Chester Train Station

Investigation on Vacation – Inside a Former Train Station

Chester Train Station, Nova Scotia, May 2015

 
Nova Scotia is a storied province – please do not say that I did not warn you.

“Ted” R. Hennigar, Scotian Spooks, Mystery and Violence (1978)

 

Aerial View of Chester Train Station in Nova Scotia
Chester Train Station, Nova Scotia
Photo credit to Peter Morrison

An opportunity to revisit the south shore of Nova Scotia presented itself this past May, so I packed up our daughter and the two of us went to visit Mom for an extended long weekend getaway.

In addition to quality family time, I had another agenda in mind.

A few years previous, I had been invited to conduct an investigation of the former Chester Train Station, now serving as a tourist facility and home to a Visitor Information Centre as well as the renowned Explore Oak Island display – likely the closest thing most people will get to experience a taste of the legendary local isle, free of charge.

The Searcher Group accomplishes some truly amazing feats, but the ability to stuff the team into a carry-on bag to help conduct the investigation was/is not one of them, so I contacted a local team four months in advance, requesting some field assistance.

The members of the Chester Area Paranormal Society (CAPS) were very friendly and accommodating and before long, plans to meet and spend the night exploring the former train station were arranged.

Best Laid Plans

Ongoing experience as a Case Manager (part of my duties as AD for our team) includes handling disappointment when even the most solid-seeming plans fall apart. Such was the case a few days before the investigation when CAPS wrote me saying no-one on their team was available, owing to unforeseen circumstances. C’est la vie.

Not to be discouraged, I deputized my closest allies – namely my daughter, Libby and mother, Linda – and decided to proceed with the investigation.

Have Equipment, Will Travel

Having winged our way from Toronto to Halifax, I was wary of the kind of equipment I could bring on board a domestic flight without any of it A) being damaged and B) being confiscated by airport security. Since I had counted on CAPS to provide camera systems, I opted to pack lightly and included a pair of digital recorders, a pendulum, a compass, a Spirit Box, a pair of mini LED flashlights, an external speaker and a laptop.

For her part, Mom brought along a deck of cards and a ukulele to be used as trigger objects. Libby brought her courage, inquisitiveness and know-how (having had a taste of investigating with her old man the year before at Fort George, Niagara-on-the-Lake).

Getting Started

The evening was gray, cool, overcast with clouds and the threat of rain was ever-present when we pulled up to the deserted former train station. The building – believed to have been erected circa 1905 – stood atop a hill overlooking the village of Chester (population 2300+). It was flanked by a road that wrapped around its southern and western sides several yards away and a public walking trail that lead eastward, following the original direction of the Halifax and Southwestern Railway Company tracks, long since removed. Directly to the east stood a freight shed, also original to the site.

While I noted the possibility of outside noise contamination of our recordings by dog-walkers and outdoor enthusiasts (using the public trail outside the building), the darkening evening and the menace of rain alleviated most of my concern.

We were soon joined by our hosts, Danny and Yvonne Hennigar, as they pulled into the parking lot and emerged from their car to greet us. The Hennigars of nearby Chester Basin, were lifetime residents of the area and good friends of Mom and my step-father. Libby and I had met Danny five years previous when we participated in one of the last public walking tours of Oak Island under his guidance and he seemed keen to see us, once again.

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As a long-standing member of the Chester Municipal Heritage Society and curator of the Explore Oak Island display inside the station, Danny produced a key to the building, deactivated the security alarm and jovially admitted us inside at 4:48 pm.

The five of us entered the Information Centre at the south-western corner, which used to be the main office of the station. The interior lights illuminated the broad room, revealing several racks of brochures and pamphlets. Between the west-facing windows, the rounded walls were covered in posters touting various upcoming tourist activities and included one promoting the Syfy television series Haven, which appeared to have been signed by the cast and crew (in gratitude to the community for location shooting).

Danny took us on a tour of the station, walking us through the former Signal Room, the present-day Explore Oak Island display room on the east side of the building, the former passenger waiting room to the south and then toward a polished wooden staircase to the south-east. Here, Danny shared a long-held, unsubstantiated rumour concerning a station master’s death by falling down these very steps. We marveled at how difficult it sometimes seemed to corroborate alleged tragedies of this nature against hard facts, but having heard this story months prior, I was determined to try to confirm or debunk it, this very night.

Upstairs, we learned that the second floor had housed the Station Master’s family. We were shown two (of five) rooms that were accessible to us – one to the south that was used for storage and the other to the east, directly above the Oak Island room, where I was grateful to find a monitor connected to a lone surveillance camera observing the display from the ceiling, below us.

While the tour was underway, we were regaled with reports of people the Hennigars knew personally (and trust implicitly), who claimed to have seen apparitions, heard disembodied voices and – in one memorable instance – experienced a securely-fastened painting hopping off its hook to land elsewhere on the floor in an otherwise impossible fashion while witnesses were present in the room.

Setting-Up

Danny revealed that when they had conducted investigations at the station, CAPS used the former Signal Room on the ground floor as their base-of-operations. I decided to do the same and we unpacked our gear.

Libby entered the Oak Island room and proceeded to create finely-balanced structures atop a glass display case using the playing cards within view of the surveillance camera. Mom leaned the ukulele against the rails at the base of the staircase, inviting anyone present to play it at will.

Meanwhile, I deployed my digital recorders, placing the Olympus model inside the storage room on the second floor, pointing toward the short hallway outside it and the more sensitive RT-EVP recorder next to the ukulele, at the base of the stairs, all the while introducing myself and encouraging communication of anyone unseen who may have been watching me.

By 5:34 pm, the building was secured and locked behind us, as everyone drove away from the premises for dinner in downtown Chester at the reputedly haunted Fo’c’sle – Nova Scotia’s oldest rural pub (est. 1764).

The Lonely Station

For the duration of the dinner hour (and 45 minutes), the Olympus recorder on the second floor captured a series of very subtle suggestions of movement. In addition to those sounds natural to the station (ie. furnace activation, settling of the building as the outside temperature slowly decreased, occasional traffic passing the property from afar), wheeze-like exhaling and inhaling, flicking, snaps and clicks were recorded, but no disembodied voices.

Downstairs, the RT-EVP recorder captured much more promising data.

Within eight minutes of the team vacating the property, a series of brief, hard, thumps were captured, originating far from the recorder. Likely coming from the Information Centre at the opposite side of the building, these impact sounds resembled the striking of a rubber stamp upon paperwork atop a desk.

These dull thuds transpired an average of 30-35 times – at varying intensities – within average spaces of ten-minute periods. At times the thumps were interspersed with the occasional footfall on the original wooden floor of the station and occurred right up until the team re-entered the building.

During the breaks between the “rubber stamping” periods, more sounds suggesting movement on the ground floor were also captured, including a trio of click sounds that grew in volume as they “approached” the recorder and ukulele from an unknown direction.

Over a minute before the furnace activated, a series of faint, successive impact sounds resembling footfalls were captured lasting a total of 44 seconds (a very long time in terms of paranormal data acquisition). It is important to note that his same phenomenon did not repeat itself before the periods of furnace activation for the duration of the team’s time recording at the station.

Amidst the first blast of the furnace, a pair of deep, hollow, wooden-sounding footfalls was captured as if someone were stepping down the stairs toward the recorder. Again, this sound did not repeat itself whenever the furnace deployed.

Approximately 50 minutes after the team and hosts had vacated the property, a very breathy whisper, resembling someone saying, “Momma..?” from deeper inside the building was captured, the speaker’s gender and age unknown.

The Team Arrives

At 7:15 pm, the team returned to the Chester Train Station without Danny and Yvonne. Our remaining time to conduct an investigation was quite limited, so we set about conducting EVP sessions, immediately, implementing the standard one knock for ‘Yes,’ two knocks for ‘No’ method of communication.

Beginning upstairs, a series of questions were asked of the empty air. Occasionally a quiet rap or knocking sound was heard coming from somewhere on the main floor that might be interpreted as direct responses, but other than these, no voices were heard or recorded.

Instructing Libby to keep watch on the staircase, I activated the Spirit Box, filling the room above the Oak Island display with white noise static as the FM radio bands swept forward. Five seconds of pure static later, a female voice said, “Stop!” sounding insistent.

Though this was an encouraging start to the Spirit Box session, unfortunately, most of it consisted of garbled radio “blurts” that did not address the questions asked. Post-analysis highlights included:

Peter: What is your name, please?

Spirit Box: [A female starts to speak, but is interrupted]

Spirit Box: [Male] Move over.

Spirit Box: [Female] Who is he?

Peter: Do you remember my name?

Spirit Box: [Male] Dave.

Spirit Box: [Female] Helena!

Spirit Box: [Male] I’m sorry.

Peter: Who’s in charge, here?

Spirit Box: [Male] Wade.

Spirit Box: [Male] Wade, yeah.

Spirit Box: [Female] Hi!

Spirit Box: [Unknown gender] Mon-ster.

Peter: What year is it, please?

Spirit Box: [Male] Iffy.

Spirit Box: [Unknown gender] I don’t know.

Spirit Box: [Female] I don’t know!

Peter: Is somebody here by the name of Joseph?

Spirit Box: [Young male] I am…in…visible!

Peter: Would you like us to leave?

Downstairs, the RT-EVP recorder picked up a single loud, metallic clank, which may have been a ‘Yes’ reply if made using the knocking response form of communication, established earlier.

Peter: Do you have a message for us?

Spirit Box: [Female] Nah, you just go. You’re wel-come!

Switching the Spirit Box off, the station was immediately enveloped in silence. I asked if anyone knew how to play the ukulele and invited “them” to try the instrument at the base of the stairs.

Within seconds of my request, I heard a faint, dull, dual-note strum sound which was captured on the Olympus recorder. Interestingly, instead of a strum, the RT-EVP recorder caught a soft, wooden-sounding knock inside the Signal Room. Neither Mom nor Libby claimed to hear the same noise I had and requests to repeat this sound went unanswered.

Keeping our eyes on the Explore Oak Island display through the monitor, we asked that the playing cards Libby had set up be knocked down or disturbed. Again, our request was denied, as no movement was detected.

Meanwhile, inside the Signal Room, the RT-EVP recorder caught several wooden knocking sounds of varying intensities, ranging from light to a harder, more deliberate-sounding rap.

When I asked, “Has there ever been a train accident near the station?” from upstairs, a wooden-sounding thump resounded immediately after I mentioned ‘accident’.

Returning to the main floor, another EVP session between the south-facing room and the Signal Room to the north was attempted, with no results. Any knocking that occurred while we were upstairs ceased completely while we were downstairs.

With an hour left to go, we all settled in the Signal Room, shivering. The night air was dropping in temperature and a light fog was rolling in, dancing in undulating wisps above the surface of the ground. The RT-EVP recorder was moved back to the base of the staircase, next to the ukulele, as a new tack was tried.

Plugging the external speaker into the laptop, I played a series of prerecorded mp3 questions and requests that had been translated into Morse code at a tone frequency of 1000 Hz. Inspired by an idea CAPS had attempted, I wanted to continue the experiment, hoping to reach the spirit of a former signalman and evoke a response.

The high-pitched system of unmistakable dots –and-dashes beeped loudly throughout the building. Similar to a standard EVP session, sufficient periods of silence between the mp3 questions were observed to allow time for replies. Post-analysis revealed no initial responses until all 20 tracks containing questions were played.

One final Morse code message was played, thanking the spirits for their participation. Seconds after the end of the twenty-first track, Libby and I both heard a shuffling sound from inside the adjacent Explore Oak Island display room. We investigated immediately, but found the playing card structures still erect and nothing amiss.

While Libby and I discussed what we had heard, under our voices, the RT-EVP recorder caught a trio of squeak-like beeps from the staircase that none of us heard in-the-moment. [In Morse code “speak,” three short beeps represent the letter ‘S’.]

I wanted to try an additional experiment and repeat some of the Morse code questions, this time playing them at 20 Hz, hoping to appeal to spirit energies that may “inhabit” or relate to this much lower frequency. These broadcasts were almost inaudible, but resembled systematic versions of ear-fluttering that people experience when they are subjected to specific tones. Unfortunately, no responses were detected nor recorded, reacting to this experiment.

Libby and I left Mom alone in the Signal Room and we moved into the west-side of the building, looking for a pair of chairs. For her part, Mom was suddenly inspired to sing a verse of Waltzing Matilda (lyrics circa 1895), so we all paused and waited in silence for a short time afterward, listening for a response from somewhere in the station. When none came, we settled in the Signal Room and prepared for a pendulum session.

After explaining that a clockwise direction of the pendulum meant ‘Yes’ and counter-clockwise signified ‘No’, establishing any kind of communication during the first two attempts proved futile. The third produced some results:

Peter: Do you have any message at all for us before we leave? Yes or no?

The pendulum began to turn in a small, clockwise direction.

Peter: Will you tell us your name, please? [After a few seconds, stronger clockwise movement]

You will tell us your name? I’d appreciate that. [Small ‘Yes’ and growing larger]

Thank you. Do you know my name? [‘Yes’ and growing stronger]

Do you have enough energy to turn the red flashlight on very brightly? [‘Yes’]

The flashlight-in-question remained dark.

Libby: Can I ask if they can knock over the cards?

Peter: Can you try that, please? [Continuous ‘Yes’]

The cards remained untouched. We grew wary of the continuous clockwise swinging. Libby tested the validity of our unseen contact.

Libby: Is the flashlight on, right now?

The energy behind the swing of the pendulum immediately dropped, sending the plumb into an erratic, directionless motion. I’ve come to term this the ‘neutral’ position, which could mean, ‘Don’t know’ or simply mark a change in direction about to occur. In this case, it was the latter.

Peter: Is the flashlight on now? [Small ‘No’]

Is there more than one spirit here with us, right now? [‘Neutral’]

Are you the only spirit here? [Small ‘Yes’]

Libby: Have you tried knocking down the cards, yet? [‘Yes’ and growing]

Peter: Is it difficult for you to do? [Large ‘Yes’]

We don’t mean to upset you if you are unable to do it.

Are you a male? [Growing ‘Yes’]

Did you work here at the train station? [Larger ‘Yes’]

Are you all right that we’re here asking questions? [‘Yes’]

Do you like our company? [‘Yes’]

Would you like us to leave? [Slows to ‘Neutral’]

You’re not sure?

Was anybody killed on the stairs? [Small ‘Yes’]

Was it you? [Slowing down considerably]

Two wooden-sounding knocks were heard far from the Signal Room, possibly meaning ‘No.’

Peter: Were you killed on the stairs here in this station? [‘Neutral’]

You won’t tell us, will you? [‘No’]

Okay. Are we still friends? [The pendulum all but stopped swaying completely]

Are you still with us?

Libby: If it says, ‘No,’ that probably means ‘Yes’.

Peter: Is Libby right? [Small ‘yes’]

I thanked our unseen communicator and ended the session. We had a few minutes remaining, so I produced a list of employee names from a 1907 census and began asking questions aloud, asking for Station Agent Sydney Bradbury.

Immediately, the RT-EVP recorder outside the Signal Room caught four light squeak sounds in rapid succession, which stopped short as I called Sydney’s name again. None of the team heard this seeming response at the time. [Note: In Morse code, four short “dots” represent the letter ‘H’.]

Peter: Can you knock once for ‘Yes’ to let us know you are here, please?

Again, the RT-EVP recorder captured a prolonged single squeak. It resembled a pencil-tip being dragged down the side of an empty mason jar.

Peter: Is there somebody named Loran, here?

Several faint glass-like squeaks “responded” and quickly faded away.

Peter: Loran B. Church?

There was silence for five seconds, then a single “glass squeak.” I shivered, reacting to the dropping temperature of the station interior.

Peter: Seems like a cold breeze…

More faint, “glass squeaks” began in succession, lasting two more seconds.

Peter: Does anybody here know Lawson Croft? [No responses] Frank, are you here? What’s your last name, Frank? I hear you’re a hard worker; you do good work here on the lines, thank you.

The RT-EVP recorder continued to log glass-like jingling sounds, six seconds later.

Peter: Anyone know Joseph?

Immediate light jingling sounds “responded,” lasting for four seconds.

Unheard by any of us, as Libby and I began to converse about the lack of interaction with the playing card structures, the high-pitched squeaks began again under our voices, lasting two seconds.

We decided to call it a night and thanked our unseen hosts.

Peter: I’m sorry if I didn’t hear you directly, or answer any of your questions if you had any. I’ll try to come back and communicate some more, someday, thank you.

Three seconds passed, then more faint jingling sounds were recorded from the base of the stairs. The sounds seemed to pause, then resume for two seconds under my voice as I rose and began to pack our equipment up. These sounds were not heard again for the duration of the investigation tear-down.

Post-Teardown Attempt

As Mom and Libby waited outside in the parking lot and placed a phone call to Danny (to return to arm and secure the station), I remained inside the darkened building and attempted a solo EVP session. When no responses seemed forthcoming, I took several more photographs of the main floor, focusing on the stairwell, the Explore Oak Island room and the Signal Room. I balked in surprised when the camera flash suddenly decided to cease operating properly until I manually re-set it. This occurred a half-dozen times until I stopped using the camera.

Once again, no EVP responses were recorded in response to my questions and comments.

Danny arrived, made a quick safety inspection of the station and locked the building behind us.

Afterthoughts

At the time of the investigation, I recall being somewhat unsure of our efforts at the seeming lack of activity going on at the former Chester Train Station. After all, the property was not without its fair share of ghost reports and I had come a long way, bringing a minimal amount of equipment to record what amounted to as a mere eight hours’ worth of data. [Four-hour investigation x Two recorders]

Were the stories about the station just greatly exaggerated? Were the environmental conditions not suitable? Was the team outright avoided by whoever may have been there? Was there anybody there to begin with? Would it take several, much longer investigations to glean even a hint of proof of otherworldly presences calling the station home?

As is nearly always the case in this unique field, the data analysis of our brief visit to the former Chester Train Station thankfully revealed quite a number of interesting anomalies outside of the sounds of furnace operation, investigators’ activities and natural settling, as you have just read.

I was pleased to discover that the wooden knocking and distant thumping sounds could not be easily debunked as natural environmental noises, as they stopped immediately whenever the team was present. (This serves to underscore the importance for saturating investigation sites with various surveillance media. We have found quite often wherever the investigators are, the ghosts are not.)

Though not as spectacular as hearing disembodied voices, footfalls or witnessing an apparition manifesting, I was beginning to think there may be only one spirit person residing at the station, full-time.

Vindication

While I secretly held my doubts about the severity of the haunting of the Chester Train Station, I stayed in touch with Danny and sent him a copy of the full data transcript when it was complete. He seemed quite impressed with the thoroughness of my efforts, then shared a revelation that eased my misgivings about the building.

As it happened, three days after the investigation, Danny and a summer student worker named Kate re-opened the station to prepare for the coming tourist season. Danny brought with him some newly-acquired items to be included in the Explore Oak Island display room, then left Kate alone to work in the building for the afternoon.

Kate – who had not been informed of our investigation – shared with me her more recent experience:

This is my second season working here and there have always been a few unexplained bumps or thumps, but this season so far has been louder than normal.

We opened May 20th, the same day Danny brought in some new artifacts and materials to display. It was about an hour after Danny had left (maybe about 2 pm?) when I heard this enormous crash from the Oak Island room. I ran in, thinking that one of the glass display cases had broken, or something large had fallen, but nothing was amiss.

We have door alarms, so a beeper would have gone off if someone had entered the building, and I was working alone. It was raining at the time; no persons were outside anywhere, as I checked to see if anything was wrong.

The upstairs rooms were empty and in order, as well.

For the rest of that day, I often heard heavy footsteps in the Oak Island room, but there was never anyone around. I went and checked every time I heard it for the first little while, but stopped once I realized there wasn’t anyone there.

There were no workers in that day, other than Danny and his wife Yvonne in the morning and myself, and 2 visitors that did not go in the display room. No visitors signed the Oak Island book that day.

Since that day, there have been frequent footsteps, especially on rainy days.

On sunny days things get busier here with guests, but the building is quieter.

One time I heard the door beeper go off like a door had been opened, but there was no one here and the beepers do not go off in the wind, normally. Occurrences seem to happen mostly when I am alone, though I do remember a few times when my co-workers from last summer reported hearing odd things. They were uncomfortable with the situation and preferred to keep music on.

It’s never made me uncomfortable; I get the feeling that whoever they are, they are friendly and a little nosy, but they don’t bother anyone if you don’t want them to.

I definitely feel that there is more than one here; maybe three. I get a female presence sometimes, along with two different male energies. I feel a larger amount of activity this year, maybe because a new one has entered the scene for some reason.

I’m guessing probably with a new Oak Island artifact. Danny brought in a key that has a ghostly back story.

Of course, I had to ask Danny about this mysterious artifact.

There is a back story to the key we have affectionately called, ‘Peggy’s Key’.

Peggy was a four year-old girl who lived with her Mom, Dad and brother on Oak Island in the 1940s.

Jack and his son were away hunting for deer, while Peggy and Mom stayed home.  Peggy went down the hill toward Smith Cove and saw men standing around, in strange costumes. She ran up the hill and told her mother, who immediately went for a look, but could see no one.

When Jack and their son came home, she told him about Peggy’s sighting and they went down to the shore where no tracks could be seen in the snow.  When asked, Peggy said the men looked like characters from Mandrake the Magician cartoon series and other men were wearing red coats.

Many years later, Peggy and her Mom were at the fort at Citadel Hill in Halifax where they had some costumes on display.  At one display of British soldiers, Peggy said to her Mom, “The coats were just like the ones worn by the men that day on the beach!”

Still many years later, I interviewed Peggy, well into her 70s, and she said, “There’s truth to it; I saw what I saw.”

I pressed for the origin of the key itself.

The key was found ‘in a pit 170 deep’.

The only pit even close to that depth in the 1940s at Oak Island was the famous Money Pit.

So, I’m taking a stance that it may have come from the Money Pit, not from Peggy’s house/cabin.

If there is such a thing as spirits traveling with an artifact, there is every reason in the world then to believe the Display at the Station has a presence that you, Kate and CAPS have tuned in to.

I know grown men who would not spend a night on Oak Island for fear of its active paranormal reputation.

There are many locations on this planet I dream of exploring and conducting paranormal investigations in my own quest to help solve the mystery of what lies beyond life inside the flesh.

Though not as exotic-sounding as Waverly Hills Sanatorium, Poveglia Island or the Edinburgh Vaults, a chance to revisit the Chester Train Station on a rainy night would not be out of the question, as far as I am concerned.


My many thanks go to Danny and Yvonne Hennigar, Kate, Linda Roe and Libby Speer-Roe for their time, assistance and generosity with this investigation.


For more information on the former Chester Train Station and its current occupants:

http://chester-municipal-heritage-society.ca/train -station.htm

http://www.chesterbound.com/Oak_Island/index.htm

http://www.historicplaces.ca/en/rep-reg/place-lieu.aspx?id=7327