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Eerie Edmonton
Excerpt

The Alberta Legislature — 9820 107 Street NW

History
The Alberta Legislature building was built between 1907 and 1913. It has a symmetrical T-shape, with a large central dome above a rotunda. All the windows and doors have beautiful arches or lintels, and the very front of the building includes a portico held up by massive columns.

The Leg (pronounced ledge) overlooks the North Saskatchewan River and is surrounded by expansive, beautifully landscaped grounds. When it was first constructed, however, it loomed over the original location of Fort Edmonton. There are a great many photographs showing the fort in the foreground and the Legislature building behind — a contrast of tradition and progress.

I love the way Paula Simons described it in a story she wrote for the Edmonton Journal on October 23, 2015, where she said: It’s a physical testament to the courage and of the people who forged this province. And, if we’re honest, of their arrogance, too. Built on the original site of Fort Edmonton, where aboriginals and Europeans traded, construction began in 1907, when the population of Edmonton was less than 15,000. Imagine the colonial hubris to construct such a magnificent sandstone palace in the midst of the frontier. Imagine the surreal absurdity of imposing this quintessential classical European form on the wild banks of the North Saskatchewan River.

Unfortunately, this beautiful building has been the site of two separate shootings — the first in 1977 and the second, eleven years later, in 1988. Interestingly, neither of them was politically motivated.

On October 27, 1977, Guenter Hummel entered Cabinet Minister Horst Schmid’s office, carrying a long gun. There he shot and killed Schmid’s secretary, Victoria Breitkreuz, and then turned the gun on himself. Guenter and Victoria had been in a romantic relationship and had even lived together for a time before Victoria broke things off.

The second shooting occurred on October 14, 1988, when Robert Crawford, a man angry about his child custody arrangement after a bitter divorce, attempted suicide-by-cop. That morning Robert showed up at the Alberta Legislature with a .30-30 rifle. According to an Edmonton Journal article, again by Paula Simons, the first person Crawford encountered was Commissionaire Herb Bushkowsky, who, upon seeing Crawford loading his gun, asked, “Do you have a problem?”

Crawford replied, “Several.”

At that point, Bushkowsky locked the door and called 911.

For several hours after that, Crawford wandered the grounds. He didn’t engage bystanders; in fact, he warned them away, but kept trying to provoke security and police into shooting him. Eventually, he found another way into the Legislature building and into the Leg’s beautifully marbled rotunda. The police confronted him there and, despite the officers’ best attempts to defuse the situation, a shootout occurred, during which Crawford was injured.

Having been in that space and heard how much it echoes just with the normal day-to-day activities of politicians and tourists, I can only imagine how it must have rung with the sound of the bullets during that shootout, when at least seven shots were fired. It would have been loud enough to wake the dead, as my grandmother might have said.

Later, at Crawford’s trial, it was revealed that he had taped notes to his arms saying he refused all medical treatment and that he wanted to die. He did not die. Crawford survived, although he was left unable to walk and was later reported to have complained that he had counted on the police to “be better marksmen.” There are still two bullet holes in the elevator doors in that main rotunda as a result of the shootout.

What We Knew Going In
Rona and I were both familiar with the Leg, because of course we were. It’s the seat of our provincial government, a regular site for events, and a popular destination for families throughout the year (and especially in the summer). Neither of us was especially familiar with its history, however. When we visited, it was the first time Rona had ever been inside the main building. It was my second visit, but the first had lasted only a few moments.

Encounters
The rotunda of the Legislature building is beautiful, bustling, and super echoey. Everything is marble, the space is wide open, and there is a white-noise machine masquerading as a fountain right in the very centre of it all.

When we arrived, it was relatively empty — only a small family, the people who worked there, and Rona and I were loitering in the area. Rona thought she could sense a male spirit upstairs; unfortunately, it was on a level that was off limits to the unaccompanied public. I suggested we could ask if the free tour would go up there, but Rona figured being part of a tour would make it difficult to pick up on anything. Instead, I left her on a bench on the periphery of the room where she could see the spot, and so as not to interfere with her picking up any ghosties that were about, I went to the other side of the room and wandered around.

I looked back over at Rona frequently. I won’t lie, I was hoping to see some outward sign of her peering through the veil, but alas, there was nothing. No trance; no rocking back and forth. Not even a single eye-roll. Basically, she just sat on the bench, looking up at the upper level opposite.

 

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