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Learn about the ghosts of the Galt

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Mysterious typing, tapping sounds in the the dead of night,  ghostly figures of children waving from the window, a nurse in a starched uniform wandering through the halls of the Galt museum, George, the ghost of a patient who died in an elevator malfunction some years ago saying hello to Galt volunteers, haunting native American war drums coming from Indian Battle Park — there is much about the spirit world in Lethbridge we don’t know and therefore much to learn.These sunbeams shining on the Galt look a little spooky. Photo by Richard Amery

Galt Museum patrons will get a unique opportunity to  learn  a litlle bit more about Lethbridge’s ghosts, Hallowe’en night at the Galt Museum during their Macabre Museum event.

The event, held in conjunction with  local artist run centre Trap\door will include several haunting events including artifact readings and guest speakers talking about local ghosts, particularly the ones said to haunt the Galt Museum, formerly known as the Galt Hospital.

“This event will allow people to experience some real paranormal and psychic facets of the Galt,” said Galt Museum special events co-ordinator Lori Harasem, adding she has had some ghostly encounters in the Galt.
“People are drawn to the Galt as being a haunted museum,” she said adding the idea for Macabre Museum resulted from the museum’s cemetary tours, which always result in a lot of questions about ghosts.

“There aren’t usually ghosts in cemetaries or morgues, because they aren’t drawn to those places. People don’t actually die in cemetaries or morgues,” explained Galt volunteer and amateur paranormal investigator, Jeff Small adding he isn’t interested in proving the existance of ghosts — he already knows they exist — he is more interested in finding out why they exist.

“A lot of ghost hunters and parapsychologists use electronic equipment to find ghosts, but I can’t afford that. I’m more interested in why there are cold spots or fluctuating electrical fields,” he said adding there is a really powerful underground movement in Lethbridge of people interested in ghosts

The local amateur parapsychologist not only grew up in a haunted house, but he has had numerous encounters with spirits.

“I grew up in a haunted house. We had a dog who would not go down stairs. He would stand at the top of the stairs growling. And even if you picked him up and carried him downstairs he would start growling, then run back upstairs,” he related.

“We also had a cat. I remember  we had closed and locked all the windows, and then we would leave to go out to a restaurant. I remember seeing the cat in the window. But when we got back all of the windows and doors would be open and the cat would be outside. And we didn’t have  a doggie door  or anything and nothing was taken or disturbed inside,” he related adding his first experience with a ghost at the Galt  happened when he was in  Grade 4 visiting the learning centre.

“I saw a nurse. I was already interested in ghosts and asked the staff who was playing the nurse. They said they didn’t have anybody playing the nurse. There was a  nurse’s uniform on a mannequin, but the nurse I saw didn’t have a mannequin face, she actually turned around and looked at me,” he said.
“So that started me on the path to paranormal research,” he continued adding he has been collecting information and stories about local ghosts ever since and will be sharing some of these stories as well as personal experiences, Oct. 31.

He said ghosts  are usually drawn to places or objects they have a strong connection with.
“In Indian Battle Park, there is the legend of the two brothers who fought each other to the death. They are supposed to haunt Indian Battle Park. It’s called that for a reason. There were battles there. People have gone down there and felt their presence. People go down there and report they hear Native American war drums and war cries,” Small observed.

“I haven’t been down there at night, not because of spooky ghosts, but because it isn’t well lit,” he said adding his experiences with ghosts have always been postive.

 Another familiar ghost is  the St. Michael’s  Hospital nun or ‘Sister Ghost.’
“That is one of the most interesting spirits. One of my fellow volunteers described her as “Sister Ghost.’ One of their relatives didn’t want to pass away at St. Michaels and arranged nurses so she could pass away at home. The nurse said she saw the Sister Ghost outside the door of their home.Then she looked back again and it was gone,” he related adding sometimes spirits feel a strong connection to places  or objects or feels they have unfinished business, such as comforting someone who is passing away.

Most recently, while alone in the workshop downstairs in a room which used to have  the iron lung in the Galt Hospital days, painting the railings for one of the 100th Anniversary displays, Small said he had an encounter with “George,” the former patient who died in the elevator malfunction.Jeff Small stands  next to the place he first felt the presence of the Galt ghost “George.” Photo by Richard Amery

“George is the unfortunate person who died in an unfortunate accidental mishap when the elevator malfunctioned. It fell and he fell on his head and died of his injuries,” he said adding it is tough to get a positive identity on ghosts.
His last encounter with “George,” happened a few short months ago in the workshop in the basement of the Galt.

“I was alone. I was cleaning the paint brushes after painting those railings. I had the radio on, playing loudly and all of the sudden I felt a presence and then heard very clearly, a  man’s voice say the word “Hello.” It wasn’t a question like ‘Hello, is anyone there?’ It was a statement. But I turned around right away and nobody was there. At first I thought it was Brad Brown or someone playing a prank,” he said adding  it wasn’t staff or another volunteer playing a prank, as you need a special pass key  to get into the room as he  looked everywhere but couldn‘t find anybody. While that is the first time  “George,” had spoken to him, Small said he has felt his presence before numerous times, ditto for “the kids” who  have been seen waving from the second floor windows of the Galt.

“It is a very calming presence. Almost curious. They (ghosts) want to know who I am and what I am doing. It is always a good feeling. I’ve never had malevolent spirits,” he said.
“Lots of people report seeing the kids, two kids waving out the window. And it isn’t just light tricks,” he said adding in addition to being attached to people and objects, ghosts are also drawn to areas where excess energy has been expelled such as abandoned train lines, highways and battlefields.
“It’s difficult  to find physical evidence of ghosts because they don’t leave a physical impression, ” he said, adding there aren’t many photos of the St. Michael’s nuns, or all of the Galt’s nurses, so it is difficult to postitively identify them. 

“A lot of people find it difficult to talk about  their encounters with ghosts because they are afraid people will think they are crazy. I ’m not crazy, I don’t do drugs or hallucinogens. Just don’t tell me to my face that ghosts don’t exist,” he said adding  much of his research is from personal experience and talking to people who have had experiecnes with ghosts. While he’d like to write a book  about local ghost stories, he said it would be more of a textbook rather than a book of stories. In the meantime, he is helping  Galt  employee Belinda Crowson  with the research on her new book about local ghosts.
Both Small and Harasem are looking forward to Macabre Museum.

For Small, it is the first time he has been able to do a public presentation of his investigations.
For Harasem, it is a great opportunity for Galt patrons to get an additional persepctive on  the Galt Museum’s artifacts and a new handle on its history as well as wind up a scary week of events which includes the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Oct. 30, a zombie movie marathon , Oct. 29 and a vampire movie marathon, Oct. 28.

“There’s definitely been times when I’m working alone, that I’ve felt their presence. And I can hear coming from upstairs, the sound of typewriting. And there’s the smell of pepper which is often associated with ghosts,” Harasem said.
“This is definitely an opportunity to learn about these experiences at  the Galt,” she said adding there will be a psychic on hand to give readings on some of the historical objects.
“It’s an opportunity for people to hear these stories and decide for themselves,” she said.
 The proceeds of the $10  admission will be split between Trap\door and the Galt Museum. The event begins at 7 p.m., Oct. 31.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor
A version of this story also appears in the Oct.  27 edition of the Lethbridge Sun-Times
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