As much I love travelling the world, my absolute favourite thing is all the creepy, spooky stories that come along with it. If there is a dark story, I'm always keen to write about it. But, to be honest, although I've travelled to many of the world's most disturbing places, I've never had a ghostly encounter. I've never taken a picture of a ghost, I've never seen one, I've never heard one, nothing at all.
But, that doesn't mean I don't believe in ghosts. I would absolutely love to catch evidence of a ghost sometime. So, when Alyson Ford, Matt Lay and Cory Nagy of Paranormal and Supernatural Team Saskatchewan (PAST) reached out to see if I wanted to join them for an investigation I immediately jumped at the chance. We would also be joined by Justin Henry, a new member to the organization. I've chatted with PAST a few times over the past year, so I was excited to spend a night with them. For this investigation they would spend a night at one of Regina's most popular board game cafes, Boards n Beans, on 1840 Rose Street.
PAST's philosophy is to not only document hauntings, but also help the people that are being affected. Often hauntings can be caused by either bringing in negative spiritual energy, or by having underlying issues like anxiety, insomnia, depression or addiction. External elements can cause supposed hauntings too, like an over exposure to Wi-Fi or electricity. PAST goes into to prove hauntings, but also to bring solace to those who want to know what's really going on around them.
When it comes to Boards n Beans, however, I believe there is something supernatural going on. I've written about Boards n Beans before, and I've gone there on my time to play games. They have a fantastic and ever-growing selection of board games and have snacks, drinks, candy and plenty of food to go around. With a very reasonable cover charge, you can play for hours and have a great time without breaking the bank. The ladies that run the business, Carole and Stephanie, are super friendly and know all their customers by name. They told me about their experiences the first time we met, but it wasn't until the investigation with PAST we talked about it publicly.
PAST tasked me with the challenge to figure out why this building is haunted. The café owners say they often see a spirit of a little girl, either in the café or peaking between the board games on the bookshelves. They've also reported seeing a man with a top-hat, a woman in white and smelling rose perfume. One of their most compelling pieces of evidence is the security footage they've captured. The footage shows both things getting flung off counters and mysterious apparitions in the hallway.
They had a lot of evidence of the haunting, but not a cause for it. In our first discussion they told me a story they heard about a woman bring murdered in the doorway during the 1920s or 1930s. I wasn't able find anything about that, but I could find a lot of pictures of the building. I can tell from the pictures that the building is the former Drake and Champlain Hotel, and that it had undergone several renovations over the years. The biggest change was the extension of the building near the rear of the hotel. These images show me that whatever doorway this woman died in would have been right at the edge of the building. Judging from the pictures, this also used to be the entrance to a bar. Could it have been foul play?
In our second interview together, they told me an updated story they uncovered. Several decades ago, a body of a woman was found in the nearby elevator shaft. I couldn't find any reports about this, but the elevator shaft would have been renovated during the 1970s when they added an extension to the building. This would explain why the above Holiday Inn Hotel is also supposedly haunted. Unfortunately, we were not able to get into the hotel to conduct any investigation to verify this.
To investigate further, I reached out to a former business that was renting out that space in the building. I asked them if they had had any paranormal encounters. They said yes. I then asked if they knew who rented the space before they moved in and I was told that location used to be for church gatherings. Might this spiritual energy cause the paranormal activity? I'm not sure.
With this newfound knowledge in hand, we arrived in the evening and set up our base outside the building. We hooked up the power, connected our cameras and tested the microphones. This is the "behind-the-scenes" work you don't often see on television. It took us hours to set up, but once we were done, we had a great view of every corner in the café.
Once we got settled and the skies darkened, we hunkered down and started the investigation. A lot of paranormal investigators use electromagnetic waves to contact spirits, but PAST uses direct current electricity instead. We tested out their new, experimental "Anubis Gate" to pump electricity into the air, but we quickly learned it was messing with our communication network. We wanted to use this new tool, so we opted to cut off our communications with base. They could see and hear us, but we couldn't hear them. While being cut off, various things were picked up in the audio we never heard while doing the live investigation. These included voices, movements in the shadows and footsteps.
We had a few different shifts inside the café. Some with the investigators, some with the staff and some with a mix of us both. It is believed the spirits felt more comfortable around women, but we wanted to document responses with both genders. We used various tools, microphones and energy sensors to capture evidence.
At about 2 o'clock in the morning we called it a night and packed our things up. PAST took their footage back and reviewed it the next day. What they found is a secret even to me. About five months later, I've only seen pieces. I can't say one way or the other if this location is haunted, but I know from witnesses and the security footage, this place has a lot more going on than just board games and coffee.
Canada's 150th birthday cannot be complete without visiting the country's capital city... but which one should you visit? While Ottawa is the current capital of Canada, there have been four other capital cities, and it has changed seven times. It started in Kingston (1841 – 1844) and then moved to Montréal (1844 – 1849), believing it to be safer from the Americans. After the citizens of Montréal burnt it down, it rotated between Toronto (1849 – 1852 and 1856 – 1858) and Québec City (1852 – 1856 and 1859 – 1866). Finally, it was placed right on the border between the two provinces in Ottawa (1866 to present day). This tour ventures into each of these five cities and explores what makes them so unique.
Since the capital flip-flopped location seven times, it would be much more convenient to go through the cities geographically then historically. If we started in the West, we would start in Toronto, Ontario, Canada's biggest city. While G Adventures only mentions the CN Tower and Kensington Market, there is much more to see in this city. You could visit the 18th century Casa Loma Castle, stroll through the artistic Graffiti Alley, visit Ripley's Aquatic Aquarium, or go drink and dine in the Distillery District. Looking for more outdoorsy stuff? Check out the Toronto Islands, the famous High Park or the Toronto Zoo. You can even take a boat out onto Lake Ontario and see the city's iconic skyline!
They say hope was the last thing to die in Auschwitz.
It's been just over 70 years since the Allies liberated the death camp and the horrors of the "Final Solution" were revealed to the world. Prior to their arrival, Auschwitz was the most effective death camp ever created, having taken the lives of over 1.1 million Jews.
Block 4 of Auschwitz holds the museum, explaining the best it can about what happened seven decades past. The museum explains what Auschwitz was originally built for – a camp for Polish prisoners of war – and how it became key to the Nazi's "Final Solution". The museum goes over the construction of Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II (Birkenau) and Auschwitz III (Monowitz), the increased sizes and effectiveness of gas chambers and the factories of death that stood and smoked over the camp during its operation.
Long before I started my blog, many, many years ago, I visited Innsbruck, Austria. I was on a Contiki trip through Europe and visited a plethora of locations such as Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Venice, Lucerne and Innsbruck, just to name a few. It was an incredible experience and one that I think was a transformative moment in my life.
Off the record (or, on the record now, I guess), of all the places I visited, the only one I didn't like was Innsbruck. I couldn't get into it. We visited it in late March, so the weather wasn't the best. The trees didn't have any leaves on them, the grass was brown, and everything had a post-winter grey look to it. After visiting Munich and spending the night in St. Goar, my mind wasn't thinking about Innsbruck at all. Instead, I was more excited to go to Venice the next day, and the Vatican the day after that. My time in Innsbruck was uneventful, and all I wanted was to get back on the road.
That was in 2011, and now it's 2018. Has my opinion on Innsbruck changed? I would say yes. I'm more mature now and if I went back, I would better appreciate what I was seeing. As I've gotten older, I've been less impressed by the massive buildings and more enthralled by the history that created them.