Unique service offers haunted tours through some of Calgary’s prominent neighbourhoods
Johanna Lane, 49, has done it all. She’s been in the military, hypnotized people, overcome adversity and now she runs Ghost Tours Calgary, despite the fact that she is skeptical about the existence of ghosts.
A self-proclaimed “base brat,” Lane’s early life was spent living on various military bases ranging from Halifax, N.S. to Esquimalt, B.C.. Lane eventually ended up working in the military for five years as an air weapons specialist.
After getting tired of military life, she moved to Ottawa and attended Carlton University. Upon graduation, she obtained degrees in psychology, undergraduate law and a minor in criminology. Rather than pursuing traditional careers associated with her education, Lane opted for a career in stage hypnosis.
Her education may not be directly related to stage hypnosis, but it was an experience she had in university that lead her to it.
Photo by Katie Norris“One of my professors at Carlton said that it was crap so I did my thesis on whether it was real or not. The guy I met was really fascinating, he was a clinical hypnotist and he kind of turned me on to that whole world and so I did it,” says Lane.
Her stage hypnosis career took her around the world for 11 years but after losing her husband to a motorcycle accident, Lane found it much more difficult to continue doing it.
“It was just really hard after Brad was killed, having random guys as your assistant. And if you’re travelling with a guy that is not related to you or that you are not dating, staying in hotels across the country, it’s hard to get them to show up on time and not be hung-over.”
After having much difficulty with travelling for work, Lane returned to Calgary where her and her husband had been living before and decided to start fresh and to stay positive.
It was then that Lane developed a strong appreciation for Calgary as a city and had a realization about just how little Calgarians themselves know about the city.
“When I travel, I like to go on a lot of tours. When I was in Quebec, I had gone on a ghost tour there and I thought that it was really cool and that someone should do that in Calgary,’ says Lane.
“One of my girlfriends was getting married and she made me responsible for entertaining some of her out of town guests and I had no idea what to do with them so I came up with a little ghost tour and they loved it.”
Lane then developed the idea of starting Ghost Tours Calgary. In the early days, Lane was facing a lot of criticism from her family and friends who expressed worry that there would be little public interest and that she would make no money.
“‘A lot of people were like what? Are you crazy? Who would want to take a tour of Calgary?’ I didn’t advertise at first because if my friends were right and they fell flat on their face, I didn’t want anyone to see. Eight years later, here I am doing thousands of tours a year.”
“I call myself an open-minded skeptic. I’m on the fence, I don’t know whether or not I believe.”
– Johanna Lane, creator of Ghost Tours Calgary
Ghost Tours Calgary now offers tours of Inglewood, Kensington, Downtown and Banff.
Lane may no longer be questioning whether or not her business is a silly idea or not, but she does remain skeptical about ghosts.
“I call myself an open-minded skeptic. I’m on the fence. I don’t know whether or not I believe. A lot of people who come on the tours do believe and we don’t want to exclude them,” says Lane.
Many tour patrons have claimed to see orbs in their pictures, the lady in white at the Dean house and a ghost named Melanie at the Sutter house, but Lane says that she is always facing the wrong way.
Though they are called ghost tours, Lane says that she cannot guarantee a sighting.
“I wish I could guarantee a sighting but I can’t, if I could, I’d be on a beach somewhere having all my needs catered to. Some people are really adamant, but that’s not the point of the tours. The point of the tours is to come out and have fun and learn more about the city. “
Despite Lane’s skepticism she is still often mistaken for having a “Ghostbuster”-like persona.
“People think that I just grab my E.V.P and go spirit hunting, but I’m not your girl if you want to go hunting for ghosts.”