Calgary

Devil's Playground walk will explore infamous Calgary urban legend

Among dozens of historical Jane’s Walks happening this weekend in and around Calgary, there’s one that looks at a town that blew away and a school fire that left one little girl unable to talk, as legend has it.

East Hills Jane's Walk will cover oddities of Calgary's history

Legend has it many years ago a horrible fire took the lives of all the students at Rockland School, east of Calgary, except for one little girl. The school is part of a Jane's Walk this Sunday. (Submitted by Shelly McElroy/From the book Chestermere: A Home for All Seasons)

Among dozens of historical Jane's Walks happening this weekend in and around Calgary, there's one that looks at a town that blew away and a school fire that left one little girl unable to talk, as legend has it.

It's now a development at the east end of 17th Avenue S.E. near Stoney Trail called East Hills. There's a Walmart and a Costco. But that's recent history, a Jane's Walk guide tells The Homestretch.

"By the time we are done this walk, you are going to have different eyes, you will see this place in layers," Shelly McElroy said.

McElroy is a librarian with the Southern Alberta Pioneers and their Descendants.

"For 100 years it has been field but before that there was a little town called Victoria Square," McElroy said.

"Right where the Walmart is now, there was a family farm that had been there for 100 years. That's where the sandstone mine was. I grew up here. There was this natural prairie and this funny little dip into the ground that didn't make sense and that's where the mine was. There was an entire little community that grew up around this mine. There was a school, restaurants, a Chinese laundry, there were a lot of little houses."

The town, she says, was built around the sandstone mine.

"After the First World War they stopped building with sandstone and the little prairie town just dried up and blew away."

Up until about five years ago, the area was home to the Rockland School, where friends told McElroy about a devastating incident.

"There had been a horrible, horrible fire and there were children trapped in the school, in the basement. They couldn't get out. Only one little girl escaped but she was so traumatized she couldn't speak about it for the rest of her life."

Shelly McElroy, a librarian with the Southern Alberta Pioneers and their Descendants, is the guide for this weekend's Ernest Cashiel, Victoria Square and Devil's Playground Jane’s Walk. (Submitted by Shelly McElroy)

McElroy says some people believe there was a force that wanted the school to stay in place.

"By the 1950s they had stopped using it," McElroy said.

"They tried to tear it down but they would bring in machines to smash it and the machines would stop working because of supernatural influences. It just stood there."

Those aren't the only legends surrounding the area.

"Some people say this was the site of those famous Canadian witch trials we have heard so much about and that this is where they did the hangings. Sometimes you find a story and there's a lot of energy around it and you really, really want it to be true."

The 90-minute Ernest Cashiel, Victoria Square and Devil's Playground Jane's Walk goes Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Here are the details.

The site where Rockland School used to sit is now private property so please don't trespass.


With files from CBC's Jenny Howe and The Homestretch

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