Did you know the Bank of Montreal used to be a graveyard?
This was way back when Nelson was first being settled, before they relocated the Baker St. gravestones first to the area where the campground is, and finally further Uphill during something called “The Resurrection Run” — an event which left one body unaccounted for.
It’s also the basis for one of the many spooky stories told during the haunted tramway tour by the Nelson Paranormal League’s Chris Holland. Clocking in at approximately an hour and a half, the trip takes ghost enthusiasts from Lakeside Park to the Prestige resort and back.
And though the tours have been temporarily cancelled due to paving work at the Chahko Mika Mall, he’s always gathering new material.
“The biggest thing about paranormal pursuits is it’s a non-quantifiable science,” Holland said. “Science says it’s bull pucky, but you can draw a logical line between science and the potential of energy transformation into paranormal existence.”
In other words: we all leave things behind. Maybe it’s dust, maybe it’s a smell, or maybe it’s something ineffable. But Holland believes we’re constantly embedding ourselves into our surroundings, and the evidence is there for anyone who’s keen enough to look.
Take, for instance, the spectral presence that routinely shows up in the spire of Touchstones Museum. Holland thinks he has an explanation for that — one observer of Nelson’s last hanging, which occurred near the courthouse, was so horrified by the spectacle that he permanently imprinted his scowl in the surrounding glass.
“This was in 1902, when Henry Rose was convicted of killing J.J. Cole after a serious drinking bout. Invitations were handed out to Nelson’s elite for the grisly event, and people rented rooms in the Hume Hotel so they could stand on the balconies and watch,” said Holland.
“It was such a horrifying spectacle his reaction was captured for all time.”
And that’s not the only gruesome anecdote he’s got at the ready.
Holland also shares a story about a decapitated prospector who was reportedly seen multiple times in the mountains surrounding Nelson around the turn of the century. It was even reported on in the local newspaper.
And the best thing about sharing these stories, Holland finds, is that often streetcar riders will offer their own observations.
While telling one story about a local house under the influence of one of Nelson’s infamous caretaker ghosts he was surprised to meet someone who had lived there previously — and had their own stories to tell.
Lately he’s been fixated on the Capitol Theatre.
“I really want to do a real investigation in there. The costume room, especially, has an incredible amount of energy. I went down there and realized all these clothes, somebody died in them. There’s a 100-year-old tuxedo with tails, and at one point you have to figure that was great grandpa’s favourite thing.”
And picking up on this ghostly energy can be a subtle art.
“It’s often a whisper,” Holland says. “Or something you catch just out of the corner of your eye.”
Holland figures the tramway itself is filled with the spiritual energy of all those who have travelled in it over the years, their dust and memories and emotions all soaked into the woodwork. The way he figures, it makes perfect sense.
“You’re dead, and you can do anything you want — why wouldn’t you come back for another ride or two? They love it so much they want to ride forever.”
Every week for the month of October the Star will be sharing Holland’s stories about Nelson’s most haunted places.