The haunted South Okanagan

As Norma Cowie walked past weathered headstones in the Fairview Cemetery on a dreary fall day she felt the presence of sad, lonely and frustrated spirits.

The ghosts were among many she sensed on visits to Penticton places some believe to be haunted.

The spectres are those who have missed the transition into the loving light, according to the local psychic and author of “The Ghost I took Home.”

“If they have any guilt or regrets they miss the opportunity to go to the light and remain earthbound,” she said. “Often it can be someone who died abruptly or in their sleep, who don’t realize they are dead.”

Fairview , Penticton’s oldest Christian burial ground, is the final resting place for Wilhelm Zimmerman, who was murdered in his Penticton shop in 1907, and Const. George Aston, who was shot by a prisoner he was transporting on board the S.S. Okanagan in 1912.

Cowie did not feel the presence of the men, but at a gravesite of a woman who died in 1928, the pendulum she carries to get ahold of the spirit world began to spin in a clockwise fashion.

“There is an energy here that is sad, sad, sad,” she said. “It almost made me want to cry.”

At the cracked grave marker of a man who died in 1994, she sensed the extreme frustration of a person who had left something unfinished in life.

When Cowie, who has ghost busted throughout BC, feels such energy it is her job to send the lost spirits into the light.

“At first I sense them, then I see them,” she said. “And I work with them to let go and accept the light.”

At the S.S. Sicamous, perched by Okanagan Lake , the psychic sensed  a vortex, a gateway to the spirit world, in a corner of the cargo deck, where an exhibit designer reportedly recently saw an apparition..

Ted Senior claims he saw a shadow move in his peripheral vision on the deck and that same shadow down below in the bilge.

Others who work on the old steamboat say they have heard footsteps on the upper deck,doors opening and closing, while tourists claim to have taken pictures where strange images show up.

Historian Brian Wilson believes it could be the ghost of Ed Aldredge, a Penticton news reporter and photographer.  As he moved some of Aldredge’s belongings after his death, Wilson experienced difficulties trying to throw things away.

Those items were later moved to the S.S. Sicamous.

“He was kind of spooky in real life, a strange old curmudgeon, who wanted to keep everything close, so it is not surprising he would follow his stuff around,” said Wilson.

Perhaps the best known Penticton ghost is Sophia, The Blue Lady, who was believed to haunt the Penticton Museum and Archives for several years.

According to local lore, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, custodial staff working in the building at night would hear a strange voice coming from a corner of the building and catch glimpses of an apparition dressed in blue. She never spoke but would appear in rooms.

The haunting continued until around 1994 when a box of bones was found in the museum basement in a cardboard box that said “found on the east side of the river.”

The bones were sent to the forensic department at Simon Fraser University, where they were identified to be the bones of three people. After the bones were sent away The Blue Lady never appeared again, according to historian Randy Manuel.

More recently a man sorting through a First Nations collection in a back room at the museum saw a little girl out of the corner of his eye.

He was surprised to see the young child, around age 7 or 8, and asked around if there was a little girl visiting but everyone said no, said curator Peter Ord.

The girl has never been identified, but the museum is built at the former location of the Penticton Primary School, built in 1909.

As her pendulum began to swing at the museum, Cowie felt the onetime presence of a tall, slender woman dressed in blue. In the room where the man saw the little girl, there was a vortex, she explained.

“There is an energy here, something has gone on here creating it,” she said.

Paranormal activity has also been reportedly witnessed in other corners of the South Okanagan.

McIntyre Bluff, near Oliver, is thought to be visited from time to time by a First Nations princess who died long ago.

“Legend has it she was being forced to marry one person and was in love with another, so she threw herself off the cliff,” said Wilson. “People in the area have since reported seeing a slim girl clad in buckskin.”

In the book Ghosts II, by Robert Belyk, there is a description of Chute Lake’s haunted piper and ghost riders at Elinor Lake.

The phantom is believed to be Kevin McDermid, a bagpiper who became very distraught after his wife died at their remote home by the lake. He later disappeared and the only sign of him was his much-loved bagpipes.It is said on a clear night you can hear him playing.

In 1984, two men in the Elinor Lake area saw five horses and riders come into view. They were dressed in old-fashioned gear. They soon disappeared from sight and later there was no sign of the animal’s footprints on the road margin.

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