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Walk through cemetery not for faint of heart

Posted on October 25, 2013 by Taber Times

Greetings boils and ghouls. Halloween is quickly creeping up on us with candy corn goodness and who doesn’t love a good ghost story? I’m sure a few past Taber residents from many, many, many decades ago had a few skeletons in their closets and died either mysteriously or from another man’s/woman’s hand (perhaps by gun, it was the wild, wild west). Historically speaking, southern Alberta has quite the haunted past — if one isn’t afraid to look deep enough or dig and pry into the seedy underbelly of its citizens gone a little bit loco, hidden away in a casket in a cemetery somewhere, guilty of crimes or just being simply deceased from natural causes.

Previous Lethbridge residents have a few stories of debauchery and/or interesting lives prior to their deaths. The Galt Museum offers those of the living a chance to reminisce about the days of Lethbridge past with a flashlight cemetery tour. It’s fun, a tad bit creepy and intentionally educational for those lucky enough to survive the experience in the cool brisk darkness of a fall eve. Spooky.

Under the moonlight, walkers (not the “Walking Dead” zombie kind) learn about crimes of passion, strange deaths and lives lost too soon. Lethbridge north’s historic St. Patrick’s Cemetery sets the stage for an hour of spine-tingling suspense, as guests delicately walk from headstone to headstone, as the ultimate crypt-keeper/tour guide, Belinda Crowson, recalls murder, mayhem and torrid tales and some just your typical no-nonsense death but worth honourable mention.

According to the City of Lethbridge, St. Patrick’s Cemetery was built in 1886 and was referred to by Lethbridge locals as the Miners’ Cemetery and the Pioneer Cemetery back in the day. It was also divided into three sections — a Roman Catholic section on the west, a Protestant section on the east and a Chinese section on the south east.

Crowson is also a bit of a history buff, to say the least. The extremely informative tour guide has written a few books on the subject of Lethbridge history including the Historical Society of Alberta publications “Vice, Virtue and Lust: Lethbridge Cemeteries” and “We Don’t Talk About Those Women: Lethbridge’s Red Light District 1880s to 1944,” which are available at the Galt Museum Gift Shop and the Lethbridge Public Library.

I have to say, I enjoy learning about a city or town’s history, especially if it’s haunted or about past indiscretions from residents now deceased, in any given area.

When I visited New Orleans in Louisiana, I toured the world famous cemeteries and delved deep into the haunted history of the French Quarter and surrounding swamps. By far, this was my most favourite tour, without a doubt. From ghosts to vampires to voodoo still being practised to this day. And I even bought a book about the haunted history of New Orleans to remember my not-so ghostly encounters, down in the old Bayou. The city that never sleeps, especially its dead.

Another one of my most favourite tours would be the haunted history tour of San Francisco, California and a side tour of the notorious Alcatraz prison dubbed the prison system’s prison, which housed Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelly and Robert Stroud “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” to name a few.

It’s funny, author Anne Rice of the “Interview with the Vampire” chronicles has used both New Orleans and San Francisco as settings of her bestselling novels. What can I say, I’m a huge fan.

On the San Fran tour, I visited one of the houses the infamous Charles Manson lived in and Haight Ashbury was full of scary stories from the past. Alcatraz, in itself, was terrifying. Especially, when I was put in one of the solitary confinement cells on the tour. It was a very long minute, if that, but quite memorable, as it still haunts me. To think, inmates were in solitary confinement for long periods of time throughout history in federal penitentiaries across the United States. You could feel a dark presence while you creeped through the cellblocks and ventured outside to see San Francisco in the distance, but so far away if you were a resident of one of the many cells on the Rock.

In Edmonton, Alta. I went on a walking tour of the supposed haunts of Old Strathcona, near Whyte Avenue and beyond. There are many tales of scary encounters throughout Capital City, and that’s even without meeting up with any provincial politicians.

All in all, walking along the streets of a city’s historic, sometimes horrific past, bring shivers up the spine, day or night. It’s a lot of fun and historic tours of a city or town offer a chance to learn something about how things once were and how some things never seem to change. Remnants of an archived past helps us to understand a little bit about ourselves, while we keep on keepin’ on in this Hanson-inspired cookie cutter kind of world.

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