Pack your bags and grab your plane ticket, on this episode of The Lady Dicks Podcast the #DickSquad invites you to join them for an investigation in their hometowns of Calgary, AB and Vancouver, BC, to hear the story of the haunted zoo bridge in Calgary.
The ladies will be dicktecting the murders of Donnie Goss and Gary Billings, and about the boy named Donnie that used to hang out at the Calgary Zoo Bridge… the bridge has since been removed, so there’s no word on if he still hangs out there.
You’ll also hear the murderous history of Canadian veteran and class-A d-bag Donald Sherman Staley who got arrested for stealing a chocolate bar and ended up being hanged for murder.
There’s also some talk about Nazi’s in Medicine Hat and a painfully long explanation of what the RCMP are. So, strap in, you’re in for a real treat.
**Content warning: sexual assault**
Note: This podcast was recorded under the name “The Haunted True Crime Podcast” which later became The Lady Dicks Podcast. So pardon the name change. We assure you that the real Lady Dicks are standing up!
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Zoo Bridge Calgary
On May 29, 2017, the historic 12th Street Calgary zoo bridge was removed from where it sat for the past 110 years connecting the community of Inglewood with Memorial Drive north across the Bow River.
For those of you not familiar with the location, the Canadian City of Calgary is nestled on the Alberta prairies, sheltered by the Rocky Mountains to the West and the bald Alberta prairies to the East it is a white-collar working town known for hosting the World’s Largest Stampede. It is Canada’s third-largest municipality with 1.2 million people in 2016.
It was first settled in 1873 by John Glenn and was named Fort Calgary in 1875 (originally it was Fort Bresbois). Then it was incorporated in 1884, the same year they elected the first mayor George Murdoch.
Originally built in 1908, the 12th Street bridge was designed to carry horse-and-buggy traffic but a mere three years later, the first motor vehicles were licensed in Calgary.
Despite upgrades over the years in an attempt to keep the bridge up to safety standards, it was determined that the bridge would require a replacement. While it did carry passenger vehicles until 2016, it was then deemed unsafe and close for only foot traffic until it was removed in 2017.
The 110-tonne bridge was lifted from its position bracing both river banks, to dry land before being dismantled. Because of its historic nature, pieces of the bridge are expected to be recycled into “different parts of the city, in parks, parts of landscaping and art” around the city to preserve its memory and legacy.
The murder of Donnie Goss
In 1946, the growing city had a bustling population of 100,044, it was the second-largest city in the province (Edmonton was larger at the time).
On July 5, 1946, young 6-year-old Donnie Goss, and some neighbourhood children were playing at the park on the southeast end of Saint George’s Island (the island on which the Calgary Zoo sits today), when they were approached by Donald Sherman Staley.
Staley asked the group of kids if they wanted to play. Knowing that they were not supposed to play with strangers, Donnie and his friends said no. Staley then left the park.
Staley returned the next day and Donnie was playing at the park alone. Staley again approached him and asked if he wanted to play, because Donnie had already met him he agreed this time.
Staley took Donnie under the bridge where he sexually assaulted him before stabbing him 17 times. He then dragged his body back to the playground and left it there.
The murder of Gary Billings
Disturbing as the murder was, it was not Staley’s first. Staley spent the weekend of the fourth of July at Vancouver, British Columbia’s Stanley Park Beach along the Western coast of Canada, where he met and befriended Bobby Sherman (8) and Gary Billings (11).
That day, Staley treated the boys to ice cream and snacks, they hung out on the beach and at one point even chatted amicably with an RCMP constable—Staley told the constable that his name was Donald Sherman Staley and that he had recently discharged from the Scottish regiment.
Before parting, Staley gave the boys a couple of dollars with the promise of more if they came back to spend the next day with him again at the beach.
The boys had been so excited about their day at the beach spent with Staley that they had both told their parents about the generous man who bought them treats and had taken them part-way home on the streetcar. But neither mentioned planning to meet with him again.
The next day Bobby showed up late to Garry’s house only to find that he had already left for the beach. His disappointment soon turned to concern (and likely later to relief for Bobby’s parents) when Garry never returned home.
Weeks later, there was still no sign of Gary. While authorities and family members searched frantically for Gary, Staley headed to Calgary. Where he would later lure Donnie into danger by promising treats and money.
Around the time of Donnie’s murder, the decomposing corpse of Garry Billings was unearthed from a shallow grave in Stanley Park. Garry had been savagely stabbed to death and sexually assaulted both before and after his death, and his body buried beneath some logs in a nearby grove.
The arrest of Staley and his confessions
Canadian army veteran, Donald Sherman Staley of Bracebridge, Ont., fled Calgary shortly after the murder of Donnie Goss. He headed briefly to Lethbridge, Alberta—a small city about 250 kilometres South of Calgary but he returned a few days later.
On August 8, desperate for supplies, Staley broke into the Diamond Café in Calgary. He stuffed his pockets with loose change, cigarettes, and candy bars, and was caught for the burglary four days later by local cops.
Due to his previous arrests for public indecency, house-breaking, and mail theft, investigators gave Staley a year in jail while they worked to connect him to the two murders.
Upon his incarceration, authorities travelled from Vancouver where they had been building a case against him for the murder of Garry Billings to Lethbridge where Staley was incarcerated. Faced with surmounting evidence, Staley confessed to murdering both Gary Billings and Donnie Goss.
Staley admitted to meeting Gary Billings at around 11:50 am, walking with him around the park for about an hour before enticing him into the bushes with the promise of a dollar. He then sexually assaulted him, choked him unconscious and stabbed him to death with a 4 inch paring knife before sexually assaulting his course and hiding him under logs and bushes.
A few weeks later for the murder of Donnie Goss, Staley had modified his original modus operandi. While he used the same ruse to entice him to a remote area of the island, he struck the six-year-old with a blackjack, but failed to subdue him, bursting the weapon and scattering buckshot about the area. They struggled before Staley stabbed him. With Donnie dead, Staley sexually assaulting him before leaving his body behind a bush.
During the trial for the murder of Donnie Goss, Staley’s defense team attempted to plead not guilty by reason of “sexual insanity.” Staley told the court:
“I must have been born this way and should not be held responsible for what I done, but should receive treatment of some kind instead of being condemned to die for something I can’t help.”
The jury didn’t believe him.
Staley was convicted by a jury of his peers and sentenced to hang. His legal team made an appearance before Alberta’s Supreme Court seeking a reprieve on the basis that if “his client did not meet the definition of insanity, then nobody did.”
Despite this, on December 18, 1946, Staley was executed alongside in Lethbridge, Alberta. This was the last series of public hangings that took place in Alberta, and the death penalty no longer exists in Canada, nationwide.
Zoo Bridge Calgary Ghost Sightings
In an interview done by Global Calgary, Johanna Lane from Calgary Ghost Tours shared two ghost stories. She said, during one tour a nine-year-old boy told his mother that there was a young boy under the bridge who had a ball and wanted to play with him and asked if he could.
Lane also said that workers at the security shack at the end of the bridge where the children’s playground that Goss’ body was found at have said that they have a ball they throw when they hear a knock at the door, and later Donnie brings the ball back to them.
Passersby have reported hearing a young boy calling for help beneath the bridge. To this day, emergency services receive several calls to the bridge each year, despite never having found the boy in question.
One story also tells of a young boy visiting the Calgary Zoo telling his mother about a boy named Donnie, who asked him to come and play.
Did you love this episode? Check these other gems out:
- The Amityville Haunting, Part 1: One of the most famous hauntings in America stems from a gruesome true crime story. Here is the tale of the DeFeo Murders.
- Lizzie Borden Took an Axe: the jury’s still out on whether or not Lizzie Borden killed her parents with an axe. Let’s see if you can figure it out.
- The Villisca Axe Murders: This case from 1912 remains unsolved. Who do you think the Villisca Axe Murderer was?
- Boise Murder House: This house in Idaho was the site of a grizzly murder, join the #DickSquat to hear it.
The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with this information themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:
- Alberta’s largest mass Hanging, Edmonton Journal.
- Donald Sherman Staley, Find a Grave.
- Murder Of Donnie Goss 1946 Calgary AB, Dorothy Martell (YouTube).
- Donald Sherman Staley, Murderpedia.
- Haunted Calgary Zoo Bridge, CalgaryBuzz.
- Our Town: Bye bye Calgary Zoo bridge, Calgary Herald.
- After two false starts, Calgary’s zoo bridge is on the move, Calgary Herald.
- Calgary City Census for 1946, Government of Alberta Municipal Affairs.
The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr. This episode was produced, researched, written and edited by Tae Haahr.
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