Haunted Heritage Part Five: Spooktacular Places

Editor’s note: Interested in more haunted heritage? Read parts one through four, if you dare!

Written By: Pauline Bodevin, Regulatory Approvals Coordinator

As Halloween approaches, it is time once again to turn our attention to tales of ghostly encounters and strange otherworldly places. This year features stories of alleged paranormal activity and legends of the unexplained, perfect for sharing around the fire on star-filled autumn nights.

The University of Alberta, Edmonton

With construction beginning between 1910-1911, the University of Alberta campus has accumulated a wealth of alleged ghost stories and tales of the paranormal over the decades. One ghostly legend concerns Corbett Hall located on the southern end of campus. It is said to be the home of a benign female entity who is often seen walking across the stage in the building’s auditorium. Pembina Hall is also famed for stories of supposed paranormal activity. Here rumors persist of a ghostly young nurse searching the building aimlessly for a loved one. Another well-known story describes the apparition of a boy with blue lips, dressed in a distinctive plaid shirt that wanders near Athabasca Hall’s exterior.

Ring House One is also believed to be haunted by a former female resident. According to witness accounts, the female entity was known for moving objects from one place to another, turning lights on and off and locking doors left unattended. Visitors have also described hearing the distinct sound of riffling papers when alone and feeling cold gusts of phantom winds when coming up the main stairway of the building. Convocation Hall, housed in the old Arts Building, is also said to be the home of a legendary antique pump organ believed to play spectral music. In this story, the phantom musician was rumored to have played haunting melodies night after night during WWII, when there was no one to be seen anywhere near the instrument. 

University of Alberta Edmonton, Alberta. View of the Arts Building 1926. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A1811.

The Pumphouse Theatre, Calgary

Bow River Pumphouse No.2 (Pumphouse Theatre) Calgary, Alberta. Source: Historic Resources Management Branch.

Built in 1913, the Bow River Pumphouse No.2 is an industrial red-brick building located along the south bank of the Bow River, just west of downtown Calgary in the city’s Sunalta neighbourhood. The building originally functioned as a pumphouse for Calgary’s water supply and distribution system until 1967. It was later decommissioned for sale, purchased privately and converted into the Pumphouse Theatre in the late 1970’s. According to local lore, audiences in the auditorium have often experienced the lights going off unexpectedly, followed by the faint sound of music over the speakers, while waiting in the dark for performances to begin. Another incident describes a visitor who reported hearing the distinctive sounds of a music box playing in an empty corner of the main lobby. The haunting spectral melodies were also heard in one of the building’s empty dressing rooms. Other visitors describe feeling a sudden gust of cold wind in certain areas of the building, hearing phantom footsteps along deserted hallways and the sounds of eerie laughter coming from the darkened interior of the building.

The Disappearing Lake, Jasper Alberta

Medicine Lake, located 20 kms southeast of the Jasper town site in Jasper National Park, is famous for its vanishing water. Locally known as the “Disappearing Lake”, Medicine Lake is a large glacial-fed waterbody that is part of the Maligne Valley watershed. In the fall and winter, most of the lake water mysteriously disappears, leaving a series of mudflats and channels exposed along the lake bottom. Long considered a place of mystery, local peoples believed its waters were imbued with magical and otherworldly properties. Adding to the lake’s uniqueness and air of mystery is the fact there are no visible drainage channels surrounding the lakeshore. It turns out Medicine Lake empties out the bottom, similar to the effects of water draining from a bathtub. Its waters seep out through a large system of underground limestone sinkholes and caves, resurfacing again further downstream near Maligne Canyon, the source of the lake’s legend about its mysterious disappearing phenomena.

Medicine Lake Rocky Mountains, Alberta 1935. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A3095.

The Phantom Ghost Train, Medicine Hat

Tales of phantom trains sightings are popular around the world and Alberta is no exception. Our province also has a famous story of a vanishing ghostly train that appeared in the early 1900’s. This ghostly tale is so well known locally it is considered folklore by some inhabitants of Medicine Hat. According to accounts, in 1908 a freight train departing Medicine Hat for Dunmore was rounding the bend near Ross Creek, when the engineers noticed another train hurtling at high speeds straight for them. The two trains were said to have been travelling on a single track in opposite directions. Fearing a head-on collision was imminent, the train crew attempted to apply the brakes, only to realize the ghostly phantom train swerved past them off the tracks. The startled men witnessed several spectral passengers waving through the windows of the ghostly train as it sped past them on invisible tracks. The ghost train then vanished into nothingness, leaving the men badly shaken after the supernatural encounter. In another version of the story, the ghost train was rumoured to have been a harbinger of disaster. This tale alleges the engineers who originally witnessed the phantom ghost train months earlier were involved in a real accident later that same year. Both men tragically perished after their freight train collided with another inbound passenger locomotive from Lethbridge on the exact same spot the phantom ghost train was seen.

Pacific Railway Train – A Canadian Pacific Train with two engines Medicine Hat, Alberta. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A5206.

If you’ve heard any spooky or otherworldly stories and legends, leave a comment below!

Sources

Haunted Canada”, Pat Hancock 2000.

“Ghost Stories of Alberta”, Barbara Smith 1993.

“More Ghost Stories of Alberta”, Barbara Smith 1997.

“Ghost Stories of the Rocky Mountain”, Barbara Smith 1999.

“Even More Ghost Stories of Alberta”, Barbara Smith 2001.

HERMIS (Heritage Resources Management Information System) – https://hermis.alberta.ca/

Medicine Lake, Travel Alberta – https://www.travelalberta.com/ca/listings/medicine-lake-2004/

One thought on “Haunted Heritage Part Five: Spooktacular Places

  • Now that the U of A ring houses will be disassembled and moved what will happen to the entity that haunts ring house number one? Do ghosts travel with their houses?

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