Just in time for the Halloween season, this year’s final Historic Ghost Walk is slated to run Oct. 24th.
Hosted by the Friends of the Library Society, the event kicks off at 7:30 p.m.
Organizers are limiting the walk to 15 participants and the cost is $10 per person; all ages are welcome.
Call the Library at 403-742-2292 to book a space for the walk, which sets off from across the street from the Stettler Hotel where the Carl Stettler monument is located.
Things are looking a bit different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in that the tour won’t start and end in the Stettler Hotel, said Crystal Friars, assistant library manager, who will also be leading the tour.
Normally, the tour wraps up with appetizers in the hotel’s basement, but because of social distancing, that won’t be taking place. Also because of that, the tour is now open to all ages, so that whole family can take part.
“There is no social distancing (possible) at all in that basement,” she explained. “It’s amazing when you think of some of the things that have been in the basement – the hotel once had a laundromat there. There have also been different businesses down there as well. Now, it’s basically used for storage,” she said.
As to the Historic Ghost Walk itself, one of the key focuses is the murder of the Cook family, which took place in June of 1959. Robert Raymond Cook was convicted in the case, which saw the deaths of seven members of his own family. He was executed in 1960.
Friars has found out a few more details of the case, like some information about what was used in Cook’s appeal, different things he had said during the court case, and a few more observations of some of the witnesses who were called to testify.
Friars said that along with that, the tour stops at different areas where some of the community’s ‘darker’ historical chapters are explored.
But you do learn other little things about, for example, an old hospital that is no longer standing and a medical centre that is still standing but that isn’t used as a medical centre anymore.
This past summer, several walks were held including two during Alberta Culture Days.
“We ended up being packed for both of them, so that was a real boon for us to help let people know about it. We were also only going to do the one for Alberta Culture Days but later decided to include the second walk,” she said.
Friars said that one positive thing that happened during the pandemic lock down was that the Calgary Herald opened up its archives. “So there were these databases that we had access to that normally we do not have access to,” she said.
Because of this, she was able to add even more material to the walk.
“I finish off with a case I had known about, but that – until now – I couldn’t find any information on before I got into the archives,” she said, regarding a murder that took place in 1911 involving a man by the name of William Lennox.
“He lived on a farm, and he was well-known in the community,” she said. “Also, when farmers needed a loan, they would go to him instead of going to the banks.
“It happened about 15 miles north of town and the perpetrator was never caught.”
For Friars, who was born and raised in Stettler and has a passion for history in general, learning of these incidents continues to be a compelling adventure.
“I love storytelling as well,” she said. “So this is my way to be able to tell stories about the history of this community, and to help to pass it on.”
She added that the tour does touch on actual sites of some events but also provides an overall sense of history of the community.
“It overs a bit of both,” she said. “There are also ties with the different places that we see. The post office, for example, is tied to the Cook case because that is where the RCMP detachment was when Cook was arrested,” she explained.
“It was built in 1954,” she said, adding there is also a creepy tale that is told in connection to the Performing Arts Centre, plus a visit to where the Cook house once stood.
A local couple by the name of Ken and Betty Welte were also murdered in their home in 1975, and Betty was a member of the choir at the Stettler United Church. In fact, Stettler was once in the headlines for having the highest mass murder rate in North America, because there were three mass murders in a 20-year period (late 50s to the 1970s), said Friars.
Meanwhile, feedback from those who have gone on the tours is consistently positive.
“People are often astonished about some of what has gone on in the community,” she said, adding that following the last tour, folks even applauded. “There are lots of ‘thank yous’, and people say they didn’t know this or that happened,” she said.
“So I will continue to do my research!”
Again, call the Library at 403-742-2292 for more information.