A look back at 2016: Surrey stories that made you go hmmm

This year had its fair share of stories that were, shall we say, interesting? A quick roundup of some of our strangest stories of 2016.

  • Dec. 30, 2016 11:00 a.m.

Sanaan Alyais

Did the Virgin Mary appear in Guildford?

Something special happened in suite 315 of Guildford’s Evergreen Apartments this year.

In early January, hundreds of people came from across the Lower Mainland to see for themselves what the apartment’s tenants believed to be a manifestation of the Virgin Mary.

An oily substance appeared to be seeping from a wall, small statues of Jesus and Mary, and a vanity mirror in Sanaan Alyais’s bedroom. It became a shrine, heavy with Catholic iconography and the scent of incense.

A rosary hung on the white east wall, from which the clear substance looked to be sweating.

People had been learning about the “miracle” by word of mouth, said Sandy Alyais, Sanaan’s 20-year-old daughter. About 900 people – a little more than 60 each day – came from Vancouver, Richmond and elsewhere, she said.

The Alyais family immigrated to Canada from Iraq in 2010, and are devout Roman Catholics.

Sanaan, 53, speaks Arabic, not English. She sat quietly on the edge of her bed as Sandy told her story,

Her mom was awoken at 3 a.m. with a vision of her son, who died in Iraq, and the Virgin Mary. Later that same morning, Sanaan was cleaning her room when she felt someone touch her right shoulder.

“She was so scared,” Sandy related. She said Mother Mary told her mom not to be afraid, and instructed her to look at the wall.

“She looked at the wall and the oil come,” Sandy said. “She was so scared.”

There was a small line at first. “After, come more oil.”

Asked why the mother of the Son of God, creator of the heavens and earth, would bother to dribble oil from an apartment wall in Surrey, B.C., they have no explanation.

Meantime, Sandy said the Virgin’s message to her mom was clear, and that was to encourage believers to pray for people suffering in Iraq and Syria.

Did they have the oily stuff tested?

“No, my mom she doesn’t allow it tested, because Mary told her nobody test it,” Sandy said.

— Tom Zytaruk

 

Creepy clowns no laughing matter

The creepy clown phenomenon that manifested itself in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia had its first reported incident in Surrey in early October.

Theresa Campbell, president of Safer Schools Together, issued a parent advisory bulletin on “clown-related” threats, noting that “many students see this as a prank and not as criminal behaviour.”

Campbell said the majority of the threats, which in other areas had “typically” referenced “kidnapping or targeting schools with threats of violence,” had been made through social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.

Surrey School District spokesman Doug Strachan said that Surrey’s Safe Schools department reported “no clown incidents involving schools” in this city.

“I haven’t heard that it’s been an issue in the district,” he added.

Meantime, four teenagers were chased by someone wearing a clown mask at about 8 p.m. Oct. 5th, near 60th Avenue and 144th Street in Newton. Surrey RCMP Sergeant Alanna Dunlop said the clown appeared to be carrying a bat.

“He was laughing.”

“He came out of the bush,” Dunlop said. “They ran.”

Once the teens reached an intersection, she said, “They went one direction and he went another.”

Nobody was physically harmed but police were “taking it seriously,” Dunlop said.

— Tom Zytaruk

 

Mayor wants helipads throughout city

In May, Mayor Linda Hepner said the City of Surrey is looking to the sky for its future transit. Literally.

During her State of the City address, Hepner said she wants private helicopter companies to set up shop in the city.

“Surrey is currently in discussions with a consortium of private helicopter companies to create a network of helipads across our city,” she told a business crowd of a few hundred during the luncheon at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel on May 19.

Hepner said many executives are moving to Surrey, but commutes to Vancouver and Victoria are just too long.

“We’ve had some inquiries on, ‘Wouldn’t it be easy if we could just go from Surrey to North Vancouver in a heart beat?’” she said.

Both north and south Surrey sites were being explored, according to Hepner.

“We’re in site selection mode right now. I know that it takes a while so I would say by this time next year…. I would hope that we’ve got that pretty solidified and under construction,” she said.

— Amy Reid

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