Autumn is a ghostly time of year. With the world seemingly dying around them it’s no wonder that ancient peoples like the Celts created the festival of Samhain, which morphed over the centuries into Halloween. Today, we associate Halloween with all kinds of spooky stuff. The following stories are true ghostly tales from Revelstoke and are based on interviews conducted by Revelstoke-born writer Brennan Storr (You can read his biography at the bottom of the page). Here is this year’s complete series of stories…
Of all the stories in this series, that of the Rogers Pass Fireball was the hardest to research because those who actually witnessed the event are reluctant to even acknowledge it happened, let alone talk about it. The bulk of what I know comes from a man who wasn’t present but heard about the event soon afterward. The man posted the eyewitness account to a UFO-themed website in the late 90s/early 00s and was contacted by a researcher at the University of California who believed what the men witnessed was the testing of an energy weapon, the design of which was based on the work of Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla. The two eyewitnesses I could locate were aware of this theory but disputed it because they believed what they saw was alive.
The two eyewitnesses refused to provide any information as to the identity of the others who were present during the event but I hope my keeping their confidence will encourage others to come forward.
The story of Lost Time is adapted from an anonymous account submitted to the website UFO*BC. Efforts to identify and locate the person involved have so far been unsuccessful.
Prior to 1882 the area now known as Rogers Pass, a steep, avalanche-prone passage through the Selkirk Mountains some 40 miles east of Revelstoke, was largely unexplored. When, in 1881, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to run their track south through the Rocky Mountains it became necessary to find a safe route through the treacherous terrain and Major A.B. Rogers, an American railway location engineer, was chosen for the task. Rogers trekked through that unforgiving country the following year, plotting out a route that, while not risk-free, was the safest possible at the time. Construction on the line began in 1883.
Opening in 1885, the newly-christened Rogers Pass immediately became the most dangerous part of Canada’s transcontinental railway; between 1883 and 1911 the region’s avalanches claimed over 250 lives. To put that into perspective, since 1782 Canada has recorded a total of 702 avalanche-related fatalities.
The section of the pass between Cheops Mountain and Avalanche Mountain is the infamous site of Canada’s single deadliest avalanche – the 1910 Rogers Pass Disaster, when a frozen section of mountain swept down from Avalanche peak and buried 58 men under 33 feet of snow and ice.
It is also here that seven men bore witness to the most spectacular, unexplained celestial phenomenon Revelstoke has known.
“All of a Sudden the Sky Went Like Daylight”
In the moments leading up to the Rogers Pass Fireball, there was no indication to the few present that this still winter night was different from any other. Temperatures hovered around freezing on the morning of December 18, 1997 as three two-man C.P.R. crews, two aboard trains and one headed home to Revelstoke in a taxi, watched the night sky erupt.
Even some fifteen years later, witnesses to the Rogers Pass Fireball are reluctant to discuss details of the incident. “I haven’t talked about it since it happened,” says one man who refused to say anything else on the record, “and I don’t want to start now.”
What details that have emerged tell of a booming sound followed by the appearance of an enormous yellow ball of light, crackling with what appeared to be electricity, streaking across the canyon. Says one source, “All of a sudden the sky went like daylight – bright daylight – and this big yellow ball slowly went over the valley.”
The fireball, which made no sound after its initial appearance, was then said to stop its progress and hover above the valley for ten full seconds before finally disappearing behind Mount Sir Donald in the southeast.
While, in the broad strokes, the Revelstoke Fireball shares characteristics with bolides – particularly large and bright meteors entering the earth’s atmosphere – those present feel as though something much different was taking place.
“I don’t know what it was,” said another witness who claimed the light was so intense that other drivers on the highway began to swerve in shock. “But I felt like it was looking at us,”
Though what follows is the only story of “Missing Time” to come out of the Revelstoke area it is far from unique; missing time episodes are a staple of paranormal lore, usually associated with the field of Ufology and cited by true believers as “proof” of extraterrestrial abduction. While that may seem fantastical, the circumstances surrounding episodes of missing time seem to defy all current understandings of time and space, making it understandable why the first explanation people reach for is literally out of this world.
It begins with silence; while there have been reported instances of group missing time events it is most common among those who are alone. The person, be they traveling or at home, experiences a momentary disorientation then observes that a significant amount of time has passed – anywhere from minutes to hours to, in extreme cases, days. Several things differentiate this from simple sleep, the first being that, aside from disorientation and a feeling of ‘returning’ – as though from a general anesthetic – the person experiences no fatigue, dreams or any other sign of sleep. Second, the episodes often occur while subjects are in motion – driving, walking, etc. – without any loss of motor control. Thirdly, and perhaps most bizarrely, people who have experienced missing time also tend to “wake up” in different places than where their initial disorientation occurred; some people even report waking to find they traveled a far greater distance than should have been possible given the time elapsed during their fugue.
Those who have undergone episodes of lost time are often reluctant to discuss their experience and, while they may not dream during the event it is extremely common to dream after. Often these dreams are not pleasant.
When he left his Golden, BC, home for Revelstoke on the night of October 5, 2002, Henry Talbot was no stranger to the winding, 150km section of Highway 1 that connected the two towns via Rogers Pass.
“I had left about 9 p.m., driving alone,” he recalls. “Having driven the route many times – and usually at night – I expected to arrive in Revelstoke before 10:30pm.”
The danger inherent in traversing Rogers Pass didn’t end with the coming of the railroad, even for those accustomed to the trip – since the highway’s completion in 1962 there have been hundreds, if not thousands of fatalities on its many curves and bends; one 8km section just outside of Golden is home to some 36 curves, including infamous “School Bus Corner” where, in 1990, a bus crash killed two young girls and wounded 28.
As he set out that fall evening, Talbot knew that despite his familiarity he would have to be careful on his journey west and it’s that heightened awareness which calls into question more mundane explanations of the following events.
The first 20-30 minutes of Talbot’s journey were unexceptional; the weather over the last few days had been mild and there was almost no snow on the highway. It is from this point on events take a strange turn.
“There is a point on the eastern side of Rogers Pass where, if you’re heading west, the highway runs straight for a stretch then takes a sweeping turn to the right,” says Talbot. “It then begins to climb toward the summit, passing through snowsheds [concrete tunnels built to deflect avalanches over top of the highway] on the way up.”
As he approached the turn, Talbot observed what appeared to be the taillights of a semi truck disappearing around the curve.
“Next thing I know,” says Talbot. “I feel like I’m lost. The road seems unfamiliar – level and even a little downhill – not the steep climb to Rogers Pass I was expecting to find around the corner.”
Disoriented, Talbot checked his dashboard clock.
“The car clock showed that it’s a little before 11 p.m. and that makes me all the more confused. Then I passed a sign that says Revelstoke is only a few kilometers away.”
Talbot was then able to place his location but was at a loss to explain how, given the attention he had been paying the road, he had traveled more than 100km without realizing.
“I do not remember driving through any of the snow sheds on the way up or down,” he says. “How could I not remember even one of them? I don’t remember driving through Rogers Pass summit, where I’m normally very aware of road and weather conditions, not to mention the bright lights and speed zones.”
Initially, Talbot blamed fatigue for the gaps in his memory, but the explanation was an uneasy one.
“I said to myself, ‘Who hasn’t driven a familiar route and not remembered parts of it?'” he explains. “But still I wondered how I could have forgotten so much – almost the entire trip – and how it was I ended up more than 30 minutes behind schedule.”
As he left his Revelstoke hotel the next morning Talbot found his memory of the previous night’s events as hazy as before but the gaps bothered him less, at least consciously.
“I still felt like something about my trip wasn’t right but it seemed very distant,” he says. “For some reason I also felt as though I would be happier not having to travel that route again.”
In the 11 years since that night, Talbot has done his best to abide by that mysterious feeling, taking that particular stretch of Highway 1 only once more, in 2005.
“I travelled that road once more… with a passenger, at mid-day, and keeping other traffic in sight at all times,” he remembers. “I felt very uneasy on the stretch of road below Rogers Pass.”
Though over the years he may have physically returned to Rogers Pass only once, Talbot has found himself mentally returning again and again to that night in 2002.
“I have often had dreams about that trip, the parts of it that I remember,” he says. “As if I’m driving it over and over.”
One dream in particular has come to haunt him more than any other.
“In one dream I watch the lights of the semi truck ahead as they began to go around the corner. Suddenly, the lights reverse direction and within a second or so close the distance and fly over my car… I’m leaning forward in the driver seat, craning my neck to look upward through the windshield, where I see a single, large red light a few feet above my car. I’m suddenly filled with terror and… feel like I can’t breathe. I begin hyperventilating and try to cry out for help but only make hoarse squeaking sounds. Then I wake up.”
Though he’s not convinced that this nightmare is any more than exactly that and he has no concrete explanation for his fear, Henry Talbot still cannot bear the thought of driving Rogers Pass again.
“I do not want to be on that road,” he says, “And I don’t really understand why.”
The Man in the Field
This story has been one of my favorites ever since Turk Wilson (not his real name) first related it to me; I’d never heard someone describe seeing something so unusual in such plain terms. The property and house are long gone – bulldozed to make way for the new highway – and Wilson had never seen a ghost before and wouldn’t again, but he adamantly stands by his account.
Sitting on the west bank of the Columbia River, the part of Revelstoke known as Big Eddy – so named for the swirling currents of the river’s – is a strange mixture of residential, industrial and agricultural land, bisected by the two-lane span of Highway 23.
Until the coming of the highway, built to connect Revelstoke with the Arrow Lakes region to the south, the Big Eddy was a bucolic patchwork of small farms and it is from this time that Turk Wilson remembers seeing his first and only ghost.
Now in his 70s, Wilson was a small boy when his family rented a farmhouse in the quiet rural community. The two-storey clapboard home had a large front porch where the family would sleep on warm summer nights, and was next door to a large pasture where they kept a variety of livestock. The Wilsons lived in the home for several years before the property was sold and they were forced to relocate, eventually settling on another parcel of land nearby. After the move, Turk would often walk past his former home on the way to school and remembers seeing the same elderly man tending to the land.
“There was this old character,” says Turk. “I don’t know whether he bought it or lived there or was looking it after it or something… but I remember he always had an old black hat on.”
A few years later the old man died and the Wilson family was again offered the opportunity to rent the property. Not long after moving back, Turk remembers how one of their cows somehow kept managing to get from their fenced pasture into the family’s yard where it would make a fantastic mess.
“We had this chain and a gate to keep her out and that thing used to get in quite often,” he says. “The chain would be undone and we were always at a loss… I guess it never occurred to anybody maybe to put a padlock on the darned thing.”
For several weeks it was the same – every night the chain would go up, every morning it would be on the ground and the family’s “stupid cow” would be lazily chewing on Mrs. Wilson’s flowers.
Then, one summer night Turk rose from where he had been sleeping on the porch to see, in the dusk, a man unhooking the chain from the pasture fence.
“It was almost day break, maybe 3am, and I woke up because my two dogs – big Collies – were growling,” he remembers. “I turned to look at the gate, which was maybe half a block away, and could see someone standing there moving the chain. All I could see was the figure…and the black hat. Well, you know, I wasn’t too anxious to get out there.”
After a few moments Wilson gathered his nerve and stepped off the porch, only to see the figure disappear in the gathering light. When he reached the pasture fence, the cows were nowhere to be seen and the chain was on the ground.
Whatever the reason for the apparition, its appearance that morning was to be the last time it was seen by the Wilson family or anyone else.
“I never saw it again,” says Turk. “And we never had any more trouble with the chain, for that matter.”
Her Number One Fan
Though I enjoy a good scary story as much as anyone, this story – short as it is – is one of my favorites for the simple reason that it’s not at all frightening; in fact it’s rather sweet. Many thanks to Bruce Haggerstone for taking the time to tell me about his family’s life in Revelstoke in the 1960s. Though over the years her depictions of local landscapes won her many fans – her son Bruce remembers a couple from Alberta who would come to town every summer to purchase his mother’s work – and gallery showings as far away as Whistler and Vancouver, Revelstoke artist Winifred “Wyn” Haggerstone always prized one fan’s devotion over all others. The fan, a small boy, was special to Haggerstone not because of the compliments he paid her – in fact, the entire time she knew him the child never spoke a word – but because he came from so very far away to appreciate her work.
Wyn Haggerstone was born in London, England, in 1922 and emigrated to Canada with her family at the age of five. It was following the family’s move from Vancouver to the town of Pioneer that Wyn met her future husband Ted, whom she wed in 1942, and it was there, in Pioneer, the two would eventually have their first children, Bruce and Jain.
The Haggerstones moved to Revelstoke in 1952, first settling into the row of wartime houses on east Fifth Street and relocating to a three-storey home on McKenzie Avenue two years later. The family added two more members – twins John and James – in 1960 and it was several years afterward that Wyn took up painting.
The third floor of the McKenzie Avenue home became her studio; several easels stood in middle of the room, three of the four walls were hung with works both finished and unfinished and the fourth was dominated by an enormous wooden desk Bruce had had to cut in half in order to fit up the small stairwell. It was here Wyn Haggerstone would come to paint once the children had come to bed and it was here, late at night, the boy – a spirit – would make the long journey from the land of the dead to watch.
Wyn Haggerstone passed away in 2011 and though her son Bruce was never told about the boy (upon hearing the story he said, “Mom did entertain some fancies”) her friend Annette Fuoco remembers.
“She used to tell me about him,” says Fuoco. “He would come when it was all quiet and she was up there painting…a little fellow, around 10-12 years old. He’d stand there watching her. He was with her for many years.”
Wyn came to expect and enjoy the visits from her long-time fan, even though she kept them a closely-guarded secret from all but a handful of friends.
The current residents of the McKenzie Avenue home have never seen the child, or any other spirit for that matter, leaving us to wonder if he was drawn to the act of painting itself, Mrs. Haggerstone, or a combination of the two and whether or not the pair has renewed their acquaintance in the life that follows this one.
The Girl on Highway 23
While the story of the Girl on Highway 23 concerns the section of highway south of Revelstoke, there have been accounts of a ghostly hitchhiker, this one male, on the northern section of the highway as well. Those stories date back to the mid-1970s and are more anecdotal than those below; to date I have not found anyone who claims to have actually seen the hitchhiker on 23 North. Though the Girl on Highway 23 has not been seen for many years the road still has a very peculiar feel to it, especially when driven at night.
Almost anyone who has sat around a campfire has heard stories of ghostly hitchhikers. Though the specifics of such tales change from teller to teller, the broad outline is almost always the same: late one night, a bored or altruistic driver sees a lone figure walking along a deserted strip of road and stops to offer them a ride. Before long the driver begins to suspect there is something unusual about their new companion and, in due course, is proven right.
The stories have been part of popular culture so long – some people consider the 13th century story of St. Christopher as told in the Golden Legend the oldest such tale – they are often dismissed as fantasies which fulfill our need for the unusual in day-to-day life. What is forgotten in this dismissal is the simple fact that legends often contain fragments of truth. The story of the girl on highway 23 is one such fragment.
“There Was a Young Girl Crying for Help”
It was a warm summer evening in the 1970s when Joan Astra’s foster children came running into the house looking for their mother.
“It had been a hot, hot day and our kids were sleeping out on the porch,” she remembers. “They came in and said they could hear somebody crying for help.”
The Astra’s farm house was located several kilometres south of Revelstoke on Highway 23, a remote, wooded stretch of road that ends at the Shelter Bay ferry terminal on Upper Arrow Lake. At that time the ferry service only ran into early evening and by this point in the night there was little reason for anyone to be on the road.
Astra hurried outside and immediately heard a child’s voice calling from the darkness beyond the treeline, in the direction of the highway.
“There was a young girl crying for help,” says Astra. “She was saying, ‘Help me, please, please, somebody help me.”
Ushering her children back inside, she phoned the RCMP.
“The police came up right away and there was nobody on the road at all,” remembers Astra. “They went up and down the highway… they looked and looked but there was nobody.”
Astra was almost ready to believe she and the children had imagined the entire episode until the next morning when she related the story to neighbor Hank Winlaw, whose farm was several miles down the road from theirs. As it turned out, Winlaw had in fact seen someone on the road the previous night – a young girl, maybe 10 or 12 years old, pushing a bicycle with a large basket at the front, up the road towards Astra’s farm. The girl was crying and Winlaw assumed it was because she had broken curfew and would be punished.
“I thought she was one of your kids,” he told Joan.
Several years later, Cheryl Astra, Joan’s daughter, was out riding her horse on a bright, moonlit night when she came upon a young girl sitting in the ditch by the side of the road. The child was wrapped in a blanket, Cheryl remembers, and asked her for the time.
Concerned for the child’s safety, Cheryl came directly home and told her mother.
“I said, ‘A little girl shouldn’t be sitting there alone’,” remembers Joan. “We went down there but she was gone. I hollered, ‘Come on, you can stay with us’ but nobody came.”
The pair waited there by the side of the road for some time before turning back. It was then, on the walk back to their farmhouse, a strange feeling came over Cheryl; her memory of meeting the little girl took on a sort of unreality.
“Cheryl told me it was almost like it wasn’t real,” said Joan. “Like she wasn’t really… you know – not a real person sitting there.”
This was to be the Astra’s family last encounter with the girl on Highway 23 but not the last time she was seen.
The final reported sighting of the mysterious girl comes from the winter of 1980. Brothers Harold and Al Leacock were driving southbound in a blizzard on Highway 23, not far from the ferry landing, when they passed a young girl walking in the same direction. Though they no longer recall exactly what she was wearing, the Leacock brothers remember it was not at all appropriate for the sub-zero conditions that day.
Harold quickly reversed until they came upon the girl again, still trudging determinedly through the blizzard. The brothers offered the child a lift to the ferry, which she refused on the grounds she was headed for Revelstoke. They tried explaining that not only was she going in the wrong direction but was almost 50km out of town and, given the howling wind, unlikely to make it very much further dressed the way she was. The girl simply kept walking.
The brothers hurried to Shelter Bay landing where they alerted BC Ferries personnel, who, in turn, alerted Revelstoke RCMP. Just as before, police responded immediately and, just as before, no one was ever found.
The girl on Highway 23 had disappeared again.
Strange Tales of the Arrow Lakes
Though there are only four confirmed stories from the Arrow Lakes region presented here I know for a fact there are more still out there; many of them have come to me, albeit in fragments too small to be turned into stories, from friends and families of people who once lived in the valley’s now-submerged townships. “Fear on the South Road” is adapted from the anonymous account “Strange Memories of Revelstoke” as first published by researcher Brian Vike on his website “The Vike Report.”
The current residents of the home in “Just Around the Bend” declined to be interviewed and asked that their property not be specifically identified. I agreed to this out of respect for their young children, who find the subject of the supernatural frightening and who have already gone through a period of excitement and fear following the episode described below. As such, all names in this story have been changed along with some dates.
The Arrow Lakes region is truly beautiful and worth visiting regardless of your thoughts on the paranormal.
Strange Tales of the Arrow Lakes
The 230km section of Columbia River known as the Arrow Lakes stretches from Revelstoke Dam just north of town down to Castlegar in the south. Once two separate lakes, called Upper and Lower Arrow, Arrow Lake is now one continuous body of water steeply bordered by the Monashee Mountains to the west and Selkirk Mountains to the east. The two lakes joined when damming began on the Columbia River in the 1960s.
The area is quiet, its roads – Highways 6, 23 & 31 – not heavily trafficked and the few towns that dot the region – Nakusp, Silverton, New Denver, Kaslo and Trout Lake, to name a few – are all sparsely populated, the largest of them boasting only 1500 residents. Once upon a time, however, the Arrow Lakes Region had a thriving mineral economy and many more towns, like Ferguson, Sandon, Cody, Circle City and Gerrard sprung up to house the influx of miners.
Those towns have since faded into history but their remains are seeded among the area’s lush woodland and, should one look hard enough, can still be found on unnamed back roads.
Given all this, it is perhaps no surprise the Arrow Lakes Region is a place of both beauty and mystery from which more than a few strange stories have emerged.
Fear on the South Road
The trip south of Revelstoke on Airport Way is a lovely, 14km drive that begins after the Illecillewaet River Bridge, winds up through the wooded suburb of Arrow Heights, down the steep decline known as Red Devil Hill and ends, with the pavement, where the Alkolkolex Forest Service Road begins. It is a quiet, remote road that, before the Columbia River was dammed, led to the Arrow Lakes community of Arrowhead. The damming of the Columbia flooded some 2/3 of the Columbia River Valley’s arable land, forcing communities such as Arrowhead, Beaton and Burton to relocate and, in some cases, simply evacuate.
Even the area directly south of Revelstoke, past its modest airport, was once home to a number of thriving farms which were abandoned when the reservoir began to fill. When the river is low enough, drivers on Airport Way can still make out the old highway beneath the water, snaking past the stone foundations of sunken homesteads.
It was here on Airport Way some 30 years ago that one family out for an evening drive went through an unexplainable feeling of collective terror that baffles them to this day.
“The purpose of the trip was to find roads we’d not yet traveled…”
It was the summer of 1975 when the Scott family of Nanaimo, B.C. – parents Paul & Lily, daughter Paige and granddaughter Emily – decided to take a break from their lengthy road trip and stop in Revelstoke for the night.
“We were slowly traveling across British Columbia and planning to circle through part of Alberta before heading home,” Paige recalls. “We arrived in Revelstoke late on a sunny summer afternoon, found a motel and went for dinner.”
After dinner the Scotts took a walk through Revelstoke’s compact downtown and, afterward found themselves wanting to explore further.
On their map, the family saw Airport Way and the Alkolkolex FSR threading down the east side of the Columbia River.
“The purpose of the trip was to try to find roads we’d not yet traveled,” says Paige. “So… off we went.”
The weather had been kind to the Scotts all day but looking out over the river from the top of Red Devil Hill they could see they were leaving clear skies behind and heading straight into cloud cover; in the distance sheet lightning flashed. They had seen few cars on the road up to that point but after Red Devil Hill the Scotts didn’t see another soul until they turned back.
Some four kilometres later, between the turnoffs for what are now Lenard Drive and Catherwood Road, a strange feeling came over Paige, who was sitting in the backseat with Emily.
“The road turned a sharp corner to the left and followed the base of the mountains around a large bay,” she remembers. “The moment we turned the corner I was terrified…I wanted so much to ask my father to turn back.”
Paige couldn’t explain the feeling that had come over her.
“The logical side of me kept saying to not be silly,” she remembers. “The purpose of the trip was to explore!”
Nevertheless, she found herself so terrified she could no longer look out the windows of the car. She began to play with Emily, who seemed blissfully unaware of her mother’s escalating fear.
Suddenly, at a point roughly halfway around the bay, Paul pulled a hasty u-turn and sped back in the direction from which they’d come. He never spoke, but Paige heard her mother say quietly, “So you felt it too.”
As soon as they had rounded that wide corner the sun peeked through the clouds and the family’s collective feeling of terror vanished. As they drove back towards Revelstoke, the only words spoken were by Paul.
“Promise me,” he said. “That none of you will ever drive down that road again.”
On the way back to the hotel, the Scott family didn’t speak a word to each other about what had happened, which Paige says was completely out of character.
“Not only would we normally have talked about something like that,” she says. “We would have driven back the next day to at least the beginning of the bay.”
In fact, it was four years before the family broached the subject again. None of them could recall a single reason why they had been afraid – certainly they didn’t remember seeing anything – but both Paul and Lily admitted to feeling the same sense of inexplicable, overwhelming terror that Paige had; the only member of the Scott family unaffected by the incident, whether because at 2 years old she was too young to understand or too small to see out the window, was Emily.
In addition to an almost paralyzing fear, Paul recalled being filled with the baffling certainty that “if we had kept going we would have never come back.” Even more bizarrely, each of the family members found that they had wanted to discuss the event at some point in the preceding four years but couldn’t.
“I recall often trying to think about it and say something but the thoughts and words just dissolved,” recalls Paige. “That was happening with my parents as well. We still have no understanding or memory about what frightened us.”
Some twenty years later, Paige returned to Revelstoke and the south road with her husband.
“Everything had changed with the lowering of the lake level and the growth of the trees,” she recalls. “There was nothing at all frightening about the place.”
Even so, she honored the promise she’d made to her father and declined to go past the corner where it had all began. The fear is gone but thirty years later Paige’s memory still fragments when she tries to remember what happened to make her family feel what they did.
“I’ve stayed in Revelstoke many times since then but…will never travel that road,” she says. “Maybe someday I will remember why.”
The Arrow Lakes: Just Around the Bend
Not far from the wide, sweeping curve on Airport Way where the Scotts began to feel that inexplicable sense of dread, there sits a house where at least 2 families have had inexplicable experiences all their own. The home, a relatively new one by Revelstoke standards, looks nothing like your stereotypical haunted house and yet when the Pike family moved in some 15 years ago it wasn’t long before they began to suspect something supernatural was happening around them.
Fast Steps in the Dark
At first, Lisa Pike thought she was dreaming the sound of footsteps.
“I’d hear the sound of people going up and down the stairs all the time,” she remembers. “I’d wake up, get out of bed… I’d think it’d be our cat but the cat was outside, the kids were sound asleep in bed. Sometimes this would go on all night long.”
Realizing she wasn’t dreaming the footsteps, Pike then pinned the noise on an overactive imagination. This didn’t last long as her two daughters, Tanya and Kelly, soon began to hear the footfall as well; the pair told their mother about hearing “fast, springy steps” up the staircase.
Curiously, Pike’s husband Steven never heard the noises nor did he experience any of what followed.
“My husband doesn’t believe in this sort of thing,” she explains. “He thought we were being silly, that it was all explainable but too many weird things happened to ignore.”
One such weird thing occurred during a sleep-over birthday party for Tanya, the eldest daughter.
“This was when my daughter was 12-13 years old,” Pike remembers. “In the morning they said to me, ‘What was going on with the cat last night? It was running up and down the stairs and going crazy in here.’”
Pike was nonplussed.
“The cat was outside,” she said. “I just let him in this morning.”
As with many hauntings, it wasn’t long before the presence in the Pike family home manifested itself in a more direct way. Lisa remembers:
“In our kitchen there’s a six-cupboard pantry. One morning I got up – the kids were still in bed, my husband had gone to work – and I came around the corner into the kitchen and all the cupboard doors were open on the pantry. I thought my husband was playing a joke on me or something, right? Thinking I’d walk into these doors. Except when he got home he swore to me he didn’t do it.”
After the incident involving the pantry doors, Pike began noticing that a set of venetian blinds in one of the upstairs windows had taken on a mind of its own.
“I opened my blinds one morning,” she says. “Then later we were outside – and I happened to look up at the window and the blinds were closed. I asked the kids who had closed them and they all claimed they hadn’t. I went in and opened the blinds then went back outside. A couple hours later I looked and the blinds were closed. That happened several times.”
Another unusual event occurred while Steven was away on business.
“The girls were quite little and would sleep downstairs with me [when Steven was out of town],” says Pike. “This one time, I woke up and the girls were still asleep, so I went upstairs to collect laundry and saw the sheets had been pulled back on one of the beds. No one had been upstairs and yet somebody had been in… my daughter’s bed.”
Worried an intruder had somehow gained access to the house Pike checked all the doors and windows but found everything secure. Making the possibility of an intruder even more improbable was the fact that nothing else had been disturbed.
“You know what,” says Pike. “Some of this stuff can be explained away, I guess. Lots of people would dismiss it but… this wasn’t explainable.”
The Little Girl in the Blue Dress
The Pikes experienced other strange things over the course of their time in the house around the bend – some nights Tanya would awake in her upstairs bedroom to see, in light cast by the family computer outside her door, their office chair spinning by itself – but only one phenomenon would be observed by anyone outside the Pike family. This was the little girl in the blue dress.
Lisa remembers a lazy summer afternoon when Kelly was five years old. Steven was out of town on business and the Pike women were in the backyard enjoying the afternoon sun when Kelly casually mentioned playing with her “new friend.” Lisa, unaware of any new kids having moved into the neighborhood, asked Kelly where she had met her new friend and was not all prepared for her daughter’s nonchalant reply:
“She lives with us.”
“She swore by that for years,” says Lisa. “She still says, ‘Yes, there was a little girl and she wore a long blue dress and had long black hair.’”
Nonetheless, the Pikes were not disturbed by the phantom and aside from Kelly’s infrequent mentions of the spectral child she was all but forgotten. That changed years later when the Pikes, who had long since moved to a new home, received a phone call from a woman whose daughters had been babysitting for the latest residents of the house around the bend.
According to the woman, her daughters had been looking after the couple’s young children, a boy and a girl, and noticed the girl often referred to her “sister.”
“They said, ‘No, no, you don’t have a sister,” says Lisa. “She said, ‘Yes I do. She comes and stays with me every night and leaves really early in the morning. Then she goes to the bushes.”
Lisa asked the caller if the child had described her “sister”. Says Lisa:
“The little girl describes her as having long dark hair and a long blue dress.”
The Arrow Lakes:
‘Strange Object Seen in South Heavens’
Beneath the surface of the Upper Arrow some 25 miles south of Revelstoke lies the remains of Sidmouth, one of many small communities flooded in 1968 when the much-contested Hugh Keenleyside Dam was built on the Columbia River, five miles upstream of Castlegar. Like residents of other flooded communities the people of Sidmouth were given little say in the decision that saw their homes relocated and their town become part of the Arrow Lakes Reservoir.
Almost 50 years later, the little bit of Sidmouth not covered by water is an overgrown tangle of fir, spruce and alder trees accessible only by boat or helicopter. It is a quiet, contemplative place which gives no indication it was the site of Revelstoke’s first reported instance of strange lights in the sky. Many more would follow but that fall night in 1950 was the most widely observed and reported until the Revelstoke meteor impact of 1965.
On the night of October 15, 1950, H. Eynsbergen (no first name was ever given), engineer in charge of the Pacific Asbestos Corporation’s mine site, and seven of his crew spied an object in the night sky. According to a report in the October 19th, 1950 edition of the Revelstoke Review under the headline “Strange Object Seen in South Heavens”, what Eynsbergen and his men saw was a “strange, oval-shaped object with a bluish white light.” Using binoculars, the engineer was able to get a better view of the object, which, according to the article, resembled a “huge light globe swinging to and fro” and was estimated to be some 30,000 up.
Eynsbergen and his men go on to say that the object remained in the sky above the Monashee Mountains for 30 minutes, from 9:30-10:00pm, before disappearing to the south east.
The incident was also reported in the October 18th, 1950 edition of the Vancouver Sun under the headline, “Maybe Another Flying Saucer?”
The Light on the Lake
It was the summer of 1977 when three crew members aboard a BC Ferries vessel saw a strange object flying low in the night sky above the Arrow Lakes. At the time, Larry Nelles was a ship’s mate aboard the ferry, which ran passengers between Shelter Bay and Galena Bay on the Upper Arrow. Though Nelles didn’t saw the object himself he remembers the vessel had just made its final trip of the night and was heading for home when his shipmates burst in on him in the ship’s office.
“It was a clear, blue night,” remembers Nelles. “There was Henry Nelson, John Twibill and Malcolm Woods… they come running in the office… they were astounded.”
The three men excitedly told Nelles they had just seen a black object the size of a football field traverse the night sky some 100 feet above the ship.
“They said that there were blue flames coming out the back, and it was silent,” says Nelles. “The thing was going very slow and then all of a sudden it left and there was just a blue streak in the sky – it was gone”
Nelson, the ship’s oiler, sketched what they had seen; according to Nelles, the drawing bore some resemblance to a dirigible, at least in shape. If the men’s stories are to be believed, however, the object moved much faster than any airship, and Nelles had no reason to question their credibility.
“Henry Nelson was the kind of guy who wouldn’t admit to something unless it was true…it’s just the way he was,” says Nelles. “And John Twibill – he was the ship’s engineer – he didn’t believe in UFOs. But when he saw this, he believed.”
After the initial excitement wore off, the men found themselves unsure not only of what they’d seen but whether or not they should tell anyone else.
“They were all a little mystified by it,” says Nelles. “So consequently they didn’t really tell anyone else… people think you’re seeing things, so you’re afraid to say too much.”
What the three men thought of the object, or whether they ever saw it again, we can only guess. Each died from natural causes within a 16-month span some six years later – the 54-year-old Twibill first on April 18, 1992, Nelson, 63, on April 2, 1983 and finally Malcolm Woods, aged 50, on August 18 of the same year.
For his part, Nelles, who lived for decades in the area south of Revelstoke before relocating to rural Arizona, had never heard of anything like it before and hasn’t since.
The Legends of Mount Begbie
Though the universe is too vast to completely rule out the existence of extra-terrestrial intelligence I’m not a believer in most of the current theories bandied around by UFOlogists. So, while what is being described in these stories, along with others later in the book, can be called UFOs it is only because they are technically “unidentified flying objects” – whether you choose to believe they’re being flown by little grey men or are a manifestation of some as-yet-unknown natural or spiritual phenomenon is entirely up to you. Special thanks to Professor James Dickson for his level-headed look at the “Mount Begbie Iceman” and willingness to discuss his work. Thanks too, to my interviewees, most of whom asked not to be named.
Rising to a height of almost 9,000 feet, Mount Begbie is the tallest of the mountains encircling Revelstoke and its glaciated triple-peak has come to be one of the town’s iconic images; the U.S. Library of Congress retains photographs of the mountain dating back to the turn of the 20th century.
Named for B.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Matthew Bailie Begbie – the famous “Hanging Judge” – Mount Begbie looms over the western side of the Columbia River and Arrow Lakes, its distinctive shape visible almost anywhere you stand in the region. Some 20 kilometres south of Revelstoke on Highway 23 is the trailhead which provides access to the mountain’s summit; the trail, first axed out in the early 1950s, winds through fields of lupin, valerian and Indian paintbrush on an eight-hour hike to the glacier’s foot.
It is here on the glacier some 120 years ago that the stories surrounding Mt. Begbie begin.
The Mount Begbie Iceman
For years, local researchers believed the legend of the Mount Begbie Iceman to have been wholly concocted in 1940 by local newspaper owner Arvid Lundell as a way to promote the opening of the Big Bend Highway.
“[Lundell] was putting it forth as a legend,” says Cathy English, curator of the Revelstoke Museum and Archives. “Because they were trying to encourage people to come to Revelstoke then.”
According to English, “The story was that it was – take your pick – a First Nations person, Big Bend miner or fur trader who had tried to go up over Begbie, had gotten caught and was frozen and buried in the glacier.”
Then in 2007, a visit by Professor James Dickson, an expert in Archaeobotany (the study of plants found at archaeological sites) at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, established the legend as being much older.
In his 2011 book Ancient Ice Mummies, Dickson explains:
Following a 2004 public lecture on Ötzi, a 5,000 year-old ice mummy recovered in the Ötztal Alps on the border between Austria and Italy, Dickson received a letter from a Mrs. Rosamund Stenhouse-Stewart. It seems Dickson’s mention during the lecture of Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi, an 250-year old ice mummy found near the border of British Columbia and the Yukon, recalled in Mrs Stenhouse-Stewart a story she had been told by her father Thomas Livingston Haig, Revelstoke’s Magistrate from 1894-1897.
According to Dickson, Stenhouse-Stewart went on to say her father was “shown by an Indian fur trapper the body of a completely preserved Indian trapped within the ice…I do not know where but he mentioned its preservation and complete condition. I believe that he understood that the gathering thickness of the ice had begun to make the body gradually less visible.”
For further information Dickson contacted Alexander Mackie, the B.C. archaeologist who helped document and recover the remains of Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi. Mackie’s inquiries weren’t quite fruitless – he found mention, dating back to before and just after the 1890s, of a body frozen in a glacier somewhere near Revelstoke – but turned up nothing firm and certainly no first-person accounts of discovery.
Undeterred, Dickson journeyed to Revelstoke in 2007 where he consulted with Cathy English at the Revelstoke Museum and Archives, who, along with her assistant Kirsten Gonzales spent countless hours looking through official documents and newspaper clippings searching for some mention of Haig’s alleged journey up the mountain.
No such mention was found. Indeed the only substantial piece of information on the legend was the aforementioned article, dated June 30, 1940 by Arvid Lundell of the Revelstoke Review (which preceded the Times Review — an article which his daughter admitted he had fabricated from whole cloth.
After a helicopter flight around the peak, Dickson finally came to a conclusion. Of the mountain, he says “it makes little sense that there could ever have been a frozen body there.”
In Ancient Ice Mummies Dickson describes most such finds as being in or near mountain passes. Finding a body on Mount Begbie was unlikely because there was no apparent reason for anyone, First Nations or otherwise, to climb the mountain.
“To ascend Mount Begbie,” says Dickson. “Is to go nowhere but up the mountain.”
When asked if a member of the early First Nations could have made the ascent for religious reasons, Dickson admits it is possible but has no bearing on the existence of an ice mummy.
“It is possible that the local indigenous people attached spiritual significance to such a prominent, striking mountain,” he says. “But that does not mean there was a frozen body… [it is] just an engaging tale. Nothing more.”
Watch the Skies
While there not may be any frozen bodies on Mount Begbie, legends around the distinctive mountain continue to circulate. In particular, the mountain seems to be a lightning rod for stories of strange lights in the sky.
“That is a really weird light”
Jan Hartley was just a teenager when she saw her one and only occurrence of unusual lights in the sky. It was close to midnight on a New Year’s Eve in the late 1970s and Hartley was walking away from her home on 2nd street.
“I was by myself, going down to [a friend’s] house to meet them outside,” Hartley remembers. “And… I saw a light go over Mount Begbie.”
According to Hartley, the light, which originated in the south before breaking west over the mountain, had no definable shape or color.
“It was…a bright light – wasn’t moving very fast but wasn’t blinking either,” she says. “I just remember staring at it and going, ‘That is a really weird light.’ It was only a few seconds then it was gone.”
“Something Caught the Sun…”
Standing in the backyard of his daughter’s home, situated in the 800 block of Second Street West, Carol Thompson’s father Harry Hartley was the first of the family to see something strange in the shadow of Mount Begbie.
“It was a sunny day in the summer time, sometime in the late 1970s” remembers Carol. “I’d say it happened around noon or one o clock, because my parents were over for lunch.”
“My dad was leaning on the fence facing the river,” she goes on to say. “My husband Ken and I were in lawn chairs facing him. All of a sudden dad says, ‘Look at that!’”
Following Hartley’s gaze the family observed, across the Columbia River below Begbie’s triple-peak, what appeared to be sunshine gleaming off metal.
The object was not visible in a traditional sense – the Thompson family could not see exactly what was catching the sun; only an outline of the mysterious object was visible. In fact, Thompson believes what she saw was only a portion of the thing’s true size, a piece roughly ten feet in length.
“I don’t think it was the whole picture,” she remembers. “Just a glimpse. I can’t help thinking something caught the sun that wasn’t supposed to. A ten foot long section of something curved and going so fast…like a bullet. It went up along the river and past Mount Begbie School. It didn’t make a sound. Then it disappeared.”
To date Thompson has never seen the object, or anything like it, again.
A trail of blue sparks
One winter night in 2004, Alan Grace and Christine Helm were on their way home to the house they shared on Highway 1 when both saw what they described as “a trail of blue sparks” traveling east to west across the night sky. Grace remembers, “They were bright, neon blue and passed over our car before disappearing behind Mount Begbie.”
“It was hovering there… it was big”
Another report of unusual activity over Mount Begbie comes from Mark Ronson, a heavy-duty mechanic and amateur astronomer who knows his way around the night sky.
“In my first years [after taking up astronomy] I was out every night when it was clear. I got to know the sky, all the stars, the constellations and all the movements,” he says. “It was so neat…not many people know that’s Jupiter, that’s Sirius, and so on – they think it’s bright lights in the sky and I wanted to go further.”
On a spring afternoon sometime in the 1990s, Ronson would see more than he imagined.
“I was walking my dog down in the industrial park…by the motocross track. The sun was going down and I happened to glance up right above the ridge of Mount Begbie,” he remembers. “I saw an object there. I put the binoculars on it and saw it was a brown rectangular shape. It was hovering there…it was big…and then all of a sudden it took off and vanished in a point of light, heading west.”
Unsure of what he had seen, the first thing Ronson did was to rule out conventional explanations.
“It could have been the Hubble — that’s why I went home and checked,” he says. “But the Hubble wasn’t in the sky that day, and neither was the Spacelab.”
Even if they had been present, Ronson has a hard time believing either object would be capable of moving at the speed of the object he had seen.
“That thing took off and it was gone — I saw it go from rectangular to a point of light within a second.”
Eyes in the Fog
This is the only firsthand account I could find of strange happenings on Highway 23 North and it came to me almost by accident. The man on whom Troy Ellard is based is brother to a woman who provided a number of leads for this book and when he bumped into us one night at coffee I had no idea who he was. She introduced him and he sat quietly for a while until he slowly, grudgingly told this story. He left the table shortly afterward and his sister admitted to being shocked that her famously laconic brother had spoken at all, never mind told a story she herself had never heard. While he had no problem with me adapting his experience he did request I not include his real name or circumstances, requests I was happy to grant.
Troy Ellard is a tall, quiet man around 60 years of age who has spent most of his life living in a small mobile home just outside Revelstoke city limits. On the subject of the supernatural he is more or less agnostic.
“I’ve never seen a ghost floating across a room towards me,” he says. “So I have a real hard time believing people who say they have but who knows? I sure can’t explain what happened to me so maybe there is something out there.”
The event Ellard refers to happened in the early morning hours of November 4, 1973 and, by his own admission, is not a story he shares often.
“My friends and I were cruising around town on a Saturday night. I had a 1960 Thunderbird and a whole bunch of us were piled in there. It’s Revelstoke, so there wasn’t much going on. We decided to drive out to the old car dump at Silver Tip Falls and see if we could cut mufflers off some old junkers…maybe make a couple bucks selling them.”
Silver Tip Falls was a small waterfall located north of Revelstoke on Highway 23. The road was moved up the mountain in the early 1980s prior to the construction of the Revelstoke Dam – an event which most people believe flooded out the Silvertip Falls entirely, though backroads mapbooks claim a section of rapids near the site remains – but in 1973, the Big Bend Highway snaked along the Columbia River Valley and, at 2am on an overcast fall night, was about as dark as a road can be.
“By the time we got out there a fog had come down and we were having a hell of a time picking out cars, so we decided come back another time,” says Ellard. “It was around three in the morning when we headed back south to town.”
The fog was so thick Ellard couldn’t see much further than the hood of his T-bird but still he recalls driving the empty highway at a good clip.
“We were young and stupid and going too fast,” he admits. “I saw two eyes ahead of us in the fog and I slammed on my breaks but it was too late.”
Ellard remembers bracing for what he believed would be the body of a hitchhiker tumbling over top of his car but it never came.
“We were all freaking out,” he remembers. “I got out of the car out and walked around but couldn’t find anyone. There was no dent in my hood or anything but I knew I had seen those eyes. Nothing else – just two eyes in the fog.”
It was then Ellard made the discovery that forever cemented in his mind the night of November 4, 1973: whoever – or whatever – the eyes had belonged to, they had saved the lives of everyone present; had the boys kept driving, Ellard’s Thunderbird would have sailed off the edge of the road and plummeted some forty feet into the river below.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me,” says Ellard. “I have a hard time believing in that stuff…but I know what I saw.”
This story was told to him by the late. Dr. Roger Morrison…
As Far Back As I Can Remember… It Was Haunted
My interview with Roger Morrison took place in September 2012, only a few short months before he took his own life. Though it was not the only interview conducted for this story it was the backbone on which the chapter was built and in light not only of his death but of the well-documented controversy that came after, I wrestled with whether or not I should cut it entirely. After months of consideration I decided it should stay for the same reasons I had considered deleting it – out of respect for Roger and his family. During our interview he was keen on telling not only the story of his boyhood home and its ghosts but of his mother’s love for that home and the way she carefully tended to its upkeep. Wherever he is, I hope he is pleased with the result.
Roger Morrison was only two years old when his family first rented the Lundell House, moving from their apartments in the grand, neoclassical Birch Lodge on McKenzie Avenue. The four bedroom, 2 bathroom home – with its gabled roof and screened-in side porch – was a step up for the young family and Morrison’s mother Violet took a great deal of pride in its upkeep.
“The house was a pride and joy for my mother and she put a lot of work into it even though we didn’t own it at first,” said Morrison. “She felt that balanced out the things in the house that must accept us…and my mother always felt the house accepted us.”
“It’s a little hard to explain,” he adds. “But a lot of strange things happened over time and as far back as I can remember, growing up, it was haunted.”
Morrison, who died in 2012 at the age of 50, remembered there being something unusual about a second-floor bedroom at the front of the house. While the room would eventually become Roger’s when he grew older, as small children he and his brother were forbidden from using the room for anything other than the storage of their toys.
“That room was above the living room and often at night you would hear…the high heels of a woman walking around,” he said. “I’m not sure of all the events because I was little but my parents decided that nobody’s staying in that room.”
To make ends meet, Violet would often rent out a small side bedroom to boarders.
“One [boarder] was a guy named Syd Carey,” remembered Morrison. “He was a funny guy…used to work for the newspaper. He would always have change in his pocket and always be rattling it around. Years later, after he passed away, you would still hear that sometimes in the hallway.”
The family pets, too, seemed aware of the unusual occurrences in the home.
“We always had cats and dogs,” said Morrison. “Often, in the living room, all the animals would turn and look through the French glass windows to the hall and watch something pass by up the stairs. That would happen a lot.”
One phenomenon that remained consistent throughout Morrison’s life was the house’s tendency to “disappear” certain items, only to have them reappear hours, days, even weeks later.
“Friends would come over, they’d bring a record, say, and we’d listen to it then set it down to do some other things and when it was time to go…there’s no record. My friend would be freaking…how do you explain this to him? I’d say, ‘don’t worry…it’ll show up. It’ll just show up’ and it would. Days later there it would be.”
Years later when Morrison moved back into the home with his first wife, he found the spirits in the Lundell House had retained their mischievous nature.
“My former wife was doing Christmas cards one time – writing them all out,” he said. “She’d put the whole set down, go through the list and when she went to count them again there were 3-4 missing. Days later, they’d appear on a little side table.”
Though such events were commonplace, Morrison never felt the house was in any way malevolent. His mother, who would eventually purchase the home from its previous owners, felt the same.
“My mother always believed it was haunted,” remembered Morrison. “But she still wanted the house badly…it meant a lot to her.
“She always felt the house was just playing games with us. Nothing bad ever happened.”
The building affectionately referred to as Bocci’s has been a grocery store for nearly 80 years. Almost everyone who lives, or has lived, in the area surrounding the corner of Fourth Street and Victoria Road has a story about shopping in the small corner store known first as City Groceteria, then Vince’s and, finally, Bocci’s. What many of them don’t know is that some of the people who have worked in the store or lived in the apartment above have stories much different than those told in the neighborhood.From 2000-2006 I worked as a grocery clerk at Bocci’s Groceteria. From 2002-2004 I also rented the upstairs apartment and this story begins around that time, with the most recent incident taking place nine years later in January, 2011. I suppose you can take that to mean the story isn’t over yet.
A Creeping Unease
The apartment above Bocci’s was my first – I graduated in June 2001 and paid the security deposit on my new home just after my 19th birthday in March of the following year.
The place was enormous – once upon a time it had served as two separate apartments, meaning it now had two full bathrooms and a total of five bedrooms. The amount of space was completely overwhelming and I went about filling it with all the toys you’d expect from an employed nineteen-year-old male: big screen television, stereo, beer fridge, foosball table, and so on. Each room had a “theme” if you can call it that – TV room, computer room, games room – except for one room at the very top of the stairs. The smallest room in the apartment, with a door in the closet that lead to the attic; nothing ever “stuck” there and it became storage space and crash pad for passed-out party guests.
At first, the only door I made sure to close in the apartment was the outside door at the bottom of the stairs. The other door at the bottom led into the backroom of Bocci’s and was always bolted from the other side. After locking my front door I’d leave every other one in the apartment, including my bedroom, wide open and fall asleep with music playing on the stereo in the living room.
Over the course of the next month I found myself uncomfortable sleeping with the door open. There was no reason for it but all the same I began closing the door before going to bed. Not long after, something started to bother me about music playing in the empty living room and I started turning that off before closing the door. Finally I reached a point where it wasn’t possible to sleep unless the door was also locked. At this point, despite an abiding love of spooky stories and horror films, the idea of something supernatural taking place didn’t even enter my mind. In fact, I thought I was going nuts.
Then one night as I lay in bed, my eyes closed, I heard what sounded like wine glasses clinking. That wasn’t cause for alarm – the Canadian Pacific Railway’s train yard is a stone’s throw away so I assumed the movement of a train was shaking the dishes in my cupboard. Then I began to hear other sounds – silverware on a table, light music and – finally – voices speaking indistinctly; it sounded like a grand dinner party taking place in my apartment. I bravely kept my eyes closed, rolled over and stayed that way until I fell asleep. That was the beginning.
In the following days and months I began to hear something often reported by people who feel their homes are haunted – footsteps in the night. In this case, they always came from the store downstairs. Now, it wasn’t unusual for the owners of Bocci’s to stick around after hours – sometimes to clean, sometimes to drink coffee and shoot the breeze in the back room – so I was used to hearing their sounds: footsteps, voices, the ringing of the front door alarm when it opened and closed.
Except there were nights where I’d hear these sounds quite late and when asked the next morning, the bosses would tell me everyone had left the store by 9pm.
Then, on Halloween 2002 , I was approached at a house party by a woman who used to live in the apartment.
“Hey, you live above Bocci’s now, right?” she said. “Have you had anything strange happen up there?”
When I asked her what she meant by strange she went on to describe the same progression of emotions I had experienced after moving in – from comfort, to unease, to full-on paranoia. According to her, the roommates she had lived with “didn’t even like being in the apartment by themselves.” She also said her children had invisible friends they’d play with – but only in the room at the top of the stairs.
Eventually I got a roommate myself, and despite not telling her a single thing about the strange feelings the apartment inspired she too went through the same cycle and, after a while, didn’t like being there alone either, particularly at night.
By the time I moved away in 2004, things had quieted down so much in the apartment that I’d almost written off the things I’d experienced after moving in. Then one night a few months later I was in a coffee shop with friends when the young woman who rented the apartment after me came up and asked to speak privately. Once we were away from the table she said, “You used to live above Bocci’s, right? Did you ever have anything strange happen up there?”
By now you can guess the rest of the conversation.
A year later, the apartment was again vacant and I was in the back room of the store counting up the day’s receipts. The sound of heavy bass started coming from next door, which was odd since the neighbors had come by earlier in the week to let us know they’d be out of town. Assuming their kids were having a party in their absence I went back to work only to stop again after remembering the kids had gone with them too. Rising from my desk, I realized the heavy bass sound wasn’t coming from next door – it was coming from the empty apartment upstairs.
Moving toward the door that connected Bocci’s back room to the first-floor landing of the apartment, I could hear the sound move as well – that strange, heavy thumping coming closer and closer. My first thought was maybe the boss had left the apartment door unlocked while he was showing tenants around and a local hobo had wandered in – Revelstoke is a small place but even so we have a few derelicts drifting around. After opening the door between store and apartment, I could see the manager had remembered to lock the door behind him, meaning there was no way anyone could have entered afterward. Just then, the thumping stopped, and there was footfall on the part of the stairs I couldn’t see. I slammed the door shut, double-locked it and bravely got out of there at top speed.
That was in 2005 and would be my last interaction with whatever is going on at Bocci’s for almost 6 years; the store was sold to new owners in early 2006 and I ended up relocating to the southern tip of Vancouver Island just over a year later. It was during a visit home in January 2011 that I had what has been my last strange encounter with the building.
A Blue Flash
While out for a walk one night I found myself standing across Fourth Street from what had been our store. The new owners hadn’t lasted long and now the lower part of the building was under construction, to be turned into a spa and yoga studio. It was cold that night but I stood there for almost an hour thinking about the six years we had spent running Bocci’s and everything they had meant to us.
A burst of light – like a camera flash – in one of the darkened upstairs windows startled me from my reverie. It was a bright blue and appeared to come from what was once my living room. For a moment I stood there wondering why someone would take pictures in the dark and was just about to conclude the whole thing had been my imagination when the flash repeated itself – in every window of the apartment, simultaneously. I very quickly turned and made my way home.
A New Start
Upon beginning this project in 2012 I approached the current owner of Bocci’s, Diane Mahoney, to see if her experience with the store and apartment above had been at all similar to my own. Mahoney was happy to talk about her time in the building which she had so lovingly rebuilt into Welwinds Therapeutic Spa and Tea Bar but confessed she had had no experiences to match my own.
It was strange for me to see how radically the interior of the building had been transformed and how much different it felt. While my early experiences in Bocci’s were happy ones, they became stranger and more frightening over time and my view it changed accordingly; walking into Welwinds I felt that apprehension melt away. Whether whatever spirits in the building are pleased with its transformation or they’ve simply moved on, Bocci’s now feels the way it did at the beginning: warm, welcoming and happy.
That said, one throwback to my days in the apartment still remains: despite Mahoney having rebuilt the entire upstairs, including knocking down the walls and changing the entire floor plan, there is still one room that feels the same. A room in which Mahoney had a new marble counter top installed, only to find it inexplicably cracked one morning soon after. That room, still the smallest one in the apartment, is right at the top of the stairs and despite Mahoney’s efforts to use it for other purposes, still wound up being storage space.
Nothing, she says, has ever quite “stuck” there.