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A Spooky Spectacle: Kensington ghost tours captivate even the skeptic

After a recent trip to Walmart, the seasonal décor inside the store says we’re nearing Halloween. Although the desire to blow off first-semester steam is strong, the lingering sting of tuition payments called for a more subdued spooky season this year.

With the proliferation of weekend activities like board game cafes, escape rooms and craft ice cream shops, where drinking is a peripheral concern rather than the focus, surely there was a more sober and economical way to get into the Halloween spirit. A quick Google search and $20 later, I found my way onto the Calgary Ghost Tours’ Kensington tour.

A group of patrons begins to gather for the Kensington ghost tour outside the Kensington Pub in Calgary,Alberta on September 21, 2018.

What I assumed was a ragtag start-up tour has actually been going for 12 seasons. Calgary Ghost Tours offer tours of Inglewood, Kensington, downtown and Banff. Unlike a lot of other ghost-themed walks around Calgary, they operate from May until November.

The night of the tour looked like the setting of a Victorian nightmare, with freezing rain and thick fog dulling the street lights.  Amazingly, our tour guides, Johanna Lane and Manfred Baum, got the memo. They arrived in black capes, hats, and carrying lanterns, serving the simultaneous functions of visibility and creepiness. 

The tour group itself was a mixed bag of students, the date-night crowd, and friends and family groups, many of whom had been on the Inglewood and downtown tours.

The group of ghost story seekers are led into a park in Calgray, Alberta on September 21, 2018.

Lane, the founder of Calgary Ghost Tours, collected the group of 30 and quickly asked the people gathered around, “how many of you believe in ghosts?.” 

With the group split roughly 50-50, she declared that she is “an open-minded skeptic” who has never actually seen a ghost.

I initially wondered if it was a bad business move to openly call into the question the existence of ghosts at the onset of one’s own ghost tour. But then I let my inner skeptic enjoy the evening for what it was supposed to be: a fun historical tour of Kensington laced with stories of the unexplained.

The stories are a combination of well-researched accounts of Calgary history from the Glenbow Museum, and personal accounts and stories gathered from staff of the haunted stops. Some of the places we visited included Julio’s Barrio, The Plaza Theatre, Riley Park, and Kensington Pub.

“It’s a fun way to learn local history,” said Rob Classen, one of the intrigued participants. 

Even with the miserable weather conditions, most of the group stuck with the tour for the full 90 minutes, was due in part to the guides’ theatrical and humorous delivery of the information.

An alleged bullethole in the Kingsington Pub in Calgray, Alberta on September 21, 2018.

Calgary Ghost Tours are good events for anyone wanting to leave the house on a Friday night, without risking overdraft or hangover regret. 

Although, amongst the tour group I watched more than a few sneaky flasks and suspicious travel mugs being passed around, so perhaps the hangover part is up to you.

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