The Chilliwack Poltergeist was an outbreak of Poltergeist phenomena that occurred in the 1950s in Chilliwack, British Columbia, probably due to the human agency of a teenaged girl. The girl’s aunt believed that racial prejudices were the cause. The residents of Chilliwack called whatever was causing the disturbances “The Thing.”
Anna Duryba was a Ukrainian immigrant who moved to Chilliwack from Saskatchewan in 1933. She worked as a domestic, saving her money until she could buy a 10-acre chicken ranch a mile out of town. She lived there in a four-room cottage. In October 1951, her 14-year-old niece, Kathleen, came to live with her. Several months later, poltergeist disturbances began. Objects flew about and damaged windows, and loud, violent hammering sounded throughout the cottage, as though someone were using a jackhammer. The noises seemed to emanate from the northeast corner of the house. No damage was ever visible, despite the terrible pounding sound.
Anna thought a local trickster was the cause, but soon felt that someone was deliberately trying to drive her off her property. Duryba’s brother, Alex, who lived nearby, believed that someone local who did not like Ukrainians was trying to force his sister out. On at least one occasion, a sheriff’s deputy was called to investigate.
The deputy, A. J. Edwards, agreed with Alex, whereupon Alex armed himself with a shotgun and stationed himself at his sister’s cottage. When the disturbances commenced, Alex fired off shots and shouted threats. Neighbours armed with shotguns stood watch as well.
The disturbances not only continued, but got worse. The hammering and banging occurred up to 30 times a night, even when the house was floodlit and under observance by neighbours, and also during the day. The noise raced about the cottage. Anna would run outside and try to catch the perpetrator, always to no avail.
Even more maddening, “The Thing” seemed to react to people. Once when the hammering began, Anna ran to a window and yelled, “Go ahead, do it again, you silly fool.” The hammering moved to beneath the window. No one was outside. When Alex challenged “The Thing,” it answered by shaking the cottage and windows.
Locals offered explanations. Maybe the noises were being caused by exceptionally dry ground beneath the cottage. Another explanation proposed was that an electrical problem of some sort was to blame.
Anna refused to leave. But niece Kathleen, whose health was poor and who suffered from “nerves,” was showing strain. The Reverend W. T. Clarke recognized that Kathleen might be the focal point and persuaded Anna to send her away to Vancouver for a while. During the 10 days the girl was gone, the poltergeist disturbances stopped. They resumed upon her return.
Others wanted to investigate the link between the girl and the phenomena, but Anna and Alex refused to cooperate—or even to deal with anyone on the matter anymore. Their explanation was that everything was mysteriously caused by racial prejudice.
One person who was able to witness the disturbances before the Durybas ceased communicating was psychical researcher R. S. Lambert. He wrote that he heard the sounds on four occasions: rapid, violent rapping on the outer wall near a window, between 8 P.M. and midnight. The noises sounded like a pneumatic hammer and lasted for one to two minutes at a time. Anna and Kathleen were present on three of those occasions; Kathleen was asleep in her bedroom on the fourth. However, Lambert agreed with the Durybas that a hostile person was trying to drive Anna and Kathleen out.
Most likely, the Chilliwack case serves as an example of recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK), psychokinetic energy produced unwittingly by certain persons. Teenagers at puberty, especially girls, as well as adults under emotional strain, have been associated with RSPK.
- Belyk, Robert C. Ghosts: True Tales of Eerie Encounters. Victoria, B.C.: Horsdal & Schubart, 2002.
- Columbo, John Robert. Ghost Stories of Canada. Toronto: A Hounslow Book/The Dundurn Group, 2000.