July 18th, 2024

Galt tour gives ghoulish look at hospital’s past

By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on November 1, 2023.

Herald Photo by Theodora MacLeod Linda Kofman throws her head back in a laugh while sharing stories during a ghost tour this week at the Galt Museum.

Have you heard about the man who fell down the elevator shaft? Or the two children who have been flickering the lights in the old hospital for half a century or more? If not, you’ll just have to wait until next year, that is, if the Galt Museum decides to host its haunted hospital tour again.

When it comes to Lethbridge history, nowhere does it quite like the Galt Museum. A hub for all things ‘way back when,’ it’s no coincidence the building that now houses a vast collection of artifacts is itself steeped in history. Of course, where there is history there are stories and those supernaturally minded will confirm, there are also usually ghosts. As attendees of Monday night’s haunted hospital tour learned, the 113-year-old hospital-turned-museum, is no exception.

Though there were no obvious spirit sightings on the tour, the stories were vivid enough with detail to visualize just how many souls could be roaming the halls. Led by volunteer Linda Kofman, with some of the information collected by local historian, Belinda Crowson, the tour encompassed the history of the Galt Hospital from its earliest structure in the late 1800s, to the building that remains today as part of the museum.

Despite some of the shocking, spine chilling, and downright unnerving tales of yesteryear, the tour was lively, with humour slipped in wherever appropriate and an unspoken gratefulness to be living in an era with higher standards of safety. Featuring archive photos of the hospital in its original form, as well as images from other hospitals of the era serving to fill in gaps where no images could be found in locally, it was easy to imagine the old morgue in the basement, or the men’s ward in what is now a board room. Of course, it helps that the doors of the public facing rooms, such as the board rooms on the main floor, feature enlarged images of their original use.

Anecdotes of nurses sneaking out of their dormitories, doctors with colourful language, and the prevalence of syphilis in the early part of the 20th century provided an element of humanity so often left out of textbooks. Unfortunately, the history of the hospital is one also filled with sorrow; children not allowed to see their parents for the duration of their hospital stays, coal miners injured on the job in gruesome ways, and the battle to quell a highly contagious flu that has so much more significance having lived through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As per usual, the Galt Museum managed to artfully present a little piece of Lethbridge history, this time in the form of an evening that intertwined tidbits of local trivia, with seasonally appropriate spooky stories, and an overall deeper understand of the lives of those who lived here long before us. If you happen to see the lights flicker through the window, or hear children that cannot be seen while inside, just know you aren’t alone, literally.

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