Top 5 Ghostly Hauntings in the Okanagan

I love being scared. I’ve always loved being scared. Whether it’s horror or thriller movies, spooky stories or being caught off guard, being scared is my version of extreme sports. Because I’m lazy. Unfortunately, my partner Adam isn’t a huge fan of the hair-raising, so I fit it in sparingly and when I can. Mix this with a new-found love for local history and I think we’ve got a Top 5 list for A-OK, just in time for Halloween (which is, incidentally, my favourite holiday.)

While other regions in BC may be more ghastly — Victoria, for instance, always springs to mind — we are not without our fair share of hauntings in the interior. Here is a list of my Top 5 unearthly hangouts…

5. Guisachan Ranch (Kelowna)

Many of us are familiar with Guisachan House in Kelowna from the numerous weddings we’ve attended there (or at least I hope this is the case as it’s a beautiful residence). Nearly as many of us are probably familar with it’s reported haunted gravel driveway. I’ve been to two weddings there myself and, while the on-site signage confirms the haunting stopped in recent history, after a few champagne toasts I’m dragging guests out back in the chance we may hear the phantom footsteps that frequented the ranch grounds.

Built in the 1890’s for Governor General Lord Aberdeen and named after his wife’s childhood home in Scotland, it apparently wasn’t long until the clip-clop of invisible horses and carriages could be heard rolling down the drive. Seeming to stop for a moment before picking up again, this tormented coach must have dropped off its ghostly passengers before continuing on its way. While nothing had ever been seen, this spooky sound was heard many times over the years.

4. The Prankster Projectionist (Vernon)

I’ve heard stories of the Town Theatre in Vernon, and even that there is an entrance to the Vernon underground around that area, since I was a child. I think there’s even a Vernon Ghost Tour that runs Mondays and Wednesdays between July 13 and August 31 that probably covers this ground. This particular tale is about the long-time home of one particular projectionist, long dead and bent on making his presence known.

Photo by Sporkist.

One story has a worker coming in early to prep for the night’s show, and once feeling satisfied everything was ready, leaving for a little bit to come back later. He was surprised to find the theatre doors locked when he purposely left them unlocked as he would be returning soon. Even more surprising is that the only way to lock the doors was with the key, and the worker had the only copy.

In the early 90’s, a contracting company was hired to clean the theatre’s 500 seats. Workers carried their own supplies into the theatre and placed them on a corner of the stage. It was mere moments before they found the supplies moved to the other side of the stage, even though no one was near them. Luckily, it wasn’t all bad, the workers were entertained with phantom music while they cleaned, even though the sound system had been turned off…

3. Sophia, The Blue Lady (Penticton)

Whether it was a vague blue haze, the rustling sound of her period dress or even once being spotted standing next to a display, witnesses at the Penticton Museum could often feel the presence of a spectral entity some called Sophia, but that was most often referred to as The Blue Lady. This haunting ceased in 1992 when workers in the museum examined a box that had only “found on the east side of the river” written on it. Upon opening the box, investigators were disturbed to find human bones inside.

But wait, it gets even more ghastly. Upon closer examination, the authorities determined the bones to be of not one, but three people; one man and two women. Whoever was in the box, the staff at the Penticton Museum collectively breathed a sigh of relief when the haunting came to an end.

2. Albert (Kamloops)

Albert has been haunting the Sagebrush Theatre in Kamloops in some very well documented events. It began in 1939 when several graves from the Lorne Street Cemetery were extracted from their location and the bodies moved to Pleasant Street, near the theatre. Believed to be the ghost of Albert Mallot, the first man to be hanged in Kamloops, this apparition often appears in the catwalks above the stage. It’s not hard to miss a man in old-fashioned clothing standing on suspended platforms, especially when it’s claimed by one observer that he dissipated right in front of their eyes.

There’s a story of employee Roger Lantz daring Albert to show himself, even sitting himself in Albert’s usual spot in the auditorium. Maybe Roger didn’t know that Albert was a mean son-of-a-bitch in real life, or maybe he’s just used to throwing rocks at the proverbial hornet’s nest, but Albert was hanged for murdering someone in cold blood and that’s just poor form. Needless to say, he chose to cause a ruckus that night. While nothing notable happened to Lantz while sitting in the chair, the production that night was plagued with difficulties. With sounds coming from the wrong speakers (if it came out at all) the performance cues were off all night, throwing the entire production.

There was even a report of one worker having bag of peanuts thrown at him while he was high above the stage (a dangerous prank when working at such heights), a bag that narrowly missed his head, when there was no one else in the theatre.

1. Haunted Hike (Naramata)

We’ve all heard the story, “it happened to a friend of a friend of mine.” Well, in this case, it actually happened to someone I know. While I was pursuing post-secondary education for Video Production back in 2005, one of my instructors was Gary McDougall. At the time, I didn’t make the connection between the ghost story I had read a few times and his name, even when he told us he had experienced a chilling encounter when he was a younger man. It wasn’t until years later when I re-read the tale that I put the pieces together.

It was a hot August day in 1984 when Gary and his father Harold were exploring remote terrain around Elinor Lake near Naramata. They were enjoying lunch in the surrounding silence when they were surprised to hear the sound of hooves approaching. Moments later, a group of five riders appeared but didn’t seem to notice the McDougall’s. Harold, not one to be rude, called out to greet the travelers who seemed equally as surprised by the McDougall’s. The man appearing to be the father of the group tipped his hat and the group started on their way. It was as they were leaving that Harold and Gary noticed they didn’t hear a thing. Five people on horseback riding away and all they could hear were the rustling of leaves and the chirping of the birds around them.

Photo by orlandk.

The men quickly followed the five riders up the trail to ascertain what exactly was going on. Even though the trail was straight as an arrow for a considerable distance at that point, they could see no proof the riders were ever even there. It wasn’t until they looked down to see their own footprints in the dirt where hoof-prints should have been that they thought back to the travelers clothes. While it seemed odd for the family to be bundled up on an August day (cloth hats, suspenders holding up heavyweight trousers, high riding boots), it was the style of clothing that struck them as the most curious… the clothes from an era long since passed. Actually interacting with not just one but a group of ghosts puts this story right at the top of my most-haunted list!

Did I miss anything? Let me know what supernatural occurrences you’ve been witness to! Also a huge thank-you to Barbara Smith and her book Ghost Stories and Mysterious Creatures of British Columbia for spending the last decade inspiring me to look into local lore.


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