by Hiranyaa Sahadevan
Do you have that one friend that loves to tell ghost stories or watch horror movies for the thrill of being scared? I must confess: I am that friend. I love learning about anything haunted and the colorful pasts behind these spooky stories. Edmonton is not often associated as being filled with haunts and ghost-filled places. We have buildings down Whyte Ave that date back to the early 1900s, and yet not many ghost stories about these buildings. My curiosity lead me to research Edmonton’s haunted history, which was how I discovered the story of the Charles Camsell Hospital.
In the neighbourhood of Inglewood on the north side of Edmonton stands the Charles Camsell Hospital, closed down in 1968. Infamously known as the “Indian Hospital”, the institute treated mostly First Nations patients from around Alberta who had tuberculosis. The treatment of First Nations patients in the hospital is one of many dark aspects of Alberta’s history and treatment of Indigenous people.
There are stories of experiments that were done on Indigenous patients and the unfortunate fate of these patients. There was allegedly a mass grave for children and infants that died while in care of the hospital building, though this has been denied and corrected by officials. The families of deceased patients were never told of their passing, and patients were buried in a mass grave by a residential school in St. Albert.
Based on these stories, some say that the ghosts of patients who were wrongfully treated in life and death still haunt the halls of the hospital. Their vengeful spirits still lurk the halls, trying to find their way out of the hospital to return to the family they never got to see again after being admitted to the hospital. Some of the residents of Inglewood say they feel uncomfortable every time they pass by the hospital. They feel as though someone is watching them through the the broken windows of the abandoned building. Even those who drive or walk past it feel a sense of uneasiness. Though the ghost stories of the hospital are based on urban legends,, you cannot help but feel uneasy when you think about the patients that died without saying goodbye to their families.
For more than 20 years, the hospital went through various developers who planned to tear down the hospital and building housing complexes, but the cleanup of asbestos delayed construction.
According from a post on Ghost of Camsell, run by Edmonton’s former Historian Laureate, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, the hospital was bought by a developer who plans to tear down the hospital and replace it with a 594-unit apartment complex with a budget of $200 million. The current developer mentioned plans of building a playground for the residents and a healing garden with the assistance from the families of the First Nations patients to commemorate the hospital as a facility for the treatment of tuberculosis and other deadly diseases.
My curiosity of ghost stories lead me to uncover a part of my hometown’s past, realizing that ghost stories are more than just for amusement. They allow us to find a way to remember historic events and discover hidden secrets of the place we grew up in. I am glad to have stumbled upon this discrete part of Edmonton history. It is important to stop and wonder -just how much do you know about your hometown’s history?
Photography courtesy of The Wanderer Visual Editor Yuetong Li.