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Historic Haunts

It’s dusk, and I am about to embark on a ghost tour. I’m in what is arguably the most “haunted” neighbourhood of the city—Inglewood. The tour guide is dressed all in black complete with a cape, and the circle of people around her wear varying expressions of bemusement and anticipation. I’m not quite sure what to expect.

Calgary Ghost Tours founder, Johanna Lane says Calgary’s historic landmarks are peppered with more ghostly tales than their shining surfaces first reveal—you just need to know where to look. There are two alternating ghost tours, one around downtown, and one in Inglewood. Their aim is to entertain, as well as to tell some of Calgary’s history; as you might expect, some of the city’s most ghostly stories are intimately linked with old heritage buildings and fascinating tales of Calgary’s early years. Our tour guide, Bobbie, leads us down Inglewood’s main street; excited to reach the first house, she sets a fast pace, cape flapping into the wind. She’s oblivious to the bewildered stares we receive from the cars passing by.

We approach the Cross House, a designated Alberta historic site, now known as Rouge, an upscale French restaurant that uses the restored Victorian-era home’s cozy rooms to create an intimate dining atmosphere. Built in 1891, the house is named after former owner A. E. Cross, one of the “Big Four” ranchers and entrepreneurs who established the Calgary Stampede. As we gather in a circle in front of the restaurant, Bobbie tells us that one of the house’s most common ghost sightings is the silhouette of a woman sitting at the top bay window. It is said that it is the ghost of A.E. Cross’s wife, Helen, who used to sit every evening at the same window to watch for her husband returning from work. People have also heard the sound of a chair scraping across the floor upstairs, and found the chair placed near the window. I glance up at the window, but see nothing unusual.We move on to the Suitor House, a beautiful piece of architecture with towers and gables made mostly from brick with touches of sandstone. Robert Suitor, a carpenter and former city alderman, built it in 1907, though it is now used as a surgeon’s office. We’re told that an engineer who worked on the railroad and his young wife lived there until the day he was killed on the job. His widow died from heartbreak a year later.

Bobbie excitedly announces that the house has been known as having the most paranormal sightings and activities during the tours. There was one evening, she says rubbing her hands together, that all of the house’s lights turned on and off throughout the evening—even though no one was in the house. People have also seen a woman in a long white dress with flowing black hair standing on the balcony. Though the house appears quiet, I can almost imagine the silhouette of a woman upstairs.Next we stop at the house of a Titantic survivor (who lived only to kill himself years later); a haunted costume shop; a church where an unmarried pregnant woman jumped from the shame of her condition off the top of the bell tower, and a pub with a mischievous monkey ghost, known for playing with billiard balls. As we pass these aged brick and wood buildings, I feel as though I’m seeing them for the first time, now that I know their hidden stories.

At last we come to The Deane House near Fort Calgary, once considered one of most haunted dwellings in the country. R. Burton Deane, superintendent of the North West Mounted Police, commissioned the house to be built in 1906 but his wife died before they were able to move in. Nowadays, it’s an elegant restaurant with a restored, full-windowed verandah overlooking the river and a large, well-tended garden. However, before it became a restaurant Bobbie tells us, it was a boarding house where many “supposed” tragic deaths occurred: later becoming the fodder for tales of the unusual. There have been sightings of a ghostly man, supposed to be Mr. Deane, sitting in a chair smoking a pipe, and a rumoured bloodstain that won’t disappear in the left cupboard in the attic. Whether or not it is home to unusual activity, it is a wonderful historic site to explore, albeit the creaky floors do let your imagination run wild.

Once we’ve finished the tour it’s dark, and we happen to drive by the Suitor House again. I notice that all of the lights are on. They could be on a timer, but I prefer not knowing.—Laura Pellerine

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