For those who want something more than just lanky skeletons and plastic spiders to spook them this Halloween, Amanda Quill, a New West-based paranormal investigator, has a bunch of spine-chilling ghost stories that are backed by solid evidence.
On a phone call, Quill, as if talking about a celebrity, noted, “One of the most famous ghosts at BC Electric Railway (BCER) actually is now in (New West’s) downtown” — in one of the trolleys made by BCER, which rests in the Old Spaghetti Factory.
“We have a picture with him (the ghost) on it. He wasn't actually there, he had passed a few years prior to the picture being taken.”
That’s just one account. Over the last 10 years, Quill has spent “hours and hours” in the New West Public Library, and New West Museum and Archives; she's approached businesses, buildings, and people, in the city with the question: ‘Have you heard any ghost stories around here?’
The research most often led Quill to gather her equipment (“audio recorders, night vision cameras, different things that are going to pick up on energy fluctuations”) and head to different spots and find out if there were indeed any ghosts living there.
Quill will be sharing her experiences at The Ghosts of New Westminster walk throughout October.
“We have stories about the CPR building, Kelly O’Bryan’s and stories in the tunnel system below New Westminster. We have stories in The Met building basement and hotel; and in the SkyTrain — there is a ghost that comes from the Braid area into Columbia Street station,” said Quill, who spent most of her childhood in Scotland, and has been living in New West for the past 12 years.
Quill and her co-lead investigator Robb Demarest of Ghost Hunters International, have caught EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) in The Met Hotel.
“We actually have a woman telling us her name.”
In a couple of downtown buildings, they were able to get evidence of a ghost named George, and of a little girl that people seem to be seeing glimpses of.
At Overlynn Mansion in North Burnaby, Quill and her team caught the sound of a man coughing and doors slamming, on their devices.
“We had it on two different audio files — of a man coughing at about three o'clock in the morning. Very loud; it actually startled us.” But there was no living man there.
Looking for ghosts around the world
Quill has been in the field since she was 17 years old. She co-founded Coldspotters, a paranormal investigation and event company in 2012 as a small meet-up group for people who are curious about ghost hunters, or want to know how to live in a haunted home — now it has grown to 36 groups across the world.
She and her team travel far and wide looking for ghosts — even in the world-famous spots such as Waverly Hills Asylum and Alcatraz.
Does she ever get scared?
“Yes, I do,” she said. “I mean, if something jumps out at you, you're going to be startled. But am I afraid of ghosts? No. I can comfortably say I'm not. But I do get a little bit scared — when you're in the dark basements of an old penitentiary, you know, the mood gets to you. It can be a little bit intense.”
But all the poltergeist and paranormal events, she said, are “really played up in the movies.” More than calling them 'dark' or 'demon-ish', Quill chooses to describe such events as feeling “a really strong presence.”
“You have to keep in mind that those (the ghosts) were people once too, and sometimes people are grumpy. Sometimes they're not that nice. So we can’t expect that they would go into a ghost form and become Casper.”
Sometimes though, it can get a bit overwhelming, she noted. Once, Quill and team took off to check out a baby zebra at the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky, after a session of investigation. “It was what we needed.”
Quill and her co-lead investigator Demarest live half the year in New Westminster, B.C., and the other half in Westminster, South Carolina, conducting investigations year-round.
These investigations can range from a couple of hours, to a full weekend or more. An overnight investigation of eight hours will use six audio and visual recorders capturing the inputs — that's six different eight hour sessions to review. "It's a long, long process."
There are weeks when Quill and team get as many as three such investigations in one week.
“When we get called in, there's no big exorcism or anything like that. A lot of times, they (the home or store owners who call Quill to investigate) want to know that they're not crazy that they're hearing things. People just want to know that they're okay, that their family is safe and that if there is someone hanging around, they're happy or they're hanging around because they like it.”
“A lot of times, people who live in a haunted home like it, they actually get used to that presence,” she said. “Like my grandpa used to say, 'If your house doesn't have a ghost, it has no spirit'."
But has Quill had a conversation with ghosts? “I've been in a conversation with a person (ghost) who, basically 20 minutes later told me it was time he had to go. And he left.”
“It’s fun. And it's funny. I laugh at myself too because, come on, I do sound a little crazy.”
Register for The Ghosts of New Westminster walk; tickets are priced at $20.11 each.