Downtown’s eerie history will be told in the days leading up to Halloween as local historians keep a town tradition alive.
The Okotoks Museum & Archives and Okotoks District & Historical Society are moving ahead with their annual ghost tours where historians lead participants through downtown while sharing stories of ghostly sightings and eerie noises witnessed in some of the community’s oldest buildings.
Museum specialist Kathy Coutts said it was decided to keep the almost 10-year-old sell-out event going despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People want to get out and experience things and this is a great opportunity in a small group to get out and have a nice night where they don’t have to think about COVID-19,” she said. “This year when we started advertising it we weren’t really sure what the response was going to be – if people weren’t ready for it or people were itching to get out of the house.”
Of the almost 100 available tickets to the Oct. 29 and 30 evening event, Coutts said only 20 are left.
“People are looking for something interesting and fun to do. It’s something that you can do with your family or a girls’ night out and it appeals to a wide range of people. We can all use a little fun, especially now," Coutts said.
The three historians, Coutts, Karen Peters and Nagille Walsh-Besso, will make about eight stops as they stroll along McRae Street, Elma Street east and North Railway Street, telling stories from the lady who haunts the old train station to “George the Janitor” who whistles in the hallways of Okotoks Junior High School.
Although the groups won’t have enough time to climb the hill to go to the school, Coutts said they always make sure to share some of the experiences people have had with “George” within the walls of the century-old building.
“It seems almost every time I give a tour someone on the tour has experienced the ghost at the school, whether it’s a teacher or custodian or student,” she said.
Coutts also has some new stories she learned recently from the public that she will share on her tours. She eluded to an unexplained experience that occurred in a downtown building.
“The majority of the stories we tell are friendly or unexplained experiences, nothing overly scary,” she said. “Some people will ask for a story that they’ve heard before, and if people want to share their experiences I certainly allow for that.”
Although groups were as large as 15 people in previous years, Coutts said the maximum will be eight at each of the six evening tours for safety reasons. Tours depart every half an hour and run just over an hour long.
Each participant is required to wear a mask and the tours are outdoors the entire time, rather than starting inside the museum as in previous years, she said.
The traditional full moon ghost walk tours were cancelled last summer due to restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic, but Coutts said she’s ecstatic to continue with October’s ghost tours.
“With some relaxation of protocols, we thought we could offer it with some safety protocols in place like the smaller groups and masks,” she said. “It will be a really intimate tour.”
Tickets cost $5 and can be bought at the Okotoks Art Gallery or by calling 403-938-3204.
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To see Alberta Health Services latest statistics concerning COVID-19 cases in the Okotoks area, including Black Diamond and Foothills County, go to https://www.alberta.ca/maps/covid-19-status-map.htm