The Devil’s Playground-An Urban Legend Near Calgary, Alberta

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.

Urban Legend of The Devils Playground

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.

the Devil's Playground
image from cbc.ca

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 Devils Playground
James Kennedy film editor and Dori Davidson-Revill filmmaker 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?

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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.

Cheers,

The Other Half

 

 

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Byberry Mental Hospital-Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Byberry Mental Hospital

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Byberry Mental Hospital opened in 1907 and in spite of all the bad publicity it received in the 1946 Life article it did not close until 1987. I am left hoping that conditions improved for the patients housed there after “The Conscientious  Objectors from Byberry started a national association that helped train and professionalize workers at state hospitals.” (npr.org)

Byberry Mental Hospital holds a special place in history. Images taken there highlighted the need for changes to be made in the treatment and housing of the mentally ill. Byberry is where many conscientious objectors worked during WWII. One of those CO’s was a compassionate man named Charlie Lord. Charlie Lord would sneak a camera into the hospital and he captured 36 photographs that were later published in Life magazine in May 1946. “The photos reminded the American people of photos from Nazi Concentration Camps. So it created a kind of mass uproar, nationally.” (npr.org)

The conscientious objectors had witnessed attendants that would often use violence to try to control the mentally ill patients. The attendants would use items such as cut-down broom handles, or rubber hoses filled with buckshot to strike the patients. Attendants would even choke out a patient with a wet towel around the neck of the patient as the attendants had learned it would not leave any evidentiary marks.

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npr.org

 

Two buildings in particular housed living nightmares for the patients of Byberry Mental Hospital. The “incontinent ward” was where men were kept mostly naked with no furniture, activities, music, or bathroom facilities. It was a large concrete room full of urine and feces. Another building was referred to as “The Death House or Violent Ward” where the patients would often attack each other using whatever they could turn into a weapon. This building contained a room that held row upon row of patients strapped down to the frame of their beds.

 

Before Byberry was eventually demolished, it had been reported that the catacombs were spooky and haunted by ghosts of former patients with one that was a particularly violent entity. It was also reported that Satanic Rituals were said to have been performed on the grounds as well. It would seem that some of the souls of the departed are not resting in peace.

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Alton Mental Health Hospital-Alton, Illinois

Alton Mental Health Hospital

Location: Alton, Illinois

Mental Health Hospital-Alton
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In 1916 forty patients moved into the hospital prior to its opening in 1917. The hospital continued to grow in response to the needs of the surrounding area and by the 1930s  the hospital had opened a ward for WWI veterans, another for civilian men, another for women and a separate ward as a Tuberculosis Sanitarium. The 1940s brought electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) into fashion for those suffering from mental illness. The 1950s saw the practice of lobotomies used on the mentally ill.

The hospital expanded its scope once again in the 1960s to include an adolescent unit and an alcohol treatment unit. In 1997 a high-security building was constructed and still operates to this day with about 200 court-ordered patients housed within its walls. (thefurther.net)

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Tours are available where visitors can hope to hear unusual noises, doors slamming, disembodied whispers, and perhaps have the chance to capture orbs or apparitions with their cameras. It seems that the town of Alton has other haunted locations too which means that it is now on our ghost hunting bucket list. Is it on yours?

Cheers,

The Other Half

 

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County Derry Ireland-A Haunting

County Derry Ireland

Today we shall venture across the Atlantic Ocean and into County Derry. County Derry is also known as County Londonderry in Northern Ireland. There are six counties in Northern Ireland, and County Derry is considered to be one of the four counties in Northern Ireland where the majority of the population identifies as Catholic. With Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom it is the Republic of Ireland that calls the area County Derry and it is the British Authorities that refer to the area as County Londonderry.

As with many places in Europe County Derry contains numerous locales that are said to be haunted.  Let’s take a virtual visit to some of them.

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County Derry Ireland

What is Haunted in County Derry Ireland?

The photo above is the former Roe Valley Hospital at Limavady County Derry. The building was a workhouse between 1842 and 1932 where on average 10 people died per week.  Certainly, some of the spirits of the departed are still hanging about.

It has been reported that one night a security guard was taking photos of the building and captured the image of a ghost. At the same spot, people have heard the crying of babies and have seen men and women in uniform. In the photo below, that has been confirmed as a ghost image by the Paranormal Society of Ireland, you will see the ghost of a nurse holding a baby.

IRELAND GHOST NURSE! This pic comes from the former Roe Valley Hospital in Northern Ireland. Legend has it a turn-of-the-century nurse got pregnant out of wedlock and then strangled her infant following delivery. Filled with anguish and remorse, the woman then hanged herself in the hospital and haunts the building to this day. Is that her ghost standing near the door?
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The old hospital is still very busy today,  with people working in many different parts of the hospital who have reported strange happenings. Babies have been heard crying by the old Maternity Ward. The security guards found the crying of the phantom babies unnerving. No doubt about that. Ghosts are one thing but ghost babies that are crying would disturb me to no end.  As a parent, I would yearn to comfort them.

In the Nurses Home, which is an outbuilding that the nurses lived in when the hospital was still operating, the guards say they hear different sounds.  The sound of dragging is heard almost nightly according to theghosthuntuk.com. The guards also will hear the loud wails of a man. People have also been nudged out of the way. Too bad the ghosts don’t use their manners and say, “excuse me.” Although, maybe that would make the whole experience even more frightening.

The kitchen has a resident poltergeist that moves items from time to time. As theghosthuntuk.com states, “They have experienced cold spots and heard whispers. But perhaps more strange is that this particular spirit has tried to hold people’s hands.” How romantic? NOT!

Boom Hall

Boom Hall is a once glorious home that was built in 1779 by John Alexander. Boom Hall is located on the banks of the River Foyle. It has passed from family to family and is currently on the edge of collapse.

 

Boom Hall, Co. Derry - Photo: Colin Colleran, Lost Buildings Of Ireland
Boom Hall, Co. Derry – Photo: Colin Colleran, Lost Buildings Of Ireland

The area is said to be haunted by the ghost of Captain Browning. According to Catherine Cavendish’s article The Haunting of Boom Hall, Captain Browning died of his wounds received when his ship, the Mountjoy, broke through the wooden boom that was erected as a barrier by Jacobean forces to keep food out of the city in 1689. The ghost of Captain Browning may appear when the weather turns misty; a tall figure dressed in a dark blue tailcoat with gold braiding.

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Pinterest.com uniform similar to Captain Browning’s

Another ghostly apparition is said to be the ghost of a family relative that was sent to live at Boom Hall to separate her from the young man she loved. The young man was a groomsman and her family did not want her involved with him.  The young man, as the story goes, followed her to Boom Hall and would hide in the stables where the young lady would visit him. His presence was eventually discovered and he had to run away. The family then locked the young lady in her bedroom that was located at the top of the house. The young lady pined for her lover and after a week or two a fire broke out in the locked bedroom. Attempts were made to retrieve the young lady but to no avail and upon searching the ashes no trace of her body was found. Yet, after that terrible event, a servant was approached by a spirit in the long corridor at the top of the house and was guided to the stables by the spirit who held her hand. It is reported that the servant found a brooch that had belonged to the girl and when she took it to the mistress of the house the brooch was taken to be a sign that the young lady had somehow escaped the deadly fire. (derrynow.com)

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This story is a bit confusing as it seems to say that the young lady escaped death on the night of the fire, but that she is also the spirit. Whomever the spirit is, she has been sighted on numerous occasions and ghost hunters still like to search for her.

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Beware!

Boom Hall has been fenced off and partially boarded up as it is about to fall to the ground.  The fences and boards have not stopped all ghost hunters though as the fire brigade learned in 2016. They received a call of distress from two young men who had entered Boom Hall to ghost hunt and became trapped.  The rescue took about an hour and a half and just proves that curiosity does not only kill cats but can potentially kill humans too. Safety first people, safety first.

Thanks for stopping by to read our article on County Derry Ireland

Cheers,

The Other Half

 

 

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Is Craigdarroch Castle Haunted?

The Craigdarroch Castle is a massive home located in Victoria, BC. It was built as a private family residence but is now a tourist attraction. In this post, we will re-visit the history of the building and of the family that built it and learn of the ghost that resides there still.

Is Craigdarroch Castle haunted? The History

The Craigdarroch Castle was built between 1887 and 1890 for a Scottish immigrant named Robert Dunsmuir. Mr. Dunsmuir had gained his fortune through Vancouver Island coal. The castle is a Victorian Style mansion built atop a hill overlooking the City of Victoria. It spans four floors and has stained glass windows, intricate woodwork, and beautiful furniture of the era.

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Robert Dunsmuir

Robert Dunsmuir was born on August 31, 1825, in Scotland and passed away on April 12, 1889, in Victoria, BC.

Robert Dunsmuir
Is Craigdarroch castle haunted?

Robert Dunsmuir was born into a coal family and at the age of 16 years, he entered the mines to apprentice with his uncle, Boyd Gilmour. Gilmour was overman for the Hudson’s Bay Company coal-mine by present-day Port Hardy, BC.

In 1851 Robert Dunsmuir indentured himself to the same company and brought his wife and three children to Canada. In 1855 Dunsmuir refused to join a strike with the other miners and as a result, he earned his free-miner’s licence to work on an abandoned HBC shaft. Dunsmuir’s fortune began to take shape when he accepted a position with the Vancouver Coal Mining and Land Company around 1862. While working for VCMLC Robert Dunsmuir did clandestine explorations for coal in the area surrounding Nanaimo, BC. He discovered the Wellington seam in 1869 and laid claim to it. Mr. Dunsmuir then obtained capital from a group of naval officers and insisted on half the shares plus full control over all operations due to his expertise in coal mining. His new venture was incorporated as Dunsmuir, Diggle Limited and by 1878 they were producing more coal than VCMLC was. By 1883 Robert Dunsmuir has acquired another colliery that was working the Wellington seam, and as he kept up with technological advances he also had managed to buy all the shares of the non-family members of his business partnership.

Robert Dunsmuir did not just work in the coal industry, he was also the man that helped the railway to be completed. On August 13, 1886, the “last spike” was driven in by the Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. MacDonald. “By September trains were running into Victoria along lines laid from Esquimalt across Indian lands Dunsmuir had managed to have expropriated for his use.” (1982, Daniel T. Gallacher, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol 11)

Click here to learn about the Ghosts of the White House.

Dunsmuir’s wealth also came from real estate on Vancouver Island, an iron foundry, a theatre in Victoria, agricultural land, and mainland diking. He was a shrewd businessman for sure. In the deal, he made with the Federal Government, for the completion of the railway Dunsmuir was granted a subsidy of $750,000 in cash and two million acres of land.

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The land grant came with “all coal, coal oil, ores, stones, clay, marble, slates, mines, minerals, and substances whatsoever in, on or under the lands so to be granted.” Dunsmuir received all foreshore rights for the lands, all mining privileges including the right to mine under adjacent seabeds and the retention of all coal and other minerals taken from the land. As the contractor of the railway, he was able to cut and use whatever timber was needed to build structures along the line. Part of the reason for the vast wealth that Robert Dunsmuir acquired was due to the fact that he employed large numbers of Oriental workers in his mining operations and paid them half of what he paid caucasian workers. He also paid all of his employees’ one-third less than his competitors paid their workers.

Upon Robert Dunsmuir death in 1889 brought strife to the family, for although he had made a promise to his sons he had not changed his will that left his entire estate and business holdings to his wife Joan.  The sons spent years convincing their mother to give them the title to the San Fransisco company and then to sell them the Wellington Colliery. When son Alex passed away six weeks after getting married another quarrel over a will began. This quarrel pitted Joan and her daughters against the remaining son, James. Imagine the ridiculousness of this wealthy family fighting over more money. Joan passed away in 1908 after not speaking to James for years. Joan had left Craigdarroch Castle and her estate to her remaining unwed daughters and her three orphaned grandchildren. It ceased to be a family home for the Dunsmuirs from that time forward.

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Joan Dunsmuir

The Ghost(s)

When we visited Craigdarroch Castle in late 2015 I asked an employee if the home was haunted. The lady responded that she had never seen a ghost there but when it comes to closing time and only a staff member or two were in the building it would feel very large, cold, and spooky. The lady stated that she does not like to be alone in the home. I could understand that completely as it is a grand home and it could take a few minutes to get to an exit.

Other people have reported seeing a woman dressed in a ball gown walking down the grand main staircase. It is assumed that this lady is Joan Dunsmuir.

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Craigdarroch Castle

People have also reported that they have seen a woman wearing a black dress. Again it has been assumed that this is Joan Dunsmuir. A young girl has been seen in the basement and is thought to be another member of the Dunsmuir family. I have also read that this young girl has been seen standing by a top floor window at the closing time of the castle.

Others have experienced sudden and intense changes in temperature and have smelt candle wax coming from the upstairs rooms. People have also heard piano music coming from the unoccupied main dining room. This has occurred even when a piano was not present in the castle.

Many people have reported feeling a definite drop in temperature while in the viewing area of Joan Dunsmuir’s bedroom.  Some have even felt that they were being pushed away from the area by an unseen force.

Whether you believe in the paranormal or not it is worth your time and money to visit and tour the Craigdarroch Castle when in Victoria, BC. The history alone makes the visit worthwhile. The battles among the family members over wealth just add to the allure. The Dunsmuir family was large and their stories are interesting. Take a look and maybe you will discover a lurking spirit, but at the very least you will get to see a beautifully elegant home and get to imagine how the Dunsmuir spent their time when there.

If you have been to the castle please let us know if you felt a presence or not. We are curious to hear your take on it. So…is Craigdarroch castle haunted? What are your thoughts?

Cheers,

The Other Half

 

 

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Strange Things found in Homes-snakes, snakes, snakes

There are many stories out there on the internet about strange things found in homes. Let’s get to it.

Well, that is Weird!

This first story is the thing of nightmares. Imagine the excitement that Ben and Amber Sessions must have been feeling when they purchased a home in Idaho back in 2009. They had two kids, and Amber was pregnant with their third baby. Their excitement soon turned to horror.  The nightmare part of the story begins when they started to notice snakes in the yard. Ben would remove them from the property by the bucket full. I cannot even! They soon noticed that the water from the well had a funky taste and smell too. Soon they would find out why.

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gov.mb.ca Strange Things Found In Homes

Imagine being in bed at night and hearing slithering inside the walls of your home. Ben removed a piece of a wall and dozens of snakes tumbled out. It turned out that the house was on top of a snake den! Dear Lord. The funky smell and taste of their well- water were determined to be the musk that snakes release to warn off predators, and the snakes would also defecate in the well.  This meant that the Sessions family was at risk of catching salmonella, and tapeworms.  The Sessions ended up having to declare bankruptcy and they abandoned the house.  Ben was suffering from PTSD of the snake kind.

The Sessions went to the media about the snake house of horrors when they noticed it was back up for sale.  Good for them, they did the right thing, unlike the realtor in that situation. On theclever.com, Brian Obudho tells the following story:

The new owners of a bungalow in Houston discovered human remains in an attic wall. They were moving into the new home when they discovered the remains in a gap in the wall. They also came across a pair of eyeglasses that resembled those worn by the house’s previous owner, 61-year-old Mary Cerruti.

Cerruti had been declared missing by the police in 2015 after neighbours noticed that her mail was piling up and she had not been seen.  In 2013, Mary had openly expressed her dissatisfaction with an upcoming luxury apartment complex that was supposed to be built near her house.

But despite her protests, the project was approved, and she had to ‘deal’ with construction that made it difficult to access her home. After she disappeared mysteriously, her house was put up for sale.

When the new homeowners found her body, they were unsure whether she had been killed and stuffed in the wall or whether she ended up in the wall after an accident. Apparently, Cerruti had refused to sell her building to developers who were looking to replace old bungalows with modern apartments.

The 1930s-era two-bedroom home was the last piece standing among the new townhouses on Allston Street in the Heights. Cerruti was discovered when someone shifted a board in the attic and noticed a jumble of bones.

I hope she was given a proper burial and that her case was investigated to determine her cause of death. She was not quite the roommate the new owners were wanting.

urban legends
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There Was No Way Out

A Redditor, by the username of NukeStorm, bought a new home only to find that it had a creepy hidden room in one corner of the attic. He was not aware of the room when he purchased the home but he noticed the space when he was moving boxes into the house.

At first glance, he knew the room was creepy. The door was around four feet in height, and it had a metal grate fastened onto it. Of course, he had to open it, and he came across a small weird bed, a wall with foam padding, and a single light. The room was exceedingly disturbing and had no doorknob; a clear sign that whoever was inside could not get out until someone opened the door from outside. Worse, the home was located in an area that is sparsely populated. Screams for help would not be heard.I tend to think that some past owner of the house had some evil intentions for that room. I also hope that is was never used.

I tend to think that some past owner of the house had some evil intentions for that room. I also hope that is was never used.

To Be Found Later

Some different, and let’s face it unusual, items can be found inside walls. I’ve spent time with family members while building houses, and realize that most things hidden in walls are put there innocently enough.  We tend to have at least one young child hanging around on our building sites, therefore I don’t find stories of toys in walls that unusual.

If you have heard stories of strange things found in homes or experienced your own unusual find, please share it with us.

Until next time.

Cheers,

The Other Half

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