A stroll down haunted lane with Calgary’s paranormal experts
Bring out yer dead!
It’s Halloween in the city, which means spooks and specters will soon intertwine with sugar and sweets.
It’s also a chance for many Calgarians to explore the city’s haunted past. CREB®Now recently took a walk down “Elm Street” with local officials, who detailed the paranormal, the unexplained and everything in-between.
THE DEANE HOUSE
“The Deane House is the most haunted location in the City,” asserts Colin Bengert, executive director of the Calgary Association of Paranormal Investigations (CAPI).
Several suicides are rumoured to have happened in the Deane House – which was built in 1906 – including the murder/suicide of Irma and Roderick Umperville.
Staff and guests have reported mysterious happenings over the years, from disembodied laughter and ghostly footsteps to sightings of a First Nations elder and a man in period dress. There is also an upstairs closet that bears an unexplained red stain on its floor. Staff members have tried to lock that closet, but the closet always unlocks itself.
Bengert said CAPI has gathered evidence of paranormal activity in the Deane House. On one occasion, Bengert said a CAPI member was even “slapped across the face” by an unseen hand after opening a maintenance hatch.
12TH ST. S.E. BRIDGE
Just down the road from the Deane House is the 12th St. S.E. Bridge, now under re-construction. Johanna Lane, who founded Calgary Ghost Tours 10 years ago, said the bridge is home to the spirit of six-year-old Donny Goss, who was stabbed to death there in 1946.
“People crossing the bridge will hear a young boy calling out for help,” said Lane, adding Calgary EMS personnel visit the bridge several times a year because of the 911 calls they receive, only to find no one.
Built in 1912, Hillhurst School housed one of its first janitors, Stevie, in a suite upstairs. One of Stevie’s favourite tricks was to make the school’s doors swing in opposite directions. Stevie died from a heart attack when he was 34.
“He really did love the kids, and he still shows up,” said Lane, noting students and staff still witness the school doors swinging in opposite directions for no apparent reason.
Within Calgary’s theatre community, the Pumphouse Theatre is renowned for its haunted status. Built in 1913 along the banks of the Bow River as a water-pumping station, Pumphouse became a performing-arts facility in the early 1970s.
“Lots of people were hopping on-and-off the rails at the edge of the City during the Depression. There’s the belief that some people may have participated in frontier justice and that folks were thrown into one of the vats of water here,” said Pumphouse executive director Scott McTavish.
Today, the cemented-over cisterns sit beneath the facility’s smaller theatre space – the Joyce Doolittle.
“I’ve heard footsteps of people walking across the floor of the Joyce at 2 a.m. when I know no one is there,” said McTavish.
McTavish recalls another story that involved one of the Pumphouse’s former technical directors, Bill Rathwell, and his wife, Sherry, who was picking him up after work.
“As Bill was locking up, Sherry heard music. When Bill returned, she asked if anyone was playing music in the theatre. He replied, ‘No.’ What Sherry didn’t know is that the Pumphouse had owned a player piano that sat in the lobby of the Joyce Theatre, where she was waiting. But we had sold it six months earlier,” said McTavish.
BANK & BARON PUB
Several pubs in Calgary are rumoured to be visited by ghostly patrons, including the Bank and Baron, along Stephen Avenue Mall. During the 1980s, the establishment was known as the Bank Nightclub, where an altercation occurred between two women over one woman’s boyfriend. The affronted girlfriend and her friends lured the offending female into the bathroom where they beat her to death.
“That young lady can still be heard crying in one of the stalls,” said Lane, adding people have also reported seeing the ghostly reflection of a young woman in a bathroom mirror.
ROSE & CROWN
Another of Calgary’s haunted pubs is the Rose & Crown along Fourth Street S.W. Once a funeral home, the building’s basement still contains evidence of embalming apparatus.
“The story is that there’s a little boy upstairs in the main pub room. He’s seen often by servers, managers and bands, chasing a blue balloon,” said Lane, adding the boy’s identity is unknown.
What’s more, one of the funeral home’s early owners, Frank, who lived upstairs, still practises his penchant for pinching girls’ bottoms. To this day, some women report feeling a pinch as they ascend the staircase connecting the pub’s two levels.
BOW VALLEY RANCHE RESTAURANT
The Bow Valley Ranche Restaurant, which started life in 1896 as a private ranch house, is home to its own ghostly staff member. A CAPI team spent a night at the restaurant investigating reports of silverware moving around mysteriously and of managers, having shut down for the evening, looking back and seeing the restaurant’s lights on.
Bengert said a Chinese cook, Charlie, is believed to be one of the spirits haunting the building. He worked at the ranch house during the early-20th century. On a trip home to China, however, he fell ill and died.
Bengert estimated CAPI investigates about one private residence each month, and said the organization is eager to conduct more investigations, free of charge. He noted the investigations don’t always happen in historic neighbourhoods, either. Bengert said one of the most malevolent hauntings CAPI investigated was in Hanson Ranch in the city’s deep north. Lane also said she has heard several stories of hauntings in Tuscany.