The branch, located just off Edmonton’s historic Whyte Avenue, has no shortage of scary stories from team members current and past. Door handles will move on their own. Team members hear mysterious knocking. And, there are cold spots in certain areas of the basement.
“Actually, wait. That’s just the air conditioning vent,” interrupts Jessica Giesbrecht while pointing at the ceiling. She’s a customer greeter who works the front desk at the branch, but more on that later.
Enough creepy stories have surfaced that some of the team members, including Giesbrecht, decided to investigate the strange occurances. The team collected stories from the branch to see if there was a theme.
Deep beneath the bustle of the main branch level and at the end of a long pastel-coloured hall lies the ATB archives. Multiple rooms make up a library filled with relics of ATB’s past. This is where most of the creepy and unexplained happens.
“We had to call the locksmith three days in a row because we would find the key that opens the archive room bent,” says Sally Farhat, who works in records management. She spends a great deal of time in the archives and has the most chilling stories. “I wish I took a picture of how the keys were bent, literally twisted. I don’t even know how you would explain that one.”
Often Farhat will find the large, heavy step ladders blocking the doors to the archives even though she put them across the room before she left. The story that really turned Farhat’s face white was when a door that uses a keypad entry suddenly opened and closed right before her eyes.
“I thought it was the janitor but he came around later and then told me his ghost stories. Locked doors will open. One of the girls was leaving for the day and heard the handle turn behind her. One time another was using the washroom and someone was yanking on the door like they were trying to get in. She looked under the stall and the bathroom was empty,” says Farhat.
Farhat and Giesbrecht, along with a few other team members, believe the building used to be a place called The Park Hotel. Rumours have swirled that a patron and even a few ghostly felines met their untimely end in a hotel fire. Some believe their spirits still linger.
ATB team members partake in a walking ghost tour of the Strathcona neighbourhood.
Despite the somewhat regular spooks and scares, Giesbrecht and Farhat still come in to work seemingly unbothered. The ghost or ghosts are now just part of their branch. The same sentiment goes for Linda Appleton, the assistant branch manager.
“You know, a few noises doesn’t bother me. If I start seeing faces or apparitions maybe that’s a different story,” laughs Appleton.“I’ve been here for awhile and [the ghost] has never seemed to want to harm. I always tell team members don’t let in your fear. If you’re not afraid, you’re fine.”
And, that’s what the team does. In fact, they’ve made a joke about their branch ghost and frequently blame the smallest glitches on the branch’s resident spirit.
“I think we make the best out of it. Like we do a lot of fun things with it. It builds on our team. It gives us something to chat about. To laugh about. And, yes, sometimes it’s spooky and creepy and occasionally my face goes white,” jokes Farhat.
Farhat says that having just been in the archives and two team members spooked her by knocking on the door and hiding. Only their laughter gave them away.
“It’s like we are now part of the history and the local folklore of the neighbourhood,” grins Giesbrecht.
You could say every day is Halloween at Strathcona branch.