The Lady Dicks are back and they’re tackling a collection of ghost stories that are close to home. Medicine Hat, Alberta, located 3 hours from Calgary (where your favourite podcasters live) has a few mysterious haunted stories and the ladies are ready to tell you all about them. Join the #DickSquad as Tae shares the stories of the ghost train and flour mill; Andrea covers the origin story behind the city’s name, a creepy figure who hangs out in the college dorm; and Nikki talks about the coal mine that might or might not exist (we honestly don’t know) and the hospital.
If you’ve got a trip planned for Canada’s sunniest city (honestly, we have no idea why you’re going), then you’ll want to check this collection of haunts out before you go. But here at The Lady Dicks Podcast we’re not only about the haunts but also about the travel. So fear not, we’ve got our #DickCertified travel guide to Medicine Hat. Find out where and when you should visit the city and a few places you should check out.
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The origin of “Medicine Hat”
Medicine Hat is a Canadian city located in southern Alberta along the South Saskatchewan River. It’s 295 km southeast of Calgary and takes three hours to get there, pending you’re following traffic laws or you’re not driving on winter roads with all-season tires.
In 1883, the Canadian Pacific Railway reached what is now known as Medicine Hat. The CPR built a bridge over the South Saskatchewan River and built a townsite, which held the first hospital west of Winnipeg (which is over 1,000 kms away). The town of Medicine Hat was first incorporated in October 31, 1898, with its official “city” title coming in May 9, 1906. And it’s name has a bit of a spooky story itself…
The name “Medicine Hat” comes from the Blackfoot term Saamis—which for the life of us we couldn’t find the actual pronunciation of… we even tried the online Blackfoot dictionary. Saamis refers to the “headdress of eagle feather worn by a medicine man.”
While that seems pretty straightforward, there’s a creepy origin story. According to legend, the Blackfoot nation was suffering from a terrible famine, the hungry tribe desperate for a miracle selected a courageous warrior to head out and find food. Dedicated to the tribe and honoured for the opportunity, this warrior, his wife and their dog set out in search of food, travelling down the frozen South Saskatchewan River. They came across a spot where there was a hole in the ice, which was said to be a sign of a sacred place where the water spirits breathe and made camp. A giant serpent rose from the water when they summoned spirits and demanded the warrior’s wife as a sacrifice “in exchange for a Saamis or holy bonnet which would endow the owner with special powers and great hunting prowess.”
The warrior loved his wife and couldn’t bare to part with her, so he tried to trick the spirit by sacrificing his dog instead. This, naturally, pissed off the serpent—he ain’t no fool. So the warrior gave up and tossed his wife in the hole.
With his wife sacrificed, the warrior was instructed to “spend the night on the small island and in the morning when the sun lights the cut-banks, go to the base of the great cliffs,” there he would find his medicine hat. Aided by the magic of the saamis, the warrior managed to capture the game and bring it back to his people. He saved the day and eventually became known as the Medicine Man.
The spot on the river where the hole in the ice was located is apparently where Medicine Hat is now located.
Ghost train in Medicine Hat
It was late spring 1908, when Bob Twohey and Gus Day were working at the Canadian Pacific Railroad rail yard in Medicine Hat. Twohey was an engineer and Gus, a stoker or “fireman” and their assignment was to take a train from Medicine Hat to Dunmore, where they were instructed to switch engines and crews with the Spokane Flyer. The route was to take them along a winding track along the city’s Coulee—which is simply a deep ravine, which is now inside the Medicine Hat city limit, but at the time was likely outside of it.
The trip was going swimmingly until, out of nowhere, a train light blinded the two CPR workers—they were on a collision course with another train. Paralyzed and without time to bail, the pair stood and watched as the oncoming train blasted its warning whistle, rushing towards them. But, in a strange and eerie silence, the oncoming train veered slightly off the path and the trains passed safely. As the train passed the stunned CPR workers, the passengers and crew of the mystery train waved. Then the train simply vanished. Shaken and unsure of what they saw, Twohey and Day agreed to say nothing about what they saw.
A few days later as the pair wandered the city’s downtown, Twohey confessed that he wasn’t able to stop thinking about the incident. So much so that he’d gone to see a fortune teller. She had told him that while he was in perfect health, he would be dead within a month. Frightened, Twohey told Day that he’d arranged to stay in the yard for the rest of the month.
Day was either unmoved or just carried a few extra pairs of underwear on him because on his next shift, he gladly took the scene assignment—meet with the Spokane Flyer in Dunmore and switch engines and crews. Twohey’s engineering position was taken over by James Nicholson and the two went on their way.
Day must have been terrified when later that night, at the same spot, those same warning blasts came. With headlights rushing towards them, Day and Nicholson were speechless. But, as it had before, the Phantom train veered off the collision path just in time, the crew and passengers waving as it went by before disappearing.
After the second incident, Day was relieved to learn that a few days later when he returned to work, Harry Thompson would be taking his place as fireman on the regular route with engineer James Nicholson.
Nicholson and Thompson were trucking along, when around the same spot a warning blast was heard. The lights on an oncoming train were rushing towards them at an alarming rate. Nicholson, who had played this game before, ignored the train, but Thompson wasn’t taking any chances. At the last second, Thompson bailed, jumping clear off the coal train he’d been working on.
On July 9, 1908, passenger train 514 out of Lethbridge, Alberta, crashed into an outbound locomotive heading for exchange in Dunmore, approximately two miles outside of Medicine Hat. Bob Towhey was the engineer on passenger train 514, and he, along with seven passengers were killed. The crash killed 11 people in total, including James Nicholson, the engineer on the westbound locomotive. The only survivor of this head-on collision was CPR firefighter Harry Thompson who survived only because he jumped from the train immediately prior to the collision.
So, was it a ghost train that four CPR employees saw, or a phantom warning?
Medicine Hat Regional Hospital
In an attempt to find more than one Medicine Hat-area ghost story for this episode, we went snooping around Reddit and found a few paranormal-related comments that weren’t official “ghost stories” but we figured might be fun to share anyway. For our first unofficial research endeavour, reddit user “ramondjo” said, “the address of the hospital is 666. I swear the lower tunnels of that place are haunted.”
As it turns out, the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital is actually located at 666 5 St SW. So I did a tad bit of digging and actually found one ghost story from the hospital on a website called Coldspot.org. The “ghost report” is written or provided (it’s a tad bit unclear) by a “Mike” that appears to have been part of the security guard at the hospital. Mike said that he couldn’t remember the date or time just that the story “took place over two decades ago” sometime in the 90s and between the hours of 12 and 6 am—which, if you ask me, is actually a decent recall.
Mike was doing a security sweep on Level Five of the Rehab Support Service Building on the hospital’s west end to “prevent theft and from keeping transients from settling in one of the dark corners of the many empty rooms.” The floor, he described, was semi-abandoned used mostly for storage and a “room dedicated to Diabetes Education service.” However, prior to the abandonment of the floor, it housed the pediatrics unit. Mike entered from the east side and moved towards the west, “checking every locked door and every nook and cranny” to ensure there wasn’t anyone in the area. So far, so good. That is until he entered the last room when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw someone standing in the hallway just beyond the threshold of the door. Adrenaline kicked in as Mike realized there was a child standing there staring at him—then suddenly it was gone. He convinced himself it was a hallucination due to being tired, even so he re-wandered the hallway to check again but found nothing. He laughed the incident off with some other staff members who assured him that no child had passed in that particular room.
That is until a senior staffer asked him to repeat his story. Instead of a chuckle once he’d finished re-telling his story, the nurse confirmed that a child did die in that wing after a particularly “heartbreaking story.” She knew this was true because she was on duty when it happened. Skeptical, Mike and the nurse returned to the floor together and she took him to the same room in the NW corner of the ward he’d been in when he’d seen the child. She further provided a description of the child which matched that which Mike had seen.
This floor, according to Mike was “eventually totally demolished and rebuilt to its modern state.” Which sounds like the floor itself still exists, it’s just been gutted and re-done. So who knows about the current status of ghosts. But he did note that this incident was only one of the many strange things that happened within the walls and halls of the Medicine Hat Regional Hospital.”
If you want to read Mike’s whole story check out ColdSpot.org.
Medicine Hat College dorms
Medicine Hat College was founded in 1965, to-date it has about 2,500 students per year. And in 1987, Tammy was one of them. Her story also comes from ColdSpot.org, it’s called “True Ghost Story: A Hooded Black Figure at the End of the Bed.”
According to her submitted story, Tammy was attending college, living in the dorms, and for the first few days things were “very normal” but within the first week she had a terrible nightmare. She said, “in my dream, I had seen a hooded black figure at the end of the bed.” When she woke up, she told her roommate who admitted that she, too, had dreamt the same thing.
The weeks progressed, and as they did, strange things started to happen. Tammy said that while it was fine throughout the rest of the room, the power would cut in their room. In the middle of the night lights would flicker and one night the cord to one of the lights was actually disconnected. The pair started finding children’s clothes lying about their room, even when they swore they locked the doors.
Tammy said that one day she was coming up the stairs and saw her roommate working at the desk with the door open. She greeted her with “hey roomy” but as she approached the door, it slammed in her face. The pair were incredibly nervous by now, so they spoke to previous tenants of the room and, as it turns out, they formerly held seances in the room because it was the biggest room in the dorm, but had to stop when strange things started to happen to them. Tammy said that eventually her and her roommate had a priest come in, twice, to exorcise the room.
Ogilvie Flour Mills
In another story that we found on ColdSpot.org submitted by Jesse, it appears that the Ogilvie Flour Mill might be haunted. Since it’s a short little story, we’ll read it as-is. Jesse says:
It’s not so much as what has happened to me as to what has happened in this place. It used to be an old mill and is a bar in one part. There are many stories of people that were killed there and now I have some pictures to show that. In one photo you can see three other faces. In another photo there is a very cruel looking face, bearing white teeth and blank eyes. When you are in the bar sometimes when there are little or no people in the bar things move and it sounds like people working or moving around slamming down heavy objects.
What is interesting about this is that according to our research, the city’s first cemetery which doesn’t exist anymore since it’s been moved, was located either right by or on the grounds that currently holds the closed Ogilvie Flour Mill.
Echodale Coal Mine
In another Reddit spurred Google investigation, user “ev_the_rev” posted that “I was out at the old coal mine in Echodale today and they have creepy fucking mannequins in there. It’s got a little history to go along with it.” Unfortunately, we couldn’t actually find anything to do with the Echodale Coal Mine, not even anything to prove that it actually exists.
This is not to be confused with the Atlas Coal Mine in the Canadian Badlands, which is haunted according to local lore. We will be covering this story later in the year, so stay tuned and get excited because the Badlands has some amazingly creepy history.
Visiting Medicine Hat
If these creepy stories have enticed you to visit the lovely city of Medicine Hat, a gem of the Canadian prairies, then we have a few tips and tricks for planning your Medicine Hat vacation.
Travelling to and around The Hat
To actually get to Medicine Hat in the first place, you’ll likely be driving as it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere. But, you can also take a connecting flight from the major Canadian cities including Vancouver, Calgary or even Toronto, and it’s actually not terribly expensive. Once you’re there, you’ll probably want to get yourself a rental car because the city’s kind of spread out and their transit sucks (#sorrynotsorry).
Where to stay in The Hat
The Medicine Hat Lodge is by-far the best hotel to stay at while you’re in Medicine Hat. I’ve spent many-a days hanging out at their pool there and even staying over a few times. You can get a room for as cheap as $90 CAD a night, but during busier times it gets a tad bit pricer. It has a killer waterslide and pool area, plus I believe a casino, bar… which might also be a night club… and pretty decent rooms.
The Medicine Hat Lodge has an overall rating of 3.5 on TripAdvisor, with most commenting that they enjoyed their stay, the food was good, the service was great but the hotel is a bit dated and could use a bit of a refresher.
But… not everyone loved their time there, in their 1-star review “Woodee99” said: “Unreal filth . Broken light, window would not shut and broken screen. Don’t forget the sink that would not drain, the stained mattresses, sheets that would not stay on exposing all the stains on the mattress. and some kind of lotion substance all over the desk Leg. Carpet throughout Hotel especially the room we’re heavily stained and had strong odour. I stayed here last year and felt it needed a second chance and has only gotten worse don’t let the water slide fool you into staying go somewhere else.” So, you’ve been warned.”
What to do in The Hat
The best time to visit Medicine Hat is in the summer, otherwise you might encounter a little bit of unwanted snow (yes, including in the spring and fall). In fact, based on the average weather temperature, Champion Traveller states that the best time to visit is between June 18th and September 30th… and make sure to bring your sunscreen because its based on the Canadian prairies and there isn’t a lot of tree cover.
Top attractions in Medicine Hat include:
Medalta is “- an industrial museum and contemporary arts centre, framed by the dramatic cliffs of the South Saskatchewan River in Medicine Hat, Alberta.” The description on Travel Advisor reads, “Inhale the nostalgia as you walk the same floors as past factory workers. Learn and create while getting hands on with a clay experience taught by ceramic artists who are currently enrolled in our International Artists in Residence program. Immerse yourself in local culture with your knowledgeable tour provider (which they advise that you book in advance for), and complete your journey by indulging in local foods while connecting with Medicine Hat’s growing creative community at various free to the public events.” It has a 4.5 out of 5 on TripAdvisor, and sadly we couldn’t find any bad reviews for it.
The most prominent landmark in Medicine Hat, and what is sure to be in one of the first few pictures of the place if you Google it is the Saamis Teepee. It is described as being “a tribute to Canada’s native heritage” and was originally constructed for the 1988 Olympics that took place in Calgary. It was moved to The Hat in 1991 and has been there ever since. It’s free to visit and you’ll find it just off of Highway number one. It has a 4 out of 5 on TripAdvisor, and while most people enjoyed what they saw, a few people did not:
- In their one-star review Adam D shares, “Not even really a teepee. It’s not covered with skins or anything so it’s basically a bunch of steel shaped like a cone, and it’s a hand me down from the ’88 Olympics. There, I just saved you a trip.”
- Andrea L agrees saying, “Terrible. It is pitiful that this is/was in the top 10 attractions in medicine hat. Not worth your time.”
Medicine Hat Stampede
Iif you happen to be in Medicine Hat during the annual stampede, which takes place in July, you should definitely check it out. It’s basically a smaller version of the Calgary Stampede that’s less packed and you don’t have to wait in line for hours. It’s also way less expensive. The Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede also has a 4 out of 5 rating on TripAdvisor, with all but two people seemingly enjoying their time. In the one-star review category we have:
- Mdc who said “Its like a little carnival, if your not going to just watch the rodeo, save your money. The only reason people go to it here is because theres nothing else to do in Medicine hat. The night shows are always basic old b list rock bands that normally can be seen in some city taverns. It just seems the city never wants to spend decent money on this attraction.”
- And crackerinadarkworld adds that “In over 2 decades (since its’ existence actually), I have not been to a night show because they are ALL country acts. And OLDER country acts at that. Nothing for the under 55 set, and nothing if you like better music.” … which I’m not sure can be considered an actual review considering he never went.
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:
- Medicine Hat Ghosts: Child Seen at Regional Hospital, ColdSpot.org.
- Hillside Cemetery History, MedicineHat.ca.
- True Ghost Story: Haunted Mill, ColdSpot.org.
- True Ghost Story: A Hooded Black Figure at the End of the Bed, ColdSpot.org.
- History of Medicine Hat, InvestMedicineHat.ca.
- Thread: Local ghost stories and/or haunted places?, Reddit.
- Saamis Tepee, MedicineHat.ca.
The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr (Andrea is regrettably missing during the recording of this episode, she insisted on having a “Christmas vacation”). This episode was produced, researched, written and edited by Tae Haahr.