Earlier this year I did a presentation at The Artesian about the Spanish Influenza. It was the first time I had ever done a presentation like this and I was nervous about the number of people that might attend. I told my mother I would be thrilled if five people came that night, but forty people showed up instead. For a topic that very few people know anything about, I was excited to see so many people interested.
But one person in the audience was so interested that several months later she reached out to me to see if I wanted to do my presentation again. Instead of doing it in Regina, she asked for me to travel to Craik, Saskatchewan to tell the Craik Museum and Oral History Society about what I had learned.
For knowing so much about a topic nobody ever asks me about, I was super excited to talk about it. The organiser reached out to Craik School to ask if the students would be interested in attending the lecture too. The teacher said they wouldn't be able to make the time slot work but asked if I could speak to the students about being a blogger at a different time.
I jumped at the chance and said yes.
I have never been to Craik before, but it's like a lot of other smaller towns in Saskatchewan. It didn't have many stop signs, used small-town Saskatchewan angled parking, had absurdly wide sidewalks and a much slower pace of life. What I really liked about Craik is that their town has their very own high school. This helps keep people in the community after the finish elementary school.
Before the presentation I told the teacher that my content gets a little dark and that I would like them to go over it first. My presentation showed pictures of the normal places I've been, like Paris and London, but also some disturbing places like Chernobyl or Xochimilco. I wasn't sure how the students would handle seeing images of rotting dolls and decaying beds, but the teacher said to show them anyway.
The presentation went well. The students were great and very interested. There were a couple students in the back that whispered to each other throughout the presentation but once the first doll appeared on the screen, they stopped. It's almost as if the dolls freaked them out or something...
After the presentation I was gifted some Craik School swag, was told by one of the students that my presentation was "really good" and got ready for my Spanish Flu presentation.
My second presentation was at the Craik Library, home to the Craik Museum and Oral History Society and the local farmers market. This building is a gorgeous brick structure, built in 1913, and was originally used as the town hall.
The second presentation was in a smaller room, to a smaller audience. There was only about twelve people in this group, while the high school had about thirty. When I presented this lecture at The Artesian I had about ninety minutes to talk, but this time I only had sixty. Although it was a rushed presentation, the audience soaked up every minute of it. Once it was over, we had another half hour of questions, stories and information that their own local historian had discovered.
After we cleaned up from the presentation I asked if I could see the basement. It had only been a few weeks since Halloween and the organiser told me they still had decorations down there, but even without them, it was still creepy.
So, naturally I was very intrigued.
Although the building was constructed in 1913, it wasn't the first building on the property. In 1905 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), then the North West Mounted Police (NWMP), had a station on this property that was equipped with their very own jail. When town hall was built, the RCMP took their files to their new detachment office and left nothing but an imagination to speculate what the jail was used for.
The basement opened to a wide hallway. On the right was a doorway into a large space. This is where most of the Halloween activities occurred, including a cleanly severed human arm. It was a neat space, but it wasn't what my eyes were drawn to.
On the other side of the basement were two one-hundred and thirteen-year-old jail cells. These jail cells were constructed by the NWMP to hold prisoners, that varied from criminals or local drunks. After the department moved to their new location, the prison cots have never been used again… at least not by anything living.
Next to the jail cells were two small rooms, each piled high with boxes and files. These rooms were originally used for guards to sit and do paperwork while keeping an eye on the prisoners.
These old jail cells, and adjacent offices from over a century ago was something unexpected in the town of Craik. All towns have their own dark secrets, but this one was creepy.
I contacted the Craik RCMP detachment to see if they could tell me anything about the prison cells, or subsequent prisoners, but they have yet to get back to me.
After we were done in the basement, I was taken to the upstairs of the building. This area was much more well-lit, but a lot colder. Following Craik Library taking over the building, this part of the building had its heat turned off to save money. This meant this beautiful auditorium is only used during those few Saskatchewan days where it isn't too cold for heat, and it isn't too hot for air conditioning.
It made me sad to see the upstairs space so unused and forgotten, and I couldn't help but think back to the crumbling auditorium I saw in Pripyat. The town doesn't have the means to upkeep the building space, and as decades roll past it will fall into oblivion.
I went to Craik to teach people, but instead learned a lot more than I ever expected.
What do you think about Craik's creepy secrets? Do you think you would be able to spend a night there? Let me know in the comments below!
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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Cemeteries are a place of solace. All people, regardless of wealth, status, religion or creed are equals within a cemetery. It's a place of remembrance, respect and reconciliation. If you visit a cemetery, you are visiting the graves of lost loved ones. These may be children, pioneers, rebels or everyday people. Every grave has a story, and all are longing to be told.
Because of this, cemeteries are a library of knowledge. They hold the lessons of our past, and the wisdom of our future. As the leaves change and the days get shorter, cemeteries attract a much different crowd than that of just historians and family members. With autumn crisp in the air, cemeteries fill with thrill-seekers and paranormal believers. There is a fine line between what is and isn't acceptable within a cemetery and those who dabble into the affairs of the afterlife know this all too well. Few people go into cemeteries looking to disrespect the graves; instead, most are just hoping they can answer their own questions about life after death.
Not all cemeteries are haunted, but each holds their own stories. Keep this in mind while you read this article. If you end up visiting any of these sites, remember to step softly, speak quietly and respect the surrounding graves. You might not be as alone as you think.
If you follow my blog, you know I love history. History is what makes us who we are today. It defines our accomplishments and highlights our failures. Most importantly, it helps us move forward as a society.
A lot of my focus is Saskatchewan's history, but there's plenty of amazing history to be told in our neighbour province of Alberta too. From First Nations culture, through to early pioneers, the oil boom and the legacy the province today, there is always something to learn about when visiting Alberta.
When I started my blog, I wanted a place to tell stories. I wanted a place where I could keep memories and show them off for people later. My earliest entries on my blog are from 2011 (published in 2014), right after my trip to Europe. They're messy, they lack detail, and they are full of inaccuracies. Not the mention the wretched photography.
So, there's only been a slight improvement since then. Hahahahaha.
Four years later, my blog has become my hobby, my joy, my escape and my work. I spend hours writing content for my blog. I spend hours editing pictures, researching details, and adjusting content for SEO (search engine optimization). It's a full-time gig, and just the other day I published my 200th article. After 200 times of doing something, you'd think the articles would get easier, but they really don't. Each one is unique unto itself, and each one is a special time in my life that I shared with my readers.