The Devil’s Playground turns out to be a popular name for movies. I have found at least four different productions that go by this name. The Devil’s Playground is a movie from 1976 about a 13-year-old boy named, Tom, and the physical and emotional challenges Tom experiences while living in a Catholic Seminary. It is also the title of a movie from 2002 about the Amish tradition of rumspringa. Rumspringa is a time in life when a 16-year-old teenager raised within the Amish community has a chance to experience the outside world to determine if they will stay in there or join the Amish community in their Christian beliefs. The title was used again in 2010 for a British horror film about the zombie apocalypse. The Devil’s Playground is also a documentary the debuted at the 2017 Calgary Comic Expo. It is this documentary about the urban legend that will be the focus of this post.
The story goes that in the early 1900’s a nun became crazed after making a pact with the devil. The devil caused the nun to light a schoolhouse on fire and all of the children within the schoolhouse died in the fire. The spirits of the deceased children have haunted the land ever since and when workmen were brought in to remove the remains of the building the workmen became sick and their equipment broke down.
Dori Davidson-Revill is a filmmaker who first heard the tale of the Devil’s Playground when he was in high school. Mr. Davidson-Revill spent five years looking into the tale. He spent time finding the actual location of the story, he interviewed eyewitnesses and spoke with the owner of the land located at 84 Street and 9 Avenue SE in Calgary, AB. The house in the picture no longer stands and the owner, Don Ellis, has passed away.
Mr. Davidson-Revill has reported that Don Ellis told him that as the landowner he was more concerned about human trespassers than he was about ghosts. Mr. Ellis had said that some trespassers would carry weapons with them when they illegally entered the property to ghost hunt. (cbc.ca)
The main challenge with this urban legend was trying to determine where the schoolhouse stood. Some people believe that the location was near Symon’s Valley Ranch in the NW area of Calgary, while others were sure it once stood on land that was on the outskirts of the SE area of Calgary. Dori Davidson-Revill believes that the schoolhouse stood at the location that Don Ellis owned. The Ellis family had run a school at that location until the 1950s. But the urban legend said the school burned down in the early 1900s, what gives?
People have claimed to see handprints on foggy car windows, to hear the laughter of children, and to have found animal bones arranged in patterns around the property. Some have claimed to have seen an apparition of a young girl with a red ball.
Like most urban legends the story creates as many questions as it answers. Is the legend true? Is the place haunted? Get your eyes on a copy of The Devil’s Playground Documentary by Dori Davidson-Revill and learn the answers.
The Other Half