Celebrating Halloween in Ladysmith

Things that go bump in the night along the 49th parallel

Halloween! The one date in the year where we tell our children to forget everything we taught them about strangers and candy and allow them to run around the streets at night in weird costumes looking for treats and trouble. Fortunately, aside from occasional outbreaks of senseless vandalism by hormonal teens downtown or at FJCC, Halloween in Ladysmith has been a quiet affair.

As a young girl in Ladysmith during the 1930’s Toni Giovando remembers the Bonfire competition between “downhill” and “uphill” residents in town. Preparation for the dueling bonfires would begin weeks in advance, with one built on Pilot Field on 6th Avenue and the other constructed across the road from the old post office.

Each group would try to make a bigger pile out of old railway ties and car tires than the other, which then had to be guarded against attempts by the rival group to set it on fire ahead of Halloween.

She also remembers the year when someone took the hearse carriage used for local funerals and parked it in the middle of First Avenue after midnight.

During the same era, Bruce Mason recalls a story of his father Eric, Ernie Johnson and some others dismantling a full loaded lumber wagon and reassembling it on the roof of the lumber business on Roberts. Sadly, they were caught and had to restore the wagon to its original condition and location.

Many residents have memories of home made costumes and special treats on October 31. Isabelle Ouelette can still taste the wonderful pumpkin tarts  “with real whipped cream” prepared by her grandmother, and Kay Rozzano reminisced about wieners from Bullman’s  Meats  that they roasted on the bonfires in Market Square. Less fondly but more recently recalled by several locals was their ‘tasteless’ slice of the “World’s Largest Pumpkin Pie” consumed at the Coronation Mall Pumpkinfest in 2002.

Tricks, however, seem to provide the fondest memories.

Although he reassured the writer that he had nothing to do with it, Brian Williams shared a story of “ a bunch of guys” lighting a fire at one end of the field at North Oyster School to serve as a tactical diversion while the school windows were being soaped up.

Darrel Rogers will never forget (or forgive) the trick played on him on Halloween when he was in Grade 4 in Miss Gourlay’s class. “Ed Gregson ran up to me on the playground and smacked me in the eye with half an orange. It hurt all day!” What made the trick more painful was the fact that Ed was only in Grade 3.

Sometimes, even royalty gets a little carried away on Halloween. Lorelei Kilvert, who was crowned Dominion Day Queen in July 1957 and had two RCMP constables as her guard of honour, was shocked to discover that in her diary for Halloween that same year she writes about going out with “the boys” and soaping up windows on a squad car.  Whatever happened to ‘noblesse oblige’?

Need some more ideas about what to do on Hallowe’en?

Why not get a group together and head out to look for the Mt. Sicker Rd. ghost? Chronicle cartoonist Ron Kernachan did just that, and was rewarded with the sighting of a pale young woman dressed in a white nightgown walking along the side of the road. “Then,” Ron says,  “she just disappeared.”

Closer to home?  Try standing on All Hallow’s Eve at the corner of High Street and First Avenue where Peterson’s Hardware once stood.

If you are lucky, according to writer Viola Cull, you may hear “doors swinging open by themselves with a queer, moaning sound…followed by footsteps coming up a flight of 12 or 15 steps.” Spooky!

Finally, at midnight, wait outside the old Jones Hotel on Gatacre Street and listen carefully.  If you are very quiet, you may hear the faint tinkling of a bar room piano, interrupted by a gunshot and the sound of a body hitting the floor.

Now peer in the hotel windows. Is that ghostly figure with the oil lamp Sarah Jones coming to clean up the mess?

Just Posted

LRCA receives $3.6-million in provincial funding for affordable housing project

The Ladysmith Resources Centre Association is receiving $3.6-million in provincial funding to… Continue reading

Ladysmith researchers shed new light on First World War effort

John and Esther Sharp visited the Ladysmith Archives a year ago to… Continue reading

BC Ferries passengers wait to leave Vancouver Island after Remembrance Day

Traffic aboard BC Ferries slows after Remembrance Day long weekend

B.C. Legions in need of young members to continue aiding veterans into the future

Lest we forget what thousands of men and women did to fight for Canada’s freedoms – but without new membership, many Legion chapters face dwindling numbers

Who was Chris Bloomfield, the Mill Bay man shot by police?

A troubled man with a voracious appetite for illicit drugs and a non-conventional lifestyle

VIDEO: Amazon to split second HQ between New York, Virginia

Official decision expected later Tuesday to end competition between North American cities to win bid and its promise of 50,000 jobs

Vancouver Island remembers

Important stories shared as Islanders salute those who made the greatest sacrifice

Kuhnhackl scores 2 odd goals as Isles dump Canucks 5-2

Vancouver drops second game in two nights

Student arrested at Vancouver Island elementary school

Pupils never in danger, incident unrelated to the school

Stink at B.C. school prompts complaints of headaches, nausea

Smell at Abbotsford school comes from unauthorized composting operation

Fear of constitutional crisis escalates in U.S.; Canadians can relate

Some say President Donald Trump is leading the U.S. towards a crisis

B.C.-based pot producer Tilray reports revenue surge, net loss

Company remains excited about ‘robust’ cannabis industry

Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul further strained Riyadh’s already difficult relationship with Ottawa

Feds pledge money for young scientists, but funding for in-house research slips

Canada’s spending on science is up almost 10 per cent since the Liberals took office, but spending on in-house research is actually down

Most Read