The town of Revelstoke, Canada is many things—small, remote, burdened with a comically undersized airport—but it is best known as the international ski destination with North America's largest vertical drop, at 7,500 feet. Every year over a million visitors swarm Revelstoke's ski runs, restaurants, hotels, and bars, and yet not a single one of them is aware of the mountain town's most remarkable feature: a recently-uncovered paranormal history stretching back more than seventy years. That history, revealed in my book A Strange Little Place: The Hauntings and Strange Events of One Small Town, is made up of so many different kinds of high strangeness—ghosts, UFO sightings, Sasquatch, missing time, and gremlins, to name a few—that it raises serious questions about exactly how separate all those phenomena truly are, and how such a trove of secrets can be kept for so long.
The town of Revelstoke is many things, but to me it is my hometown. Yet, before I got the bright idea to go looking for them, most of the stories in A Strange Little Place, were secret even from me, which raises the question of how many secrets are out there still waiting to be uncovered. Certainly, stories continued to come in long after the manuscript was out of my hands; now that the book is out there in the world, I'm hoping it will inspire other investigators to come and conduct their own research. This short guide is for them.
Though Revelstoke is two and a half hours from the nearest international airport (Kelowna International), it is easy enough to reach by car in the summer, being a six-hour drive from the coastal city of Vancouver and a four-hour drive from Calgary; visiting during the winter is more dangerous simply because of conditions, which often close the highway, but you will be rewarded with magnificent snowy vistas and a long night during which to conduct your investigations.
Be aware that while Greyhound bus service does pass through Revelstoke, times are inconvenient and the town itself has minimal public transit, though it is covered in bicycle shops should you wish to explore on two wheels. Hotels are reasonably easy to come by in summer but in winter the massive influx of skiers, snowboarders, and snowmobilers, along with intermittent highway closures brought on by avalanches, means accommodation can sometimes be scarce and pricey; be sure to book ahead in the colder months.
Many of the locations identified in A Strange Little Place are on private property, but the locations listed below are all publicly accessible and, if nothing else, are a great place to start. No doubt the intrepid among you will find many more.
- Rogers Pass
Rogers Pass, some forty miles east of Revelstoke on Highway 1 (The "Trans-Canada Highway"), is one of the region's most dramatic paranormal hotspots. Sasquatch sightings have been reported for decades along this stretch of road, as has at least one instance of missing time where a commuter was so shaken by his losing two hours and nearly one hundred miles of road (not to mention the dreams that followed) that he never drove the road alone again. The most incredible occurrence may well be "The Rogers Pass Fireball," a celestial event witnessed by a group of railway workers; on that frigid night in January, 1997, those men had their perceptions of the world around them challenged by something that lit an entire ten-mile-long mountain valley up like daylight and, at least according to one man, seemed to be looking at them.
The area is fairly remote, being halfway between Revelstoke and the town of Golden, so be sure to gas up before heading out. Sasquatch hunters may be tempted to explore the forest access roads that criss-cross the region, but are cautioned to only do so in the summer months and with vehicles capable of four-wheel drive. A GPS is also advisable, as cell reception in the area is spotty at best.
- The Arrow Lakes
Taking Highway 23 south out of Revelstoke will take you straight to the Arrow Lakes Reservoir, an area rich in history, both paranormal and otherwise. Prior to the damming of the Columbia River in the 1960s, the Arrow Lakes region was home to a number of small farming communities that were flooded out when construction on hydroelectric projects began. Lest you think the region's unusual characteristics are solely a result of this flooding, UFO accounts from the area date back to before the area became a reservoir; in the 1950s a number of people reported a silver disc flying low above their homes. Since the flooding, visitors to the area have seen both a lake monster and mysterious lights above the surface of the water, as well as heard spectral music drifting out from the darkness. In the 1970s, the sighting of a shadowy, football-field-sized object trailing blue fire only one hundred feet above the ground may or may not have precipitated the death of the three witnesses, all of whom were in good health and yet died within months of each other.
Those looking to explore the Arrow Lakes region are advised, just like in Rogers Pass, to gas up beforehand and take a GPS along for navigation when cell service fails. Unlike in Rogers Pass, however, you will be beholden to ferry timetables—Highway 23 stops thirty-two miles south of Revelstoke at the Shelter Bay ferry terminal and picks up again where the ferry docks some thirty minutes later on the Galena Bay side of the lake. There is no charge to use the ferry (timetable details for which can be found at www.arrowlakesferry.com). Apart from Revelstoke, the only other town in the region is the much smaller Nakusp, a forty-five-minute drive from the Galena Bay ferry terminal. Situated as it is by the side of the lake, it is a quiet, beautiful place worth visiting as part of a day trip, or as a base from which to explore the southern Arrow Lakes.
- Court House Square
Revelstoke's grand, neo-classical courthouse is a throwback to the days before World War One, when the now-sleepy town seemed destined for bigger things. Finished in 1913 and fronted with huge Doric columns, their marble mined from the nearby Kootenay region, it is, at least to most people, a quiet testament to days gone by. For those with the ears to hear, it is quite a different matter: cleaning crews in the courthouse have heard the sound of chains downstairs where prisoners were once marshaled for trial, and the sound of men and women talking is regularly heard both in the stairwells and near the drinking fountain. Outside the courthouse, hauntings abound—one nearby home has had a resident haunting, a shadowy entity inhabitants have called "the black man," for more than seventy years. And that's just the beginning. Another house hosts the mute specter of a girl who appears to passersby at the same time as a mysterious hum, and just a stone's throw away are two of Revelstoke's most haunted homes: Holten House (now Mustang Bed & Breakfast), and the old hospital. Though the latter is now a private residence whose owners claim not to have experienced any activity, it has a storied past that includes a spirit helping save it from a catastrophic house fire. Holten House's history of haunting stretches back at least as far as the 1950s, with an invisible presence haunting the grand staircase and another, more malevolent presence, which once had a reputation for terrorizing women who wandered into its domain. The activity on that particular site has slowed but not disappeared entirely.
While the previous two locations have been located outside city limits, Court House Square is just north of the downtown area and easy to reach on foot. A number of motels border the area, including the Mountain View Motel and Alpine Inn & Suites, and all are perfectly reasonable places to lay your head; those looking for a truly memorable experience are encouraged to stay a few nights in one of Mustang Bed & Breakfast's luxurious Victorian rooms. As of this writing there are no official tours of Holten House/Mustang B&B being offered for non-guests, but there's no harm in politely approaching the caretakers and asking; if the B&B is empty they may accommodate you. The courthouse itself is still a working building, open between 8:30 and 4:30, and visitors are welcome so long as they are mindful of the government offices operating there; not all areas are open to the public.