The History and Hauntings of Deane House- By: Lina Horner
Haunted houses are often thought to be inhabited by the spirits of the unhappy dead, people who have died without completing an important task and people whose lives came to a violent end. If this is truly the case, Calgary’s historic Deane House certainly fits this profile and to this day, there are people who swear that this house still contains something uncanny.
In 1906, Richard Burton Deane was ready to assume the post of Commanding Officer of Fort Calgary. Accordingly, Deane arrived in Calgary in July 1906 with the intention of sending for his wife, Martha once he was established. He found that the building that had housed the previous superintendent had been condemned and destroyed. Deane decided to build a new house in the southeast corner of the Fort, facing the barracks. The house was begun in July and cost an extravagant $6000, but Martha was never to live there. Deane remained in the house until his retirement in 1914.
The year 1914 also saw the closure of Fort Calgary. The land and buildings were bought by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. The Railway tore down all the structures but the Deane House, which was removed from its position near 9th Avenue and 6th St SE. It was relocated within Fort Calgary and then across the Elbow River in 1929 by one Charles L. Jacques, who transformed it into a rooming house under the name of “Gaspe Lodge”.
The rooming house era was to furnish the Deane House with the majority of its ghost stories. That period was a dark one for this historic building. Boarding houses were seldom pleasant places, inhabited by people who could not afford better and whose circumstances were often desperate. A young woman committed suicide by jumping out a second story window, a man was fatally shot on the porch. An epileptic boy, bullied and shunned due to his illness, killed himself in the attic in 1933. In 1952, a man stabbed and strangled his wife to death and killed himself in front of their two small children.
The Deane House was purchased by the City of Calgary in 1973. The Dandelion Gallery operated within it until September 1979. This was the era when stories about something eerie in the Deane House surfaced.
One story tells of a woman exploring the basement during a Murder Mystery night encountering an aged First Nations man with long black braids who told her that she “shouldn’t be here” because “the land was sacred”. A subsequent investigation found no one in the house or on the grounds meeting this description.
Unexplained activity has been reported – cigar smoke in the non-smoking house, ringing of the unplugged vintage telephone in the study, and disembodied laughter in the front foyer. Many of the staff have reported otherworldly experiences – footsteps, an image of a man cut off at the waist, a mysterious bloodstain in an attic closet that resists all attempts to clean it.
There are more tales about the Deane House, but to really experience them, it is necessary to visit the historic building at 806 9th Avenue SE, Calgary.
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