As home to some of this city’s political pioneers, the Bennett house may have more than a few skeletons in its closets.
But its ghosts are what Andrew Bennett is most interested in.
When he was in his early 20s, Andrew lived there with his grandmother while attending Okanagan College. While he came away from that time with an education in business, he also gathered a few spooky stories.
Brookside Manor, located off of Ethel Street, was owned by Andrew’s grandfather the former B.C. premier W.A.C. Bennett. It was built in 1914 by Francis R.E. DeHart, the then-mayor of Kelowna, and it became known as the DeHart house. F.R.E. DeHart died in 1935 and his son Francis, who was born in 1897, sold it to W.A.C. Bennett.
The house is still standing, but Andrew said he last saw the place around 12 years ago.
“It’s been fixed up quite a bit, they used to have what we called memory lane in the basement as it had my grandfather’s memorabilia. (It’s) a three storey building really, and has an attic too,” he said.
The spooky tale starts in March 1982. Bennett’s grandmother left to see her sister in New Westminister and the family housekeeper, Aunt Winnie, warned him his home in Westbank after she left.
“I said ‘oh, I’m not afraid by any ghosts,’” Andrew said. “That night I looked at my college textbook, laid down on the couch and when I woke up it was 1 a.m.”
He went upstairs to his room on the third floor. Then he heard a sound coming from the staircase.
“I could hear this heavy breathing, shuffling on the carpeted stairway and rustling on the handle of the bannister like an old man going up the steps, going up very slowly and I could hear it coming all the way up and there (was) a door to the bedroom, right next to the stairway, and there (was) silence for a good minute, before a loud knock at the door,” he said.
“Oh my goodness, I just about jumped out of my skin, my hair went straight up.”
He left the light on all night and got up at sunrise.
Andrew said Aunt Winnie also saw a ghost in her bedroom, who she thought was one of the DeHart sons who had been killed in the Second World War.
But he isn’t sure of who the ghost belonged to on the staircase. “That’s a mystery because my grandfather didn’t use the stairs,” he said.
The visit from the ghost on the stairs wasn’t the only experience Andrew had while staying in the house.
He once saw a creepy figure in his grandfather’s old bedroom, which he described as “a lion-like being with huge ears and hands by its side.”
“I wouldn’t say it was my imagination,” he said.
Andrew also saw an outline of what he thought to be his grandfather after he died, sitting in his old rocking chair. And while he was praying one night, he said something knocked and twisted hangers in a closet.
“My dad (RJ) was one of the first ones to notice. He saw the man in the grey suit, which started the DeHart ghost stories as a young boy,” he said. “They thought it was possibly Mr. DeHart.”
Andrew didn’t stay by himself in the old house after his first weird encounter and believes there are lingering spirits on the property. But whose spirits they belong to remains the biggest mystery. The house is still owned by the Bennett family, but part of the property was developed into the Bennett Estate townhomes.
Michael Rowland is the ghost guy in the Okanagan and owns Healing Haunted Houses, an organization that purges homes of spooky happenings.
“Ghosts are essentially the spirit or energy or essence of the person who passed away,” he said. “Most of the time they cross over, as the term is, to where they’re supposed to be, wherever that is depending on your belief system, and the reason they don’t is primarily they are attached to loved ones, children, spouses, that sort of thing.”
“There are other cases where they don’t feel worthy to cross over, and feel like they’re going to be judged… or if they’ve done something they feel is unforgivable, they stay behind,” Rowland said.
He said ghosts will attach to houses or people and can change the atmosphere of the thing they attach to.
“It seems that earthbound spirits, like attracts like. If it’s a loving household, the earthbound spirit desires that, it may attach to that,” Rowland said. “They tend to collect together and I’m not sure exactly why that is.”
A haunted house will also have unexplained happenings, that can’t be attributed to things like a creaky floor, or a running refrigerator, he said.
“Houses have all kinds of their owns noises, from settling and floors creaking, but usually, if the house is haunted unusual things will happen like lights and TVs will turn themselves on and off,” Rowland said.
“Some people will have a knock at the door… some people can feel a sense of anger or anxiety in their house and when they leave they don’t have that feeling.”
But it’s not like Hollywood, ghosts can’t hurt people, but they can affect the health and wellness of the hosts, he said.
Although there necessarily more ghosts out and about around Halloween, Rowland thinks people are more attuned to them around this time.
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