Thursday August 21, 2014

Looking for ghostly apparitions

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Everybody has heard a ghost story or two.

Many of them relate to places right here in Saskatchewan.

So are there really unearthly apparitions floating around our province?

That is what Cole Smith and Ryan Crouse are trying to determine on 'Knights of the Dark' a television show produced by Access 7 in Yorkton, and shown across the province via the Access cable network.

Smith said the idea of a show tracking ghosts stories was one he felt was too good not to do.

"Ghost stories; every one has a story to tell," he suggested.

Smith said many of the stories of ghosts and paranormal activity come from the folklore and legends which have grown up through the decades.

"Everybody knows some," he said.

Crouse came on board because he shared the interest in the paranormal.

"It dawned on me he might make a good partner," said Smith.

Crouse said he was immediately interested in taking on the volunteer role of co-host and producer, even if it has meant piles of work added to his 9-to-5 job, and chasing clouds as a stormchaser.

"I've gone three days without sleep," he said with a grin, but added "I was still game, How could I not be?"

Smith said Crouse brings something different to the show from his own view of the paranormal.

"Ryan senses things. He experiences things," said Smith, adding his partner seems more in-tune with the paranormal.

Smith takes a more skeptical approach to the subject of ghosts, not suggesting they exist, or whether they don't.

Crouse and Cole make an interesting pair as hosts, a fact not lost to either of them.

"I've said many times on location when we see nothing that the ghosts are more scared of us," joked Crouse.

Whether ghosts are scared, or not, each week they are invited to make their presence known when they visit the different sites around the province.

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The results of the investigation, is the meter ticking on the equipment, and the actual film footage they shoot on location -- nothing more.

"We're not about ratings," said Smith, which means they don't embellish, or enhance things to add to the drama of a location shoot.

That said the pair have had some guests on the show including Indigo Aura, a medium from Winnipeg who joined them on a trip into the Esterhazy area, and psychic Jai who was with them when they went searching for the disappeared community of Mohilla.

But in the end the show is about discovery.

"Let's go interpret the stories. Let's go on an adventure," Smith said.

"I don't say there are ghosts. My personal philosophy is there's an energy," which ends up being interpreted in different ways based on the belief system of those encountering the energy. It can be a ghost to some, an angel, or a woodland spirit to others.

But even as the skeptic Smith said at times on shots "my imagination gets the best of me," and shadows and noises take on a new meaning.

That is why the Knights use a number of gadgets, electromagnetic field reading EMF metres, a radio used as a 'ghost box' to pick up a ghost trying to communicate, and of course their cameras to record the actual events.

Still Smith admits he has had a run-in with one of the region's best-known manifestation of the paranormal; the lights on the McKim Road, which is south of Yorkton. On more than one occasion he has seen a light that he has not been able to identify a source for.

"It creeped me out. It really weirded me out," he said, adding as he drove toward the light it seemed to hold its distance from him. "And there was a sound that accompanied it, a low bass frequency."

In terms of adventure the Knights of the Dark have traveled a good chunk of Eastern Saskatchewan in search of paranormal phenomenon.

Interestingly the show in Yorkton itself was one of the pair's more disappointing hunts.

The duo visited the park near the old hospital, now apartments, near the water tower. The old hospital itself has generated a number of anecdotal tales of hauntings, but when asked if they could film in the building, owners refused, so they focused on the park.

They also made stops on the grounds of the former Burke School, now also a park, and the reportedly haunted basement of The Enterprise Building on Third Avenue and home to this newspaper.

None of the locales generated any ghostly presence.

"It could have been an off day," said Crouse.

What the pair would like is more people willing to tell their experiences on camera.

"Getting people to come on is difficult," said Smith, adding they understand most of the places they visit are small communities, so people are reluctant to talk of seeing ghosts.

So in lieu of people telling their stories on camera, Smith and Crouse spend time ahead of shoots gathering background information which they can weave into their narrative.

"I've learned more about Saskatchewan doing the show than I ever did in school," said Crouse.

As an example, on a shoot south of Estevan at Roche Percee they learned a man, John Donkin, was among those under consideration by Scotland Yard to have been Jack the Ripper, actually moved to the area.

The visit to Roche Percee, a stopover locale for First Nations before western immigration, and a place of caves and unique landscapes, was a favourite for both Knights.

"I call it the Stonehenge of Saskatchewan," said Crouse.

In some cases the research is made easier, as was the case researching the Tabor Lights near Esterhazy.

"People at the museum (in Esterhazy) talked about it," offered Crouse, adding there is considerable material on the lights dating back over 100-years, including a story in the Leader Post out of Regina in the 1930s, and a visit from scientists out of Chicago.

Smith and Crouse do believe the stories are something which should be told and promoted more, noting they could be a tourist draw.

"People love these stories. People that watch this show go to these places," said Smith, adding the allure is that they are local. "You can get in a car and go to these places."

So far the Knights of the Dark have recorded 13 episodes, a season, but more could be coming.

"I've got 20-pages of research we've never even touched," said Crouse, adding as shows air they get more and Riche Percee, south of Estevan, more stories and leads via email on their website, and they're always up to learn of more at (

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