Monday, 23 May 2011

Tabor Light at Esterhazy

Joan Champ photo*
A ghostly light seen at the Tabor Cemetery, 17 miles northeast of Esterhazy, caused a sensation in Saskatchewan for several weeks in 1938. It was front-page news, with extensive coverage on the radio. “The Tabor Light was sometimes described as a ball of fire, slightly reddish or pinkish in color, and occasionally flickering,” Jo-Anne Christensen wrote in her book, Ghost Stories of Saskatchewan (1995). “Witnesses always said the glow appeared to be directed inward, the light never illuminated the surrounding area … and it would either dance among the trees skirting the cemetery, or speed along the road that ran past it.”

There were some superstitious people in Esterhazy who saw an evil omen in the spooky light. Descendants of the original Czech colony feared that the Tabor Light was a warning and that something sinister was going to happen. The Tabor Cemetery was remembered as a cemetery where atheists were buried, the Leader-Post reported on November 30, 1938. It was said that some of the Czechs who came to the country in 1885 “spread their gospel there was no such thing as a God or hereafter, and their people were buried in this ground."

The site became a popular spot for people from miles around. On the night of December 2nd, for example, the Leader-Post reported, “A laughing thrill-seeking crowd of more than 80 persons including a cameraman and reporter jammed the bleak Tabor cemetery … in a vain search for Esterhazy's phantom light.”  About thirty cars from Churchbridge, Yarbo, and Langenburg were parked around the tiny burial ground for hours, the newspaper continued. “The presence of so many lights, however, definitely handicapped the watchers and made the task of shooting the strange ball of red fire a practical impossibility.” Eventually, the iron gates to the Tabor Cemetery had to be locked to stop the desecration of graves.  

The Central Hotel in Esterhazy, 1958. Image source

The supernatural visitation drew many guests to the Central Hotel in Esterhazy. The Leader-Post reported on December 6th that ever since the light was first seen, the hotel proprietor, James Brown, had been “losing sleep attending to numerous visitors.” The newspaper continued:
Best joke in Esterhazy is one perpetrated on Mr. Brown in connection with his electric light services. Canadian Utilities of Calgary has the franchise at Esterhazy and supplies the electricity to consumers in the town. With his light bill for the last month, Mr. Brown received another bill, calling for charges made for consumption of light made by the 'will o’ the wisp' after midnight. At first Mr. Brown was mystified, but on closer examination, was satisfied office boys at Calgary were just having fun.
The Esterhazy hotel was not the only hotel in the district impacted by the eerie light. Like most of the people in the province, T. Raymond, the owner of the Tantallon Hotel, was curious. On the night of December 5th, Raymond decided to leave his wife and young daughter alone in the hotel, and drive 20 miles (30 kilometres) northwest to Esterhazy, where he joined the nightly vigil at the Tabor Cemetery. In the early hours of December 6th, Mrs. Raymond was awakened by the sound of her child’s coughing. Smelling smoke, she ran into the hotel hallway, where she saw that the entire lower floor of the Tantallon Hotel was in flames. She threw bedding and valuables out of an upstairs window, and then escaped with her daughter. The entire hotel building was destroyed. 

Esterhazy Hotel, 2006. Sheave wheel (pulley used in ore extraction) in foreground.
Courtesy of Ruth Bitner

Click here and here to read more about the Tabor Light near Estevan.

*Photo taken at the Crooked Trees north of Speers, October 2008; flare added.

© Joan Champ 2011

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  1. it's real.. I've seen it. A bunch of us as teens hopped in a van to go check it out. Nothing happened but that shit scared me. It didn't hover in one spot... it came at us. There were a few people walking along the road and the entire time the rest of us in the van were screaming as that ball of light came at us.. Our friends on the road didn't even see it which was bizarre to say the least. A lot of us from Yorkton ventured out there to see it. :) It's real.

  2. Absolutely real! From the area and seen it several times throughout my teenage years. Very cool.

  3. I have seen it as well back in the 70' started as a huge orange ball then zipped back into a tiny speck in the sky....once was enough for me

  4. I seen it many times between Sept 1962 and January 1969. I am invluding my experience in seeing it as a chapter in my third book.

    Art C. Calgary Alberta