Friday, 31 October 2014

HIStory & HERitage: Halloween Edition!

                             HIStory & HERitage

In honour of Halloween, this edition of HIStory & HERitage will highlight a scary tale from Fort McMurray's past!

The year was 1914 and Fort McMurray was a small village with a population of a little over 300 people. 

In such a close-knit community, people believed their families were safe from the crime and dangers of the "big city". 

But they were wrong. 

On the morning of October 28, 1914, a trapper named Paul Miller burst into the Fort McMurray RCMP detachment. He was disheveled and panicking, but alive. He frantically explained that he had just been attacked by a man, bushman Otto Bushner, wielding an axe. 

Paul had been outside of his cabin gathering wood in an area that is now referred to as "Peden's Point", on the east side of the Clearwater River, across from MacDonald Island when the assault took place. Somehow, Paul was able to defend himself and escape. His first thought was to get help and alert authorities, so he ran to tell the police, leaving his two house guests unaware of the madman in their midst.   

After hearing Paul's account,  the police immediately raced to the scene of the crime.

But they were too late. Paul's cabin had been set on fire and his two guests, Michael Reis and H.J McColley, had perished in the flames. 

The police searched the area, but the axeman was no where to be found.  Enlisting the assistance of local Aboriginals, the police began a manhunt. 

Several days and kilometres later, Otto was finally located north of Lac La Biche. When cornered by police,  Otto shot himself before he could be arrested. But letters found on his person, addressed to his wife, confessed to his crimes. 

The news of the murders shocked the residents of Fort McMurray and no one dared to live on Peden's Point for almost 40 years. 

For those brave souls looking to explore a haunted house, it is said that the remains of Paul Miller's cabin still exist at Peden's Point. 

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