BOW VALLEY – Under the moonlight, Canmore and Banff Ghost Walks are showcasing the creatures, ghosts and things that go bump in the night.
Serving as a guide to the Bow Valley's spirit world, Maxine Bennett, creator of the Banff and Canmore ghost walks, said guests never know whom they may encounter on their journey.
“I just like the stories,” she said. “Ghost stories are important because they are our modern folklore – if you’re a believer, or a non-believer, I still think it’s an important aspect of our culture.”
The tour is filled with the towns' spookiest stories, and the air is often filled with nervous giggles, as guests huddle close together and they descend into the spirit world.
Right now is the best time of the year for tours, she added, as the nights are, longer, darker and full of terrors.
“In October, there’s definitely more of an inherently spooky feeling about it,” Bennett said with a mischievous smile.
She explained that people have told her the barrier between the worlds is thinner this time of year, so guests might see, hear and feel more ghostly experiences than they typically would.
Bennett was inspired to create the ghost walks after talking with a friend in 2017. The duo immediately began researching and compiling scary stories they could share in the dark in Canmore.
It was amazing the interest they immediately saw in the tours, Bennett said, and an additional ghost tour was created in Banff in 2018.
The stories she shares provide insight into the towns, exploring the history and hidden sides of Canmore and Banff.
The tour explores the back streets and alleys of Banff and Canmore, she said, to find the spooky parts of the towns that in the nighttime have creepy things and spooky events waiting in the dark.
Bennett has also had her own ghostly encounters while hosting tours.
“There’s apparently a ghost who likes to stand behind me when I tell her story,” Bennett said, describing how mediums who have taken the tour have seen the apparition of a ghostly lady smiling floating near her.
The ghost, Lisa from the Canmore Recreation Centre, is the spirit Bennett said she would most like to meet. Her story is legendary in town, Bennett said, explaining that she is believed to be a little girl who drowned in the wetland that is now occupied by the recreation centre.
Lisa now roams the hallways of the centre and the streams surrounding the area.
“A lot of people local have said they’ve seen her,” Bennett said with a grin. “She's probably the most famous local ghost.”
However, not all ghosts on the tour are benevolent, Bennett warned.
“In Banff, the one that freaks me out the most is the one from the house on Beaver Street,” she said.
One can sense the ghost is near by the horrifying smell of “sewage and meat” it emits accompanied by the sound of chains dragging on the roof. Bennett added that she suspects the ghost is a murdered spirit.
“That ghost terrifies me,” Bennett said.
The shroud between our world and the spirit world is especially delicate as Halloween looms closer, and Bennett has found that those who are extra sensitive to experiencing eerie apparitions are more likely to spot a ghostly guest in October.
If anyone sees something during their tour in Canmore or Banff, they want to hear about, she added.
“Some of the best things that we have heard have happened to people on the tour,” Bennet said. “We get to share those with other people, and it’s really, really fun.”
To make the most of the tour, Bennett said she recommends wearing layers to keep out the chill in the air and warm shoes with a good grip.
The tours are hosted by ten different guides and vary in length from an hour and a half, to two hours.
The tours are accessible for everyone, Bennett said and it is an easy walk for most participants. They can adapt to the needs of those in attendance and take measures to ensure the tours are wheelchair accessible.
Tours meet at the Good Earth Coffeehouse in Canmore or Banff and depart into the spirit world at 8 p.m.
Ghost Walks run every night off the week in Banff and twice a week in Canmore. The season ends with a special tour on the night of Halloween.