If you are looking for some spooky stories to share this Halloween, you don’t have to look too far outside of Cochrane. From a mysterious disappearance in Bragg Creek to the reason behind the name of Ghost Lake, here are a few stories to get your Halloween started:
In the Our Foothills historical document put together by the Millarville, Kew, Priddis and Bragg Creek Historical Society c/o Mrs. K. Tosh, there is a story written by Freda Purmal.
Purmal said that a certain disappearance is one of the most unusual happenings in Bragg Creek and took place near the end of the First World War.
John A. McIntosh built a cabin and a barn near the road that enters Bragg Creek Provincial Park. As the story goes, he was seldom seen or associated with anyone in the area.
Purmal said that one day she and her father drove past the McIntosh cabin and saw him nailing boards over the windows. A few days later Purmal said that Mounties stopped by her father’s place asking if they had seen McIntosh.
There were reports of people having seen him heading into Calgary where he had a house with his nephew. The police searched for him, but nothing was ever found.
The cabin remained boarded up for many years after the disappearance and Purmal said that she and her sisters always had uneasy feelings any time they were near the cabin.
The story continues to say that a big flood in 1932 washed away a large portion of the bank of Bragg Creek and after the waters subsided and they began to rebuild there was a grave discovered. No investigation was carried out, Purmal said, probably because the remains were so old.
Purmal said that not long after discovering the first grave, her father was grading a road nearby when they unearthed yet another grave. Purmal also mentioned in recent years (the document is cited as being released in 1975) other graves had been discovered around Bragg Creek with no knowledge of identities.
Purmal begged the question at the end of the story –– what ever happened to John A. McIntosh on that fateful winter day?
The Bell-Irving house is located at the top end of Pope Avenue and William Street in Cochrane and was built around 1905.
According to the Town of Cochrane Heritage Register released in 2002, the Bell-Irving’s were among the first ranchers who were “prominent in the establishment and progress of the district.”
This house, however, has become known as the “ghost house”.
Bernice Klotz with Cochrane Historical and Archival Preservation Society (CHAPS) shared the story of the Bell Irving house and Rattlesnake Pete.
Klotz said that the daughter who lived in the house strongly believed in ghosts and would go out nightly to the stone pillars in front of the home and leave wine to appease the spirits.
The neighbour across the street was known as Rattlesnake Pete. Klotz said he got the nickname because he would catch garter snakes, remove their fangs and wear them under his clothes.
She said Rattlesnake Pete would take the drinks left out each night and would drink them himself. The daughter believed that the spirits were taking the drinks, all the while Pete got a nightly glass of wine – on the house, so to speak.
The daughter was also known, according to Klotz, to take the bell from the Maxwell milk cow and use it to chase the spirits away within the house.
The house is still located on the corner of Pope Avenue and William Street in Cochrane.
Scott Lake Hill is located between Cochrane and Canmore along the Trans-Canada Highway. It is at the east boundary of the Stoney Nakoda First Nation and has an elevation of just over 1,400 meters.
Barbara Smith recounted the story of a haunted service station at this location in her book More Ghost Stories of Alberta, a followup to her book Ghost Stories of Alberta. She wrote that on Scott Lake Hill was a service station and a little house where the owners lived. The station closed, but the service road and some of the remains of the house could still be found there.
This was a popular place for long distance truck drivers to stop and catch a few hours of sleep, but according to Smith’s book the popularity of the spot didn’t last long.
She wrote that truckers would wake up to the sounds of a woman’s scream, but when they would look for the person screaming, no one could be found.
But as Smith wrote, rumour had it that there had been a sexual assault on the property and the place was haunted.
This tale is also recounted in the Harmony Hounds song ‘Scott Lake Hill’ that includes the lyrics:
“You’d think the trucks would be lined up tight, but they drive by there fastest. Well the truckers never get much rest at the pull-off on the hill. That dreadful scream that wakens them, it seems to linger still.”
Ghost Lake is located on Highway 1A just over 20 km west of Cochrane and is supposed to have had a few spirits known to roam around, according to documents supplied by Ghost Lake Recreation and the Atlas of Alberta Lakes.
The reservoir and dam are named for the Ghost River, which flows into the east end of the reservoir. It was originally called Dead Man River but the name was changed to Ghost because of tales of a spirit prowling up and down the river valley, picking up skulls of fallen Blackfoot Indians who had been killed in battle by Cree Indians.
The information provided goes on to say that in 1873, Reverend George McDougall and his son, the Reverend John McDougall, set up a mission across the river from the present day site of Morley.
In 1876, George McDougall became lost in a blizzard and died. He was buried beside his church located on the north shore of Ghost Reservoir. It is said that the sweeping west wind can evoke the ghosts of the past on this final resting site.