Penticton and South Okanagan
Bones, bagpipes & missing people
Oct 25, 2013 / 1:20 pm
Historian Randy Manuel doesn't have particularly fond memories of his childhood home in Penticton.
Mostly because the ghost of his grandfather, who died on the premises, has been seen and heard over the years.
The home near the Fairview Cemetery is one of many places believed to be haunted in the South Okanagan.
"We know there are electrical impulses from tomatoes on up to humans, so even though a person might be gone those signals emanating from that person are still out there to be received," said Manuel. "Or it could be people who died suddenly or don't want to leave familiar things."
The paranormal happening that touches closest to home for Manuel, is the one involving his grandfather.
Jack Beaton along with his wife and two daughters moved into the house in 1927.
He was an engineer for the Kettle Valley Railway, who had a bad back and liked his whiskey.
On the morning of Jan. 1, 1942, after spending New Year's Eve out for a "toot" with a friend, his daughter, Manuel's mother, found him dead in a back bedroom.
The cause was attributed to a mix of whiskey and painkillers.
His wife Bertie Beaton moved to the Cariboo, and Manuel's parents moved into the house.
From an early age he had a fear of the backroom, where his grandfather died. Both he and his parents saw and felt a presence, as well as people who stayed there.
"One friend who was sleeping there on a hot afternoon, rolled her head back and talked in a deep male voice," he said. "And some woke up to the sensation of him sitting on the bed."
The family moved out in 2001, and about two years ago, he got a phone call from the present owners asking if a child named Henry had lived there.
He went to the house and started talking to the daughter of the owners, who was there with her little girl. The woman said her child had a friend named Henry who always dressed in old fashioned garb.
But what she said next sent shivers down Manuel's spine.
In addition to Henry, the little girl was visited by a man who said his name was Jack.
Manuel went home and got pictures of his grandfather and other men. When he showed them to the little girl, she picked out Jack Beaton.
"The end result is I went into the front room and said grandfather this is not your place anymore, you are bothering these people," he said."So hopefully the haunting stopped after that."
Manuel had another experience with a haunting when he worked as the curator at the Penticton Museum and Archives.
During the late 1980s, a ghost known as The Blue Lady, appeared at night. As a result, the museum had trouble keeping their janitorial staff.
"Staff would complain about strange feelings, cold air and that someone was watching them," he said.
At the time Manuel was taking inventory in the basement and coming across what previous curators had collected, among them First Nations artifacts and relics.
In a corner of a poorly lit room was a cardboard box labeled Pacific Milk Tins. He reached inside and pulled out a skull, before finding other obvious pieces of a skeleton. Written on the box in light pencil was "found on east side of river."
The bones were sent to the forensic lab at Simon Fraser University and information was provided it was the remains of three people, with one of them being female.
Manuel said he was unsure if the bones were First Nations or Caucasian. Because it was not a complete set of bones for three people, he believes they could have traveled from a burial spot during spring run off.
"Often burials occurred near river banks," he said.
Once the bones left the building, the hauntings seemed to stop and the museum was able to keep its night staff.
Other places reported to be haunted in Penticton are a house on Vancouver Hill, where a former editor of the Penticton Herald lived for years, the S.S. Sicamous, the S.S. Naramata and the S.S. Okanagan Saloon.
At the house on Vancouver Hill, people have heard footsteps upstairs and water running, said Manuel.
On the S.S. Naramata, moored in Penticton, people have also heard footsteps and caught the scent of an apple pie baking in the galley.
Manuel believes the source could be the ship's cook who slipped on ice leaving the ship in Naramata and fell and hit his head on rocks before drowning in the water there.
"He is most likely the source of the haunting," he said. "He would have worked long hours on the ship and was likely very attached to it."
Captain Joseph Weeks, one of the last captains of the S.S. Sicamous and founder of the Okanagan Historical Society, may have never left the ship.
He was a woodworker, according to Manuel, and a coffee table he made from original flooring on the ship, is known to mysteriously move from one end of the room its in to the other.
"People come in in the morning and the table has moved," said Jim Cooper, president of the S.S. Sicamous Restoration Society. "There have also been reports of other unnerving sounds coming from the old girl."
As far as Cooper is concerned, the hauntings are cool and go with the territory.
The nearby S.S. Okanagan Stern Saloon may also be visited by a spirit.
Cst. George Aston, now buried at the Fairview Cemetery, was shot by a prisoner he was transporting on board the ship in 1912.
At the Naramata Heritage Inn & Spa, the night clerk has heard noises in the night like stacks of dishes going over and doors slamming shut, according to owner Julius Bloomfield.
There was a girls' school at the location at one time, so it could be linked to that, or even perhaps to early owners who were a fun loving family.
"It is mischievous pranks, more like what children would do," said Bloomfield.
McIntyre Bluff, near Oliver, is thought to be visited by a First Nations princess who died long ago.
In "Ghosts II, More True Stories from British Columbia," author Robert C. Belyk tells the story of a Penticton photographer coming face to face with ghost riders at Elinor Lake.
The man and his father were on a road that skirts Elinor Lake, about two miles east of Chute Lake, when they saw five horses and riders come into view.
He immediately noticed their clothing seemed to come from another era, and the riders appeared surprised as they passed by.
When he later looked at the road, where the horses were seen, there was no sign of hoof prints.
Lastly, there is the sad tale of Kevin McDermid, known as Chute Lake's phantom piper.
He and his wife lived in a homestead in the Chute Lake area, where his greatest joy was playing the bagpipes.
After his wife fell ill and died, he was rarely seen.
When worried neighbours went to check on him, they found his bagpipes, but no sign of McDermid.
According to Belyk, on a clear night you may still hear the chanting of McDermid's pipes.
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