT clinics will take place as you get your flu shot in order to maintain efficiency within the public health sector.

"Nothing but black clouds for the past six weeks," said spouse. "It's enough to drive one to weed if there was any weed to buy." I could tell she had not heard a word I had said.

We watched through the kitchen window as hurricane-force winds lashed sheets of rain horizontally into the side of the house.

"Maybe," I said, "it's a sign that the big guy upstairs is ticked off because we haven't seized half those politicians and thrown them into the North Atlantic. Vengeance is mine and all that."

The great flood had formed a mini-lake in the backyard and two fat Canada geese had taken up residence.

The thought occurred to me that maybe there was a silver lining to the clouds after all. Along came another thought that I could have meat for the freezer just by poking my shotgun out the kitchen window.

As if reading my mind, spouse warned me not to even think about bagging those two geese. "The neighbors would report you to the constabulary right away," she said.

"I'll tell the constabulary that there was a clap of thunder and the two geese died of fright."

"They'd see through that lie right away," she said.

Spouse, by the way, had a very biblical upbringing and has a thing about lying. Often, out of the blue, she reminds me that according to the good book, lying is an offense against God and a false witness shall not go unpunished.

I suspect that such advice is meant to keep me on the straight and narrow. The righteous guidance is unnecessary of course because I take great pride in maintaining an unblemished soul. I want to be on the safe side should I unexpectedly be summoned to appear in front of the Pearly Gates. Preparations for that day began early on.

You probably remember those Sabbath Sunday-school mornings long ago when you were educated on the wickedness of sin. Without a doubt, you were guilty of many. You felt doubly guilty if the clergyman looked at you with an evil eye. He knew you were a lying liar and a deceiver. He knew just by looking at you that you bore grudges and hated fellow Israelites.

And you knew you were doomed to the eternal flames where all corrupt flesh ended up. You squirmed in that uncomfortable wooden pew. The nightmares came that same night as you slept, and all your so-called friends joined in stoning you and sacrificing your pet lamb on the altar.

Then, after a few days, your childish mind regained its balance. You reasoned that if your flesh was already corrupt, a few minor sins shouldn't make much difference. That, my friend, is the very moment you became a politician.

And speaking of politicians, a constant stream of fibs, falsehoods, and fabrications, not to mention slurs, slanders, and smears, ooze from their oral cavities every day all over the world. Just last night, CBC informed us that Donald Trump had let loose with 83 lies in one day, a new record.

I wondered how our home-grown paragons of political virtue were faring. Say no more. They have passed with flying colors. They have outstripped the whole of whopperdom as they spread fiction, fallacy, and falsehood to deceive the great unwashed. They win the gold medal hands down for myth and misinformation.

Muskrat Falls.

But the real spectacle on the hill this past while has been the scandalous behavior of Eddie Joyce, alias Big Eddie, and Dale Kirby, alias Dr. Dale; the former, wanting to treat the public service as an employment agency for his friends and relatives; the latter, simply wanting a peaceful toke with a female colleague because she was beautiful, and he loved her--in 'an aging punk-rocker 1980s way...

Harassment, revenge, intimidation, and deceit followed.

I will spare you the gory details. The goings-on took the better part of two weeks plus thousands of shekels in taxpayer sacrifice.

All of which got me to thinking favorably about Leviticus--the code of laws handed down to Moses 4000 years ago by a God who saw things in black and white. Sure, there are a few things I skipped over because: 2018, things like setting fire to witches; stoning prostitutes and adulterers, and a man who marries both a woman and her mother; and the stuff about slaves. I have a problem with punishing people who have tattoos; I like pork, and I absolutely crave shellfish of any kind. I am also unsure that spouse would agree that I am worth 50 shekels while she is worth only 30. Other than that, I'm in.

I'm all for this atonement stuff for transgressing politicians. Personally, I think Dr. Dale's and Big Eddie's punishment was pretty light. At the very least, each one should have had to deliver sin offerings for a blood sacrifice at the House of Assembly, 7 bulls, 7 rams, 7 lambs, and 7 he-goats--these animals are not hard to find.

But no, that would be too simple. We live in a modern age. The two transgressors must undergo 'Individualized Respectful Workplace Training.' Moses would be embarrassed.

Leave a comment:


You may contact the author at: (or)

Dancing on Air: New Edition: New Publisher

Dancing on Air

The revised edition of Dancing on Air(Boulder Publications) is now available from Boulder -- also from Chapters/Indigo and Coles bookstores across Canada as well as at

Advance Reviews:

     "What a fascinating read this is. It has all the suspense of a true crime novel ...Newfoundland itself emerges as a colorful character..." -- editor, Friesen Press

     "In Dancing on Air, Eric Colbourne exposes the raw politics and behind the scenes intrigue of critical events in Newfoundland and Labrador history. In the process, he has skilfully unveiled the human faces of tragedies which have remained with us for well over half a century."   --Mervin Wiseman, Political Activist, NL.

     "This is a great way to present history. It's emotionally engaging, highly instructive, and jam-packed with fascinating details."  --Editor, Friesen Press.

     Dancing on Air: A Tale of Vengeance, Mercy, and the End of the Death Penalty in Newfoundland is a story of justice and injustice amidst war and political upheaval.

     On St. Patrick's Day, 1942 Herb Spratt, the youngest son of a prominent St. John's city councilor, murdered his girlfriend, Josephine O'Brien. A weak defense at a two day trial in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland resulted in a guilty verdict coupled with a strong recommendation for mercy. The chief justice pronounced a sentence of death on April 28, 1942, but that was not the end of the story.

     Six years later, on October 23, 1948, during a night of terror in the town of Norris Arm on the central north coast of the island, Alfred Beaton stabbed his girlfriend and shot to death another young woman. At least 10 other individuals narrowly escaped death as Beaton rampaged through the community with a high powered rifle.

     Beaton went to trial in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland on January 31, 1949. The jury returned a guilty verdict without a recommendation for mercy. The chief justice again imposed the death penalty.

Alfred Beaton (center) after the death sentence

The incidents come together as a gripping account of a flawed justice system and of the impact of public opinion. With its cast of powerful characters, the story reads like fiction but what happened was only too real.  

The Dancing on Air Mystery: Who was Portia?



On Monday, February 7, 1949, two days after Judge Emerson handed down the death penalty in the murder trial of Alfred Beaton, a mysterious letter appeared in the St. John's Evening Telegram. It contained an emotional plea for mercy and a call to action against capital punishment in Newfoundland. 

The eloquent letter writer persuaded thousands of citizens in the city and across Newfoundland and Labrador to demand an end to a barbaric practice. The final outcome was a surprise. Who was the mystery lady, Portia? For the first time in over 60 years, it is now possible to identify her--but the reader has to pick up the clues in the text.







Eric Colbourne grew up in the small community of Lush's Bight-Beaumont on the northeast coast of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. His earliest memories are of the tales spun by village elders under the flickering light of oil lamps in the kitchen of the family home on the isolated island. This tradition of story-telling is captured in his first book Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland which has enjoyed international success.


His latest work, Dancing on AIR: A Tale of Vengeance, Mercy, and the End of the Death Penalty in Newfoundland, published in October 2016 by Boulder Publications, represents an enduring fascination with the issue of capital punishment which he has researched extensively over many years in this country and around the world.


Colbourne was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland, The University of Reading in the UK, and at McGill University in Montreal. He has enjoyed a varied career in education, community development, tourism and senior management in the public service of Nunavut and the NWT. He currently devotes his time to writing and historical research.

Back Cover:Dancing on Air

Public Executions: Dancing on Air

At 5.32 a.m. on August 14, 1937 a young black man, Rainey Bethea was executed at Owensboro, Kentucky after his conviction for the rape of a white woman. A crowd, estimated at 20,000, gathered in Owensboro the day before and held 'hanging' parties throughout the night. One reporter likened the scene at the scaffold next morning to a sporting event. The hangman was intoxicated and barely managed to trip the lever. It was the last public hanging in the US.

The practice of public executions was abandoned in Canada in 1869 and in the UK in 1870. Many countries, notably Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Iran continue the practice to this day for crimes such as drug trafficking, witchcraft, disloyalty to the government. and homosexuality.


If you have comments on this site or reviews of Dancing on Air, please e-mail me at

Advice for Writers

Elmore Leonard, a well known mystery writer who died last year offered a number of rules for good writing. A few of them:

1. Never open a book with weather.

2. Keep your exclamations points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.

3.Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."

4.Try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.

From the Ballad of Reading Gaol

 It is sweet to dance to violins

  When love and life are fair:

To dance to flutes, to dance to lutes

  is delicate and rare:

But it is not sweet with nimble feet

  To dance upon the air!


                       ...Oscar Wilde

Historic Vote

In 1948, residents of Newfoundland and Labrador decided their future in two referenda. In the first vote, held on June 3, Commission of Government was eliminated but neither Confederation with Canada nor Responsible Government received a majority, making a second referendum necessary. Voting was heavy, nearly 89% on June 3rd and 85% on July 22nd. 52.34% of voters chose Confederation on the second ballot.

Where to Buy Disappeared

     Disappeared:Stories From the Coast of Newfoundland is available in print and e-book from and in e-book format from Kobo, Chapters etc. To locate it on Amazon, type 'Disappeared Colbourne' into their 'find' bar. Delivery is about one week.

     Author copies are also available directly from Click on the facebook link and send the author a message. Price is $15 plus postage.

     Due to the short print run the book will not be available in most bookstores.

New Edition: Dancing on Air

More Questions About an Execution

The case of Wilbert Coffin who was convicted of murder and hanged in Quebec more than 60 years ago raises many new questions. For the full story see:

Excerpt from Dancing on Air

(A Hanging in Quebec, 1902)



...Until the mid-1800s some 200 offences were regarded as capital crimes that carried the death penalty. In a modern age most of those offences now seem absurd.


John Dean, variously described in the records as a child of eight or nine, may have been the youngest to suffer death by hanging. On February 23, 1629 he was convicted of arson at Abington, England for setting fire to two barns in the town of Winsor. The judge saw evidence of wickedness in the boy's actions, an attitude which led directly to his death sentence.


In early August, 1814, an unfortunate William Potter received the death penalty at the high court in Chelmsford, England, for damaging an orchard. He had chopped down an old apple tree for firewood. To no avail at his trial, William pleaded ignorance of the law. The judge had second thoughts several days after sentencing, but with the wheels of justice already in motion, William was hanged about a week later on August 12.

From our Readers: Dancing on Air

I finished the book this morning and my only regret is that I couldn't read more....The exacting research gives real context in shaping the period, but it's Colbourne's ability as a writer that allows the reader to feel the crisp bite of the wind, smell the damp night air, and experience the pain and anguish of the characters. Colbourne's deft footwork in handling the historical record while giving life to the characters is to be applauded, and it separates this work from the pack.  (Glen Tilley)


An absolutely lovely read...The book reads like a richly textured novel but the story is flawlessly woven into the historical account (or borne out of it). It is clear that the book is meticulously researched...An excellent read on all fronts. Difficult to put down! (Monty Henstridge)


Excerpt from the story 'The Black Arts Book' in Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland.


...Old Meriam was indeed dead but no one seemed to know how she had died or where she was buried, all of which added to the mystery of her life  and the power of her witchcraft.


After her death, the old house seemed lonely more than anything else, sitting way out on the point by the landwash, facing the September storms and enduring the sad soundings of the ocean swells.


With each passing season it added a deeper tone of grey as the harsh weather of late fall and winter took its toll. Nobody in the village could understand how the old house could withstand so much punishment.


Disappeared: Stories from the Coast of Newfoundland  has been named a top seller on KOBO, one of the largest e-book distributors in the world. It continues to receive positive reviews in Canada and fifteen other countries. Disappeared is also available from and in kindle and print format.