The Flat Earth Society



My snitch, RS from MP, has been back in touch recently after many months of silence. "Government is a dangerous place to work these days," he whispered. "You never know when you'll be vaporized and replaced by a friend of the party. Yesterday, they disappeared Steve Winter, the CEO at the liquor commission. Lynn Sullivan, a failed Liberal candidate was hired in his place. She's..."

"Yes, yes, I heard the story on the news," I said impatiently. "Get on with it. The constabulary is probably tapping our wires right now, just like they did to Donald Trump."

"Rumour has it," he said, "that Big Eddie and Double Dipper Byrne have bought up all the diseased fish from the ocean farms in Placentia Bay. They have entered a price-fixing scheme with the supermarkets to foist it on the good citizens of our wind-swept land as 'gluten-free natural Atlantic salmon'."

Even spouse said she wouldn't put it past them after what they did to bread last year. I think she's coming around to my way of thinking. With that, she cracked open a new bottle of Fifty Shades of Bay and poured herself a (L)iberal drink. She promises to give up Fifty Shades when government weed comes on the market.

Spouse, though, is strangely silent these days whenever I relate my latest conspiracy theory with respect to the Liberals and their collusion with big corporations that provide large donations to the party (hello Kruger, EY, Grieg SeaFarms...). She seems more receptive when I throw a few aliens from outer space into the mix which happens frequently after my medicinal midnight drink.

Just last night, I partook of my usual after-dinner libation, Raspberry Screech laced with bog-rosemary tea, a potion guaranteed to induce nostalgia for better times in our frozen land. Yes, to my surprise and delight, Raspberry Screech has come back on the market at the NLC Liquor Store up on Kelsey Drive, a welcome change indeed after enduring many sleepless nights of silent suffering over the past several months. 

Fifty Shades of Bay is probably fine for that upper-class millennial crowd down at Raymond's, but I have more refined tastes.

I suspected right away that Big Eddie had unloaded his stash of Raspberry Screech onto the Newfoundland Liquor Commission at a killer profit before the government starts pushing marijuana. But that's just a thought.

"I can just see it now," I said to spouse, "Dear Leader will place a Liberal hack, a nasty narco, a sleazy street-pharmacist, a regular in-your-face crooked candyman, on every street corner in our fair land. We'll all be junkies by July."

"Don't get carried away," said spouse. "It's all legal. At least we'll be having pleasant dreams instead of Muskrat Falls nightmares."

We settled into our evening comforts and our usual entertainment from CBC on the old RCA Victor battery-powered radio we purchased for two dollars from the Salvation Army Goodwill store over on Kenmount--since we are regular customers, they gave us 10% off. That's the extent of what we can afford in the way of social media these days.

The evening feature on CBC Radio is a riveting documentary on Oumuamua (Oh-Mooh-ah Mooh-ah), a mysterious cigar-shaped interstellar object which arrived in our solar system unannounced last October. The word oumuamua is Hawaiian for 'messenger from afar, arriving first.' The Hawaiians are very good at cramming a lot of fuzziness into one word, just like our politicians.

This thing is traveling at an incredible speed--300,000 Kilometres per hour (87 Km a second). At that speed, you could jump in your Audi A8 in St. John's and be in Port Aux Basques in 10 seconds flat with lots of time to catch the ferry to the mainland. But who can afford an Audi in this province except Dear Leader.

The CBC host, Andrew Cotton, is interviewing Dr. Jason Wright, A professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University who explains that the mysterious object started its journey from the star system Lyra some 300,000 years ago.

The Lyra Constellation stands out in the northern sky because it contains a very bright star, Vega, the fifth brightest in the heavens. Lyra gets its name, by the way, from the Greek god, Apollo's gift of a lyre to his son, Orpheus, who played it so well that even the wild beasts, the rocks, and the trees, were charmed by his music.

"I wonder if Orpheus' other name was Danny Williams," I said to spouse.

Dr. Wright believes the strange object must surely be an alien spaceship because it appears to be made of metal, not rock like an asteroid; has no dust around it like a comet; and is sending out a signal like that of a cell phone which could not possible be produced by a natural object.

"My analysis," he said, "indicates that this massive UFO was sent by an alien civilization to investigate what we are up to. I also believe that it may have broken engines and is trying to contact us."

Then the professor drops a bombshell. "A curious thing," he said, "as the spaceship was hovering over Tabby's Star which is 1300 light years away and more brilliant than our sun, the star started to flicker like a living-room light fixture with a loose connection."

"And what do you think caused this phenomenon, Dr. Wright?" asked the host.

"I believe," said Dr. Wright, "that Oumuamua released a swarm of satellites, a Dyson swarm it's called, as it hovered over Tabby. These thousands of satellites are designed to suck energy from the star and beam it back home to their planet. Free power for their grid, no need for expensive boondoggles in that world."

My brain went into overdrive.

"I must get in touch with NALCOR right away," I said enthusiastically.

"You should get in touch with your senses," said spouse.

Oumuamua, the sequel, is coming soon.


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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.