Craving a spooky story for Halloween?
Not the type that’s usually served up with hot chocolate and a warm blanket, but a real ghost story? The kind that draws too fine a line between good clean fun and…something else?
Surrey has a few tales that’ll creep back on you. They come from deep in the dripping forest, behind the rotting fences and rusted wire of forgotten homesteads. Casper, these aren’t.
People given to night terrors probably should quit now. But for those who dare, consider yourself warned.
THE GHOSTS OF HARVIE ROAD
The history of Port Kells, in the northeastern tip of Surrey, is a fitful one. The founding fathers, both named Henry Kells, pre-empted the land there in 1886, fueled by dreams of a grand city on a freshwater port. They subdivided their land into city lots, but the city wasn’t to be able and most of the property was later sold for small farms.
Many an old house still stands there today, but one built in 1954 is particularly troubled.
There used to be a mill pond on the property up until the 1940s, next to a shingle mill. The Chinese labourers who worked there used to live in a log cabin, across the road.
Today, the mill’s gone, and so is the cabin. The pond is not much more than a creek these days, but the forest’s thick and the air is sweet and heavy.
They say the area along the ravine was a Katzie Indian campsite long before Europeans came. There’s also an Indian burial ground, less than a kilometer away.
Elsie Preedy, a long-time Port Kells resident, lives near the house and has made some strange finds while digging in her own garden.
"I dug up Chinese that had been cremated, I guess, in the local bonfires. Just bits and pieces. The idea was to send their bones and ashes back to China."
She also found remnants of Indian moccasins under a stump. But other than that, there haven’t been any strange happenings on her property.
But the other house, which has been bought and sold at least four times since it was built, is a different story. Sooner or later, the owners come padding up Preedy’s driveway, and not for a social call. They want to know about their "visitor."
From time to time, Preedy said, the ghost of a young Indian woman, perhaps in her late teens, appears at the foot of their bed in the room facing the old mill pond.
"One day, the lady of the house was taking a snooze," Preedy recalled the experience of one owner. "All of a sudden, she woke up and there at the end of her bed there’s a lady, arms folded, looking straight at her. And it wasn’t just like ‘I see it and poof, it’s gone.’ It was there longer. And the longer she looked at it, the more it stayed. Never moved, just stayed there. Not a word, not a peep, no friendly ghosts or chatter or anything. When she got up and moved toward it, it just disappeared.
"I heard exactly the same description from each owner," Preedy said. "She seems solid."
A few years ago, the Indian maiden went on a fieldtrip, appearing in a young boy’s room in a neighbouring house. The boy’s father, who asked not to be identified, said the apparition "just stood there in the middle of the night, at the end of his bed."
But it was only a cameo appearance. "I think she’s trucked on down back where she came from."
Ralph and Angela Wiens lived in the house for 16 years before moving to Gibsons in 1986. Though they don’t recall seeing an Indian apparition, they remember other strange happenings.
Angela Wiens said she had a string of premonitions while living there. One was of an earthquake in Turkey, and another of an upturned canoe and swirling water.
Back in its heyday, the old mill pond behind the house was some 15 feet deep in places. Wiens recalled hearing that many, many years ago, a carload of teens drove up onto the frozen pond, the ice broke and "one of the kids died."
The veracity of the story is questionable, though. Old-timer Art Allen remembers a tractor breaking through the ice, but nobody died in that mishap.
According to Preedy, the pond had claimed at least two lives over the years. One of the victims is buried at St. Oswald’s Anglican Church in Port Kells.
Wiens described the outlay of her old split-level home, with two bedrooms upstairs. On more than one occasion, she saw an "ethereal, white and smoky" figure moving across the landing at the top of the stairs, giving her "sort of a startle."
"I would just sort of see the tail end of it, drifting into either room," Wiens said. "I would say, ‘Look if you’re friendly, fine, if not, get out.’" But her stepdaughter, Leslie, suffered a much more malevolent experience. Wiens said the young girl had an "awful nightmare" of a woman hanging from the ceiling and dropping down on her, in the guest room upstairs. The woman was screaming and hovering over her. "It sounded like she was pretty angry, pretty hostile."
"She was so scared by it." Leslie, who now lives on Saltspring Island, asked that her last name not be published. She said she was 12 when it happened. "I remember being in the left-side bedroom. I had the light on at the time.
"This woman from the ceiling dropped down on me."
The woman was white, with long brown hair and a purple dress. She appeared solid, and her clothing seemed really old – perhaps from the early 1900s. It was as though she’d fallen from a great height, Leslie said. The woman seemed terrified.
"I remember her screaming and falling, her hair all over the place."
She was screaming, but there was no sound. Her hair and clothing were flying out behind her. "It was just sheer terror from both ends," Leslie said.
She didn’t feel an impact, though the woman appeared to be solid. The spectre just disappeared.
Paralyzed with fear, Leslie lay in bed for a few minutes before she could run for help. The room, she said, was "really, really, really cold."
That was her most terrifying experience, but there were others. "We’d turn, and there’d be somebody standing there," she said.
Once, an apparition of a man was seen leaning against the bathroom door, smoking a cigarette. The family found ashes in the bathtub shortly after. Leslie doesn’t exactly miss the house. "I don’t think I could sleep in it now," she said.
It’s not known whether the current owners have had any visitations or have managed to put the spirits to rest. They haven’t mentioned anything to their neighbours, at any rate. Still, Preedy’s waiting for them to come calling.
THE BLUE LADY OF PANORAMA RIDGE
Some people feel ill at ease when the sun goes down at Joe Brown Park. Now we know why. Several years ago, during a snowy January twilight, four children were running down a sidewalk to go tobogganing at Colebrook elementary school when they met a "blue lady."
They had just passed the intersection of 55th Avenue and 125A Street when she came alongside them, hovering over the soft shoulder of the road. One boy described the experience on the condition of anonymity. He said the woman had long hair, her nightgown flowed to her ankles, and she floated a few feet off the ground. She was various shades of blue, and parts of her had an oily appearance, like a soap bubble. She also had a blue glow about her, like a halo.
"She just came over and kind of floated around us and floated away," the boy said. "Her mouth was opened and she was making noises. It was kind of muffled."
But the children, all about six years old at the time, weren’t afraid. "I kind of felt different," the boy said. " I was kind of young, so I didn’t really realize what had happened. It didn’t really have any meaning to me at the time." The lady disappeared as fast as she appeared. In retrospect, the boy remembered that while they were looking at her, a car shot out of the school parking lot down the hill, sliding as it came.
"I think she (the blue lady) slowed us down," he said. "That car might have hit us." In their innocence, the kids shrugged it off and went tobogganing. When they got home and told the boy’s mom what they’d seen, she sent them to separate rooms and asked them to draw the lady.
"At first I thought it might have been something they were having fun with," the boy’s mom said. "I thought, if they were playing a trick on me it’ll be two different pictures. And they drew the same picture." The nighbourhood is an older one. Colebrook United Church was built in 1947 and the school opened in 1919.
Who the blue lady is, is anyone’s guess. Locals say there was once a little house on the corner closest to where the children saw her, but you can’t see a trace of it today.