The enduring mystery of Calgary's 'Vaseline Alley'

A mystery haunts a short stretch of road in northeast Calgary. For years now, the tubs have appeared. Empty containers of Vaseline discarded along 68th Street N.E., just south of 16th Avenue.

For years a small stretch of road in the northeast has been littered with empty petroleum jelly containers

For years a small stretch of road in the northeast Calgary has been littered with empty petroleum jelly containers. 0:58

A mystery haunts a short stretch of road in northeast Calgary. 

For years now, the tubs have appeared. Empty containers of Vaseline discarded along 68th Street N.E., just south of 16th Avenue.

Crews pick them up, more jars appear. 

Even Google Street View captured discarded tubs when one of its cars cruised by in May 2017. 

A screenshot from Google Street View dated May 2017, shows a discarded Vaseline container on 68th Street N.E. (Google Maps)

"I've just gotten so used to it that now it doesn't faze me. It's just there," said Bryon Bartley, who has lived in the area around 68th Street and Abbotsford Drive for four years. 

He says the city comes by regularly to pick up the containers, but they're invariably back within two or three days.

"Sometimes you could go two or three months and not see any, and then all of a sudden they'll be all over there again."

Following the thread

The mystery recently resurfaced on Reddit, where a user posted a thread about the phenomenon and said they've noticed it going back five or six years. 

Other users pointed to earlier Reddit posts about the same issue, one dating back five months and another more than three years. 

Given its many, and varied, uses, suffice it to say there are some colourful theories behind what one user dubbed Vaseline Alley.

Rodel Pique has certainly noticed. He mows the grass and picks up litter alongside 68th.

An empty Vaseline container on the side of 68th Street in northeast Calgary. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

"Almost all the time I've been mowing here, for two years, I've seen lots of Vaseline bottles here," he said. "All around from 16th Avenue to 14th Avenue. From Memorial Drive going to 17th [S.E.], everything is good, no more Vaseline bottles there."

He says there's an average of 15 to 20 containers that he picks up each month, and that's just on the sides of the road. 

So many questions

But why Vaseline? Why empty? Why not just throw them in the trash? Who uses that much Vaseline? Why only in that one little area? Why over so many years?

Neither Bartley nor Pique have a good explanation for why the popular petroleum jelly is so liberally spread about the area. 

"Maybe lots of people here using Vaseline," said Pique. 

Bartley thinks it's just "people with a lot of time on their hands to do something stupid."

"Just wonder what kind of weirdos we got living in the neighbourhood," he said. 

If you've got an explanation for the mystery Vaseline containers, we'd love to hear it (also, we're kind of scared). Send your leads to drew.anderson@cbc.ca.

With files from Justin Pennell.

About the Author

Drew Anderson

Drew Anderson is a web journalist at CBC Calgary. Like almost every journalist working today, he's won a few awards. He's also a third-generation Calgarian. You can follow him on Twitter @drewpanderson. Contact him in confidence at drew.anderson@cbc.ca.