Haunted Foothills

Posted on: Oct 31, 2020

The Black Diamond Hotel

The Black Diamond Hotel has been a fixture in town since 1929. It has survived fire, floods, fights and the ups and downs of Alberta’s economy. It’s seen loves begun and ended, people at their very best, and their worst, and of course more spilled drinks than any one mop could handle.
When the Hotel was under construction, the light of the flares kept Black Diamond bright enough that people could work under their glow at any hour of the day. According to town records, the first building permit issued was for the Black Diamond Hotel on December 12, 1929.
Twenty years on, in April of 1949, a fire ripped through the downtown and leveled most of the buildings on the south side of the block. The Black Diamond Hotel survived.
Being one of the longest running public houses has left a mark on the Hotel. Today it stands as the tallest building in Black Diamond and keeps its history to itself save for the eerie goings-on inside its walls.
Both the bar and the hotel have seen unexplained happenings. Upstairs in the hotel, Room 5 holds the infamous distinction of being the centre of the disturbing phenomenon.
Tucked down a short hallway, which just adds to the disconcerting feeling emanating from the space, Room 5 has a reputation for making people uneasy.
“I used to work at the Black Diamond Hotel back in 2015. Throughout living in Black Diamond, I would hear stories about how haunted the hotel part was,” said Margo Willis. “The room always just had this eeriness to it. Literally no other rooms would freak me out except that room.”
“Whenever I worked alone, it always felt like somebody was watching me,” continued Willis. “I know I was the only one up there because you need a key to get into the hotel area. Whenever I was cleaning the closet mirror, I always felt like something was hiding behind the door right behind me. Sometimes I would hear footsteps outside the door while making the beds as well.”
Other staff have mentioned their unease with Room 5. Cathy Thomson has her own stories about working alone in the building and hearing noises coming from upstairs.
“I used to work in the cafe of the hotel many years ago when they served breakfast and we opened at 7am,” explained Thomson. “I would be the only one in the building for about an hour most mornings before I opened the doors, and there were often footsteps, voices and doors opening and closing directly above the restaurant in Room 5. But this would happen when there was nobody staying in the rooms. It happened several times when nobody was staying in ANY of the rooms, and the cleaning staff weren't even working.”
Downstairs, in the bar, there are strange happenings as well. Staff have heard voices, the jukebox mysteriously turns on, someone or something messes with the bar taps and worst of all are the glasses and barstools that don’t stay where they should.
Cathy Thomson also tended bar at the Hotel and after a time, refused to be there by herself at night.
“The jukebox would randomly turn on at the loudest volume, and one time it came on and it was just this horrible angry sounding German speaking man shouting German swear words,” recounted Thomson. “I wasn't the only one in there when that one happened. When we went to look at the jukebox to see what track it was picking up there were just four dashes where a track number should have been.” 
Elaine Wansleeben and her co-workers were sitting around one night, relaxing after a busy shift. To their surprise and astoundment, an ornament behind the bar was launched by some unseen force across the room.
“We used to have shelves over the bar and we had ornaments and one flew over the bar all by itself,” said Wansleeben, a 17-year employee of the Hotel.
Cathy Thomson and her co-workers had a similar experience, sitting around one night after hours.
“The night cleaners always came in first thing and put all the barstools up on the bar so they could wash the floors,” explained Thomson. “We all sat there and watched as the end stool tipped itself over (these were flat seat barstools, and there was nobody around it to tip it over), and then one by one all the stools knocked over like dominoes.” 
Rebecca Clearihue has a similar story. She was working the night shift on a cleaning crew at the Hotel bar. She says the jukebox would start playing by itself.
“We would unplug it, it got so bad,” said Clearihue. “We’d pick up all the chairs and put them on the tables [for cleaning]. I was coming from the pool table side and I would see the chairs go flying off the tables.”
Lori Green has heard the stories about the bar and how glasses and chairs will jump off the racks and tables when no one is around but she chalks it up to it being an old building with a long history.
“I’ve been here 20 years and I’ve never seen anything weird,” said Green. “I’m so comfortable in here by myself.”

A ghostly spectre or cigarette smoke? photo by Cathy Thomson

Bertie’s General Store

The oldest store in Black Diamond has seen its share of stories over the years. It was home to Blakeman’s – a butcher and general store and the site of the first gas pumps west of Okotoks.
Today, it is Bertie’s General Store – a modern, apothecary and vintage clothing shop, housing two businesses: Tender Living Farm and Bertie’s Vintage.
Isis Kameko Velkova-Andrus, owner of Tender Living Farm is adamant the building is haunted.
“The one time I really remember the most was when [co-owner] Jolene and I were cleaning out the space,” said Isis. “We heard someone walk across the upstairs.”
The pair thought their landlord had come in the backdoor and headed upstairs to his space, but the backdoor was locked as was the door to the upstairs.
“It’s never felt scary or weird,” continued Isis who has been renting the space for the past three years.
The store was named after their landlord’s mother Bertie. The Blakeman family has been part of Black Diamond’s history since the early 1900s and the Black Store, or Blakeman’s is the oldest, original building  in town and was operated by the Blakeman family as a butcher shop and general store for decades. It sat empty for a number of years before becoming Bertie’s in 2017.
Behind the counter at Bertie’s, a locket belonging to the store’s namesake hangs as a talisman of sorts for the current operators. Isis says they found the locket when they were clearing out the space and setting up shop.
“You need to use both hands to open it. Some mornings we come in and it’s open,” said Isis. She went on to explain both she and her co-worker keep the locket closed and hanging on a nail by the till.
Other mornings, she will come early to work, and will be in the back and will hear the doorbells ring, but no one is there.
“Brian says, ‘my Mum would have loved this store’,” said Isis. “Bertie’s sisters said the same.”
“We’ve had people come in over the last few years that ask if we have a ghost, but it’s always been a sweet feeling – like we are being taken care of,” added Isis.
Last year, at Light Up, when Black Diamond welcomes in the Christmas season with late-night shopping, carols, sleighrides and community spirit, something odd happened at Bertie’s.
“We had candles going, real festive – and in the bathroom we had a doily with a big candle on it,” described Isis. “We forgot to blow it out that night.”
Late in the night, their landlord reportedly had the strongest urge to commune with his father. 
“He just needed to talk,” said Isis.
When their landlord came by and began heading upstairs, he found the candle, almost burnt down to the end of the wick, in the bathroom.
“If he hadn’t come by and found it the place would have burned to the ground,” she said.
Both landlord and tenants believe Brian Blakeman’s father called him over and saved his former store from disaster.

Photo from In the Light of the Flares

The Turner Valley Golf Club

In 2020, the Turner Valley Golf Club celebrated its 90th anniversary. The club house wasn’t always part of the golf course; it was once Turner Valley High School. Built in the mid-1930s, its location on the hill between Black Diamond and Turner Valley is often remarked as being a bit out of place. The story goes the residents of the towns couldn’t agree on which town should get the school so a provincial official decided it would go between both towns. Like most good compromises, no one was happy but the school was built atop the cliff, overlooking the Sheep River, smack between both towns. 
Today, it is the club house for the Turner Valley Golf Club and houses a bar and restaurant, a pro shop and offices on the second floor. The building is still stately and the architecture has stood the test of time. It’s still a stunning place, but inside some strange goings-on have been known to happen.
Ylexus Bean has worked at the golf course since 2016 in the kitchen and at banquets. Her story took place in the summer of 2019.
“I went upstairs to go the washroom and passed an old man struggling to get up the stairs,” recalled Bean.
In the ladies’ room, she heard heavy breathing and thought the man she had passed on the stairs had come into the wrong washroom.
“I heard someone come in the room and heard them come into the stall next to me,” she continued. “’This is the ladies’ room,’ I said.”
When she exited her stall, she turned and saw the next one was empty, but she could still hear the breathing.
“The weirdest part was I definitely heard the door open,” said Bean, who left the washroom in a hurry and still avoids the space.
Bean isn’t the only one who’s had bizarre experiences in the washrooms at the Turner Valley Golf Club. Katie Alexandra, an employee of more than 15 years also remarked there is something odd about the plumbing.
“When I’m downstairs in the ladies’ bathroom, the taps will turn on,” she explained. “They are automatic taps and toilets. The toilets flush on their own sometimes.”
“One morning I was downstairs in the bathroom,” she added. “The only other person there [at the golf course] was the cook. I heard a ‘hello’ and assumed it was the cook, but when I went back upstairs to the kitchen and asked, the cook said no, they hadn’t said anything.”
Another staff member, who preferred to remain anonymous, tells of how the motion activated toilets and taps in the washrooms, sometimes flush in the stall next to you when you are alone in the bathroom or the sink turns on when no one is there. 
“We all talk about the ghost amongst the staff but I can logically explain most things,” they said. “We do like to blame him for things though.”
Katie Alexandra isn’t as sure. One night she was locking up alone and witnessed some unexplained happenings.
“At closing I was all by myself; we aren’t supposed to be alone but the other person had to go for some reason,” she said. “The place won’t lock if there’s motion. There was motion in the bar so I went and looked and there were all these glasses that had smashed. A lot of weird stuff happens in the bar.”
When asked if these weird experiences make her uncomfortable at work, she replied, “I just kind of don’t think about it anymore.”
A former night cleaner, who didn’t want to be named, tells the story of how one night they heard the sound of an old piano being played.
“One of the other girls that worked there would sometimes hear whistling and she said the sound of keys like this person was twirling them. My mom used to say it was probably my grandpa because our family were golfers and he used to whistle and twirl his keys on his finger all the time,” they joked.
People speculate the ghost or ghosts at the golf course may be related to the janitor who it is said died in the basement of the building. It is also rumoured there was a death there while the building operated as a high school. 
“It’s a very common thing to talk about the ghosts here. There are certain days where some rooms don’t feel right and you don’t want to be in there,” said Ylexus Bean. “A lot of servers refuse to be the last one in the building at night – it’s too scary.”

Photo from In the Light of the Flares

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