Bloody Whyte Ave: Tales that haunt Edmonton’s legendary street

by | Nov 15, 2022 | Arts & Life

Whyte Ave is a place where many NAIT students create their stories of drunken debauchery. But many don’t know that the avenue brings about stories of murder and untimely deaths too. Nadine Bailey, a ghost tour guide in the Edmonton area, gives a glimpse into the spirits that haunt Edmonton’s most historic avenue.

Walter, the fallen firefighter and historic horses

Walterdale Theatre, now prided for its community theatre, was built in 1910 as a brick firehouse, replacing the old wooden firehouse a decade prior. Bailey claims one of the occupants who remains there died in 1909 on the second floor. Walter, the volunteer firefighter who passed away in the bunkroom, lives in the actors’ makeup room.  Large makeup cases will slide across the room by themselves, and people who work or act at the theatre will see an older man in a black suit walk by them, without acknowledging them. But, the story gets more unusual– before firefighters had modern firefighting trucks, they had to rely on horses to pull fire carts. These horses were well-trained; when they heard the fire bell ding, the equine would leave the stalls and head towards the fire carts. Bailey claims the Walterdale Theatre staff still hear the bell ringing, followed by neighs and clip-clops on the cement floor. She says some days, you will even smell horses, hay, and manure if you walk by. 

The working lady of the night

The Strathcona Hotel, built in 1891, is the oldest wood-frame building on the south side and the host to many murders. According to Bailey, one of the men staying in room 16 decided to get a sex worker to keep him company. An argument occurred, and he paid her with strangulation instead of money. Three days passed while he stayed in the room with the woman’s decomposing body in the bathtub. He chopped up the poor woman’s body with an axe, placing her parts in suitcases to toss in the North Saskatchewan river. All the bags were recovered except for one, the one containing her head.

The woman now roams the halls, appearing as a lady with long dark hair, her image dripping in blood, asking in a ghostly voice, “Where is my head?”

Bailey claims that eventually the lady was buried in the MountPleasant cemetery, except for her head. The hotel is currently under renovations, so if you stay there one day, you might bathe in the room where her body spent three days decomposing.

Humphrey, the unlucky vagrant

In 1905, a homeless man trying to make it north for the gold rush got a temporary job building the old Strathcona High School. This man’s name was Humphrey, and he had a supervisor who was not a good man. His supervisor was in love with whiskey–he would send his crew home early so he could drink and would often show up to the work site drunk. Bailey explained that one day, the supervisor came to the worksite and found Humphrey face down in the foundation; instead of alerting authorities, he poured cement on Humphrey, encasing him in a tomb. 

For decades this was an urban legend. But in 1981, cracks appeared in the spot where Humphrey supposedly rested, and upon attempted repair of the cracks, human remains were discovered.  

Ghost Humphrey is a bit mischievous; he will open doors, flip desks in rooms and turn lights on and off. If you are a man and walk down the main staircase, you will sometimes feel as if you are being pushed from behind. When turning around to see who did it, you will see a man dressed in early 1900’s attire staring down at you. The school opens to visitors during Historic Week in August, so stop by and say hello to Humphrey.

Old Hub Cigar Shop (currently Cinnaholic, 10345-82 ave)

One of the first cigar shops in Edmonton, built-in 1896, stands near the beginning of Whyte ave. The shop was at the front of the building, but in the back was a billiard room, where gambling and drinking took place. There was a well in which the bartenders would get water. One day in 1899, the

customers started complaining about the smell and taste of the well water. To investigate the complaints, the owner tied his 11-year-old nephew onto a rope with a single lit candle, lowering him into the well. The poor lad discovered a dead body with a single bullet shot in its head. According to Bailey, this is the oldest unsolved murder in Old Strathcona.

These are just a tiny sample of the tales that haunt Edmonton’s historic area of Strathcona. If you want to learn more about Edmonton’s dark past, Bailey offers ghost tours through 

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