Review: Victoria’s Most Haunted

Victoria is often semi-jokingly referred to as a city of the newly wed and nearly dead. But as Ian Gibbs shows in Victoria’s Most Haunted, this Canadian coastal city is not just full of students and retirees – but also the not-so-recently departed.

Gibbs, a tour guide for Victoria’s popular Ghostly Walks, reproduces the experience of these nocturnal jaunts into the city in this attractive book from Touchwood Editions. Each section begins with an artful black and white photo of the building (many taken by Ray Shipka), and you get the feeling of pausing before each one, gathering around the site, while your tour guide spins tales of heartbreak, murder, madness, suicide, and accidental death.

Like the ghost tour leaders I’ve listened to in Edinburgh, New Orleans and Vancouver, the author shares his own encounters with the paranormal as well – often with a healthy dose of self-deprecating humour and snark. But, he assures his reader, he’s not out to convince you that ghosts exist. If you’re not in the believer camp, there is still plenty of local history here to tempt you (not to mention it’s a terrific tourism brochure, featuring several great-sounding hotels, pubs and chocolate shops. Although there are a few rooms and floors at the Empress I’ll avoid, thank you very much).

There were a couple of sections – “Cathedral Hall” and “The Deanery” – where I would have liked a little more research and background detail to go along with Gibbs’ personal experiences, but the author more than makes up for this in “Bishop’s Chapel” and (my favourite) “The Home on Fort Street.” I also noticed that Gibbs refers to “First Nations” in different tales, and I wanted him to dig further to find out specifically which First Nations group, village or settlement was involved – the same way he found out about the German family who lost a son to drowning, or the Second World War soldier who liked old hymns.

Despite these small missteps, Victoria’s Most Haunted will take you on a thoughtful walk around colleges, jails, brothels, saloons, alleyways and biker bars – and you’ll come away thinking maybe Victoria isn’t so staid and sleepy after all.

 

Full disclosure: my last book was published by Brindle & Glass, part of the Touchwood publishing family, and they provided me with review copies of this book as well as copies to give away to readers of my e-newsletter. All I promised was an honest review of the book in return!

Speaking on Panel about Reconciliation and Public History in Vegas This Month!

I am very pleased to be joining a distinguished panel of public historians, community activators and scholars next month at the annual meeting of the National Council of Public Historians. Our topic, Sharing Power: Reconciling Indigenous-Settler Narratives is near and dear to my heart, as is long-time collaborator and friend Miranda Jimmy, who will be making the trek from Edmonton.

In addition to Miranda and I, there’s the panel convener, Jean-Pierre Morin, and a bunch of other Indigenous and non-Indigenous folks from both sides of the 49th Parallel: Krista McCracken,
Brittani Orona, Morgen Young, James Grant, Patrick Moore, Aaron Roth, and Manuelito Wheeler.

SKY GIRL takes third place at RWA’s Emily Awards!

Really honoured to have my first (unpublished) young adult book, Sky Girl, place in this contest. I know it’s a tough competition with entries from talented emerging voices from around the world. Thanks to the West Houston chapter of the Romance Writers of America for coordinating all the submissions and judges, and to the first- and second-round judges in my category who provided such useful feedback – and much-needed encouragement!

Off to work on my ninth(!) rewrite of this novel, which I’ve been researching and writing since 2009. The process has been tough but it’s taught me so much about how to merge my love of history with storytelling. And I have loved every minute of deep research into the amazing female bush pilots and ferry pilots from the Second World War. Hopefully version 9.0 will see all those parts click into place and I’ll be able to share this story with all of you soon.

Oh – and before I forget! A big congratulations to my friend and fellow writer, Laura Mitzner, who snagged second place with her darkly funny contemporary YA novel, Because Heaven is Just Hearsay.

Demons and Better Angels: Writing Talk in Houston on April 2

Demons and Better Angels: Finding the Path to Our Truest Stories (and a Little Bit of Peace of Mind)

In this session, I will share my breakdowns and breakthroughs, and offer some of the best wisdom and tools I’ve discovered for getting past blocks and continuing to tell the stories that matter most to me. This will include the heartbreak of rejection and critique, dealing with mental health, and struggling with writing and researching stories outside my experience.

And I promise to do it all with lots of dark humour (and dark chocolate)!

 

Monday, April 2nd at 7 p.m.

FREE and open to the public.

Houston Chapter of the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)
Tracey Gee Community Center
3599 Westcenter Drive
Houston, TX 77042

Want to Be a Writer? Come Learn More on March 24 in Fort Bend!

I’m very pleased to be part of this event at the Sienna Plantation Public Library in Missouri City, Texas. It’s FREE and open to the public. While it’s especially geared toward students in grades 9 through 12, there will also be lots of great information for adults who are considering new education or career possibilities.

Come with your burning questions and your curiosity! I have had a random, adventure-filled career so far and am excited to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with you!

 

Careers in Focus: The Arts
3/24/2018 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Are you considering a career in the arts? Join us as a panel of professionals shares their experiences working in different areas of the artistic field. This program will include brief presentations by professionals with arts-related careers, a Q&A session, and time for break out sessions.

No registration required.

Women in Aviation History Talk on March 22nd in Richmond, Texas

In recognition of Women’s History Month in March, George Memorial Library in Richmond will present a special program, “The History of Women in Aviation,” on Thursday, March 22, beginning at 7:00 pm, in the Meeting Room of the library.

In her presentation, local author and aviation historian Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail will showcase some of the famous (and not-so-famous) women from around the world who have made an impact in the aviation industry in times of peace and of war.

“From the earliest days of aviation, there have been women who have wanted to walk on wings, soar in balloons, tinker with engines, and – of course – fly,” says Metcalfe-Chenail, who shares her love for aviation history in her books For the Love of Flying, Polar Winds, and the forthcoming picture book, Alis the Aviator: The ABCs of Flight.

As the former Historian Laureate of Edmonton, Alberta, and the former president of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society, Metcalfe-Chenail was able to combine her graduate degree in history with her passion for writing and aviation history.

This program is made possible by the generous support of the Friends of the George Memorial Library. Proceeds from the Friends of the Library book sales and annual membership dues help to underwrite the costs of special programming and various cultural events at the library.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call George Memorial Library at 281-342-4455 or the library system’s Communications Office at 281-633-4734. Richmond is in Fort Bend County outside of Houston, Texas.

If you can’t make it, but you’d like to learn more about women in the history of military aviation in Canada, check out this article I wrote for Legion Magazine last year called “The Job for Me”!

 

John Bogie to be inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame in 2018!

Members of Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame are selected for their contributions to Canada’s development through their integral roles in the nation’s aviation history. The inductees in 2018 will join the ranks of the 228 esteemed men and women inducted since the Hall’s formation in 1973, bringing to 232 the total number of individual Members of the Hall. For more on the CAHF and the men and women who are members already, check out www.cahf.ca.

“In 2018 we will again be honouring four Canadians for their outstanding places in Canadian aviation,” says Hall of Fame board chairman, Rod Sheridan. “Their careers over several decades span a wide breadth of both military and civilian aviation. They have contributed to the building of airlines and aviation organizations, leadership in the air force, management of industry, development of aviation systems and establishment of air rescue services.”
Plans for the annual gala dinner event and induction ceremonies are well underway. “We expect another complete sell-out for the celebration in Calgary,” says Rod Sheridan, “and I encourage early purchase of tickets for this premiere celebration of Canadian aviation development.”
The four individuals to be installed as Members of the Hall in 2018 are:

  • Gen Paul D. Manson, O.C., CMM, CD
  • Dr. John M. Maris
  • Dr. Dwight Gregory Powell, O.C.

And, of course…
Mr. John M. Bogie
Born into an aviation family in the United States, John Bogie has made his home in Canada since the early 1950s, following service in the United States Navy, work as an airport operator, and as a very young charter pilot. In Canada, he quickly made a name for his charter and resource exploration work for Laurentian Air Services and Spartan Air Services, including the flight that identified the major iron deposit at Gagnon, Quebec.
Complementing his civilian flying, in 1952 Bogie became, with Margaret Carson, a co-founder of the Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA), serving as its first President and Chairman. Since that time, he has been an unswerving supporter of COPA, seeing it grow from modest beginnings to some 17,000 members.
He served in most of COPA’s executive capacities and continues as an honorary director and life member. He still attends as many COPA events as he can, now into his 90s. His COPA accomplishments include simplified medicals for pilots and aviation liability group insurance now used by commercial carriers.
John helped to create the Experimental Aircraft Association Canada organization, as well as a civilian pilot group for Search and Rescue as an adjunct to the military. Another entity he helped bring into being was the Canadian Business Aircraft Association (CBAA), first as an arm of COPA and then as a distinct entity. His Laurentian Air Services career ultimately took him to the presidency, to many initiatives to diversify its operations and to embrace the bilingual nature of the environment in which his company operated.
A subsequent stroke of initiative allowed him to buy a large consignment of ex-US Army Beavers which were rebuilt and put onto the Canadian market. This constituted the largest single aircraft purchase of its kind in Canada and made Laurentian the Canadian centre for Beaver activity. John Bogie has continued to support Canadian aviation long after his retirement in 1992. He continues to enjoy the respect and affection of the aviation community to this day.

 

 

If you’d like to learn more about John Bogie, Laurentian Air Services, and bush flying, check out my book, For the Love of Flying!

 

 

Rod Digney remembers Laurentian Air Services

Rod Digney’s Monday Memories #78

For many years, the north field at Hunt Club and what is now Paul Benoit Driveway was the home base of Canadian aviation pioneer Laurentian Air Services. The founders of LAS began operating at the Hunt Club Field in 1919, incorporated in 1936 and actually owned the entire airport for several months in 1937-38. From the beginning of my time in Ottawa in 1966, the LAS property was a beehive of aviation activity as the company serviced the many bush and survey aircraft flown by it and its subsidiary companies. There were few fences and one had only to ask permission from any of the friendly managers or maintenance personnel to be able to virtually wander and take photographs at will. LAS ceased operations in the late 1990s and today, the only trace of LAS is the iconic metal hangar that formed the background of many a photo and is today part of the Iogen complex.

 

The Laurentian Air Service (LAS) property at the north field always hosted at least one of the company’s Beaver and Otter aircraft. Nov 1972.

 

 

 

 

LAS Cessna 180J C-GCAH in front of the iconic LAS hangar. Oct 1974.

 

 

 

The back yard at LAS was always a treasure chest of aircraft parts, floats, skis, you name it. DHC-3 Otter CF-APQ (c/n 201), acquired earlier from Norwegian carrier Wideroe, is seen awaiting repairs at YOW in Oct 1974 following a crash in Newfoundland a few months earlier.

 

LAS bought, sold and maintained numerous examples of the rugged de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, including many surplus US Army aircraft. Beaver C-GUJV (c/n 1643) is still flying on the west coast today. 3 Nov 1978.

 

Laurentian’s famous Grumman G-21A Goose CF-BXR hauled VIPs and wealthy fishermen to remote camps from Ottawa and other points for many years. It had previously served the US military and the RCAF during WW II. July 1970.

 

 

A rather worn looking DHC-2 Beaver, CF-HOE (c/n 630) in one of LAS’s standard liveries is seen at YOW 31 Aug 1979. Shortly afterwards, it was sold to a Swedish operator as SE-GXX.

 

 

The only reminder of Laurentian Air Services at YOW’s north field today is the rebuilt hangar that is now part of the Iogen complex as seen from Avro Jetliner Private.

Canada’s History Takes Centre Stage in Ottawa-Gatineau


I’m just back from a whirlwind trip to Ottawa-Gatineau where I got to emcee the 10th annual Canada’s History Forum and gala. They were held at the Canadian Museum of History on the Quebec side, and it was a stimulating and inspiring series of events. At the heart of it all, I felt, were discussions about collaboration, respect and relationships.

If you’d like to learn more about the programme, speakers, projects and see recordings, please visit: http://www.canadashistory.ca/

Thankful that Canada’s History purchased 15 copies of In This Together, the collection of essays I edited last year, to give to speakers as gifts. Also incredibly grateful to have met Elder Claudette Commanda of the Kitigan Zibi Nation, who welcomed us to the Algonquin territory.

 

The theme was “Making History Relevant”, and the practical applications in government departments, classrooms, and in broader society. Perhaps nowhere is history more relevant than reconciliation and social justice, so it should come as no surprise that many of the topics focused on community projects involving First Nations and Metis partners/leaders – as well as the troubling situation in Poland about the history of the Holocaust, and the chilling effect legislation is having on free speech and scholarly investigations.

The following day at Rideau Hall, the newish Governor General, Julie Payette gave a rousing talk in English, French, and a bit of Anishnaabewomin about the importance of evidence-based history. I think we were all ready to follow her into orbit (and yes, there were at least three witty ‘space jokes’ during acceptance speeches).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was particularly pleased to learn about the Indigenous Arts and Stories winners, as well as the awards that went to Dr. Sarah Carter (whose book on captivity narratives blew me away in undergrad) and Daniel Francis, a popularizer of history whose book Imaginary Indians was seminal for my understanding of stereotyping and how we construct identity. These are two of the titles who helped push me toward cultural and social history!

I can’t wait to be a speaker at the National Council for Public History’s conference in Las Vegas in April, and keep connecting with folks who are digging deep into our past – and investigating how we remember. Maybe I’ll see you there!


GG02-2017-0417-065 November 22, 2017 Ottawa, Ontario, Canada Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, presented teachers and other outstanding Canadians with the 2017 Governor General’s History Awards for their efforts to further an interest in and understanding of Canadian history and heritage. The awards was presented at a ceremony at Rideau Hall, on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, OSGG

 

 

Review of Haunted Hospitals

Mark Leslie and Rhonda Parrish, Haunted Hospitals: Eerie Tales about Hospitals, Sanatoriums, and Other Institutions (Dundurn, 2017), 220 pages.

 

When Rhonda Parrish moved in next to the Charles Camsell Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta – reputed to be the most haunted building in the city – the seeds were sown for this book. From there, it took just a brief conversation between Parrish and Mark Leslie, author of Creepy Capital and Tomes of Terror, for the two writers to team up on Haunted Hospitals: Eerie Tales about Hospitals, Sanatoriums, and Other Institutions.

As Parrish notes in her introduction, “Day after day the most extreme of human experiences play out within the walls of hospitals. The most intense emotions are experienced again and again. Birth. Death. Trauma. Suffering.” It’s little wonder, then, that so many stories of paranormal happenings are tied to these institutions.

This nonfiction book is a compendium of stories drawn from interviews, forum and website posts, books of ghost stories, and videos from shows like Ghost Hunters. It is clear that Parrish and Leslie (both curious skeptics) cast their net wide and did a lot of research to bring some of the most notable and chilling tales from haunted hospitals, asylums, as well as prisons that housed the criminally insane.

These stories span two hundred years and come from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Singapore and Italy, and in many ways feel like a ghost tour you might take on vacation or in your own city around Halloween. Some tales are quite involved and Parrish’s talents as a speculative fiction writer are on full display. You can imagine strolling through the streets of Montreal to the student residence repurposed from a hospital/orphanage where over fifty children burned to death in 1918. You can picture navigating mazes of tunnels beneath sprawling institutions, past the body chutes and the basement rooms where especially unruly patients might be shackled in earlier times. Other entries are more like quick stops along the way, a short blurb in a haunted guidebook (this is especially the case with the ‘Prisons’ section at the end of the book).

As with ghost tours, Haunted Hospitals, is also a great ‘gateway drug’ for those of us interested in history, medical ethics, and how societies have viewed and treated physical and mental illness. It offers good historical context and facts about the buildings as well, and touches on controversies around redevelopment, urban planning, and whether people should use these institutions for haunted tours and other ‘terror lite’ experiences.

Parrish and Leslie challenge us to imagine what it’s like for cities and institutions overwhelmed by tuberculosis, Spanish Flu and the plague to deal in a humane manner with patients. And while they dedicate the book to medical professionals who devote their lives to healing, they face issues of overcrowding, neglect, and patient abuse head on, as well as allegations of medical research and experimentation.

There were two stories, however, where more digging and contextualization (and a bit less sensationalism) was needed. First, the tale of ‘Nurse Emmie’ at Rolling Hills Asylum, a purported member of a ‘satanic coven’, seems to lean heavily on the 1990s-era hysteria over satanic cults that proved to be mostly unfounded. Second, the transcribed 1935 news story of Dr. H.E. Zimmerly in Pennsylvania is problematic. If you have some background on the history of women’s reproductive health, it sounds very much like he was simply performing abortions – illegal at the time – for poor young women with nowhere safer to turn. These were terrifying, of course, but in a different way than the story might have intended.

Like haunted tours of these hospitals and the communities that surround them, it’s tricky to balance the entertainment factor of creepy stories with the history and deeper meanings within them. Generally, Parrish and Leslie do a good job walking this line, giving us the chills we crave while educating us about changing ideas of medical care, criminalization, and mental illness.

This is a fun and thoughtful book, and anyone interested in medicine mixed with the paranormal will find stories to stimulate the imagination – and give you goosebumps.

 

If you’d like to go deeper into the subject of haunted buildings in the United States, and get a bit more of an academic bent on the topic, I recommend you check out Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey.

Want to know more about the complex history and legacy of the Charles Camsell Hospital? Please visit www.ghostsofcamsell.ca, my blog on the topic.

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.