The mountain that moves once moved so much that seventy to ninety people were buried underneath it. On 29 April 1903 Turtle Mountain in Alberta had a rockslide that sent 90 million tons of limestone rolling down the side. It became one of Canada’s most deadly and largest slides in history. Now, as the eastern part of Frank, Alberta remains covered in limestone, it is an eerie and desolate place to visit. With the amount of bodies never recovered and the tragedy that occurred, reports of hauntings in the area are considerable.
Native Nations of the Blackfoot and K’Tunaxa called Turtle Mountain, “the mountain that moves.” It was said that they would not even camp near this mountain because of how unstable it was. Yet, when colonization began, settlers saw that Turtle Mountain was also rich in coal, a resource that was integral to the development of Alberta. The town of Frank was then built right beside the mountain and a mine was placed inside.
The structure of Turtle Mountain is incredibly unsafe. Limestone and coal are weak in structure and movement of the mountain caused an inverted V shape where water ran through. This opened up more fissures and gaps where water would freeze and unfreeze, causing more internal pressure. Added to the weak structure, the mining activity did not help the integrity. The winter of 1903 had significantly high amounts of snow and in April 1903 it was unseasonably warm, causing the huge amounts of snow to melt. On 28 April 1903 all the water refroze and the pressure inside the mountain was too much. The mountain broke and a rockslide occurred.
Seventy to ninety people were buried and most remain buried to this day. Twenty-three people survived, many of them children. The eastern part of Frank was buried, two kilometres of track of the Canadian Pacific Railway was covered and the coal mine completely caved in. The Frank Slide, as it is known, remains as one of the most devastating avalanches in Canadian history. People, such as Lillian Clark, had her entire family buried. Adults threw their babies to the surface while they were being buried. Gladys Ennis, who was twenty-seven months old, was one of these babies. Her mother had cleaned out the mud from her mouth and nose before passing away. Gladys Ennis was the last known survivor of the Frank Slide, having passed away in 1995.
As with any tragedy, spiritual activity in the area is high. There can be a very eerie feeling when driving passed a landslide where people remain buried. People have reported seeing strange grey mist over the debris. Others have talked about ghostly figures who wander the rocks. It is said that they are apparitions of people who had survived the slide and are still trying to find their buried loved ones. Whatever the case, Turtle Mountain is a place that is both beautiful and creepy.
The slide that buried up to ninety people was one of the deadliest in Canada. While the primary reasoning for the avalanche points to the geological structure of the mountain, weather and human activity within it also are high secondary factors. Ghost inhabit the area as tragedy makes it difficult to move on. Now, Alberta has a monitoring program to record the mountain that moves to ensure that something like this does not happen again.
Bonikowsky, Laura Neilson. “Frank Slide: Canada’s Deadliest Rockslide.” The Canadian Encyclopedia (April 28, 2013). Edited March 4, 2015. Accessed April 15, 2019. www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/frank-slide-feature
“Frank Slide.” Wikipedia. Accessed April 15, 2019. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Slide
Martin, Russ. “Canada’s Top Five Haunted Travel Hot Spots.” In Postmedia News (October 6, 2011). Accessed April 22, 2019. www.canada.com/Canada+five+haunted+travel+spots/5603662/story/html
RETROactive. “Haunted Heritage.” Retroactive: Exploring Alberta’s Past (October 28, 2015). Accessed April 28, 2019. albertashistoricplaces.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/haunted-heritage/
Sutherland, Joel A. “Spirits of the Slide.” In Haunted Canada 6: More Terrifying True Stories, 1091-1117. Toronto, ON: Scholastic Canada Ltd, 2016. Amazon Kindle Ebook Edition.
“Turtle Mountain (Alberta).” Wikipedia. Accessed April 15, 2019. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turtle_Mountain_(Alberta)
Ung, Karen. “The Day Turtle Mountain Moved.” Explore Southwest Alberta (2014). Accessed April 24, 2019. http://www.exploresouthwestalberta.ca/the-day-turtle-mountain-moved