It’s October, folks. Time for ghouls and ghosts and all things that go bump in the night, culminating with Halloween on October 31st.
As so many festival days do, this one goes back over 2,000 years to the time of the Celts who peopled Ireland, much of the United Kingdom and northern France. On the Celtic calendar, Samhain (pronounce it Sow-in or Saw-in) represented the end of summer’s light and warmth and the start of the cold and dark of winter. To encourage the spirits to help the living and their livestock through this dark half of the year, offerings of food and wine were left outside peoples’ homes, or an extra place was laid at the table. Whether or not the spirits braved the journey through the thin veil between living and dead is a matter of conjecture.
Calgary has several reputedly haunted houses. One of them is The Deane House, in Inglewood. Built in 1906 for Captain Richard Burton Deane, the Superintendent of the Royal North West Mounted Police, the house was moved to its present location in 1929 when it became a boarding house. From then up until 1973 several unfortunate incidents involving tenants occurred.
One man was fatally wounded after falling down the stairs. A young woman jumped from a second storey window. Another man was gunned down on the porch and a depressed, epileptic boy committed suicide in the attic. As if these incidents were not bad enough, a murder/suicide incident was carried out in front of two young children.
After 1973, the house became a gallery and studio for local artists who were the first to report unexplained occurrences there such as the smell of pipe tobacco or cold spots on the stairs. When the house became a restaurant several of the staff reported seeing shifting figures on the stairs, a cupboard door that would not stay locked, and most spooky of all, an apparent blood stain that could not be washed away.
Other hauntings in Inglewood have been reported at the Victorian era Cross House, now a restaurant and renamed Rouge, and the Hose and Hound pub which was once a firehall. Chief James ‘Cappy’ Smart was known to have an interest in exotic pets and it is reputed that the ghost of his monkey now haunts the pub.
In downtown Calgary another of the Fairmont chain properties, the Palliser Hotel, has reports of a ghostly debutante and a haunted elevator. There is also the Doll Block Building on 8th Avenue and the old City Hall. Through the month of October, there are many ghost walks and tours available, some of them lantern-lit for full atmospheric effect.
Whether you believe in ghosts or not, October is the month when you can fully indulge all your flights of fancy.