According to some Nelson residents, there are a plethora of supernatural spirits sharing our space here in the Kootenays, and that’s not necessarily something that should concern you. Though there are occasionally reports of a spine-chilling variety, the vast majority of these effervescent, ghostly souls are entirely harmless, primarily keep to themselves and are sometimes even kind. According to local paranormal expert Chris Holland, the majority of them are female.
“If you think about it, when Nelson was starting out you had all kinds of brothels and drinking establishments. There was a curfew [for prostitutes] at 4, and women weren’t allowed to be seen out after that time. So most women spent a majority of their lives at home. These houses were built for these women. It’s where they lived and where they loved. Sometimes their partners would go off to work and party and have fun, but somebody had to stay home and back then that was a female role. These are the types of ghosts we call caretaker ghosts,” he said.
Caretaker ghosts, Holland explained, are benevolent, maternal spirits that ensure the safety and happiness of their hauntees, but with one catch: you need to stay on their good side. One infamous ghost that currently resides in Six Mile, a woman who haunts the Fiddler’s Green property, has been known to be especially supportive of the restaurant built there after her death, but only if she agreed with the management.
“When everything was going right, then everything felt wonderful in the restaurant,” said Holland, noting staff members were aware of a presence, but didn’t feel threatened. One employee looked out into the restaurant after it was closed and spotted a young woman, well-dressed, sitting at a table by herself and gazing proudly around the room. He quickly rushed out to see who she was, but by the time he reached the floor she had vanished.
“But then, when things were going poorly, the heater or other things wouldn’t work. There was thumping and dragging around in the attic. It was in a state of turmoil and chaos. Then one night a candle was left lit on one of the tables in the restaurant. The fire lit the table cloth and everything on the table was burnt to a crisp but nothing else, outside the circle of the table, was touched. It ended exactly on the perimeter of the table. It was the feeling of the people that stopped the fire that ‘somebody was here taking care of it’,” he said.
Mari Plamondon, owner of Wait’s News, knows exactly what Holland is talking about. She’s had a ghost haunting her establishment since at least 2010, when she started keeping a list of unusual occurrences around the store. She has a book with detailed listings behind the counter, and her staff members regularly contribute to it. She said the first time she became aware of the ghost was when she heard a noise in the back, and discovered an open case of pop in the middle of the floor of her bathroom.
“It was a case of Pepsi, half-full, and it was just sitting there perfectly like someone had put it there. There’s no way it could have fallen from the stairs, and besides there hadn’t been enough noise. I told my staff this and then more things started to come out.”
The Wait’s staff now all routinely report having run-ins with Isabella, who they believe to be a 23-year-old librarian who worked in the Broken Hill block, which burnt down years ago. Three of her staff members have also reported seeing a well-dressed man in a top hat holding a walking cane, standing by the freezers near the back of their building.
Some business owners have taken matters into their own hands. Once Jennifer Dorscher, owner of Mana’eesh, became aware of a ghostly presence in her restaurant, she invested in a new app called Ghost Radar. The uniquely designed program reads the spiritual energy of the room and translates it into words. If there is no ghost in the room, then the words come back as gibberish. That’s exactly what happened when she activated it in her house, but not so once she got to work.
“Right away the words started making sense. They were in sentences. It said ‘I can lift a buffalo, I can lift an automobile, I can lift you,” she said.
Dorscher sensed the spirit was a young gunslinger type, and though co-owner Rania Kassem and all of her staff have now reported getting glimpses of him, they aren’t especially intimidated or concerned. Kassem said one day she was in the freezer when it suddenly jerked, as if it was being pushed, approximately a foot. Once the wheels came to a stop she blurted out “very funny”, assuming the shove had come from Dorscher. But nobody else was in the room.
Recently, a fire swept through the laundry room of the Hume Hotel, and Holland hypothesized that recent renovations may have run afoul of a grumpy caretaker ghost. He’s personally investigated the premises, and said years ago he picked up a clear EVP (electric voice phenomenon) in which a recorded device picked up an otherworldly voice. According to their triangulations, the voice was coming from the laundry room. And what was it saying? “Careful.”
And that’s essentially it. If you’re careful and respectful, the ghosts will leave you well enough alone. And over time, you may start to learn things about their personalities.
“These days, I see Isabella all the time,” said Plamondon. “I’ll be baking or cooking and I’ll catch her presence in the corner of my eye, up by the stairs. I’ll just say ‘hi Isabella’ and acknowledge her, then continue to go about my business.”