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Haunted Houses & Ghost Towns: Your Essential Guide to Spooky Locations in Western Canada

Haunted House

Does your home have an otherworldly presence? Things that go bump in the night? You’re not alone — Western Canada is full of hauntings — here are my top spots for ghost busting, as well as some tips for dealing with your own uninvited houseguests…

In This Haunted Destination Article You Will Discover:

  • Where the Spookiest Destinations in Western Canada Can Be Found
  • How to Spot a Ghost
  • What to Do If Your Home is Haunted
  • How to Take a Spooky Tour of Western Canada

Visiting the Bonney’s family cabin always gave me the heebie-jeebies. Beautiful though it was — a rustic dwelling on the north side of Central Vancouver Island’s Cameron Lake — when the day’s light left the valley, the ghost stories started to circulate. Great-Grandpa Bonney, it seems, had never quite left his beloved cabin.

And Great-Grandpa Bonney was dead.

“You can smell his pipe-smoke late at night,” the Bonneys would whisper. Did I ever smell the sweet tobacco, or was it the fireplace mixed with my over-active imagination? All I know for sure is late-night bathroom trips past Great-Grandpa Bonney’s wooden rocking chair and underneath his prized Sitka blacktail deer mount were spine-tingling affairs. I preferred to hold it in.

Cottages and homes often have a way of keeping families together — forever. I’ve spoken with more than not who claim their generational family cabin has a permanent guest. Some say it with a wink and a smile, others are deadpan, but one thing is for sure — haunted houses and ghostly visitors are a real part of rural lore.

Barbara Smith, author of such books as Haunted Alberta and expert on Canada’s ghostly history, is sure of the West’s haunted history. So sure, in fact, she has authored more than a dozen books about the paranormal, essentially creating the Ghost House Publications division of Lone Pine Publishing — the folks at Lone Pine call their Ghost House Division, “The house that Barbara built.”

“The idea of ghosts has always interested me. I like mystery, and this is the ultimate mystery,” Smith said.

According to Smith, rural Western Canada is chock-full of spirits. Just ask the folks at Buck-A-Boo Acres & Guest Ranch in Warburg, Alberta — they couldn’t be more pleased with having resident ghosts. While local apparitions have been well-documented by many guests, the ranch is especially known for its examples of what Smith calls “retro-cognition;” that is, witnessing a scene from the past unfold in the present. One such guest story appears in her book, Haunted Alberta, about a man who saw a scene of an ancient First Nations ceremony and subsequent murder play out before his eyes. There have also been reports of a ghostly trapper who roams the property and sightings of a teenaged girl who attended a school that once sat on the grounds before later committing suicide. Smith says one of the reasons for the spirits could be that the area sits on traditional First Nations ceremonial ground. Another famous Alberta haunting is further south, in Nanton —the Auditorium Hotel and its famous ghost named Rex Irwin. According to hotel owners, Rex used to work for the local ranchers, and died in the hotel. He is known to move furniture around late at night, and has a taste for spirits of the more Earthly kind.

“If they leave a glass of whiskey on the stairs, it’ll be gone in the morning,” says Smith, acknowledging with a laugh that is hardly proof of a ghost. However, paranormal investigators have visited the hotel and confirmed the presence of Rex — with photographs that contain “orbs;” glowing circles that, to some, indicate a paranormal presence. So, perhaps the next time you take a photo at the cottage, don’t brush off that glowing circle that pops up in the image as a photo-glitch. You may have an uninvited houseguest of your own.

Rural British Columbia has a ghostly legacy as well. Those who cottage in the Gulf Islands should keep a close eye out for ghosts in Bedwell Harbour, located between the North and South Pender Islands.

The apparition of a First Nations Warrior is said to stand guard on the rocks near the marina; the victim of an ancient battle.


The Fernie Ghost Rider – a true Canadian legend brought to “life” every summer evening.

However, one of BC’s most infamous haunts is located in Fernie. Today, the town is known as a recreation hot spot but it was not always such a pleasant place. And the reason dates back to 1890…

It seems the town’s namesake, William Fernie, entered into an accord with the local First Nations Chief during his search for coal in the late 19th century. The Chief was to show Fernie where to find the precious ore, and Fernie would in turn marry the Chief’s daughter. Well — only one made good on his word, and it wasn’t Fernie. Outraged, the Chief invoked a curse of biblical proportions — calling for fire, flood and famine to strike down the town. A ghost rider on nearby Mount Hosmer, seen each sunny summer evening, would embody this curse — said to be the Chief and his daughter riding on horseback to remind the people of Fernie of the betrayal. Seven years after it was placed — the curse actually came to life. In 1904, a fire burned the new town of Fernie to the ground. Four years after that, yet another fire destroyed the village. In 1916, the flood came when the Elk River overflowed its banks and damaged the townsite and finally, in 1930, the Great Depression hit the town particularly hard… with famine! So powerful was local belief in the curse that in 1964, Fernie Mayor James White joined Kootenai Chief Red Eagle in the smoking of a peace pipe to put to rest the vendetta so the town could flourish in peace.

However, the ghost rider can still be seen those summer evenings, casting his shadow on Mount Hosmer… just one more of Western Canada’s many haunted tales.

It all begs the question — if you find yourself with a haunted homes or cottage of your own, who are you gonna call? You could call in the pros — like Robert James, Clairvoyant and Medium for the Edmonton Paranormal Society. This society was established in order to investigate, research, educate and, if necessary, rescue those who are having a paranormal experience. James has had ghostly experiences for as long as he can remember — this has given him great insight on how to deal with a real life haunted house.

The first step in ghost-busting? Determine if your house has, in fact, a resident spirit. For some, proof of a haunting might be tactical — such as a sighting or physical contact. For others, James said, signs such as strange shadows, unexplained voices or whispering, poltergeist activity (objects being moved), an uneasy feeling or unexplained sounds might indicate a spirit.

“What we at the Edmonton Paranormal Society recommend is that you keep a journal of the events/experiences you are having, make sure to note time, date and type of activity, so that if you would like an investigation group to come to the location, you’ll have kept track of the phenomenon, which will make it easier for investigators,” James said.

If you’re sure there’s a ghost about, there are a number of ways you can limit the activity you are experiencing. First and foremost, James advises to create and maintain a positive attitude. Beyond that, burning a white candle every day creates more positive energy, hanging a bell at the entrance is said to ward of spirits, displaying “spirit chasers,” such as gargoyles, tribal masks, etc, can help and simply telling the spirit — firmly but calmly — that you would like it to leave is a good idea (if it’s agreeable). If the activity persists, call in a team like the Edmonton Paranormal Society.

“The majority of ghosts are not dangerous, they’re just misunderstood,” said James. “Most spirits are hanging around for a reason… they may have issues or concerns that need to be addressed before they move on.”

For the homeowner, there is one other concern of note, according to James. At times, rural cottages or homes may be constructed on native sacred grounds or burial grounds, either known or not.

“It would be a good idea to find out from locals if your cottage or house could be near or on sacred ground,” said James. “If it is, then I recommend that the person seek out the local native community to find an elder that can come and cleanse the ground and ask for permission for the people to be there.”

Above all — James recommends that anyone involved with the paranormal show respect for the dead.

“Paying proper respects can go a long way towards having a positive experience rather than a negative one,” he said. “All in all, most people have positive experiences when it comes to paranormal phenomenon.”

Maybe you don’t need to be scared of things that go bump in the night. After all, what is a home without guests?

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

3 comments… add one
  • Jeffery Nov 8, 2015 Link

    I really like the ghost stories.especially when they are from our past.great folk lore.ty ..

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