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Ghost tales of Grande Prairie

October 26, 2023

By: Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative

Ghostly tales in Grande Prairie are no stranger in these parts, so Town & Country News sought out some you can share this Halloween. 

The caretaker of the old courthouse

The former prisoner holding cell of the courthouse and now a classroom at the Centre for Creative Arts. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

The building that now houses the Centre for Creative Arts (CFCA) was once a courthouse, and some unexplainable things have happened there. 

Candace Hook, CFCA executive director, says many stories about ghosts in the building relate to when it was the courthouse. 

In the basement is a room that serves as a local for many tales of ghosts; it was once a holding cell for prisoners awaiting trial.

“I'm going to sound like a crazy person, but the door will just slam shut suddenly for no reason, and then you open it, and then it just does it again,” said Hook. She noted the many eerie feelings people get from the room; maybe it’s a ghost of a prisoner or former artist.

Hook recalls a board meeting in the former prison cell about 15 years ago when the building was being renovated.

No sooner did someone mention how spooky the building felt when cupboard doors began to slam open and closed in the rooms above. Then, more noises from just down the hall. 

“It just got louder and louder - like bang, bang, bang, bang bang - and one of our board members, I'm not going to say who, said, ‘I’m getting out of here,’ and ran out of the meeting,” said Hook. She said more soon followed and the meeting was reconvened in the parking lot. 

The basement hallway to the pottery studio at the Centre for Creative Arts. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

Just opposite the former holding cell, a pottery studio used to be the caretaker’s space; some have reported a figure watching over them and footsteps behind them when no one else is around. 

Many students and instructors have reported the ghost of a janitor or caretaker being in the building, says Hook. 

She said her curiosity sparked her to look into the caretaker's past. Through her research, she found a caretaker at the original courthouse, on site before the current building was built.

He passed away before the building opened to the public, but maybe he still looks over it, she said.

Hook said it’s interesting that everyone with a ghost story about the building reports it is a man who looks like a janitor or possibly a guard. 

“All the ghost stories are really consistent.”

Still, the presence of a ghost, if there is one, isn’t a bad thing, says Hook, who believes these spirits are positive for those creating or appreciating the art within its walls.

“Everyone here loves the building and is doing good things,” she said. 

The number of ghost stories has declined post-renovation, said Hook. 

“There's been a lot of different ghost stories before the renovation, and people say that when we were renovating, it stirred up the spirits, and we find post-renovation is a lot less ghosty in here. 

“It's all good vibes here now.”

Ghosts of Grande Prairie High School

The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie (AGGP) was once housed in the former Grande Prairie High School, built in 1929. 

Some stories from staff at the gallery come from those days.

In 2007, the roof collapsed on the gallery; it was later decided to be restored and become part of the current Montrose Cultural Centre.

In the old building, some staff had reported the sound of children laughing and running through the halls. 

Melanie Jenner, AGGP administrator, said many of the stories have been passed down by previous staff.

A gallery staff member became so frightened at the sounds that she closed the gallery and left early. 

Jenner recalls a time when she and a co-worker witnessed something unexplainable on the security cameras within the last “few years.” 

The permeant collection vault at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

A basement vault holds the permanent collection; people had been working in and out of it throughout the day.  Jenner watched as a large, heavy door opened and unlatched on the security video.

Suddenly, with no one around, Jenner said “it swung open slowly and then slammed shut and latched.

“We definitely think it was a ghost because there was no one in the area. There were no other doors to create like a vacuum or something to cause that.”

She said some paranormal researchers have been by to check things out, adding she is unsure of what, if anything, they may have found. 

There are still reports of odd noises from gallery staff.

The gallery’s ghost stories have even been featured in books of haunted places.

After renovations, “ghost activities” have settled down, said Jenner. 

“With our new steel structure, it’s like a whole new place, and we had no more activity after that, so I think now the ghosts are at rest; they're gone now. 

“That's what I like to believe.”

Al’s News’ lady in the white dress

(Photo by Jesse Boily)

Al’s News is located in the oldest building in the city in the heart of Grande Prairie.

“Well, the only stories we've heard, a couple of our past employees have witnessed a ghost in the basement,” said Jim Goldsack, store owner.

He said two employees have reported a lady in a long white dress in the basement. 

Paranormal peeps have been by here too, setting up shop in the basement to track ghostly activity with special technology, said Goldsack. 

Some employees have reported a ghost occupies the basement at Al’s News. (Photo by Jesse Boily)

To his knowledge, nothing came of it but he says people have come to the store with a said fifth sense and feel a presence. 

Goldsack said many employees report items falling off shelves and creaking floors, when no one else is in the store.

He’s a bit skeptical himself, he said, but added he has an open mind to haunting stories.

Growing up at the store, it's always been just the store's basement to Goldsack, but he wonders what else may lie underneath, as part of the basement is an unused crawl space. 

Spooky season is still prominent at Al’s News;  a ghostly skeleton with a long white dress hangs above the counter, and an Ouija board sits in the front window.

“The only thing personally that I've ever witnessed in here that was kind of creepy, (I) was sitting here doing books when I felt like somebody was watching me,” he said. 

He looked over to find a weasel standing up like a dog on its back legs, looking up at him.

It then rushed over under the magazine racks, he said; the incident probably was about 30 years ago.

“That was the only thing I've ever had happening here that was kind of cool.”