Date: May 14, 2016
Location: Knox United Church
Investigators: Noelle, Paul, Holly, Rowan, guest investigator Pastor Dave (minister)
Claims: woman in blue wearing pink hat in Pew #23 (back pew in Sanctuary), footsteps, male child playing
Noted contaminants: building acoustics; outside noise (traffic, people); dust; creaking floors/pews, floors; ceiling fans; air conditioning through flooring, walls, and ceiling vents; shadows across interior walls from outside movement (people, etc. going by); dust; contrast between dark wood/light wall creates impression of seeing things from the corner of the eye.
Knox United Church is one of Calgary’s oldest buildings. It owes its existence, in part, to a grocery store. Before the first Paskapoo sandstone cornerstone was laid in 1912, the Presbyterian congregation that would one day fill the pews of the church met at the I.G. Baker in Inglewood, where Reverend Angus Robertson preached to a small crowd of 30 or so parishioners. In 1883, those same parishioners built their first wooden church. The 7 by 11-metre structure took 10 days to build, at a cost of $1,000. (NOTE: That church was eventually mounted on skids and moved across the iced-over Elbow River near where the York Hotel once stood.)
As Calgary grew, so too did church attendance. A second church was built in 1886, and then a third in 1905. Eventually, in September 1913, the church was completed. Since then, the bones of the building have remained more or less intact. From its Gothic arches to its exterior buttresses and even its pews and hand-blown glass lights, most of the church is exactly as it would have been when it first opened.
Designated both a municipal and provincial historic resource, there are only a handful of additions that can be made to the church. Most notable among them is a meditation maze painted on the original Douglas fir floors in 2005, based off a similar labyrinth from a cathedral in Chartres, France. Other spectacular features include the organ, which is an original feature of the church – and one of the largest pipe organs in western Canada – and the stained-glass window, installed in 1921.
Knox United Church has been an important part of the Calgary and Alberta community for 130 years. It has been in its present location for 100 years. In addition to being a place of worship, music and spiritual development, Knox is also a home to community justice groups, events and concerts.
In order to cover as much area as possible, the group split up into two teams. One team would cover the main floor; the other would cover the basement. It was also decided that in order for everyone to investigate every area, the teams would work for approximately 20 minutes in their designated section and then meet back in the main floor Sanctuary for rotation to a second team. To start the investigation, Rowan and Holly went to the basement to investigate the Theater and the Parlor. Paul, Noelle, and Pastor Dave – who requested to be present for the investigation – remained in the Sanctuary. The entire team noted noise contamination from outside the building: traffic was loud, and people could be heard talking as they walked by the building.
The Theater: Rowan and Holly
The Theater is a large gymnasium-sized space with a small stage at the west end of the room. Rowan and Holly noted several noise contaminants that could potentially affect audio readings: acoustics (creating echo), wall, floor, and ceiling vents, and air conditioning, which was on. They also noted light-and-shadow play from outside moving across interior walls, and dust particles floating around and being caught in beams of light coming through the windows.
No unusual EMF changes occurred during their investigation, but both Rowan and Holly did hear what they described as heels walking on the hardwood floor. Holly also noted that while she was attempting to video near the stage, the camera began to malfunction. When taking still photos, the images came out distorted and blurry. When attempting to run video, the stage appeared to jerk on the screen – as if overlapping itself – despite the camera being steady. Holly noted that the camera did not malfunction in other areas of the building.
The Parlor: Rowan and Holly
In an effort to replicate the camera problems, Rowan and Holly decided to leave the Theater and investigate the Parlor. Upon entering the room, they immediately noticed both noise and light contamination factors: Outside noise (traffic, etc.), light coming through the windows and creating shadows on the walls, creaking floors, and air moving through vents on the walls and and floor from the air conditioning, which was on.
To prevent contamination from handling, the voice recorder was placed on the keys cover of an old piano at the south end of the room. Rowan placed a dime on the floor and asked that it be moved to indicate that there were energies present. Due to the acoustics of the room, which allow for echoing of even the quietest voices, neither Rowan nor Holly spoke much. When it was time for them to meet up with the rest of the team, however, Rowan asked one last time for a sign of the presence of energies. Both she and Holly heard three distinct knocks. They immediately retrieved the dime and the voice recorder, and tried to find the source of those knocks. Their search led them back to the Sanctuary, where the rest of the team was just wrapping up their investigation. Rowan asked if anyone had knocked, and the other team said no.
At no time during their investigation of the Parlor did Holly or Rowan experience any unusual problems with the camera.
The Sanctuary: Paul, Noelle, and Pastor Dave
While no unusual events occurred during their investigation of the Sanctuary, Paul, Noelle, and Pastor Dave did report unusual EMF fluctuations near a rocking chair. A careful examination of the area revealed there are electrical cables and wiring under the floor, as well as wall vents just above the floor. After running several tests, it was found that the EMF fluctuations were caused by the wiring and temperature changes from the air conditioning.
The Basement: Noelle, Rowan, and Pastor Dave
Noelle, Rowan, and Pastor Dave headed for the basement to investigate the Theater, the Parlor, and the Kitchen areas. Holly and Paul remained in the Sanctuary. Noelle took the camera with her and Paul used the video and camera feature on his Tablet for still photos and video.
Noelle, Rowan, and Pastor Dave found nothing unusual in the Theater or the Parlor. Pastor Dave took the team to the old part of the building, where the basement area is nothing but gravel and drainage pipes. Noelle was holding the voice recorder and talking with Pastor Dave while Rowan quietly stood by and occasionally requested signs of presence. During later analysis, a vocal anomaly was caught while Noelle and Pastor Dave were talking just before leaving the area to go to the Kitchen. Although we could hear it fairly clearly, we were unable to determine whether the anomaly was English or French.
Just before entering the Kitchen, the voice recorder captured another vocal anomaly but it was too faint to decipher. No unusual EMF fluctuations were detected and no vocal or light anomalies were captured. The team spent about 15 minutes in the Kitchen and then returned to the Sanctuary to meet with Paul and Holly, neither of which had anything unusual to report.
It was decided that the remainder of the investigation would be conducted with all team members present. We began in the Sanctuary, where Holly started humming a hymn. In an effort to invite communication, she asked for help remembering the words to the hymn. After a few minutes with no results, the team invited Pastor Dave to begin asking questions. At that point, the team noted temperature fluctuations occurring on the Mel Meter. However, these fluctuations were attributed to the change in air flow as a result of the ceiling fans moving as well as the air conditioning coming through the vents.
The team worked in the Sanctuary for approximately 15 minutes before Paul suggested that he and Noelle work in the basement while Rowan and Holly remain in the Sanctuary. At this point, Pastor Dave took his leave, citing other responsibilities that needed his attention. Rowan and Holly decided to place a recorder in the Labyrinth room, which is directly across the hall from the Sanctuary, and keep that door closed. Then, they went up to the choir boxes on the balcony and worked there. No unusual light or vocal anomalies were captured, nor were there any unusual EMF fluctuations.
Paul and Noelle returned to the Sanctuary approximately 15 minutes later. At that point, the team decided to spend some time in the Library before heading for the Labyrinth room to finish up the investigation. Before starting the investigation of the Library, Rowan retrieved the voice recorder from the Labyrinth.
The lights were off in the Library when the team entered the room. While no vocal anomalies were captured during the investigation of the room, Paul reported seeing a shadow on the mirror in the bathroom door. Examining the bathroom itself, it was discovered that there is no electricity; the bathroom light did not work. In an effort to explain what he’d seen, he asked Holly to stand against the mirror so he could take photos. Holly did as he asked, but nothing unusual was captured.
While discussing the situation, Noelle noted that the room temperature had risen. Paul went to the bathroom mirror and stood against it so Holly could take photos. Several unexpected light anomalies were captured that were not illuminated in the camera’s flash when the shutter was depressed. Holly immediately began shooting more photos in an effort to replicate the event, but no further anomalies appeared, and nothing was illuminated in the flash. During this time, Noelle stated that she saw what she described as a human shadow figure standing behind and slightly to the right of Paul while the photos were being taken.
Because we believe that most light anomalies are dust motes, clothing fibers, hair dander, and etc., we normally don’t pay any attention to them when they are caught on film. However, several efforts to replicate these occurrences failed, including taking pictures of Noelle, Holly, and Rowan in the same position. We had been working in the room for several minutes prior to Paul going to the mirror, and nothing was captured. After the second round of photos was taken and nothing was found, we continued working in the room for several more minutes. Had we been stirring up dust or carpet fibers, those motes would have appeared in most of the photos right up until we left the room.
Another point of interest about this is that Noelle noted a rise in temperature at the same time as these anomalies appeared around Paul. Despite every effort, we have been unable to debunk them.
The team headed for the Labyrinth to finish up the investigation. One voice recorder was placed on a table at the west end of the room; a second recorder was placed on a table near a door that leads to the Conference Room, which was locked. Holly sat on a chair in the west corner; Rowan sat on a bench near the locked door. Noelle decided to walk the Labyrinth, and Paul followed her lead. It was suggested that the process of walking the Labyrinth might encourage communication.
While Noelle made her way around the circle, the temperature rose briefly, then dropped nearly two degrees, and then held steady. This occurred several times during our investigation of this room, and we attributed it to the air conditioning coming on and turning off. When she reached the center of the circle, Noelle sat down on the floor. Paul joined her shortly after, and for several minutes, no one spoke. Holly got up and walked directly across the Labyrinth pattern instead of walking the circle, and suddenly, her camera shut off. Then, the entire team heard what sounded like a door scraping across carpet. Noelle got up and went to the entrance door to test the sound of it opening. The hallway is carpeted; the door opening onto the carpet made exactly the same sound. No one was near or in that area at the time the sound occurred. We were unable to explain it. Shortly afterwards, the investigation was wrapped. Later analysis of our data showed that no light or vocal anomalies were captured in the Labyrinth.
While we did capture some interesting anomalies that we were unable to debunk, we cannot say conclusively that Knox United Church is haunted. The building is very old; structural changes, settling, and ongoing renovations may be causing many of the sights and sounds being reported. The building’s acoustics are phenomenal, in that they can easily disperse whispers from living people to other areas, effectively creating the idea that ghosts are being heard. We must also take into account the fact that many of the hardwood floors are uneven; although it is soft, the resulting creaking can be heard by anyone in the basement area, and misinterpreted as being something ghostly in nature.
Having said this, we still do not have an explanation for the light anomalies we captured in the Library, nor can we positively identify the source of the vocal anomalies caught on our recorders. However, we are not saying that these anomalies are paranormal. We are saying only that, as yet, we have been unable to explain their occurrence. Because of this, we are deeming the status of this case as being inconclusive, and closing it.
On behalf of the entire team, we extend our gratitude and appreciation to our liaison, Bob, for allowing us to explore and investigate this beautiful, old building and experience its living history, and for taking the time to meet with us to go over our findings. We hope the building continues to stand for many years to come and that its original structure can be maintained and protected.
Case Status: Closed
Location Status: Inconclusive