Oh, The Horrors!
Photo Credit: Illustration by Myron Campbell
Dear gawd: what a world we live in! Sooo many scary things, all seeming to conspire against us! It seems like everything is a threat — even the ability to count... So with that said, we proudly present our “13” Horrors Of Saskatchewan! /Chris Kirkland
Spend enough time in this province and you’ll spot the Saskatchewan Chimera. Late at night, as you make your lonely way up Highway 11, you may spot it in the moonlight rooting through roadside A&W wrappers. Some have seen it from a float plane as it threads its way through the northern pine forests. A few city dwellers have woken up at night to find it digging around their flower beds or laying eggs in their chimneys.
A beast with the head of a moose, neck and wings of a goose (though not the same goose), body of a bear and the legs of a moose (or possibly a hipster), the Chimera stands about 11 feet high and weighs about a tonne. Usually found along riverbanks, the Chimera rarely enters populated areas unless environmental stressors force it into towns and cities. It’s a shy and generally harmless creature, but its habit of falling asleep in trees, combined with a poor sense of balance, makes it a hazard for early morning joggers.
The Chimera possesses a rudimentary intelligence and will often try to buy junk food from rural gas stations or grocery stores at the edges of cities, using pieces of bark as currency. Cashiers are advised not to alert police, but simply let the Chimera leave with its inevitable bag of Hawkins Cheezies. /Aidan Morgan
THE CONSERVATIVE KRAKEN
For centuries, the legend of the Kraken has terrorized seafarers. A squid-like creature of horrifying size, the Kraken was said to drag entire ships into the dark depths of the ocean, entombing unfortunate sailors in the watery deeps for all eternity.
Yet few have ever claimed to have seen the Kraken — at least, few who lived.
The Conservative Kraken’s head may reside in Ottawa, endlessly scheming up ways to devour Canadians across the country, but make no mistake: 13 of its blind, insidious and ever-grasping tentacles terrorize Saskatchewan to this day. Like the beast of lore, they are rarely if ever seen or heard (experts suggest perhaps the only way to lay eyes on one is while they’re hunting victims at “giant cheque”-style events); but they’re voracious and unceasing in their determination to drag women’s and LGBT rights, co-operative farm organizations, non-gun owners, the environment and much more into the inky blackness of the Dark Ages.
There is no appealing to conscience or basic decency with the Conservative Kraken: what ravenous monster thinks of anything but itself, after all? Our only hope for survival is to lop off as many tentacles as possible when the next opportunity arises. /Chris Kirkland
The Saskatchewan horror known only as G.O.R.M.L.E.Y. (Garrulous Organism Recorded Mostly Lecturing, Expounding or Yelling) is known to all. G.O.R.M.L.E.Y. lives on radio frequencies, waiting to strike commuters and bored office workers with his clipped phrases and long, long, long pauses.
Originally a humble Saskatchewan-raised lawyer and politician, Gormley was kidnapped in the late ‘90s by a shadowy organization named R.A.W.L.C.O. In the depths of R.A.W.L.C.O. he was transformed into G.O.R.M.L.E.Y., a relentless pundit sworn to do battle with the forces of R.O.M.A.N.O.W. and C.A.L.V.E.R.T. These days, the forces of his enemies are at a low ebb, but there is no shortage of issues for G.O.R.M.L.E.Y.
The chief danger for listeners lies in the distracting gaps between his sentences, which can sometimes reach several minutes. No one knows where G.O.R.M.L.E.Y goes during these pauses, but it is suspected that he gets up and goes down to the Starbucks for a hazelnut latte, then maybe visits the gym for a quick workout.
G.O.R.M.L.E.Y. is also known to appreciate a good joke, we hope. /Lefty Righterson
THE NORTHERN NUKIE
The Toxic Avenger became a hero in a 1984 movie, saving the town of Tromaville from all sorts of trauma. So how come everyone in Saskatchewan — which seems like an absolutely awesome place to dump… er, leavings — isn’t cheering about the prospect of nuclear waste in our province?
We definitely should be. Why? First up, because JOBS, stupid! What jobs, you ask? Not the two or three long-term ones that would be created for radioactive explosion lookouts in northern Sask. Nope, we’re talking about the HUNDREDS of jobs created for those brave enough to take down “NORTHERN NUKIE”!
If (by which we mean when) some place, somewhere in Saskatchewan, decides to offer itself up as a nuclear waste dump, Northern Nukie is sure to appear — dropping tailings into streams, radiation into the atmosphere and general waste into the world. (Which is awesome, because all that crap creates a ton of clean-up jobs! Go economy!)
But if something badhappens — like, say, Northern Nukie actually kills a fair few people, what with all the potential pollution — even better! (By which I mean “oh no, think of the children”…) We all get jobs, working hard to try and take down that massive glowing monster, right? It’s a win-win situation. Yay capitalist nirvana! /Chris Kirkland
THE DUMP DEMON
Every year as the snow (finally) starts to melt, you can hear it. It starts as a muted murmur, building into a deafening crescendo of instruments, cheers and general revelry. “It,” obviously, is the rise of the summer festival season on the prairies — that far-too-fleeting but utterly brilliant few months when we put away our parkas and soak in all the entertainment we can.
But while these events are lovable beasts, their very existence depends on a dark, terrible deal with an unholy entity. Once the guitars have subsided, the amps stashed away and the hangovers treated, the Dump Demon comes to claim its due: massive, massive mounds of garbage.
Garbage leaches into the soil, and recyclables strewn about on the once-fertile land are merely delectable treats for the Dump Demon. Every food truck wrapper tossed carelessly onto the ground is another nail in the coffin of our collective civic pride, every cigarette ground into the green grass another damnable offence. It’s a horrifying sight to behold, especially for those brave foot soldiers who volunteer their time and efforts to ridding the festival sites of this endless refuse.
And while the battle may have been won this year, know that the war on festival fallout will never be completely vanquished — it’s coming again next year, and the Dump Demon will continue to feed. And grow… /Johnny Bonesaw
THE GHOST TRAIN
If you’ve ever found the dark place in the woods near St. Louis, SK., and stared down the clearing where the train tracks once ran, you’ve probably seen the distant headlamps of the infamous St. Louis ghost train. And you’ve probably wondered, perhaps with skepticism and an eye towards nearby refracting light sources, why a ghost train? And why here?
But considering the dark history of the Steel Horse on the prairies, its supernatural longevity really shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s 2014, train technology is more than 200 years old, and an onrushing collection of railcars still sounds like the gates of hell, cranking open with a scream to swallow you.
Generally speaking, the railroads helped to precipitate the epic genocidal land-grab that still taints our myopic and racist society today; uncounted people died in its construction across the country; we conveniently built our cities around the stations and depots of important main lines, and the results have proven to be disastrous when a train derails or its hazardous cargo explodes; and to top it all off, trains have the wicked ability to make you randomly (and helplessly) late for work.
There are more than 4,000 kilometres of disintegrating rail beds in Saskatchewan, and about 8,000 kilometres of in-service lines just squealing for the chance to bring their favourite phantoms back through town.
So, the better question might be: which freight car or main line — cutting past your home and through the streets of Regina or Saskatoon — isn’t haunted? Forget tough new rail safety regulations. We need Bill Murray. /Lisa Johnson
THE ROCK MONSTER
They wait. They watch. They exhibit preternatural patience in their quest for human blood — even to the point of allowing blissfully unaware citizens to drive on them, park on them, spit (and worse…) on them, crush cigarettes into them, and throw more litter on them than any less-than-supernatural being could ever stand.
They are, to those of us who can see through the façade and find the truth, clearly Rock Giants. And they’re growing in size, strength and numbers every year.
The Rock Giant is a master of surprise: one day that pretty cool building you often walk past is there, and the next it’s gone — replaced by what you assume(and you know the old saying about that word!) is a gravel parking lot. (Later, this is often complemented by an erection of paid advertising. Sigh.) Bummer, you say, slowly getting ready to rage at City Hall.
But the Rock Giant is also a master of deflection: soon after that hideous gravel parking lot shows up, a shiny sign appears announcing that it’s soon to be the site of “Saskatoon’s most-awesomest-ever residential/office/shopping/whatever building!” Sure, the picture on the sign looks like yet another steel and glass monolith, but hey — it’s better than the damn gravel parking lot, right? Your urge to give City Hall a righteous hiding subsides.
But wait: two, three, even five (or more) years later, the parking lot is still there — and that once shiny sign is now so faded you can barely even read the “space going fast, reserve now!” tagline. And what the hell?!?! Just a block or two down the street there’s anothergravel parking lot where another pretty cool building used to be — and another damn shiny sign!
Open your eyes, people. The Rock Giants are clearly planning to crush us into dust once they’ve reached a critical mass — and by the looks of this city, that’s gonna happen soon. After that? Human sacrifice, death, and utter despair. Turns out you really should’ve made that angry call to City Hall, right?
Don’t say you weren’t warned. /Chris Kirkland
Stats-wise, Saskatchewan vehicle sales run three to one in favour of pick-ups over cars. Per capita, in fact, we purchase more trucks than any other province — outside of maybe Alberta.
Chalk it up to our still-vibrant rural roots, and the current boom in construction and resource extraction, if you want. But as Regina and Saskatoon residents well know, plenty of urbanites opt for pick-ups over more compact (and environmentally friendly) cars too.
In some instance, I suppose, you could attribute it to the old adage: “You can take the boy outta the farm, but you can’t take the farm outta the boy.” But preferring trucks to cars by a three to one margin? And out-trucking every other province outside of freaking cowboy/roughneck Alberta?
Something’s gotta be up. And tragically, we’ve found after a bit of investigation, there is. At the government level, it’s hush-hush. But in recent decades, a virus has been spreading in the province’s major cities.
Scientists at Winnipeg’s Infectious Diseases Centre have been consulted, but thus far they’ve been unable to identify it. What isknown is that once the virus infects a person, it “worms” its way through the body’s immune defences and enters the brain’s frontal lobe.
That region regulates executive functions like taste, judgment, ego and empathy that are typically engaged in a consumer purchase. Somehow, the virus distorts those functions so the poor soul who’s infected chooses a pick-up over a more practical car
In a growing number of cases, the virus even infects a sub-region of the brain governing generally dickish and outright asshole behaviour, which further compels the diseased individual to drive a truck with a jacked-up suspension and tractor-size tires — a street-legal Monster Truck, in essence.
Scary, eh? /Gregory Beatty
As fans of the “roaring game” ruefully know, it’s been ages since Saskatchewan won the Brier. With seven championships from 1955-80, we were once a curling power. But since Rick Folk beat “the Iceman” Al Hackner in the Brier final in Calgary in 1980, it’s been a big fat goose egg.
And truth be told, it’s getting to the point where our Purple Heart representative sometimes isn’t even competitive. I won’t mention any names, but in the last while some of our standard-bearers have posted putrid records that tarnish the proud legacy of Folk and other Saskatchewan champs: Garnett Campbell (1955), Ernie Richardson (1959-60 and 1961-62) and Harvey Mazinke (1973).
Being Halloween and all, I’m starting to think there’s a curse at work. I mean, even Nova Scotia managed to snag a Brier title in 2004 for gawdsake! And B.C. has won two in 20 years! Yes, Rick Folk was the skip in 1994. And Saskatchewan-born Mark Dacy was the Nova Scotia skip in 2004. But they weren’t curling for us, so those titles don’t count.
Here’s my theory. It’s tied to Saskatchewan playwright W.O. Mitchell’s The Black Bonspiel of Wullie MacCrimmon where the title character, in Faustian fashion, makes a bargain with the Devil and to save his soul, must defeat him in a curling game.
Scoff if you want, but it’s been 34 years since Saskatchewan last drank from the Tankard. And I’m thinking by invoking the Devil in his play, Mitchell inadvertently cursed the province.
Making matters worse, one of Satan’s teammates is Macbeth. If you’re a theatre-lover, you’ll know it’s super-bad luck for actors and directors to mention Shakespeare’s famous tragedy by name. Instead, they refer to Macbeth as “the Scottish play.”
That’s a double-dose of curse right there. And then there’s the other members of Beelzebub’s team — Judas Iscariot and Guy Fawkes.
How we overturn the curse, I don’t know. But until we do, our men’s curling drought is destined to continue, I fear. /Gregory Beatty
On each landing, opposite the lift-shaft, the poster with the enormous tweetybird gazed from the wall. It was one of those pictures which are so contrived that the birdy follows you about when you move. “THE TWITTER IS WATCHING YOU!”, the caption beneath it ran.
It was about 2014 when the good people of Saskatoon started to feel uneasy. In the early days, parking over the line was met with swift digital shame purveyed by snickering retweets. It seemed only fair, a small act of social retribution for so much douchebaggery.
But the shaming swiftly spread. The Twitterror began to target all those who would talk too loud in a restaurant, or wear pants clearly sewn for a smaller ass. Soon, no one could make out on a street corner, fart in an elevator or eat crunchy snacks on a bus without someone watching, knowing, tweeting from the shadows.
Soon, governments began developing policy by tweeting. It only consulted through replies and favourites from accounts with obscured names and Internet-generated profile pictures that can’t possibly be a real goddamn person.
Trusted news outlets began reading anonymous tweets on the air.
And then, all became dark. /#panic
THE GHOSTS OF OLD BUILDINGS
Residents in Saskatchewan’s major cities have watched the tale of the haunted office building over and over again in recent years, each new entry in this never-ending horror franchise less a sequel than a poorly made remake. The plot gets more predictable with every new installment:
A business decides either to close its doors or to relocate to some cookie-cutter strip mall in the suburbs. Instead of a new tenant moving in to take its place, the building is abandoned and soon begins to show signs of neglect. The building’s owners resist selling to anyone who might be interested in restoring it to its intended purpose or its former glory, preferring instead to let it sit idle and continue to deteriorate.
Over time, it becomes like the proverbial haunted house, where any manner of horrors might lurk. Teenagers break in to show how brave they are, or to square the crap out of each other. Townspeople walk past the building for years as if the boarded façade had always been that way, and its increasingly bleak exterior becomes a normal part of the urban landscape.
Then, when enough time has passed, developers begin muttering darkly about how the building has become a decrepit old mausoleum completely beyond redemption whose continued existence is impeding progress in the city. The only way to protect the city from the horror of its own history, they say, is to hit the haunted old building with a wrecking ball and hire a well-connected development company to build something shiny and new.
One can’t help but wonder, though, if the makers of this long-running franchise are missing out on some important clues to the true nature of the horror in Saskatchewan’s cities. Maybe the real horrors aren’t the ghosts of people who once lived, worked or attended class in these old buildings and want to see their old haunts preserved. Maybe the real horrors are the ghouls who want to tear down our history brick by brick until the souls of our cities are as empty and hollow as their own. /Rick Pollard