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Ghost Town Mysteries: The “stolen” light bulbs of Anyox, B.C.

A light bulb from the ghost town of Anyox, with the word "STOLEN" etched on it. Istvan Hernadi

Some ghost towns leave few clues to their history. Anyox is not one of them.

60 kilometres southwest of Stewart, on the coast of the Observatory Inlet, Anyox was once one of the most successful resource towns of the north. Mining mostly copper, the town grew to over 3,000 people in its 1920s peak.

Today, the Hydroelectric Dam – the tallest in Canada when it was built – and the Power House stand, remnants of a thriving company town.

GALLERY: Current photos of Anyox

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Anyox Powerhouse No. 1, built in 1911. Istvan Hernadi
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The shores of Observatory Inlet next to Anyox. Istvan Hernadi
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The inside of Anyox Powerhouse No. 1, built in 1911. Istvan Hernadi
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The shores of Observatory Inlet next to Anyox. Istvan Hernadi
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The Anyox Dam, built by John Samuel Eastwood. Istvan Hernadi
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Anyox Powerhouse No. 1, built in 1911. Istvan Hernadi
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But perhaps most distinctive were the light bulbs, which had “Stolen” etched on them.

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“Where did you get a “stolen” light bulb?” asked Istvan Hernadi, when he saw one for the first time.

You could call Hernadi the Professor of Ghost Towns. A lifelong explorer, he’s leading a five-day program with the University of Northern British Columbia this summer called “Ghost Towns of Northwest BC.” People will explore lost stories of B.C. in the area, guided by Hernadi’s immense knowledge of places like Anyox.

Even he didn’t know why the light bulb, which was owned by a person who had several Anyox artifacts, had “Stolen” on them.

The answer, though, is fairly simple.

The Granby Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company, which ran the mine, smelter and brickyard in town, continued to have its light bulbs taken by their workers.

“Due to shortages of bulbs at the store, workers used to take bulbs from the offices and factory for use at home,” said Hernadi.

“Their solution was to contract with a supplier who would stamp all the official light bulbs with the word “STOLEN” in large capital letters, as this would discourage use of them in the residences and rooming houses.”

Was shaming the residents effective? Not particularly. According to a Geoscience Canada article, “some households blatantly displayed the bulbs with the incriminating word while others went to some effort to sand the evidence from the glass.”

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It was just one unique slice of life in a very electric town. It had a nine-hole golf course. A three-story general store. A 45-room hotel.

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Life in the town of Anyox. BC Archives
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Life in the town of Anyox. BC Archives
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The wharf in Anyox. BC Archives
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Life in the town of Anyox. BC Archives
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Life in the town of Anyox. BC Archives
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A town map of Anyox. BC Archives
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The smelter in Anyox. BC Archives

Granby paid taxes for their employee, meaning virtually everyone in the town lived tax-free. There were multiple Masonic and OddFellow Lodges. Archival pictures from the town show tennis tournaments, parades, and labour disputes.

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And then it quickly came to an end. Copper prices quickly fell as the Depression began. Nearly 50 million kilograms of copper sat unsold in early 1935. Months later, Granby shut down mining operations. A fire destroyed most of the town in 1942.

Today, private investors own the site. There’s been talk in past years of revitalizing the historic dam, though nothing has come to fruition. At least yet.

“This ghost town may come back to life and take her rightful place once again, as a jewel of the north,” says Hernadi.

The light bulbs, however, will always remain stolen.

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Anyox Powerhouse No. 1, built in 1911. Istvan Hernadi
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The shores of Observatory Inlet next to Anyox. Istvan Hernadi
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The inside of Anyox Powerhouse No. 1, built in 1911. Istvan Hernadi
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The shores of Observatory Inlet next to Anyox. Istvan Hernadi
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The Anyox Dam, built by John Samuel Eastwood. Istvan Hernadi
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Anyox Powerhouse No. 1, built in 1911. Istvan Hernadi

“Ghost Town Mysteries” is a semi-regular online series exploring some of the strange sights from B.C.’s past.

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The old trolley buses of Sandon
The swimming pool of Mount Sheer, B.C.

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