EDMONTON – A walking tour of Old Strathcona is unearthing parts of the historic neighbourhood’s dark past, which are apparently still felt to this day.
Nadine Bailey uses a combination of history and spooky stories on her Edmonton Ghost Tours that have become a popular activity this time of year.
“People love a good scare, they love hearing about murders and mysteries and hauntings, and they love being entertained,” she said. “And basically that’s what this is: you’re entertaining people for an hour with true stories that have happened in the Edmonton area.”
Five of the Old Strathcona spots she covers in greater detail on her tour include:
The building, built in the 1900s, used to be a firehall. In 1910, Walter, believed to be one of the original volunteers died in the building.
Actors and playhouse employees say strange things happen inside the building on almost a weekly basis. For example, things will mysteriously move, and in the evenings staff say they can sometimes hear the inexplicable sound of a ringing bell.
The hotel was the scene of a woman’s gruesome murder back in the 1980s.
“Now it’s believed it’s her spirit that’s often seen wandering throughout the hallways of his hotel. Maintenance staff, cleaning staff have told me that when they’re walking through the hallways, they can often see the apparition of a woman,” Bailey said. “A woman described as having long, black hair…just standing at the end of the hallway. But when they see this apparition, it appears as if she’s just dripping in blood.”
Built in 1913, the Princess is one of the oldest surviving theatres in western Canada. Back in the 1920s, though, it was a rooming house where – rumour has it – a jilted bride hanged herself in her wedding dress.
“At times,” Bailey said, “a ghostly apparition of a woman dressed in white has been seen hovering above their projection room, walking around the centre lobby, and up and down the grand stair case.”
Old Scona Academic High School
Legend says that when the high school was being constructed in 1905, one of the workers was found lying face down in the cement one morning. In an attempt to cover up his untimely death, the supervisor apparently entombed him in the school’s foundation.
It’s believed that the ghost of the worker has stuck around.
“Over the years, students and teachers have told me that when they’re in their classrooms, classroom lights have been known to go on and off; doors will open and close; and empty desks in classrooms have been known to just suddenly turn around for no apparent reason.”
In the 1950s, there was a massive explosion in the building , which at the time housed all the city’s buses and trolleys. The blast killed one of the maintenance workers.
“Actors told me that over the years, whether they’re on stage rehearsing for a show, building a set or just running lines, that they’ll often see a man, the apparition of a man, dressed in blue overalls, just walking across the stage or actually standing in the wings, watching their performances.”
Those aren’t the only locations in the city that are supposedly haunted.
“Edmonton is a very haunted location,” Bailey said. “We have, you know, the U of A, the Garneau area, the Highlands area, downtown. There are so many great historical haunted spots in Edmonton.”
For Kelly and John Atkinson, who just moved to Edmonton from Chicago a couple months ago, taking in the Old Strathcona ghost tour on Halloween eve was a cultural experience.
“Obviously you’ve got to know the ghost stories of the city you’re living in,” Kelly said, adding that she definitely felt a chill in the air during the tour.
“I kept feeling a chill down my spine,” John added. “I didn’t know if it was the cold weather or the ghost stories… but it was definitely interesting.”
Those wanting in taking in the tour for themselves have one last chance to do so Thursday at 7 p.m. You can find more information on the Edmonton Ghost Tours website.