Back in the late 1930s, a small Canadian community found itself transfixed by a strange light in and around a cemetery. The light could be seen from
miles away as well as close-up and, within days, had generated enough attention that up to a hundred people would gather in late-night parties to see
it. The local press called it the ‘Tabor Light’ after the Tabor cemetery from where the light appeared to originate…
Thanks to the excellent work of Rick Fowler at the Saskatchewan Files
website many of the original newspaper articles
are available to read.
The background to these events is quite fascinating as it involves the redemption of a remorseful priest, a lost soul and the extraordinary activities
of human nature at its most absurd. However, aside from the rampant superstitions and familiar squabbles between skeptical and believing minds, a
singular light was reportedly seen that remains lost to time and unexplained.
Although there appears to have been an occasional and anecdotal history of an unusual light in the area, it was during November 1938 when repeated
sightings began to gather pace. It was usually described as being a bright white light that appeared near a cemetery. It didn’t illuminate its
surroundings and displayed quite erratic behaviour by appearing, disappearing and allegedly following people.
In one apparent incident, a policeman was driving past the cemetery when he saw an oncoming headlight. As he prepared to pull the motorist over for
having only one light, it passed by unconnected to anything. Another report described a motorist ditching his car to avoid a collision with what must
have looked like an oncoming vehicle.
Skeptics, motorists and the police
Rational minds sought to identify the light as reflecting car headlights but their attempts to prove it were unsuccessful. They found unbroken snow at
locations the light had been and, in one experiment, everyone turned their lights off and still
the light appeared several times. According to
some reports, the light had followed pedestrians down lanes either from behind or alongside.
Pre-War and post-drought, the area was a cosmopolitan mix of pioneering Hungarians, Ukrainians, Belgians, French and British. The population was a
classic cross-section of ‘30s society with poor farmers living alongside wealthy professionals. Apart from improved technology, many life-styles and
belief-systems were barely changed from the 19th Century and, for some, the notion of curses, witches and walking ghosts were an obvious explanation
for the light.
It was amidst all this clashing of beliefs and conflict between the scientific age and old-world religion that attempts to identify the light failed.
In the newspaper articles we see the familiar performance of people declaring
the explanations without ever demonstrating
Therefore the light was ‘phosphorous’ or it was ‘marsh gas.’ It was a ‘lost soul’ or it was a ‘hoax.’ Dr. Gordon H. Shrum, physics
professor at the University of British Columbia, decided it was ‘some form of electrical discharge.’ Another said it was ‘probably’ a
It was all things to anyone who was interested and times haven’t changed much since.
When we tread lightly through life’s mysteries, it is often the case that confirmation bias walks behind and informs the way we make sense of the
unknown. Like it or not, knowingly or otherwise, people will always tend towards an answer that jigsaws neatly into their belief-systems. Of course,
some explanations will transcend beliefs and personal opinions by being repeatable and provable such as diffracting headlights.
Unidentified Flying Something is a ‘Sign from God.’
In the case of Father Pirot, he took a superstitious and religious position…
As the local priest, Father Jules Pirot advised the public to pray to God if they saw the light (this was an extraordinary man). His flock included a
farming community that was steeped in the old-country superstitions of the past. He was interviewed for the paper and took a fairly predictable
Father Pirot went on to describe the local belief that the Tabor cemetery was originally created by atheists and that such dark-doings would be a
likely outcome for a graveyard conceived in unholy circumstances. Such beliefs were likely confined to the more superstitious of his flock. Where
Pirot demonstrates the confirmation bias
within us all is in his startling explanation some
days after this article. He claimed the 'Tabor Light' was a sign from God after he had buried a young girl without last rites...
Ghost Stories of Saskatchewan - Jo-Anne Christensen
So what was it?
The times, the population and the location all seem to have come together to create a fizzing maelstrom of rumour, superstition and fears. In similar
cases of 'spook lights'
explanations were advanced that passing headlights were being diffracted under
peculiar weather conditions. Could this be the case at the Tabor cemetery?
I’m not so sure. The light was reported as usually travelling in a north to south direction with less frequent reports of south to north. The
geography is suitable for headlights flashing and being diffracted as there are hills in the region and the snowy landscape would be reflective as
well as creating clear conditions. In particular, I wonder if a night train passed the area on those wintry nights?
Some reasons why I don’t favour vehicle headlights begin with the variety of reports. From following people, to passing down roads it seems unlike
the reflected beams of headlights. Likewise, the light was generally described as self-contained and non-illuminating – it was a distinct form in
the reports. The other explanations that are contained within the pages of the articles are similarly unappealing. If it was similar in origin to the
we'd expect the light to be seen from one location and would tend to be
confined to a particular stretch of road.
1938 - December 2 - Woman Followed
Essentially, there were enough incidents of the light to generate a lot of public interest and yet the tales never really left the boundaries of
Saskatchewan. The war in Europe ensured that people had greater things to worry about – with over a million Canadians wearing the uniform. The Tabor
Light has been lost to history and only lives on in the recollections of those who were there or their families.
In recent weeks, I’ve been seeking the assistance of the staff at The Leader Post
and a Mr Will
Chabun (veteran reporter and very decent guy) has been very helpful. He can recall his parents talking about the Tabor Light in the early 60s and
hasn’t heard it mentioned until now. I wonder how many more people can remember a time when the Tabor Light fascinated so many people? Without the
efforts of Mr Fowler and his website, the excitement surrounding the ‘Tabor Light’ would be a faint flicker fading away in time.
edit on 23-3-2012 by Kandinsky because: (no reason given)