I am excited about the outcome of the latest collaborative art piece with Ellis Bartkiewicz. Ellis photographed the bear on a day tour to Prince Rupert, I photographed Mount Hosmer, Fernie and created the design in Adobe Illustrator.
THE FERNIE GHOSTRIDER
Do you believe in curses? It is said that William Fernie, on one of his prospecting trips, noticed an Indian Chief’s daughter wearing a necklace of shining black stones. Knowing that these stones were coal, he asked about their source. The Chief agreed to show Fernie the location of the coal on the condition that he marries his daughter. After learning the location of the coal deposits, Fernie backed out of the deal.
Angered by this the Chief cast a curse on the valley—it would suffer from fire, flood and famine. Though the city did suffer from horrific fires and flooding there is no evidence of the story’s veracity. But many look to Mount Hosmer on summer evenings where a shadow of the daughter standing beside the chief on his horse as evidence of some mystic curse.
The roots of the Ghost Rider story may be found in the Ktunaxa tradition of avoiding the Elk Valley and considering it a “bad place”. Early Ktunaxa legends told of a Squirrel and his wife who controlled the entrances to the Elk Valley, letting trails become overgrown and impassable. Another source for the legend may be gleaned from a 1908 newspaper article; “We have been requested to say that William Fernie denies the little after dinner stunt about him and the Indian maiden. We are glad Mr. Fernie does deny it for the future safety of our city.” Did the story develop from a joke among the city fathers?
No matter the source the curse seemed real enough that on August 15, 1964, at the City’s request, members of the Ktunaxa Nation, headed by Chief Ambrose Gravelle, assembled in Fernie for a ceremonial lifting of the Fernie Curse. Whether the curse raising was successful remains to be seen.
Fernie is now a prosperous and vibrant community that has a unique mountain shadow to keep the legend alive. The Ghostrider Shadow can be seen on the face of Mt Hosmer at sunset in Summer and Fall. Look for the striking striated rock face to the North-East of downtown Fernie. Many of Fernie’s businesses, clubs and even streets are named after the ghostly shadow.