Downtown tours a ghostly experience

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Historians in Okotoks are looking forward to putting a little scare into those eager for some haunting history before Halloween.

Nagille Walsh-Besso, Kathy Coutts and Karen Peters will tell tales of spooky sightings and unusual happenings in downtown businesses and residences in the Okotoks Museum and Archives Ghost Tours on the evenings of Oct. 27-29.

“I think people like to be a little bit scared, especially around Halloween,” said Walsh-Besso, museum assistant. “They want to hear ghost stories about the town they live in. There’s a lot of people who are moving to Okotoks and they aren’t familiar with a lot of the history of Okotoks and the downtown area, so I think people want to learn a little bit about their community in a fun and spooky way.”

The historians will share about a dozen ghostly tales that occurred in the downtown area like George the janitor who roams the halls at Okotoks Junior High School.

“People have heard the clanging of a bucket, some keys jingling, whistling and things being moved around,” she said.

“I’ve had parents who’ve been on the tour and say, ‘Yes, my child knows about this story.’”

Another popular story is about a ghost believed to haunt Okotoks’ former train station, now the Okotoks Arts Gallery.

“At the station many people reported either experiencing a mysterious spirit or the feeling of a spirit or seeing a ghost of a woman in and around the train station,” said Walsh-Besso. “We haven’t figured out the death of a woman in the station, but there was a lady who passed away on a train heading from Calgary to Blairmore and the train stopped in Okotoks where her body was placed in the station for the undertaker to send back home. Possibly it’s the ghost of her waiting to finish her journey.”

Reaction from the tour takers vary, said Walsh-Besso.

“Sometimes it’s a very quiet group and they just listen, other times if it’s a group of people who know each other they are more chatty and will ask questions and will share their own experiences,” she said. “I had a gentleman call before the summer ghost tour about a ghost of a woman and a man in a home he used to live in. He felt a cold spot on the stairs and there was some problems with his telephone extension.”

While some people believe the stories, others remain skeptical, said Walsh-Besso.

“Sometimes they change their mind when the tour is over,” she said. “I don’t know if it’s because of so many interesting experiences they hear about.”

The Okotoks Museum and Archives hosts a full moon ghost tour each summer and the tours leading up to Halloween.

Walsh-Besso said the Halloween tours are the most popular. There will be six one-hour tours each night starting at 6:30 p.m.

“Possibly in the future we may add some more,” she said. “Currently the three nights with three guides fill up and it’s something we can look at in the future.”

Tour groups are kept at a maximum of a dozen people each.

Those interested in joining the Ghost Tours must purchase a $5 ticket at the Okotoks Art Gallery or call 403-938-3204. Those taking the tours must be 13 years and older.

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