But there is a more serious side to the day. Historically, Samhain (pronounced sow-in) and later changed to All Hallow’s Eve, is known as the Celtic day of the dead. This was the time when departed loved ones were encouraged to cross over and visit, but were only allowed to so for one day. There was also the fear of nasty spirits and demons invading human space. That meant rituals and sacrifices were needed to appease and protect.
Ghost stories became even more fashionable during the Victorian period. Parlour lights were turned down, and chilling tales were told by the fire. Spooks have become a booming business and consumers are willing to pay to be frightened. Movies, radio plays (such as the Haunting Hour – check out QR77 Radio at 11:00 each night), EVP’s (electronic voice print), video footage, and various books that catalogue supposedly haunted areas—all these and more satiate our curiosity about the netherworld.
Many homes and businesses in Calgary are reputed to be haunted. These include The Deane House, the Calgary Parks and Recreation Building on 10th and Memorial, the Prince House at Heritage Park, and Knox United Church.
Tom Davis, founder and executive director of the Calgary Association of Paranormal Investigators leads a team of volunteer members to determine if various homes and businesses are experiencing actual paranormal activity.
“We use basic equipment that detects electromagnetic fields, such as a compass, an EMF meter, good quality digital still and video cameras, and our own intuition,” he says. “We also tell the team as little as possible so they come in fresh. It’s not like you see on TV, it’s much less dramatic, but it’s still amazing.”
He explains that before an investigation begins, there are several questions that are covered to ensure credibility and to clear any anomalies that are man-made. All visits are logged and journals are kept.
“We ask about the family dynamics, stress levels, or if there is any medical or real estate history that can contribute to the feeling that someone is seeing things,” he says. “We also check out energy fluctuations in the home, drafts, heating issues. About 95 per cent of reports usually turn out to be false.”
However, that remaining five per cent window lends for some very mysterious and engaging activity.
I accompanied Davis and one of his volunteers, Jane, into the sacristy of the 104 year old Knox United Church to hopefully uncover more ghostly activities.
“For years, some parishioners have often seen a tall, thin woman walking through a front door wearing clothes from the 1930s,” he says. “Up in the balconies, some people feel a little queasy and apparently, an organist was slapped in the back of the head by an unknown source.”
Previous investigations at the church by the group heralded some startling events. Jane Christine, who has harnessed the ability to see ghosts and spirits, says the older part of the building harbours the most activity. She recalls watching a vibrant woman, dressed in pink, walk through the front door (unopened). She introduced herself as the church socialite and in moments, disappeared into thin air.
On our tour, Jane spies a familiar ghostly young boy, not older than 4 years old, playing on the south stairs. She’s met him before, when he presented his mischievous side and eluded that he died after being hit by a car.
“An older gentleman watches over him,” she says. “I also saw the spirit of man up in the bell tower. Lots of people have felt very uneasy in that room. He wears a black suit. I didn’t see his face, and something nudged me in the foot. It’s like he didn’t want anyone up there.”
Kim Dennis, a spookily accurate clairvoyant in Calgary and host of Antique Psychic has seen “dead people” since early childhood. She explains that spirit world isn’t that far off from where we are and that ghosts or wandering spirits are all around us.
“Most of us have the ability to pick up an impression of a soul’s energy,” she says. “They will paint a picture in your mind or place a thought, or music or a smell to get your attention. They have to slow their vibration down to do so.”
A wisp of light in peripheral vision, the feeling of a presence, a moving or moved object, a whisper, hairs on the back of the neck or arms standing up are all indicators that something is near. The problem is, according to Dennis, we often chalk it up as imagination or wishful thinking. Then the fear comes in.
“Nearly every society past and present believes in an afterlife and in spirits that move on or stay put,” she says. “It’s just natural that we will dismiss them because we’re taught they don’t exist. Children and pets notice spirits because they haven’t got those preconceived notions.”
Some hauntings are often deemed dangerous, demonic or invasive. Dennis says this can be attributed to the personality of the spirit, who may have carried an emotion such as anger or denial after a traumatic death.
Dennis agrees to join the group and was also curious about the building, and states she has never visited the site. Standing in the centre aisle, she rings off a dozen or more names of souls who are apparently hanging out at the church—Abigail, James, Ruth, Jacob, George, Miriam, Helen. She says they do so not because they are bound there, but that it is their choice.
“There’s an old guy, who looks like Mr. Burns off The Simpsons,” she says with a laugh. “He’s connected to the church in a big way, and he’s from way back—the late 1800s. I also see a woman, a helper who comes in and keeps things tidy. This might be the woman other people have seen, because she’s dressed in a dark skirt and white shirt you’d see from the 1920 or 30s.”
After our visit, Dennis flips through a book depicting the 100 year history of the church. She identifies Reverend James Robertson, pastor from 1882 to 1902 as the old man, and Margaret Wilson, sister of Reverend John McCartney Wilson, who served from 1917 to 1923.
Surprisingly, Dennis also picks up the spirit of a man who told her he jumped off a building, presumably the church, about 20 years ago. It was later confirmed that a young professional did commit suicide, but from the top of the building next door.
My own spidey sense was on that day as well, but it wasn’t with anyone connected to the church. As I was sitting in the front pew taking quotes, I could hear faint whispering in my right ear, and felt the presence of someone looking over my shoulder. I glanced back twice, wondering if I was just imagining things.
Turns out, it was my late step-father who passed away a month ago. Dennis told me he was curious as to what I was doing, and peeking over my notes—akin to his personality. I kindly asked him to step back, since the energy was unnerving. He must have done so, because the feeling never returned.
Walking up the stairs to the back loft, Dennis also confirms Jane’s previous sighting of the young boy and his guardian. Everyone, except myself, feels a surge of energy jump from person to person, leaving a couple of the visitors feeling lightheaded.
Upon leaving the church, the group takes a moment to the public’s interpretation, if not desire, to turn real phenomena into entertainment.
“There are a lot of Hollywood influences and special effects that shape our ideas about ghosts,” Davis says. “I like a good scare like everyone else, but the science we use helps to demystify what’s real and what isn’t.”
Jane Christine adds that the fascination of with the unknown is timeless. It is also a teaching tool that opens the mind to possibilities.
“To humans, another dimension is an enigma,” she says. “We are looking for proof that we go off somewhere safe and wonderful. We study this phenomena to figure out if this is a preconceived plane of existence or it there is really something there,” she says.
For more information about paranormal investigation in Calgary, visit www.capi7.ca. Kim Dennis can be contacted by calling 283.8424 or online at www.clairvoyantkim.com.