The Time Warp at Courtney Lake, British Columbia
For as long as we’ve had the words to describe such events, people all over the world have reported seeing apparitions of people and animals who are not physically present, which disappear shortly after being seen. Many of these apparitions are dressed in old-fashioned clothing, and some resemble real people who died prior to the sighting.
Such specters have appeared in various stages of detail and completeness. Some, for example, are described as dark indistinct shadows vaguely human in form. Others are visible only from the waist up or the waist down, or without their heads. Many appear as reflections in mirrors, windows, and televisions. Some are perfectly clear, distinct, and whole, and are initially mistaken for regular living people. And a few have been described as glowing, or even blindingly radiant.
Some apparitions- particularly those resembling the deceased as they appeared in life- seem completely unaware of their surroundings, lounging in chairs without paying the slightest attention to those around them, or walking on floors or through doorways that no longer exist. Others interact with their corporeal counterparts in a manner suggesting they are unaware of their own extraordinary state, casually giving or asking for directions, making small talk with strangers, or angrily demanding that someone remove themselves from their house or their bed. Others still seem to make their appearances solely for the purpose of attracting attention to themselves.
Over the millennia, there have been many theories proposed as to the nature or natures of such apparitions. Sacred scripture and certain religious traditions, for instance, have identified some apparitions as angels or demons- spiritual servants of God or the Devil, respectively. The Catholic Church holds that Mary, the mother of Jesus, has appeared to certain men, women, and children throughout the centuries and across the globe to make divine requests, confer revelations, and perform miracles.
Folkloric traditions all over the world contend that many apparitions are visual manifestations of the souls of the dead, trapped between this world and the next, perhaps being unwilling to accept their own change of state, or unable to move on due to some unfinished earthly business. Some apparitions, which appear instantly and fleeting to friends and family members of the person whom it resembles at the moment of the latter’s death, have been called ‘wraiths’, and are believed by some to be human souls announcing their imminent journey to the Great Beyond.
Apparitions that resemble real people still alive at the time of the sighting have been called ‘fetches’ or ‘doppelgangers’, and are believed, in some traditions, to be omens portending the death of the person they resemble.
Some parapsychologists who adhere to what has been called the ‘Stone Tape theory’ contend that some apparitions are visual remnants of past events indelibly seared into particular locations through some sort of emotional energy, destined to visually repeat like a video recording. Others suspect that some apparitions are visions of past events glimpsed through a thin diaphanous anomaly in the fabric of time.
And many skeptics dismiss apparitions as imperfect memories, medically-explainable hallucinations, or products of extraordinary coincidence.
Most witnesses who claim such experiences describe seeing a single phantom, although pairs of phantoms are not uncommon. Vehicular apparitions, such as ghost ships, spectral automobiles, phantom trains, and ghostly carriages are seen less frequently. Perhaps the rarest and most spectacular apparitions of all, however, are those in which entire scenes, with multiple characters, spectral structures, and phantom landmarks, vividly play out before a person’s eyes.
The Moberly-Jourdain Incident
One of the most famous scenic apparitions of the 20th Century took place on August 10th, 1901, when two female English academics named Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain paid a visit the Palace of Versailles in France. At the time of the event, which has since been dubbed the ‘Moberly-Jourdain Incident’, 54-year-old Charlotte Moberly was the Principal of St. Hugh’s College, a women’s college at Oxford University, which she had headed since its founding in 1886. Thirty-seven-year-old Eleanor Jourdain, on the other hand, had just been appointed St. Hugh’s Vice Principal. The two colleagues-to-be agreed that they ought to get to know each other better before the commencement of the 1901 autumn semester, and so Miss Moberly visited Miss Jourdain in Paris, France, where the latter rented an apartment.
On August 10th, 1901, the two women decided to tour the southwesterly Palace of Versailles as part of a grand tour of Old Paris and its historic suburbs. Although their knowledge of French history was reportedly limited at the time of their visit, both women were aware that the opulent Palace had served as the residence of the French monarchy from the reign of King Louis XIV until the French Revolution.
After touring the Palace itself, Moberly suggested that she and Jourdain take a walk through the palatial gardens to the Petit Trianon, a small chateau nestled in the northwestern quadrant of the grounds (right of the right arm of the Grand Canal, as seen from the palace steps), which she had read about in a magazine as a girl. In a written account of the event, entitled An Adventure, which she and Jourdain published in 1911 under the pseudonyms Elizabeth Morison and Frances Lamont, respectively, Moberly recalled that they initially neglected to ask for directions and consequently took an unusually long route through the gardens.
When they arrived at the northwestern quadrant of the grounds, the two women left the main road and headed up one of the many narrow paths which crisscross the area, erroneously supposing that it constituted a shortcut to their destination. Jourdain described this mysterious trail as being fronted by an open gate and “cut deep below the level of the ground above”.
“From the moment we left the lane,” Moberly wrote, “an extraordinary depression had come over me, which, in spite of every effort to shake off, steadily deepened. There seemed to be absolutely no reason for it; I was not at all tired, and was becoming more interested in my surroundings. I was anxious that my companion should not discover the sudden gloom upon my spirits…”
Jourdain was overcome by the same unaccountable sensation, but concealed her sentiments from Moberly. “There was a feeling of depression and loneliness about the place,” she wrote. “I began to feel as if I were walking in my sleep; the heavy dreaminess was oppressive.”
Moberly and Jourdain’s respective accounts of the strange events that followed are not perfectly congruent, written as they were independently of each other three months later, when the two women first compared their memories of the incident and agreed that they had experienced something truly unusual that day on their walk to the Petit Trianon. Moberly, for instance, recalled seeing a building at the junction of the wider path and the narrower lane, out of one of the windows of which a woman shook out a white cloth; Jourdain made no mention of this woman in her own account. Jourdain, on the other hand, described passing a cottage on the right-hand side of the path, in the doorway of which she saw a woman and a teenage girl dressed in old-fashioned clothing; the woman appeared to be passing the girl a jug.
Both women agreed that, after walking on the path for some time, they encountered two men wearing green coats and three-cornered hats, whom they presumed to be gardeners dressed in 18th Century attire. When they asked them for directions to the Petit Trianon, the men casually directed them onwards.
The somber sensation which both women secretly felt steadily increased in intensity the further they continued up the path, and reached its climax at a point where the trail ended in a T-intersection. “Everything suddenly looked unnatural,” Moberly wrote, “therefore unpleasant; even the trees… seemed to have become flat and lifeless, like a wood worked in tapestry. There were no effects of light and shade, and no wind stirred the trees. It was all intensely still.”
On the opposite side of the intersection was a shadowy wooded area within which stood a small circular gazebo- a cylinder of pillars fronted by a low wall and surmounted by a domed roof. On the kiosk steps sat a swarthy, pockmarked man wearing a wide-brimmed slouch hat, wrapped in a heavy black cloak which seemed far too warm for the season. Although the man appeared not to notice the women, he slowly turned his face in their direction, allowing them to see the evil expression he wore. “That was the culmination of my peculiar sensations,” Moberly wrote, “and I felt a moment of genuine alarm. The man’s face was most repulsive- its expression odious.” Jourdain was similarly struck by the sinister figure, writing, “At that moment the eerie feeling which had begun in the garden culminated in a definite impression of something uncanny and fear-inspiring.”
At that moment, the women heard hasty footsteps behind them and turned to see a tall dark-eyed gentleman with long, curly black hair, a wide-brimmed hat, a dark cloak, and buckled shoes. The man was flushed and out of breath, as if he had been running hard. Speaking French with a Germanic accent, he informed them that they could not proceed down the path to the left, and entreated them to walk to the right. Both Moberly and Jourdain perceived a faint smile on the man’s lips, as if he were amused by their appearance but was determined to conceal his sentiments out of courtesy.
The women did as requested and headed up the path on the right. They walked over a small bridge, to the right of which stood a large fern-covered rock over which trickled a tiny thread-like waterfall, and passed a narrow shaded meadow with long grass. Soon, they found themselves at the back entrance of the Petit Trianon.
Moberly described seeing a pretty lady sitting on a stool in front of the chateau, holding a piece of paper out at arm’s length, as if she had been sketching the trees and was now reviewing her work. She wore an elegant old-fashioned dress, a pale green fichu (i.e. shawl), and a white wide-brimmed hat, beneath which protruded puffs of fair fluffy hair. Moberly initially suspected that the woman was a fellow tourist. “I looked straight at her,” she wrote, “but some indescribable feeling made me turn away annoyed at her being there.”
Months later, when they discussed the incident in depth for the first time, Moberly was astonished to learn that Jourdain had not seen the woman outside the Petit Trianon. “How that happened was quite inexplicable to me,” Jourdain wrote, “for I believed myself to be looking about on all sides, and it was not so much that I did not remember her as that I could have said no one was there.” Nevertheless, Jourdain recalled that, while walking up the back steps of the Petit Trianon, past the spot where Moberly claimed the woman had been sitting, she had instinctively tucked in her skirt as if to make room for someone, and then wondered why she had done so.
After passing the mysterious woman, Moberly and Jourdain went up the back steps of the Petit Trianon and approached a large unshuttered window with the intention of looking inside, unsure of whether or not the building was open to the public. They were interrupted by the slamming of a door. Glancing in the direction of the sound, they saw a boy rush out of an adjacent building. “He had the jaunty manner of a footman, but no livery,” Moberly wrote, “and called to us, saying that the way into the house was by the cour d’honneur, and offered to show us the way round. He looked inquisitively amused as he walked by us down the French garden till we came to an entrance into the front drive.”
When they arrived at the front of the building, they encountered a wedding procession that was passing through the area, and the oppressive atmosphere dissipated. Feeling lively again, the pair hailed a carriage, went to the historic Hotel des Reservoirs for tea, and returned to Paris.
“For a whole week,” Moberly wrote, “we never alluded to that afternoon, nor did I think about it until I began writing a descriptive letter [to my sister] of our expeditions of the week. As the scenes came back one by one, the same sensation of dreamy unnatural oppression came over me so strongly that I stopped writing, and said to Miss [Jourdain]. ‘Do you think that the Petit Trianon is haunted?’ Her answer was prompt, ‘Yes I do.’”
It would be another three months before the two ladies discussed their experience in detail, whereupon they discovered that Jordain had not noticed the conspicuous lady that Moberly had seen sketching outside the Petit Trianon. Suspecting that they may have witnessed something paranormal, the ladies resolved to investigate the matter.
On July 4th, 1904, following some preliminary detective work by Jourdain, the two ladies returned to Versailles and searched for the strange path they had walked three years earlier. They managed to locate the main road from which they had diverged, but found everything else very different from how they had remembered it. “We spent a long time looking for the old paths,” Moberly wrote. “Not only was there no trace of them, but the distances were contracted, and all was on a smaller scale than I recollected. The kiosk was gone; so was the ravine and the little cascade which had fallen from a height above our heads, and the little bridge over the ravine was, of course, gone too… The trees were quite natural, and seemed to have been a good deal cleared out, making that part of the garden much less wooded and picturesque…. Instead of a much shaded rough meadow continuing up to the wall of the terrace, there is now a broad gravel sweep beneath it, and the trees on the grass are gone. Exactly where the lady was sitting we found a large spreading bush of, apparently, many years’ growth. We did not recognize the present staircase, which leads up to the north-west end of the terrace, nor the extension of wall round which one has now to go in order to reach the staircase…
“To add to the impossibility of recalling our first visit, in every corner we came across groups of noisy merry people walking or sitting in the shade. Garden seats placed everywhere, and stalls for fruit and lemonade took away from any idea of desolation. The common-place, unhistorical atmosphere was totally inconsistent with the air of silent mystery by which we had been so much oppressed.”
Upon interviewing contemporary and retired gardeners employed at Versailles, Moberly and Jourdain discovered that certain landmarks they had seen had been removed generations ago, and that the building beside the Petit Trianon, the doors of which they had heard slam shut, was an old chapel whose main entrance was permanently locked and had not been opened in living memory. They also learned that the gardeners at Versailles had not worn green coats on the grounds since the days of the Ancien Regime (i.e. the reign of the old French monarchy), and that the dark cloaks and wide-brimmed Spanish-style somberos affected by the two strange men they had seen on August 10th, 1901, constituted the standard outdoor dress of late 18th Century French gentlemen. This new intelligence prompted the ladies to inquire into whether any costume parties had been held at Versailles at the time of their first visit. Subsequent research informed them that, while historically-themed masquerades were sometimes held on the grounds, none were believed to have taken place on the day of their uncanny experience.
Throughout the first decade of the 20th Century, Mobery and Jourdain uncovered additional evidence which led them to the conclude that the scene they had witnessed on August 10th, 1901, was a vision of the path to the Petit Trianon as it had appeared on the morning of October 5th, 1789. They came to believe that the two green-coated men who directed them up the path, whom they had initially mistaken for gardeners, were members of the Queen’s personal Swiss bodyguard. They suspected that the evil-looking man whom they found sitting on the steps of the gazebo was Joseph de Rigaud, Comte de Vaudreuil, an aristocrat who had convinced the French Queen to allow public performances of the politically ruinous play The Marriage of Figaro, on which Mozart’s more famous opera is based. They identified the curly-haired gentleman who implored them to take the path to the right as a page in the Queen’s employ named De Bretagne, who would have been 22-years-old in 1789. And they concluded that the mysterious woman outside the Petit Trianon, whom Jourdain did not see, was Marie Antoinette, the ill-fated French Queen herself.
Many of those who have commented upon the Moberly-Jourdain Incident suspect that Charlotte Moberly and Eleanor Jourdain travelled back in time on August 10th, 1901, walking through a wrinkle in the temporal dimension which afforded them a glimpse of the Petit Trianon as it appeared in the twilight of the Ancient Regime. Some have referred to the incident as a “time slip” or a “time warp”, and have called the Petit Trianon a “time portal”.
Despite reams of published material alleging that Moberly and Jourdain also held this view, the Oxford academics clearly indicated in their book that they came to the eventual conclusion that they had walked into a reverie that Marie Antoinette had indulged on August 10th, 1792, at the height of the French Revolution. That day, 20,000 angry French Federes, or revolutionaries, stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris, where the French royal family had been compelled to live for nearly three years. While the Federes overwhelmed and massacred her loyal Swiss Guards, a terrified Marie Antoinette, Moberly and Jourdain believed, seeking refuge with her family in the adjacent Salle du Manege, cast her mind back to October 5th, 1789- her last day at Versailles; it was into this memory they believed they had stumbled. The Oxford ladies suspected that the running man they had encountered had just informed Marie Antoinette that a mob of disgruntled Parisian women were marching on Versailles to demand bread- the opening scene of a historic drama which would end with the royal family’s permanent relocation to the Tuileries Palace in Paris.
The Phantom Surgery at Pennsylvania Hall
Another famous scenic apparition, the story of which has been retold in several documentaries and TV shows, took place in the 1980s in the basement of Pennsylvania Hall, in the heart of the Gettysburg College campus in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Constructed in 1837, Pennsylvania “Penn” Hall was the first school building built on the campus, and is the oldest structure still standing at the college today. Initially employed as a multipurpose building, in which students slept, dined, studied, and attended classes, the edifice gradually transformed into the college’s signature dormitory, and was affectionately referred to for many years as the “Old Dorm”. Following a renovation in 1970, Penn Hall was converted into the college’s administrative centre, which function it has served ever since.
On July 1st, 1863, lessons at Penn Hall were interrupted by the cracks of carbines and the rattles of distant musketry- the opening engagement of what would prove to be the bloodiest and arguably most important battle of the American Civil War. Buoyed by their stunning victories at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate Army had marched north from Virginia, through Maryland, and into Pennsylvania, hoping to shift the so-called War of Northern Aggression into Union territory. The defending Union Army, commanded by newly-appointed General George Meade, prepared to halt the rebel advance outside the town of Gettysburg. Earlier that morning, in preparation for the impending battle, a Union signal officer had assessed the surrounding terrain from the iconic cupola which crowns Pennsylvania Hall.
As the battle raged outside the town, wounded Union soldiers were transported to Gettysburg College and treated inside Pennsylvania Hall and other campus buildings. That afternoon, the tide of the battle turned against the Union Army; Confederate forces gained control of the campus as the defenders abandoned the town and retreated to higher ground.
Taking their cue from the Yankees, the Confederates converted Pennsylvania Hall into their own makeshift field hospital. Bedrooms, classrooms, lecture halls, and libraries were filled with hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers. The wooden floorboards were soon slick with blood, the stains from which are said to be still visible today. One Pennsylvanian college student who witnessed the grisly proceedings described the scene in a later reminiscence, writing, “All rooms, halls and hallways were occupied with the poor deluded sons of the South. The moans, prayers and shrieks of the wounded and dying were heard everywhere.”
Following the disastrous Pickett’s Charge on July 3rd, in which the Confederate Army suffered 6,500 casualties, the Virginian troops abandoned the field and retreated south. By the time the last haze of cannon smoke dissipated into the summer air, the blood of more than 35,000 dead and wounded soldiers soaked the fields of Gettysburg.
For nearly a month after the battle, wounded Confederate and Union soldiers alike were treated in Pennsylvania Hall. Many patients who failed to recover were buried in the grounds outside the building, along with the mountains of shattered limbs and ragged appendages the combat surgeons were obliged to amputate, which accumulated in grotesque piles outside the Old Dorm.
Campus legend has it that the shades of many of those same soldiers still appear from time to time in and around Pennsylvania Hall. As Gettysburg College senior Michael Mahr put it in an August 2nd, 2021 article for the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, “Ask any student of Gettysburg College past or present, chances are, they will have a ghost story to tell. Whether it be objects moving about or a lone soldier circling the cupola at night, the men treated inside of Pennsylvania Hall are still present.”
One of the most dramatic ghost stories of Pennsylvania Hall occurred one night in the 1980s. That evening, two female administrative workers, who have refused all requests for formal interviews and have elected to remain anonymous, told a hair-raising tale to Timon Linn, the campus’ Chief of Security at the time.
Both ladies, who worked on Penn Hall’s fourth floor, had an uncharacteristically long day, and were obliged spend several overtime hours completing unfinished business. The Old Dorm takes on a spooky atmosphere after dark; once the last of their colleagues left for home, they agreed to head to the parking lot together, neither one relishing the prospect of working alone in the haunted building. They entered the elevator and pressed the button for the first floor.
The elevator failed to open on the first floor and continued its descent into the basement. Confused, the administrators pressed the first floor button a second time. Instead of ascending, the elevator opened its doors to reveal an appalling scene. Instead of the empty basement storage facility they were accustomed to, the ladies found themselves staring at a chaotic 19th Century field hospital. Wild-eyed soldiers lay on desktops writhing in agony, their heads propped up on stacks of books. Surgeons wearing blood-spattered aprons hacked through living limbs with bone saws. Ashen-faced teenagers clutched bandaged stumps, while orderlies bustled about with armloads of severed limbs. A sickly sweet aroma hung heavily in the air.
Frantic with fear, the administrators hammered in vain on the first floor button, unable to tear their eyes away from the nightmare that confronted them. As they did so, one of the surgeons turned towards them, looked directly at them, and beckoned to them with a gore-soaked hand, as if mutely beseeching them to assist him with his gruesome task. The medic stepped away from the operating table and began walking towards them when the elevator doors finally closed.
One of the women immediately reported the terrifying experience to security officer Timon Linn. “Something had frightened her,” Linn said in a 2001 documentary, “because she obviously, just by her emotions and her mannerisms, was scared… to death. The individual making the report was… a person I had known prior to the incident, and after the incident. [She was] always pretty level-headed, pretty normal. We went over, and the elevator was fine. The mechanism in the elevator was fine. There was nothing in the basement. We checked the building to make sure it wasn’t a college prank. There was no indication of any outside entry, [or] anything unusual that would warrant thinking this was somebody that had made up this story just for attention.” In an earlier interview, Linn affirmed that he knew both administrators to be credible people, and though he didn’t personally believe in ghosts, he was sure they truly believed they saw what they claimed to have seen.
Scenic Apparitions in Canada
Scenic apparitions, while rare, are not restricted to royal residences and hallowed battlefields, and in fact, are reported to have taken place in several unassuming corners of the Great White North. In my books Mysteries of Canada: Volumes I and II, I described three scenic apparitions alleged to have taken place in southern Alberta. One incident is said to have occurred on the Oldman River fifteen miles upriver from Fort Macleod, in the southwestern corner of the province. While seeking shelter from the rain during a fishing trip in the summer of 1875, Sir Cecil Denny, one of the first officers of the North West Mounted Police, claimed to have stumbled into a phantom Cree camp which vanished in a flash of lightning. He described the incident in a later reminiscence:
“In rounding a bend in the river, I saw on the south bank a good clump of timber, and determined to take shelter in it. I made for that shore, and as I approached the fury of the storm for a moment lulled, and in the stillness I could plainly hear the drums beating in an Indian camp, and the sound of the Indian ‘Hi-ya’ mingling with it.
“The sound came from beyond the clump of trees, and I congratulated myself upon meeting with an Indian camp where I could take shelter from such a storm. I concluded that this was the camp I had been told had gone up the river. I therefore landed and drew up the boat into the brush, tying it securely, and, taking my gun, made as quickly as possible through the woods towards the point from which the sounds could be plainly heard. The storm had now come down worse than ever, and the lightning was almost blinding.
“I made my way through the timber as fast as possible, it not being any too safe in such close proximity to the trees, and coming out into an open glade of quite an extent, I saw before me the Indian camp not more than two hundred yards away.
“I could see men and women, and even children, moving about among the lodges, and what struck me as strange was the fact that the fires in the centre of many of the tents shone through the entrances, which were open. This surprised me, as you do not often find the Indians moving about in the wet if they can help it. They generally keep their lodges well closed during a thunder storm, of which they are very much afraid… There were, I should consider, about twenty lodges in the camp, and a band of horses could be seen grazing not far off on the other side of the camp.
“I stood for a few seconds watching and considering which lodge to make for, and had taken a few steps towards the one nearest me, when I seemed to be surrounded by a blaze of lightning, and at the same time a crash of thunder followed that fairly stunned me for nearly a minute and sent me on my back. A large tree not far off was struck. I could hear the rending of the wood, and it was afterwards found nearly riven in half. Some of the electric fluid had partly stunned and thrown me down. I was fortunate to have escaped with my life, and, as it was, it was a few minutes before I was able to rise and look around. I looked towards the place where the camp stood, but to my unutterable astonishment as well as terror, it was not there.”
Through subsequent investigation, Denny learned that a band of Cree Indians had been massacred by a Blackfoot war party on that very spot several years earlier; when he returned to the spot with a Blackfoot guide and Metis interpreter, he found several sun-bleached human skulls lying in the grass.
A full century after Cecil Denny’s strange experience, another scenic apparition was reported in the southeastern corner of the province, at the southeastern end of the city of Medicine Hat. Sometime in the 1970s, a bus driver named Brian Gale claimed to have seen the houses of Medicine Hat’s Taylor neighbourhood while crossing the Canadian Pacific Railway in a school bus just east of town. “The thing was,” he wrote, “that the Taylor neighbourhood wasn’t built until five to seven years after this, but that day, I could see it plain as day.”
Interestingly, the Taylor neighbourhood lies along the edge of the same stretch of Canadian Pacific Railway on which a series of bizarre vehicular apparitions occurred in the summer of 1908. One June night, while taking a train around a cutbank of Ross Creek just below what is now the southeastern edge of the Taylor district, a CP Railway crew ran headlong into an oncoming train. Just before impact, the mysterious locomotive veered off the tracks and glided beside them for some time before melting into the dry prairie air. Witnesses described seeing the silhouettes of phantom crewmen waving to them from the other cab.
The same mysterious apparition appeared several more times over the next few weeks, always at night. In retrospect, the phantom train seemed to be some sort of paranormal portent; on the morning of July 8, 1908, a CPR train slammed into a passenger train from Lethbridge, Alberta, at the very spot where the phantom train had appeared; eleven passengers and crew members died in the head-on collision.
The Phantom Cattle Drive of Courtney Lake
Several months ago, I was contacted by a gentleman named Sam Thibeault of Quesnel, British Columbia, who had a strange and unnerving experience in southern BC in 1977 which evokes the scenic apparitions above described. The following is Mr. Thibeault’s story in his own words, lightly edited and published here with his permission:
“I am 59 years of age now, but at the age of 15, four of my friends and I experienced what I now believe to be a portal in time. It may be an explanation as to why people have just disappeared in the area without a trace. I lived in Merritt, B.C. at the time. The incident took place at a lake between Merritt and Princeton called Courtney Lake. I believe it could shed some light on the unsolved disappearances in the British Columbia Triangle.
“I experienced this with four of my closest friends, Rocky B., Tim C., John C., and, if memory serves, Wade W. We were all around 15 – 16 years of age.
“I’ve told very few people, as most don’t take me or us seriously. All I can say is that it did happen. We all saw it, and it scared the hell out of us.
“My friends and I often hitchhiked to different locations in and around Merritt, B.C., mostly to explore, build forts, fish, and go swimming. We also explored abandoned mine shafts just south of town, where we would crawl under cave-ins in order to come out into the main tunnels where the coal tracks were.
“On one of our weekend trips, we got a ride to a spot near Courtney Lake. I believe it was Rocky’s brother, Roger, who dropped us off. The hike to our destination was a few miles or so, through some thick brush and heavily wooded areas. The old path was overgrown, but you could still make it out enough to follow it. This was the second time I came to this place with my friends.
“The road eventually led to a large open valley of grassland that stretched out in front of us. The valley stretched out as far as you can see, and eventually rounded a bend on the left and disappeared. You could see a well-structured tree line across the valley that rolled up and down with the hills.
“When looking to the left, you could make a few buildings in the distance, nestled up against the lake. I believe they were once used as layovers for cattlemen driving their cattle through the area. There were a few rectangular bunkhouses with flat roofs and a rectangular cookhouse built up against a small outlet from the lake.
“We made our way to one of the bunkhouses, in which we had stayed during our first trip to the lake. It had wooden bunks built into the walls, and nothing more. I chose the lower bunk against the wall which stands to your right when entering the building. I had brought my bow and arrows, and hung the bow above my bed on the wall.
“Once settled, some of us tried to catch fish for supper, while others sat around an open fire. Sometimes, when we saw bears and their cubs in the valley, we would chase them back into the trees.
“The incident happened sometime in the afternoon. What I find strange to this day is why we all decided to gather in the bunk house at that particular time, as there was plenty of daylight left, and it wasn’t time to bunk down for the night.
“It all started with some noise coming from outside the bunk house. We stood there looking at each other, wondering who could possibly be outside.
“The bunkhouse was made of logs, and its windows were covered with wooden shutters. I remember opening the door with my friends close behind me, and what we saw still stays with me to this day- not because of what it was, but because it hadn’t been there minutes before, when we walked into the bunk house.
“There were cattle everywhere. I couldn’t tell just how many, as there was a thick cloud of dust from their hooves. There were many cowboys that were riding about trying to keep the herd in check.
“Then one of the riders pulled his horse sideways along the little path that led to the bunkhouse. The only thing between us were the remains of a very old wooden fence without a gate.
“The stranger looked directly at us. He sat tall in the saddle, and was covered in dust. He had a rope in one hand, another tied to his saddle, and a rifle in a scabbard that jutted out visibly. His surprise at seeing us was very apparent. There was something very different about him. He was fully dressed head to toe in what we all grew up thinking cowboys looked like. Everything about him was rugged and hard, as if he’d been doing this for many years.
“When I met his gaze, I immediately felt very uncomfortable. He continued looking at us for a few moments while he got better control of his horse, as it was rearing up a little, as if it was frightened by our presence. He then jumped off his horse and started to walk towards us.
“We all panicked, thinking we were trespassing on someone’s property and were about to be caught. I slammed the door, and we all ran around the room grabbing our gear. I remember grabbing my bow off the wall. We opened the shutters to the back window facing the lake and jumped out one by one until we were all out.
“We ran towards the lake, then took a right and followed a small trail leading behind a small hill overlooking the area in which we were. I can remember sitting there all huddled together, wondering if they were following us and what kind of trouble we were in. After what seemed like five minutes, John C. and, I believe, Wade W., ran up to the top of the hill we were hiding behind to get a better view and to see if they were, in fact, following us.
“John and Wade came back moments later, looked at us, and said ‘there’s no one there.’ We all scrambled to have a look for ourselves, and what they said was, in fact, true. There was no one there.
“I remember walking back towards the bunk house. The first thing was to look down the valley to see if they were going away from the lake. But the valley was empty as far as the eye could see. No hoof prints were visible, no dust. It was as if no one was ever there. I remember thinking that a herd of cattle as large as the one we had seen could not have disappeared in a few minutes. The valley is very open, and there was nowhere that a cattle drive of that size could hide.
“We all left and called it a weekend, unsure of what we had just experienced, but glad to get away. I’ve always wondered what might have happened if I had walked out to meet the cowboy at the end of the walkway leading to the bunkhouse. Would I still be here today, or would I be missing without a trace?
“I’ve come to believe that we encountered a portal in time. What we all witnessed was a once in a lifetime experience. Most of the boys I was with never told anyone about the experience, and some have passed on.
“One day, Rocky and his new wife came up north to visit my wife and I. While sitting around the fire, my wife asked Rocky if the strange adventure I had been telling her about all these years was true, and not some made up story. I remember Rocky’s face going white. He said that he had never told anyone about that strange summer day in 1977. He went on to tell his memory of the event to my wife. When he was finished, my wife couldn’t believe what she had just heard. His account was identical to my own recollection of what had happened to us all those years ago.
“After watching your British Columbia Triangle series on YouTube, I realized that Courtney Lake is within the Triangle. I believe that when these portals in time appear, they are only there for a few minutes, and then vanish along with anyone who walks into them.
“I’ve wanted to tell my story for years, but was just uncertain who to share it with.”
The Moberly-Jourdain Incident
An Adventure (1911), by Elizabeth Morison (Charlotte Moberly) and Frances Lamont (Eleanor Jourdain)
The Phantom Surgery at Pennsylvania Hall
Ghosts of Gettysburg: Spirits, Apparitions, and Haunted Places on the Battlefield (2012), by Mark Nesbitt
Yonder Beautiful and Stately College: A History of Pennsylvania Hall (1970), by Charles H. Glattfelter
Medical Care on the Gettysburg College Campus, by Michael Mahr in the August 2nd 2021 issue of CivilWarMed.org
Ghosts of Gettysburg: Spirits, Apparitions and Haunted Places of the Battlefield (2001)
Unsolved Mysteries: Season 8, Episode 19 (March 15, 1996)
Scenic Apparitions in Canada
Mysteries of Canada: Volume I (2019), by Hammerson Peters
Mysteries of Canada: Volume II (2020), by Hammerson Peters
The Riders of the Plains: A Reminiscence of the Early and Exciting Days in the North West (1905), by Sir Cecil Denny
Saamis: The Medicine Hat (1967), by Senator F.W. Gershaw
The Phantom Cattle Drive of Courtney Lake
Private correspondence between Joseph “Sam” Thibeault and Hammerson Peters, September 2021
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