Believe it or not, most of the folks who go looking for proof of the supernatural are sceptics. Armed with the latest in high-tech devices, paranormal investigators travel far and wide to document or discount ghostly happenings. With or without sightings, the fun is in the hunt.
Hype or Haunting?
Night had fallen in the Queen’s Park Cemetery and a small group huddled over a glowing iPad, listening to an app called EchoVox, a random language generator that was attempting to capture conversations from the departed. As words and syllables chattered out through the static, they spoke their questions into the darkness and waited for a response.
Melissa Wilton, the lead investigator of CAPI, the Calgary Association of Paranormal Investigators, is a sceptic. Her group is “dedicated to scientifically investigating allegedly haunted locations”. Their goal, she says, “is to find proof that I can show that we actually captured something. We have some evidence that I find extremely compelling, but I always wonder, and we never really know.” Her team of three uses the most up to date ghost hunting equipment including thermal imaging cameras, electronic voice phenomenon recorders or EVP’s, and electromagnetic field radiation detectors that sense hot or cold areas, a sure tip-off of a ghostly presence.
Justin Bolin, one of the team members, has had several first-hand documented experiences in his house in Drumheller. It was the former home of a dentist and freemason, Dr Robert Johnston. Voices have been heard coming from empty rooms, the image of a little girl has been seen dancing and kneeling in prayer, and a golden lab was reported running across the front porch “like a normal dog,” according to the report, “only ‘not solid’.”
Rob Sequin, that night’s tour leader, has had several encounters with “dark entities” in Queen’s Park Cemetery and led the questions on the EchoVox. One clear message he got that night was the word “bye”, just before he shut down the app. Wilton will post a full report for the 490 members of CAPI on their Facebook group page.
Your Room is Ready
Bonnie Milner has been running popular tours around the province with Ghost Hunt Alberta for over eight years. Her tour company specializes in fun overnight visits to haunted hotels. She also acts as a paranormal investigator for individual homes with ghost-related issues. “I realized that when paranormal tourism gets people into these communities, they’re more likely to come back. And this combines two things that I love, which is getting people out and learning about the paranormal, and preserving small-town Alberta.”
Milner concentrates on hotels because, unlike residences, hotels have had thousands of people stay for occasions both happy and sad, from celebrations to more unsavoury activities, leading to more paranormal activity. On a trip to The Longview Twin Cities hotel, one group observed a table rise off the floor and rotate 360 degrees. Shadows and voices were heard and recorded with the infrared cameras and EMF devices that Milner brings on all her tours. She posts results of Ghost Hunt tours to her YouTube channel.
This year, for the first time, Ghost Hunt Alberta will be leading two tours at Fort Edmonton, one at the Mellon farmhouse and one at the fort complex. Covid-19 precautions will be in place.
Panic in the Park
Nelson Parkes has been leading ghost story tours at Calgary’s Heritage Park since 2016, but stories of the park’s historic homes have been fascinating people for decades. The Prince House is especially renowned for creaking footsteps overhead, doors that swing open unaided, and dark shadows on the staircase, all of which Parkes has personally experienced; “I always say, this house, above all others here at the park, it watches you, and it reacts to you, and what you do and how you act in it matters.”
Ghost Tours at the park run twice a night, one night each week in the fall and spring. The outdoor events are socially distanced, with an early show for kids and a later, adults-only tour. Heritage Park’s popular Ghosts and Gourmet dinner at the Wainwright Hotel serves up spooky tales between plated courses before embarking on a deluxe after dark ghost walk. Little ones can enjoy Hallowe’en trick or treating, outdoor performances by not-too-frightening cartoon characters, and take home crafts at Ghouls Night Out.
Harry Sanders, a Calgary historian and freelance writer, is often called upon to consult on supernatural goings-on in the city. He’s also a sceptic. “In my experience, I haven’t encountered a circumstance where a haunting, and a story of any untoward happening that can be confirmed in a building, have aligned. But all the same, I have a nagging doubt.”
When asked by a reporter if he would spend a night in the Deane House or the Pumphouse Theatre (both reputedly haunted), his reply was “No, of course not. I’m not taking a chance”.
Stay safe during these scary times. All the groups mentioned here help to drive a stake into Covid-19 with hand sanitizing, social distancing and masks, and many of their activities take place outdoors.
CAPI hosted the writer. As always, her opinions are her own. For more photos, follow her on Instagram @Where.To.Lady