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 story is the last in this year’s series of seven true tales of the supernatural and paranormal 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). The Revelstoke Current will publish a new story every week until Halloween. Enjoy…
Finally we arrive at one of Revelstoke’s most storied paranormal hotspots – the area around our Court House. I am well aware that no one in Revelstoke refers to this area as the Court House Square but it’s catchy and I ran with it. Whatever you want to call it, it is without a doubt a very haunted place – in addition to the 3 locations presented here, there are anecdotal reports of haunting in almost all of the other structures in the immediate area. Not to mention the square is less than 300 yards from two of the town’s most supernaturally active spots – Holten House and the old Revelstoke Hospital. It has been suggested that the Court House was built on an Indian burial site and while not impossible, there is very little in the historical record to support such a theory. That’s not to say it wasn’t the case: certainly, should any remains have been discovered during the building of the original structure in 1897 they would not have been treated with the reverence they would be today – any such discovery would likely have been quietly ignored.
In discussing this theory a friend asked if the reason for the paranormal activity was an Indian burial ground why no one had reported seeing Indian ghosts, which is an excellent question to which I have no answer. Maybe instead of the area being supernaturally active because of human events, it has simply always been that way and it wasn’t until humans started poking around that it was noticed. Again, if you’re looking for a reason why I can’t help you.
Thank you for reading these stories and (hopefully) those published last year. They represent part, but not all, of my upcoming book “A Strange Little Place” which is currently slated for a 2016 release from Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing.
Should you want to share a paranormal encounter of your own, please feel free to contact me via the Current.
The Court House Square
At the north end of Revelstoke’s downtown sits a four-storey, neoclassical courthouse; an unusually grand sight for a town whose population has never risen above 10,000 people. The story behind it begins in 1895 when a sudden increase in the price of silver reignited interest in British Columbia’s mines, jumpstarting the province’s economy.
Erected in 1897, the first Revelstoke court house was quickly outgrown by the blossoming town, leading to the building of a new, expanded structure – designed by Vancouver architect Thomas Hooper – from 1911-13. Since then Revelstoke has managed to survive and, at times, thrive, but never again attained the level of importance it once held. The court house remains intact and still in use, albeit in a reduced capacity and its sixteen-sided copper dome and vast Doric columns – imported from the American state of Georgia – are a bittersweet reminder of the time when the city seemed destined for great things.
In modern times, Court House Square is home not only to its namesake but a number of private residences and businesses lining the four streets – Second, Third, Kootenay and Wales – which border it. It is a quiet, comfortable neighborhood that, perhaps because of its recent, almost-famous past or something much older, happens to be the most densely haunted part of Revelstoke.
The Mute Girl
Built in 1915 and once operated as a small restaurant by a retired seaman and his wife, the vinyl-sided, two-storey house across from the Revelstoke Court House has been heavily renovated over the years and now serves as a single-family home. Though its current owners have experienced nothing unusual during their decade in the home, local resident Hank Stein will never forget what he saw one night in an upstairs window.
“This would have been about 1990,” says Stein. “I was walking my dogs past there and I started hearing an unpleasant humming sound.” The humming increased in volume, he says, scaring his dogs so badly they broke away and hid beneath a nearby car. At first unable to determine the origin of the noise, Stein tried to ignore it and set about looking for his dogs. After a few minutes, he says, “I looked up…and saw this girl in the window. She was glowing.” He goes on to describe the girl as being anywhere between 8 and 12, and “Solid – transparent but solid.”
“I could just barely make out her mouth,” Stein remembers. “I could see that she was trying to say something.”
Any sound the girl in the window may have been making, however, was rendered inaudible by the hum. Stein glanced away to continue looking for his dogs and as he did the humming began to fade and when he turned back toward the house, the girl in the window was gone.
Voices in the Dark
In the 100 years since the cornerstone of Revelstoke’s court house was laid countless thousands of people, some in tears and others in chains, have walked its marble-lined halls. Lives have changed forever in the court room, judge’s chambers and conference rooms and according to former night janitors David Han, Helen Ryder & Dana Tarver, the emotions generated there linger long after the doors have closed.
The unusual activity reported at the Revelstoke Court House is entirely of the auditory variety, occurring after the night shift janitors began work at 8pm and appears to be more residual energy than conscious haunting. In this kind of activity, strong emotions leave an imprint on a location and play themselves out over and over until their energy is expended.
On the first floor, Ryder claims, you can hear the sound of indistinct male voices talking back and forth. The same phenomenon was also reported on the second floor near the offices of the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia by Han, who claims the conversations were often followed by the sound of a closing door. Also on that floor is where Dana Tarver has said she could regularly hear women talking by the water fountain.
The sound of chains clattering on the floor have been heard in the courtroom and in the stairwells between floors more than one of the group has reported hearing the sound of children crying.
The current night janitor has experienced nothing out of the ordinary in his time at the court house so it may be that the energy has simply expended itself, leaving the vast halls quiet. Or perhaps the sounds continue as they have, waiting for those with the ears to hear.
The House on the Bank
Behind the court house, built into a bank overlooking the oldest part of Revelstoke – known as “lower town” – the cozy, 3-bedroom Carlson House gives little outward indication that it is home to one of the city’s most storied haunting but for the last 50 years residents and visitors alike have come forward with reports of strange activity.
“You’ll sell the house but I’m not leaving”
Agnes Martin remembers a night in the 1960s when she and boyfriend Mike visited her friend Jane Levitt, who was babysitting at the House on the Bank. The pair arrived long after the children had been tucked into bed upstairs and were chatting to Levitt in the living room when they were startled by a loud thumping noise from overhead. Spooked, the teens crept upstairs to find one of the children had rolled out of bed; Levitt returned the wayward toddler to sleep and the three returned to the living room.
After returning downstairs, Levitt went to draw the curtains on a large window facing out over the bank and Agnes remembers her freezing when she got to the window. Levitt hurriedly closed the drapes and returned to the sofa, her face white. When asked what was wrong, Levitt wouldn’t say and remained silent until the children’s parents returned.
It was on the drive home that she admitted to what she had seen: an elderly, bearded man wearing a top hat who stared intently back at her from the other side of the glass – a side where there was no ground on which to stand.
Later, Agnes was further taken aback when she described the man to her mother and she was told, “That’s what he was supposed to look like.” Her mother explained that “he” was a former owner of the house who became too infirm to look after himself but refused to move, telling his family, “You’ll sell the house but I’m not leaving.”
“Mommy, there’s a man in my room!”
The Seeberg family – Anna, Jim, son Jon and daughter Christine – moved to the House on the Bank in 1983 as renters with an eye towards eventually purchasing the home. That plan, according to Anna, didn’t last.
“I don’t think we were in that house much longer than a year,” she says. “It just got too weird. We couldn’t stay there anymore.”
It began the night 5-year-old Christine rushed into her parent’s room, crying.
“Mommy, mommy, mommy,” the child said. “There’s a man in my room!”
Startled from sleep, Jim and Anna rushed to her room but found no one and when a thorough search of the house revealed no intruders they attributed their daughter’s outburst to nightmares and an overactive imagination. When it happened again and again at irregular intervals over the next few months Anna remembers telling Christine, “It’s ok honey, go back to bed, he’s not really there.”
Eventually, according to Anna, the frequency of the “nightmares” began to increase and so too did their intensity. Still, the family believed it was Christine adjusting to her new surroundings until three events, one each in spring, summer and fall, made the Seebergs realize they weren’t the only ones living in their home.
An Unseen Force
One evening in the spring of 1983 Jim Seeberg had the family’s first physical encounter with the house’s spirits. Earlier in the day, Jim had been at Revelstoke’s Queen Victoria Hospital having his wisdom teeth removed and had chosen not to take his prescribed pain medication before going to bed. Sometime after midnight the throbbing in his mouth reached fever pitch and Jim decided to take his pills, which were in the downstairs bathroom. At the staircase, he had descended the first few steps when a hard push from an unseen force sent him the rest of the way down.
Lying in a dazed heap on the ground, Jim tried to figure out what had happened: there was no one around to push him and so he theorized he had missed a step on the way down, gravity taking care of the rest.
“I remember thinking,” he says, “’maybe I lost too much blood when they took my teeth out this afternoon.’”
Rising partway to his feet, Jim was immediately slammed back to the ground. Frantically, he looked for an attacker but, just as in his search for Christine’s phantom, saw nothing but the darkness, broken in places by shafts of streetlight through the windows.
Since he no longer felt safe trying to stand, Jim resolved to drag himself along the floor into the next door sitting room. Inch by inch he made his way out of the kitchen on his elbows and belly – tensing at every noise, certain he would again be struck down – until finally he managed to climb onto the sitting room sofa. Completely drained by the experience, unable even to call for help, Jim lay there listening for signs of an intruder, hearing only passing cars and the tick of the clock. When Anna found him the next morning he was no more able to explain what had happened to him than he was the night before.
Though they wrote off the events of the previous night to pain and blood loss, the incident still troubled the young couple. They were neither of them inclined to believe in the supernatural but the possibility that there was something of that nature happening in their home was beginning to take shape in their minds. When Christine’s shadow man paid one final, frightening visit that fall the Seebergs realized they could no longer stay in the House on the Bank.
“Mommy, the Man is in My Room Again!”
Though Jim’s ordeal on the stairs was hard to explain, it was the man in Christine’s room who ultimately convinced them to leave. Almost 30 years later, Christine has no recollection of the events that took place in the House on the Bank but both Anna and Katrina, the family’s former babysitter, remember them well.
Because of the spectral man’s nocturnal visits, Christine never felt comfortable in her own bed. She often asked to bunk with Jon in his room on the main floor and on the infrequent occasions when Jim and Anna went out for the night they let her do just that. Katrina, then a teenager, remembers the night Christine called her into Jon’s room because, she said, “The man is staring at us.”
Earlier in the evening, the teenager had been in the main floor living room watching television when she was overcome with the certainty that someone was on the outside of the house looking in. Jim and Anna had made sure not to mention anything about ghosts to the teen because, in Anna’s words, “You don’t tell babysitters that your house might be haunted because you don’t get babysitters”, so the girl dismissed her unease. When Christine emerged from Jon’s room talking about a man looking at the children through a window, however, her discomfort returned full force.
Entering the room she was shocked to find it almost fifteen degrees colder than the rest of the house. Jon was still fast asleep and when she looked out the window there was no man to be seen but Christine was adamant he’d been there.
“He was right there!” she insisted, pointing to a spot just beyond the window.
Afterward, Katrina went through the house locking all the doors and sat with Christine until her parents came home. She remembers the girl saying, “I think he used to live here” but not being able to explain where the thought came from.
Finally, in the winter of 1983 Christine’s phantom got too close for comfort and the family decided they had had enough. Anna remembers the night Christine ran into her parents’ room crying.
“Mommy!” she said, “The man is back in my room!”
As on previous occasions, Anna told her daughter that the man wasn’t real and couldn’t hurt her.
“Honey,” she said, “Just go back to your room.”
This time the frightened girl stood rooted to the spot.
“Mommy, I can’t,” Christine said. “He’s going through my dresser.”
At that, Anna sat up.
“He opened the windows and he was on the ledge of my window and then jumped on my dresser. Now he’s going through my drawers.”
That was enough to send Anna racing down the hallway into her daughter’s room. She didn’t see a man but the window, its latch too high for the child to reach – was wide open and so were the drawers of her little bureau.
“I told her,” remembers Anna. “…you can stay with mommy and daddy tonight.”
That night was the final straw and the family began looking for a new home almost immediately.
“We told the people that owned it at the time, ‘We can’t live here’,” says Anna. “We were hoping to buy that place…[but] there was just no way.”
A Haunted Past
Had the Seebergs known Martin Vickers their experiences in the House on the Bank may not have come as such a surprise. Though he never lived in the house, his aunt and uncle – Ralph and Grace Carlson – owned the property from the 1930s through to the 1970s and Martin was privy to many of the encounters they had.
“For me, there wasn’t a great deal that was out of the ordinary,” says Vickers, who stayed in the home a number of times in the 1940s and again in the 1960s. “The creaking of the stairs was about all I ever noticed, which you could maybe – maybe – construe as very soft footfall up and down.”
The experiences of his aunt and uncle, however, were much more interesting.
“I remember my aunt saying to me that the spirits came along and whopped her husband,” says Vickers. “They’d do it when he’d go up the stairs – they’d whack him on the rear end.”
As a matter of fact, the most common place for the Carlsons to experience their house’s strange behavior was the staircase; as it turns out, Jim Seeberg’s encounter wasn’t as unusual as he had thought.
“My uncle – I guess he stood about 6’3”, a big man – was going up the stairs one night,” says Vickers. “He got pushed aside [by something he couldn’t see]. From that moment on he was a believer in the spook.”
Ralph’s wife Grace was also a target for the troublesome spirit, being “bumped” a number of times, according to Vickers.
“One time,” he remembers. “She was carrying a load of laundry…when the spirit pushed her and she dropped her laundry basket. Auntie was annoyed because in those days laundry was quite difficult to do.”
The Carlsons also bore witness to a number of visible apparitions drifting through their home, and in some cases, their walls.
“My aunt, she used to see this apparition quite often…drifting in and out of the walls,” says Vickers. “She was very matter of fact about it. On another occasion [uncle] saw something he didn’t like at all…something which troubled him.”
The apparition that had troubled Ralph Carlson was that of a headless man walking across his living room and through the far wall.
“Uncle didn’t like that at all,” says Vickers. “He only saw it the once.”
The only steady presence in the home was the spirit the Carlsons referred to as “the black man.” While they never clarified whether the apparition was completely black and without features or a man of Afro-Caribbean heritage, they did say he was a kind, helpful soul who cared for their young daughter.
“The one they called the Black Man…seemed to be someone who wanted to comfort, especially the child,” remembers Vickers. “He would just sit at the child’s crib…not doing anything but if she was disturbed or started to cry, then he would stroke her head and she would go right back to sleep. They saw him quite frequently.”
Vickers also recalls a visit to his aunt and uncle in the 1960s during which they hired the babysitter, Jane Levitt. The Carlsons told him that finding a sitter could be difficult because of the house’s reputation; according to Grace, “We always had trouble trying to get someone to sit with our girls.” When informed of the spectral man Levitt claims to have seen, Vickers says simply, “Well, that wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
According to him, Ralph and Grace Carlson took all the strange events happening around their home in stride. Both were hardworking, no-nonsense people – Ralph a long-time employee with the electrical company, Grace a dedicated homemaker – and the haunting of the House on the Bank was just another part of life they learned to deal with. And while he never saw any evidence of the haunting himself, Martin Vickers believes the stories his aunt and uncle told him.
“If they had been people who used to talk about ghosts or things like that it wouldn’t have been believable,” he says. “But they were just common, every day people. They didn’t dwell on it, it just happened…they were never really at peace with it but…they dealt with it you might say. They had no choice – that was their home.”
Many thanks to Carol Thompson for the hours-long interview she gave which produced this and other stories. She held nothing back and I learned a great deal from our conversations, including how a conversation on this topic can empty nearby tables.
The Man Who Wasn’t There
Though she no longer recalls the exact date, Carol Thompson remembers it was sometime in the late 1970s when she first became aware of an unexpected presence in the home she shared with her husband Ken and their three children.
One night, her children in bed and Ken – an engineer with the Canadian Pacific Railway – away at work, Carol had settled into her easy chair with a book and soon fallen asleep.
“It was quite late in the night… I’d say maybe two in the morning,” she remembers. “I had kicked back in my chair with a little light on to read by and I fell asleep. I woke up because something walked by me and left a breeze.”
At first, Carol assumed the movement was Ken returning home from work.
“I sat up and noticed the door from the entry, which had been closed, was open so I thought maybe my husband had come home.”
Rising from her chair, Carol slowly walked toward the kitchen, where Ken would usually be found after a long shift.
“I looked into the kitchen but everything was still dark,” recalls Thompson. “So I called his name.”
There was no reply.
Wondering if she had perhaps missed him in the kitchen, or if, after entering the living room, he had turned around and gone upstairs to bed, Thompson went to the window to check for her husband’s car parked outside. His parking spot was empty. Carol wrote the experience off to her imagination.
“I thought, ‘Oh…, that’s weird’ and sat back down in my chair to read.”
Thompson soon fell back asleep but not for long. Around thirty minute later she woke again.
“The same thing happened…,” she remembers. “Like somebody walked by me but this time actually brushed a hand along my arm.”
Again Carol rose from her chair and again she discovered she was alone on the main floor of her house. This time, she double-checked all the locks and went upstairs to wait for Ken.
The Sleeping Man
After that night the presence in the Thompson’s home would make itself known intermittently but never in any memorable way, at least not until the appearance of the sleeping man.
“One day, I heard something on the front porch,” remembers Carol. “It was just a screened-in porch, there were no locks or anything…but still, I wasn’t expecting to see a man curled up sleeping out there. He was curled up in the corner, half-sitting up against the wall.”
Believing the man, who she remembers being dressed in khaki-coloured trousers and a Mackinaw jacket, to be a vagrant, she decided to leave his removal to Ken.
“This fellow didn’t seem to be any threat to me but I wasn’t gonna go out there and check it out,” she said. “By that time, my husband wasn’t working all night anymore – he’d by home by 11 – so I left it.”
Carol kept checking on the man, who never once moved from his spot on the floor, and when Ken arrived home she was surprised to see him enter the house without stopping.
“Did you see the guy sleeping on the floor?” she asked.
“No, I didn’t see anybody there,” was his reply.
Carol immediately went to the window and, sure enough, the sleeping man was right where she had last seen him. Ken would have had to walk right past him on his way inside but had seen nothing.
“I said, ‘He’s right there!’ and this time Ken saw him too,” says Carol. “So he went around the corner and on to the porch. It only took a second for him to get out there but by the time he did, the guy was gone. I never saw him again.”
Un-creepy ghost stories are something I appreciate and Barb’s story of That Dog in the Window definitely counts as one.
This is yet another haunting in the vicinity of Revelstoke’s Court House, the full details of which will be shown in our final chapter Court House Square. While Revelstoke is a small place and it seems like we should not be overly surprised at having so many occurrences this close together, it’s not that small (geographically at least) and I feel the concentration of hauntings in this area to be truly unusual. Why it is happening, or what is implied by the presence of animal spirits in the afterlife, are deep philosophical waters into which we won’t be wading here.
That Dog in the Window
It was not far from the heavily haunted area surrounding Revelstoke’s Court House that lifelong local Barb Johnson had an unusual experience which suggests it’s not only the spirits of men roaming the land on which Revelstoke was built.
In 2006, Johnson and her husband, who were browsing real-estate opportunities, requested a showing of a red-brick heritage home a stone’s throw from Holton House. The home, a two-storey affair on a tree-shaded corner lot is as unassuming as all of Revelstoke’s other supernatural hot spots.
On the day of their viewing, the Johnsons arrived early to the appointment and so stood waiting for the realtor outside the home, which they had been assured was vacant. It was as they stood there that Barb first noticed the dog, which she described as looking like Toto from the Wizard of Oz.
“We were looking at the house, in the big picture window at the front,” she remembers. “We looked at it and I said, ‘What a sweet little dog!’ He was wagging his tail and looking right at us.”
When the realtor arrived Barb asked him why, if there was no one living in the home, a dog had been left behind. The realtor seemed skeptical of the Johnsons’ claims and assured them the home was completely vacant, with no pets left behind. Certainly, on viewing the home Barb and her husband discovered it to be completely empty and notably lacking in dogs.
“I looked at the corner by the front window where the little dog would have been,” says Johnson. “There was no way because there was no furniture in that house and that window was a good two-and-a-half feet up. There’s no way that dog could have been in the window.”
Though the rest of the viewing was uneventful, the Johnsons elected not to purchase the red-brick home. Sometime later, Johnson told the story to a woman, whom we will call Sandra, who had grown up in the house and discovered Sandra had once owned a small black dog who spent many a day resting comfortably in the house’s large picture window.
“She told me, ‘He used to look out the window all the time!’,” remembers Johnson. “I guess he was quite young and was hit in the street outside their house, so they buried him under the pine tree in their backyard.”
Johnson asked Sandra if she had any photographs of her childhood pet so she could see whether it resembled the animal she had seen.
“It took a couple months but she finally tracked down a picture… it was him!”
Word of this story first came to me through a close friend who was always the very definition of skeptic. He was a friend of the Gates (not their real name) family and is mentioned below as the person who heard disembodied voices whispering in his ear. Though he still retains a healthy skepticism, that encounter permanently changed his perspective on the subject of the paranormal. As for the house itself, the young family now living there has yet to experience anything out of the ordinary.
The Graveyard Next Door
Given its proximity to the Revelstoke Cemetery, there have always been rumors that burial sites were disturbed in order to make way for the Thunderbird Homes; some say a number of graves were disinterred and relocated elsewhere, others claim they were built over and remain below the homes. Official records refute these rumors but, nonetheless, people in Revelstoke have whispered stories about haunting in the Thunderbird development since its completion in 1977.
For the women of the Gates family – Maya, Emily and mother April – the haunting in their home on Corbin Place was no mere story. From strange sounds in the night to three-year-old Maya’s insistence that a man in black was sharing the family’s home, the events that took place during their time in the Thunderbirds still trouble the Gates women today.
“There Were Voices… but There Was Nothing There.”
The fact that their new home bordered the graveyard, with headstones mere feet from their back fence, didn’t bother April Gates and her husband; in fact the two found the location peaceful. It was a spacious, two-storey home with room for themselves, April’s teenage daughter, and a new arrival that the couple was eagerly planning for. After moving in, however, April’s feelings toward the home began to change.
“The air,” she said. “It was always unsettling…you were always on your last nerve.”
It was not long afterward that she began having what she described as “horrible nightmares” about the home. Still, the new family worked hard at making the house their own and before long had settled into a comfortable routine. This is about the time the spirits in the home made themselves known to Emily, then a teenager.
Emily remembers coming home to Corbin Place late at night on a number of occasions and hearing what sounded like electronic interference.
“It was… like somebody was listening to a TV or a radio,” says Emily. “There were voices… interference like white noise…but there was nothing there.”
Sometimes on nights when the radio static could be heard Emily would also see flashes around corners and across doorways, as though someone was walking quickly past.
“I’d be brushing my teeth and someone would walk by the bathroom door,” Emily remembers.
When the phenomenon first began, the girl believed her mother was up later than usual and so would call out a greeting.
“I’d say, ‘Hey mom!’ but when I went out looking for her…she wasn’t there.” For her part, April has said she was not the one walking past her daughter in the night.
It wasn’t long before the activity at Corbin Place began to manifest itself to people outside the family, too. Emily recalls the day her and April were watching television with a friend who suddenly looked toward them and asked, “Who said that?”
“We looked at him and said, ‘What are you talking about?’” said April. “His face went white and he said that someone had whispered in his ear.”
“He’s Looking at Me… He Looks Really Mad”
Maya was born a little over a year after the Gates moved into the house on Corbin Place and her birth marked an uptick in the home’s paranormal activity. It began with the infant’s electric baby swing, which, several times, both April and Emily saw turn itself on and start to rock.
“It would stop dead, then it would start again,” remembers April.
When she was old enough to talk, Maya began to tell her parents about the strange people she was seeing around the home. First it was a young girl, her blonde hair in pigtails, who would appear from nowhere and sit staring at her.
“She would be so matter of fact about it,” says April. “I’d say, ‘Maybe you were having a bad dream’ and she would always say, ‘No, mom!’”
Soon the girl was joined by another, more sinister figure – a man dressed all in black, his face covered. Maya would sometimes see what she called “the dark man” walking in the upstairs hallway near the bedrooms or downstairs in the dining room and April remembers her daughter running to her in fear on a number of occasions.
“Mom, he’s sitting there,” the girl would say, gesturing to where she had been playing underneath the dining room table. “He’s looking at me…he looks really mad.”
The most dramatic incident happened when Maya was 4, towards the end of the Gates family time in the house on Corbin Place. One evening after dinner, the child was sitting at the dinner table watching Emily and April put away the dishes. The last piece to go into the cupboard was a drinking glass, and as April walked away to hang up her dish towel that cup exploded with a bang, sending glass everywhere.
“It didn’t just break, it exploded into shards that you could barely even see,” describes April. “It shot across the entire kitchen… we had shards of glass in our hair, on our socks, everywhere.”
“Something Was Not Right”
Though there were strange incidents all over the house, April remembers Emily’s room as a hotspot for supernatural activity.
“Sometimes the room would be ice cold,” she remembers. “It would bother me to walk into that room or even by it…something was not right in there”
In addition to intermittent cold temperatures, Emily would also experience problems with the stereo in her room; while listening to music with the volume set on low, the sound level would suddenly increase to its maximum volume setting. Hoping the problem was electrical, the family sent the stereo into a repair shop but no faults were found. The issue returned immediately after the stereo arrived back at the home.
With some hesitation, April remembers the part of Emily’s room that bothered her the most – a crawl space underneath the house, entered through Emily’s closet:
“There was a crawl space in that room in the closet,” said April. “I’d been down to store a few things underneath there and there was a white, silty sand underneath that place and the board – you know, the floor that you cover the crawl space with – there were scratches on the underside of that board. I don’t know where the hell those came from.”
“There Was a Rage in There…”
While April claims to have heard a story about two graves being disinterred to make way for their home, one belonging to a little girl with blonde pigtails, there is little hard evidence to support this claim. What does seem possible, from Emily’s descriptions of flashes in the edge of her vision, Maya’s description of “the dark man” and talk of anger and lingering unease, is that the house on Corbin Place had been paid visits by the entities often known as Shadow People.
For more information, see the chapter on Shadow People & Gremlins.
Whatever the cause, after five years in the house on Corbin Place the Gates family was exhausted – April split with her husband soon after they sold the property and relocated to the Okanagan with her daughters.
“It wasn’t a peaceful place,” she remembers. “There was a rage in there…it affected you. I honestly believe that’s why my marriage fell apart the way it did.”
Five years is, coincidentally, the amount of time the house’s previous owners had lived in the home before moving on.
In the years since leaving Revelstoke, April Gates and her daughters have often looked back to their time on Corbin Place and wondered exactly what plagued the house they had come to with such optimism.
“I used to go for walks through the cemetery steady when I was pregnant with my daughter,” she remembers. “And even afterward. I found it quite relaxing. But that house…it was dark. I felt so bad when I left there because the people moving in….they were gonna have to go through what we did.”
It’s difficult to say whether the ghost spotted in the Colbeck House is truly the spirit of Henry Colbeck or an echo of his personality, a residual presence which will one day fade entirely. Certainly, the current owners of the Colbeck House have never seen any apparitions and, despite having gained quite the reputation as one of Revelstoke’s haunted houses, the property has been quiet for many years.
The Ghost of Henry Colbeck
Born in England in 1869, Henry Colbeck immigrated to Canada as a young man, marrying fellow English expatriate Ellen Page in 1894. The couple were married in the small Okanagan town of Vernon before settling in Revelstoke, where Henry worked as a marine engineer on a steamship.
As the years went on, Colbeck invested in property all over town and by 1915, when a mysterious fire claimed his ship – the S.S. Revelstoke – along with the small Arrow Lakes town of Comaplix, Colbeck owned much of the neighborhood now known as Columbia Park. From this point on Colbeck became a farmer, working his own land the way his father George had in England.
Colbeck House – originally a modest bungalow – was built by Henry in 1908 and expanded to its current two-storey incarnation in 1926 as his wealth increased.
Following Henry and Ellen’s deaths, his in 1949 and hers in 1953, ownership of their home passed into the hands of the local Masons, an organization to which Henry had belonged for many years. It was around this time that Colbeck House began to gather a reputation as one of Revelstoke’s haunted houses.
The Man in the Window
Gloria Abbott, whose mother Margaret Farness purchased the Colbeck House sometime in the early 1960s, remembers hearing stories about its resident ghost. According to Abbott, Mrs. Farness would often walk into her small bedroom near the front of the house to see a spectral older man sitting in a chair.
“I don’t know what that room was many years ago but it was [my mother’s] bedroom then,” remembers Abbott. “She said he was sitting in his chair with his seaman’s cap and he was looking out the window.”
Though the man never spoke, Mrs. Farness recognized Henry Colbeck from old photographs.
“She saw him a few times,” says Abbot. “But she wasn’t afraid of him. She said he was just there.”
“There Was This Horrendous Crash…”
Dan and Celeste Tracy never saw Henry Colbeck during the time they lived in his house, but they heard no shortage of other stories when they moved into their new home.
“Previous owners told us when you drive by the house at night you can see lights in the attic,” remembers Celeste. “Or the oven light will turn itself on when you’re not in the room. We didn’t experience anything like that.”
In fact, for the first two years they spent in Colbeck House, the Tracys didn’t experience anything at all. Then, one Sunday afternoon while Dan was out working in the garage Celeste heard a terrific noise.
“There was this horrendous crash,” she remembers. “It shook the whole house. I thought maybe someone had driven off the road and hit us.”
Running out the front door to find Dan, Celeste was surprised to learn he hadn’t heard anything at all. A walk-around of the property showed no obvious damage –no cars half-embedded in any of the walls, for example – so the couple went inside the home to look for the source of the disturbance.
“We came back in through the front door and walked all the way around on the inside of the house to see if something had fallen…we couldn’t find anything,” says Celeste.
By the time they had reached the back door of the house, the pair was completely stumped. Dan was dubious at best and Celeste was beginning to think she had imagined the whole thing – then they saw the broken glass. Somehow, the interior pane of the back door’s double-glazed window had shattered into pieces but left the exterior pane untouched.
“To this day,” says Celeste. “I can’t give you a logical explanation for that one.”
At first, stories of ‘gremlins’ were a bridge too far, even for someone writing a book about the supernatural. Eventually, when I kept running across stories, differing only in the names and locations involved, of tiny shadow people causing electrical and mechanical problems, I relented.
Strangely, despite their being common in paranormal literature, not one person from Revelstoke came forward to talk about encounters with full-on shadow people; the only two interactions I was able to document were my own. Not included here because I cannot be sure of my own objectivity, they were nevertheless the most frightening and inexplicable phenomenon I have ever witnessed.
Should any Revelstoke residents have encounters of their own they’d like to share, I would be very interested in hearing them.
Shadow People and ‘Gremlins’
Sightings of “Shadow People” are among the world’s most commonly reported supernatural phenomena. Most often described as being the size of an adult human and completely black in color, with no definable features, reports differs on how Shadow People move – some observers say their movements are disjointed, others fluid – but most agree they move quickly, from shadow to shadow.
Their appearances tend to hold to a pattern: at first they are glimpsed from the corner of your eye, a dark flash that is gone by the time you look directly at it, leaving you only with a sense of unease. Over time the unease increases, along with the frequency of the flashes until finally you see an apparition directly in front of you. They have been seen standing, running, at night time and in the day. Those who have touched Shadow People report a feeling like electrical current running through their bodies. A few have described their meeting with Shadow People as marking the start of periods of great depression in their lives.
Less commonly reported are stories of small shadow people who seem to be more irritating than frightening. The arrival of these creatures – often referred to by those who suffer them as “gremlins” – heralds any number of annoyances, from electrical malfunctions to mechanical failures and while Shadow People appear to be tied to particular places, Gremlins seem to be attached to people; in at least two of the stories described here the creatures are said to have followed a person or persons to new locations.
“I Guess We Got Mom’s Gremlins”
Over the course of her life, Mary Dean has seen ghosts, strange lights in the sky and dreamed of events before they happened, but even she rejected the notion of little shadow people, or Gremlins – at least at first. Once they moved into her home, however, she began to reconsider and once someone showed her a working method for deterring them, she became a believer.
Mary’s husband Chris was estranged from his birth family for most of his adult life and it wasn’t until middle-age that he was finally able to make contact with his birth mother, Janine. Janine, now elderly and living in Lethbridge, Alberta, was thrilled to hear from Chris and wished to meet him so before long, he and Mary made the 8-hour trip east. Once there he and Janine began the process of getting to know one another and the three became close, with Mary and Chris visiting whenever the opportunity presented itself. This is when Janine began to talk about her “Gremlins”.
Mary remembers the woman Janine would electrical problems around her home: the lights would flicker, the television would cut in and out, sometimes even her car would conk out for no apparent reason and Janine would always attribute the trouble to “Gremlins.” Then, on the way home from what would be their last visit before Janine passed on, Chris and Mary began having problems with their truck.
These problems persisted after returning to Revelstoke and soon they began having minor electrical problems in their home as well.
“It was little weird things,” said Mary. “The lights would flicker on and off, but there’d be no major problems.”
The two blamed the issues on old wiring in their home, although from time to time Chris would tease Mary by saying, “I guess we got mom’s gremlins.”
“We made a joke of it,” she remembers.
It stayed a joke until the day Mary let a co-worker in on it and got an unexpected reply.
“I was talking to this woman…her family was from Ireland,” remembers Mary. “I made a joke about [having gremlins] and she says, ‘Do you know how to get rid of them? Give them an offering – a saucer of milk out by the main door that you use in your house.”
Mary’s first thought was that a saucer of milk by her front door would be good for endearing her to the neighborhood cats and not much else but as the annoyances at her home escalated she decided to try the woman’s advice: she placed a bowl of milk outside the door to her house.
“We have 2 cats that live in the car port and we used to get strays coming in to steal cat food,” says Mary. “That milk sat there for three days…it was never touched.”
The electrical disturbances stopped soon after.
Years later Mary’s daughter Carla began to have similar problems when she and her boyfriend moved into a new home in Catherwood Mobile Home Park, a remote area past the Revelstoke airport: her car would break, they would have it repaired and then his would do the same. This went back and forth for almost a month before Carla told her mom, who, without hesitation, replied, “You’ve got gremlins. Put some milk out by your door.”
While the girl was used to hearing strange things from her mother, this was an entirely new level and it took some convincing on Mary’s part before her daughter would try the experiment.
Says Mary, “She put out a saucer of milk…on her porch. She’s out in the middle of nowhere, any animal can come and drink it and [the milk] sat there for a couple of days, not touched.”
After three days Carla took the saucer back inside and her car troubles ceased.
“I’ve Had Gremlins for Years – I Just Figured You Can’t Get Rid of Them”
As far as belief in the supernatural goes, Roma Sutherland is Mary Dean’s diametric opposite: she has never seen a ghost, unexplainable light in the sky or, until her experience with gremlins, encountered any phenomenon you might class as supernatural. As such, it never occurred to her that the electrical problems she experienced after moving into a new home with her boyfriend Andrew, starting with a faulty porch light, were anything other than bad wiring and worse luck.
“It was really weird,” she recalls. “At first the lights on the porch weren’t working…then all of a sudden the plugins where the TV was and then my microwave and computer.”
After several electricians had come and gone without finding the source of the malfunctions, Roma was stuck for answers the day she complained about the problem to her friend Nancy.
“So each new phase is one step away from where your porch is?” Nancy asked.
Roma realized that was, in fact the case and told her so.
“Go put milk out by your front door,” said Nancy. “You got gremlins.”
It was the first time Roma had ever laughed in a friend’s face.
“No, I don’t.”
Nancy was firm. “Yes, you do,” she said. “They obviously moved in with one of you. Try it. You’ll see.”
The friends left it at that but Roma’s troubles soon wore her down and she placed a saucer of milk outside the front door, just ahead of the faulty porch light. Not wanting Andrew to ask any questions, she hid the saucer behind a potted plant and waited; within a couple of days everything was back to normal. She still won’t quite admit that what took place in her house happened because of small shadow people, gremlins, or anything to that effect but she won’t deny it either.
Andrew was much less surprised by the chain of events. When she hesitantly told him what she had done, his answer caught her completely off-guard.
“Yeah, I’ve had gremlins around for years,” he said. “I just figured you can’t get rid of them.”
Here we are again in UFO territory. James Bell’s account was the first I’d heard of of the Orange Triangle but it wasn’t long before I found another, an anonymous report submitted to the Alberta UFO Study Group, which became the story, “We figured it was just a trick with the trees…” While these two stories are the only reported instances of the Orange Triangle in the Revelstoke area, the USA-based National UFO Reporting Centre has logged countless viewings of the phenomenon across North America since 2005.
Interestingly, though Bell’s memory of the incident remains fresh, his companion – who was willing to be interviewed but not identified – has found his recollection fading. This experience is remarkably similar to that of the Scott family in “The Arrow Lakes: Fear on the South Road” and Olympe and Joan Astra’s foster daughter in “The Girl on Highway 23”, (both published by The Current last year) among others. It raises the question of whether the mind actively seeks to forget incidents which do not conform to expectations of reality or there is some mysterious external factor disrupting the memories of some people who witness extraordinary events.
The Orange Triangle
White lights, blue sparks, and an indistinct brick-like object disappearing into a point of light – these are only a handful of the unusual phenomena observed in the skies above Revelstoke since 1950 and their strangeness aside the only thing they have in common is an apparent uniqueness. That is, each phenomenon has been observed, or at least reported, only once. This uniformity makes the Orange Triangle even more of an anomaly than might ordinarily be considered.
The Orange Triangle is almost exactly that – a series of moving orange lights in a triangle formation which has been seen in the night sky above Revelstoke on at least two occasions, once in 2010 and again in 2011. Both times witnesses reported seeing the lights well above the top of nearby mountains and both times the sightings were followed by reports of a military presence, raising the question of whether the Orange Triangle is a man-made phenomenon or unusual enough that it has attracted the attention of Canada’s Department of National Defense.
The experiences of the first witnesses to the Orange Triangle raise another question as well – are reports of strange lights in the sky also somehow linked to occurrences of supernatural activity?
“We figured it was just a trick with the trees…”
On the night of March 2, 2010 friends Rose Janiwicz and Edna Tass were driving west towards Revelstoke on Highway 1 when they noticed what appeared to be a white light in the sky ahead of them.
“It was an oddly bright light flashing on and off quite high in the sky,” says Tass, who was sitting in the passenger’s seat. “We figured it was just a trick with the trees.”
Not long after spying the light, Tass noticed a young girl by the side of the road ahead.
“I saw her clear as day,” she remembers. “She had a pink winter jacket, black tight pants, a blonde pony tail, and a stare that creeped me right out.”
It is this appearance which calls into question the link between strange events on the ground and in the sky, because when Tass pointed the girl, who had been completely motionless, out to Janiwicz she vanished.
Tass adamantly rejects the idea that what she saw was a product of her imagination.
“I [first] saw a girl standing in the ditch out my peripheral vision,” she says. “When I told [Rose] about her, she disappeared.”
As is often the case with such inexplicable events, the two quickly put the disappearing girl out of their heads and focused on the flashing light above Revelstoke. Upon entering town the two found a pullout with an unobstructed view of the sky from which to observe the display.
“It was well above the mountains,” remembers Tass. “But rather than being west of us like previously while coming towards the town, it was more south, as if it were hovering above the town.”
The pair also observed that the light had increased in size.
After several minutes the women left Revelstoke and continued their journey west, stopping again to watch the sky at a clearing not far out of town. By this point the white light had become elongated, almost into an hourglass shape, and was joined by two other, more spherical, beacons.
“I saw the bright object with 2 orange lights with it now,” says Tass. “One of them was above the white light and one below.”
These new arrivals also flickered at seemingly random intervals.
The lights then changed formation, moving into a triangle shape before the white light disappeared from view.
Getting back into the car, Tass and Janiwicz continued west for a few minutes more, until their curiosity demanded they make another stop. This time they pulled off the highway at a vantage point high above the tree line, with a clear view of the starless night sky.
Over the years some who claim to have seen strange lights over Revelstoke have confused the headlamps of snowmobiles on the mountainside for something more mysterious but Tass dismisses this explanation.
“They [the lights] were well above any mountain tops in the area,” she says.
Janiwicz told Tass she had caught sight of a fourth light, again white, to the southwest of the elongated one shortly before it disappeared. Just as she was pointing out its location the elongated light again appeared in the sky, this time almost double its previous size.
“While we were watching,” says Tass, “…the top orange light moved nearly instantaneously from its 45 degree position relative to the other one, to a position nearly straight above it.”
The two women watched for some time afterward, noting that all four lights would flicker but only the white ones would disappear for any length of time. Stranger than everything they had observed was the feeling experienced by both as they witnessed the unusual lights.
“It felt like someone was pumping a hundred million volts through my body,” recalls Tass. “It felt so strange and energizing that we both barely even noticed the next hour.” She goes on to describe this positive buzz as lasting well into the next day, when they returned to Alberta.
It was on this return journey the two women claim to have seen numerous “military-looking” vehicles while passing back through Revelstoke, itself allegedly hemmed in by a thick fog that began one kilometer before town and ended one kilometre after, rising to a height of some 200 metres.
“There were no markings at all on them,” says Tass. “But they were painted in the distinct military green.”
The pair also claim to have seen what they described as a “tractor/trailer” pulling away equipment painted in the same style as the unmarked trucks. Tass recognized what she believed to be two enormous generators on the trailer, along with other, unrecognizable, hardware.
East of Revelstoke the pair claims to have been passed by 3 Chevy Tahoe SUVs, all with government-marked Alberta license plates. On the long drive home both Janiwicz and Tass say they observed a number of such license plates on a variety of high-end automobiles, always traveling in groups of three. Their last sighting of these vehicles was to be on the section of Highway 2 between Airdrie and Innisfail, Alberta, in which they claim to have seen 18 of the northbound Chevy Tahoe SUVs with similar license plates.
As the two women left the highway at Innisfail we can only speculate as to where the government vehicles were headed but the Canadian Forces base at Cold Lake, Alberta – some 5 hours north – seems a likely guess.
“Two Days Later We Heard Jets”
One evening in October 2011 two people – Revelstoke resident James Bell and a friend who asked not to be identified – were traveling east towards Revelstoke on Highway 1 when they spotted a series of strange lights in the night sky. The pair were four and a half kilometres west of town, near the Great White North Bar and Grill, when they observed a trio of bright circular orange lights arranged in what Bell described as “an equilateral triangle” above the peak of Mount Cartier.
Bell pulled his vehicle off the road to observe the phenomenon.
“It was about the size of the windshield,” he remembers. “They sat there and didn’t move, at least not at first.”
A light rain on the roof of their SUV was the only sound as Bell and his friend watched the three orbs hanging motionless in the sky. Suddenly, the light at the bottom right of the triangle traveled upward – almost instantaneously – to join the light at the top and all three lights blinked before disappearing. After the disappearance of the light the pair sat stunned, trying to understand what they had just seen.
“We didn’t really know what to think,” says Bell. “Sometimes you see light coming off Cartier but it’s just the headlamp on a snowmobile. This wasn’t that – two of these lights were below the peak of the mountain but the third was above it.”
The two friends resolved to put the incident out of their minds and return to Revelstoke. Two days later, Bell was enjoying a cigarette outside his home when he heard the unmistakable sound of jets overhead, flying above the cloud cover.
“It was around 8:30-9pm when I heard them,” he remembers. “Sometimes at night you can hear the sound of jetliners flying but these were three-four low altitude passes by fighter planes.”
Though the sound of jet fighters passing overhead isn’t completely unheard of in the Revelstoke area, Bell believes the timing of this particular flight – coming as it did only two days after sighting the Orange Triangle – was no coincidence.
“What I think,” says Bell. “Is they were investigating whatever it was we saw.”
The Military Angle
In both cases presented here, sightings of the Orange Triangle were followed by reports of a military presence in and around the Revelstoke area. Thinking there may be some connection between the two, a formal Access to Information request, asking for details of military movement in the Revelstoke area, was submitted to the Canadian Department of National Defense. Their response, including e-mails and flight logs, show the Armed Forces were indeed in the Revelstoke area on March 2, 2010 – to help the community commemorate the 1910 Rogers Pass Avalanche, which killed 58 railroad workers. No mention was made of the jets heard by James Bell in October 2011 or of rogue lights in the sky.
About the author
Brennan Storr is a Revelstoke-born writer who relocated to Victoria, on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, in 2007. He began writing in late 2009 with the travel blog ‘Largely the Truth’ (www.largelythetruth.com) and his work has since appeared in the Vancouver Province, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, on CBC, in the Victoria-based publications Diversity Reporter and What’s Up, Victoria! as well as The Revelstoke Current. A lifelong fan of spooky stories, Brennan began researching the ghost stories of Revelstoke in April 2012 with the aim of eventually turning them into a book, the first draft of which he has recently completed.