Unexplained Phenomena

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Eerie Edmonton
Excerpt

DRAFT

The Alberta Legislature — 9820 107 Street

What We Knew Going In
Rona and I were both familiar with The Ledge (as it is referred to around here), because of course we were. It’s the seat of our provincial government and a regular destination for events and families throughout the year (and especially in the summer). Neither one of us were especially familiar with its history, however. And 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 only lasted about few moments.

Encounters
The rotunda of the Legislature building is beautiful, bustling and super echo-y. 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 actually relatively empty, only a small family, the people who worked there, and Rona and I were loitering in the area. Still, it’s an echo chamber.

Rona thought she could sense a male spirit upstairs; unfortunately it was on a level that was off-limits to the unattended public. I suggested we could ask if the free tour would go up there, but Rona figured being a 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 meandered.

I frequently looked back over at Rona, I won’t lie, I was hoping to see some outward sign of the fact she was 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.

I left her alone until I saw a tour guide had approached her and they were chatting. Thinking that meant it her ghost-watching time was done, I crossed the marble floor and joined them.

I wish I’d made note of the guide’s name, because she was lovely. She breezily accepted that we didn’t want to be a part of the tour that was going to start in a few minutes but since we were obviously very interested in the building she offered us passes that would allow us to go into the library and archives in the back. Where it would be quiet and there would be books. Old books. I love old books, and I thought the quiet might also be conducive to Rona being able to sense some more spirits, so of course we said yes.

I thought it was probably a good omen that my badge number was 187 because one-eight-seven has long been used as a synonym for murder (on account of Section 187 being the penal code for that crime in many places), and murder and ghosts seemed like things that would go hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, though there were a lot of interesting things in the library and archives room (including a cheeseburger encased in resin), Rona didn’t sense any spirits back there. She had, however, managed to get a fix on the spirit she’d sensed back in the noisy rotunda. There were two of them, in fact.

By the time we came back out into the rotunda the guided tour was about to begin, so the place was packed with people and their voices echoed around the room creating a cacophony of noise. I was disinclined to linger.

Once we’d turned in our badges and were standing on the front steps of The Ledge I asked Rona to tell me what she’d seen so we could capture it while it was still fresh in her mind.

The first spirit she sensed was a man up on the second floor overlooking the rotunda. He was a handsome and stylish man, with dark hair and a dark suit. “He was a lawyer,” Rona says. “I don’t know if he was a lawyer who went into politics or if he was just a lawyer.” He seemed happy, and was enjoying watching everyone come and go into the rotunda – the bustle and excitement of a day at the Alberta Legislative Grounds. Rona described him as a very, very positive spirit.

The second spirit Rona encountered also seemed to be quite positive – a woman in her mid-forties proudly pushing a cleaning cart. She was plump with short curly brown hair and a rounded nose. She was very proud of herself for continuing to do her job and keep The Ledge clean even after her death.

“She was in a pretty good mood for someone who cleans,” Rona quips. “Because I’ve cleaned before … ” she shakes her head in a way that makes it clear that was not her most favourite job ever. Then she goes back to talking about the spirit.

“She’s Polish and her name either began with N or ended with N, or maybe it was her nickname? People called her Nan. I don’t know if she was like a grandma, maybe that was why she was called Nan?”

I looked for more stories of ghosts or hauntings at the Legislature without much luck. All I turned up were a lot of stories that were talking about political ghosts (usually in reference to politicians losing power in one way or another) and one dark photo that purported to show a ghostly figure in a window of the West Wing. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I squinted at that picture I couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Alas.

But then I posted on Facebook asking if anyone had any Edmonton ghost stories to share and Val L Bate stepped forward. Val used to work as a security guard in the Legislature building. She said the whole time she would be in the front area she felt uncomfortable and that the gold elevator there would frequently open and close all by itself. Every shift, she says, you could count on the gold elevator’s doors to open and close without anyone around them to have pushed the button.

That elevator, it should be noted, just so happens to have two bullet holes in it.

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 Ledge overlooks the North Saskatchewan River and is surrounded by expansive and 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 Legislative Building behind — a contrast of tradition and progress.

I love the way Paula Simons described it in a story 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 aboriginal 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.”

This beautiful building has unfortunately been the site of two separate shootings. The first in 1977 and the second eleven years later in 1988. Interestingly, neither one 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 Breitkreusz, 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 the child custody arrangement following a bitter divorce, attempted suicide-by-cop. The morning of October 14, 1988 Robert showed up at the Alberta Legislature with a 30-30 rifle. According to an Edmonton Journal article, again by Paula Simons but this time from October 22, 201, 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 following 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 officer’s best attempts to diffuse the situation a shoot out occurred and 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 much it must have rang 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 refusing all medical treatment and saying that he wanted to die. He did not. Crawford survived, though 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 within it.

Connecting the Dots
Unfortunately I don’t think there are any dots to connect here. I have no reason to believe that any of the two people I can find a record of having died in the Alberta Legislature building are haunting it – unless perhaps one of them likes to play with the elevator. But the prevailing beliefs about ghosts is that they aren’t bound to the place of their death anyway, so if you subscribe to that theory the spirits Rona sensed may have died somewhere else and then come to The Ledge after their deaths.

Tracking down who the spirits Rona saw would, I think, be nearly impossible. A brunette male lawyer in a nice suit. How many hundreds of them do you think have come and gone through The Ledge in the hundred plus years of its existence? As for Nan, in order to begin to track her down we’d have to discover what company (or companies) have been contracted to clean the building in the past few decades — Rona was able to identify that the cleaning cart and supplies looked relatively modern, which means we wouldn’t need to go back the full hundred years — and then by some miracle get access to their employee records. Then we’d need another miracle to be able to identify Nan from those because all we have is that nickname and the fact she was Polish.

 

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Haunted Town Halls

Haunted Town Halls

From the Case Files of The Searcher Group
edition:Paperback
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Great Canadian Ghost Stories

Great Canadian Ghost Stories

Legendary Tales of Haunting from Coast to Coast
edition:eBook
also available: Paperback
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Ghost Stories and Legends of Prince Edward Island
Excerpt

CHAPTER 1: AN EARLY HISTORY

To fully appreciate any tales of early Prince Edward Island, it is best to understand at least a little about the early peoples and how they lived. For it is with these early dwellers, and the circumstances of their lives, that many legends, folklore, and true tales (as strange as any fiction imaginable) originated.

The Island was first inhabited by the Mi’kmaq First Nations. Europeans brought additional cultures and approaches to life when they arrived. But these early settlers did not have an easy time adjusting. Most of them were poor and unskilled. The general population had little education, with the exception of members of government or high-ranking military officers. No matter the culture, it was through storytelling, usually around the fire after dark, that many tales were passed down.

Many of the stories originated with early settlers to the Island. While trying to eke out existence from a harsh land, they were beset by pirates, privateers, enemy forces, plagues of mice, devastating fires, and corrupt landlords and agents. Their very lives were threatened by the wars of other nations: the French, the British, the Americans, and then the First and Second World Wars. The expulsion of the Acadians was reflected years later by the arrival of the Loyalists, fleeing from their own intolerable situation. Although an island, the influence of the outside world was never far from shore.

A short history will provide insight into the province’s development, but bear in mind that while these facts were being established, all of the aforementioned obstacles and many more affected the lives of the individual.

It is thought that several thousand Mi’kmaq people may have lived on or near the Island prior to settlement by Europeans. In 1534, their way of life changed. Jacques Cartier sighted, landed on, and duly reported to his ruler the existence of the “fairest land that may possibly be seen.” Over the next hundred years, the most frequent visitors were French and Basque fishermen. In fact, it was not until 1720 that Europeans, namely French colonists, began to settle permanently in any numbers.

At that time the Island was heavily wooded. Hard labour was required to even clear enough land to build a home, let alone fields for crops. For a great number of years, settlement didn’t extend more than one farm deep from the shoreline. The development of roads was a slow process, so travel was primarily undertaken by canoe. The Hillsborough River was the main water route, accounting for the distribution of the settlers along its shores.

Early settlement concentrated around Charlottetown Harbour, particularly at Port-la-Joye and in St. Peters Bay, as well as in the areas of Tracadie, Orwell, and South Lake. The Island’s settler population numbered just over seven hundred people by 1748.

Generally, the north shore area was slow to be settled, because sand dunes and shallow waters barring the entrances to the bays and rivers made it difficult to bring large ships to shore. This situation continues even today, resulting in all large shipping taking place from the south shore, and even small fishing boats occasionally facing problems getting in and out of harbour safely in the north.

Through the 1740s and 1750s, the population gradually increased along the north shore, especially between Malpeque and Savage Harbour. After the French were expelled from the Bay of Fundy area by the British, many travelled to the Island by 1758, creating a refugee camp as much as a colony, and increasing the population to around 4,500 people.

The Island remained under French rule until 1758 when the British, having taken the Fortress of Louisbourg for the second and final time, rounded up the French settlers and deported them. This expulsion and its consequences mark a shameful part of history. Only about three hundred Acadians remained, located south of Malpeque and around Rustico and Souris.

In 1763 the Island was formally awarded to the British Crown as part of the Treaty of Paris. There was pressure on the Crown to award land to influential petitioners; thus Samuel Holland came to survey in 1764. The Island was divided into three counties, fourteen parishes, and sixty-seven townships or lots, with each township containing twenty-thousand acres and each county having its own town.

By 1767, Holland had done his job, and the British Board of Commissioners conducted a lottery in which lots were awarded to military officers and others of influence. Each new proprietor had to agree to pay quit-rents to the Crown, and to settle his township with one hundred Protestants within ten years.

Unfortunately for the Crown and the early settlers, most proprietors were not particularly interested in their acquisitions or in fulfilling the requirements. As a result, lots changed hands, rents went unpaid, and a land-ownership problem began that would cause trouble on the Island until after Confederation — still almost a century away.

Basic settlement patterns followed those of the French, which was a natural progression since the British had simply taken over what the French had begun.

A few proprietors tried to settle their lots, and by 1800 communities were developing. The Tracadie area was among the more notable, where Captain John MacDonald of Glenaladale brought several hundred Scottish Highlanders in to farm the area between 1770 and 1775. He did not stick strictly to the letter of the agreement, however, as the Scots were Roman Catholic.

The eastern shores of Malpeque were settled by Protestant Scottish Lowlanders. Lowland Scots and English Protestants settled the New London area, and a number of Protestant families set down roots in the Covehead area. The Rustico area was heavily populated by Acadians who fled British capture in 1758. The religious patterns continued for many years; in fact, they can still be seen today by the careful observer.

This influx brought most of the north shore land under cultivation, and established transportation patterns that ran primarily east and west. The main route from north to south shores was still the mighty Hillsborough River, and it was there and across the bays of the north shore that the first ferries operated.

The Island had been granted separate government from Nova Scotia in 1769 on the presumption that government would be financed by the quit-rents due from proprietors. As they evaded these responsibilities, land ownership became a volatile issue for the populace, who, in 1798, numbered over four thousand.

Roads developed slowly, with the first of note connecting Charlottetown to Malpeque and St. Peters. By 1850 a basic network was in place, with roads running north and south to link these principal routes. Settlement naturally followed, and the population crept southward.

Beginning in the 1840s, relatively large numbers of Irish Roman Catholics immigrated to the Island. They tended to concentrate their settlements inland in areas like Saint Ann and Hope River. Immigration continued, and by 1891 the population had grown to 109,000 before it began a decline, reaching a low of about 88,000 in the 1930s. The population then began a steady increase to today’s population of around 143,000.

During the first half of the nineteenth century, many residents were able to acquire title to their lands. By Confederation about 50 percent of the lots were in freehold tenure. After Confederation the provincial government was able to purchase land and turn it over to tenants by lease purchase agreements.

The primary source of insecurity and the all too often dishonest dealings was gone, and the population had settled into a pattern of development and modernization following that of Canada as a whole. Modern shipping, stronger governments and law enforcement, electricity, the railroad, the automobile, and other technology served to change life, just as the pattern continues today.

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