Strange things have been happening at Government House.
Six years ago, two adventurous ten-year-old girls arrived at Government House to begin their own personal investigation. Flashing bonafide "Ghost Detective" badges, Sam and J.J., interviewed the staff, explored the rooms and won the hearts of guests as they uncovered many of the secrets the house has to offer.
Their adventures inspired Canadian author Judith Silverthorne to write her book Ghosts of Government House, a tale about the two girls and their encounter with four ghosts – a monkey named Jocko, a little boy named Ben, a World War II veteran named Sheldon and a former cook named Cheun Lee, also commonly referred to as "Howie". Her book would become a favorite for children and, a year after its release, would be incorporated into Government House's Halloween special "Bump in the Night".
"Bump in the Night" has taken on a life of its own in recent years. Starting off modestly in 2012 with only 250 guests, it ballooned to over 1,000 guests by 2014. Last year was another record breaking year, and they expect to exceed that this year as well.
Running from 6 PM to 7:30 PM on Sunday, October 30th, "Bump in the Night" is the perfect excuse for kids (and adults!) to wear their Halloween costumes one more time before the big day. With free admission, the night begins with crafts and refreshments followed by two performances by Chester the Entertainer at 6:15 PM and 7 PM. Magicians were popular during the Victorian Era, and the staff at Government House will be able to teach history lovers a thing or two about some of the tricks these magicians once performed. Chester will be incorporating this Victorian Era theme into his performances, but with 21st Century luxuries like electricity and smoke machines.
Halloween gained popularity during the late Victorian Era and started many traditions that we celebrate today, such as dressing up in costume (Victorians believed this would ward away spirits as they would be unrecognizable), bobbing for apples, and fortune telling.
Guests are also welcome to try and solve the Mystery in the Museum; much like Sam and J.J. did six years ago. Once again statues are being turned around, mysterious water is appearing in copper bathtubs and chamber pots are moving by themselves. Throughout the house guests will find letters that spell out a clue pointing towards who, or what, is behind the mayhem.
Canadian author Judith Silverthorne will also be attending the event, and will be reading passages from her book throughout the night. There are even rumors of a sequel to Ghosts of Government House – one that involves the beautiful Edwardian gardens that encircle the house!
While in the museum remember to keep an eye out for paranormal activity. The house is known to have its fair share of spooky occurrences, such as moving mannequins, the sound of shuffling slippers, swinging mirrors, ghostly apparitions and even orbs. Staff and visitors alike have felt an unknown presence in the house for decades and many believe it isn't just Howie that haunts the halls. Perhaps there is something else in Government House that goes bump in the night.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.
Imagine the bustling streets of New York, then times it by ten. Add a dash of Chinese culture, a wallop of nature and half dozen fish balls that don’t actually contain any fish, and you have the beautiful city that is Hong Kong.
At 7.2 million people, Hong Kong is a dynamic city with an incredible history, towering skyscrapers and a unique mix of English and Chinese that can’t be found anywhere else in the world. While Hong Kong has existed for a millennium, it was officially founded in 1842 to solidify a truce between Great Britain and the Qing dynasty of China during the First Opium War. A decade after the British took control of Hong Kong, the Black Death swept into China, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would remain part of Hong Kong’s life for a century.
During World War II, Hong Kong was captured by the Japanese. For three years and eight months the British-Chinese culture of the city was destroyed, replaced with Japanese text, language and art. The booming city of 1.6 million people was slashed to only 600,000. Japanese occupation was incredibly harsh for the Hongkongese, being the darkest part of their history. Japan ceased occupation on August 6th, 1945, in response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For forty-two more years, Hong Kong was controlled by the British, with the reunification between Hong Kong and mainland China finally occurring in 1997.
Just over a year ago I wrote an article about the glockenspiel that once stood in downtown Regina. I had fond memories of the glockenspiel as a child and was sad when they took it down to renovate the park. I was even more sad when they didn't put it back up, and I was angry when I discovered it was sitting in a junkyard (sorry, outdoor "storage facility") for the past ten years. That article got a lot of attention, from both the public, the city and the press. Today, efforts are being made to restore the bell back to its original location.
I'm telling you this because preserving heritage – may it be a 25-year-old bell, or a fourth century building – is important. Without heritage, we lose who we are. Often, the desire to move society forward steps over the heritage and causes it to get lost. As impressive as tall glass buildings might be, nothing is better than a smoky red brick structure.
Saskatchewan is beginning to realize how important this is – and thankfully it's happening now and not in a few decades after everything is gone. But, our neighbours have been on the heritage preservation band train for several years now, especially in Alberta.