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Liberal MP reports curious encounter in Winnipeg hotel

Liberal MP Brenda Chamberlain is feeling spooked, but not by the Canadian Alliance.

During this week's caucus retreat in Winnipeg, Ms. Chamberlain had an eerie run-in with a presence -- she won't call it a ghost -- in her room at the Fort Garry Hotel, an 87-year-old landmark that legend says is haunted.

The close encounter clearly unnerved the self-proclaimed skeptic of the paranormal, so much so that she switched rooms and says she would not stay at the hotel again.

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Ms. Chamberlain, who represents the riding of Guelph-Wellington and chairs the Liberals' Ontario caucus, is known as a down-to-earth, hard-nosed politician. The 48-year-old mother of three worries about talking publicly about her experience -- she has already heard the jokes from her colleagues -- and refuses to accept that she met a ghost.

"I don't believe in that stuff," she said in a telephone interview from her home in the small town of Elora.

But she knows she felt something in bed with her in the middle of the night. And she knows she can't explain it and doesn't want to delve too deeply trying to do so.

Ms. Chamberlain said she was sleeping soundly Tuesday night when she was startled awake by the feeling that someone had lain down next to her in the bed. She leapt up and investigated but saw nothing.

Forty-five minutes later, wide awake in bed this time, she felt it again: "It was like somebody was settling into position next to me, like my husband only lighter. I actually felt the bed move."

Again, she leapt up and again found nothing. This time, she shrugged it off, took a Tylenol PM and went to sleep.

Ms. Chamberlain said she thought little of the incident until she mentioned it to Liberal MP Joe Comuzzi who informed her that the Fort Garry has a reputation for being haunted.

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She decided to change rooms: "I told them I either wanted a new room or I wanted to pay half price because I was sharing it with somebody."

But the MP became truly unsettled when she read of the haunted hotel in a Winnipeg Free Press story provided to her by management, which uses the ghost tales as a marketing ploy.

Among the stories was one of a woman, Ida Albo, who went to bed after having an argument with her husband. She was awakened by the feeling that her husband was getting into bed with her, but when she turned to talk to him, no one was there.

"That's exactly what happened to me!" Ms. Chamberlain said.

Don Klassen, chief engineer at the hotel and resident expert on ghost stories, said Ms. Chamberlain is certainly not the first guest to have strange encounters.

Mr. Klassen said he personally doesn't buy the stories that ghosts haunt the hotel -- he too is a non-believer -- but he knows of several guests and staff members who have reported sightings.

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A frequent visitor from Thunder Bay, Ont., insisted on the same room whenever she stayed at the hotel. When Mr. Klassen offered her an upgrade, she said she wanted her regular room, because "that's where the spirits visited her."

The woman said she was visited often by a woman in a ball gown, who left by the window.

Ms. Chamberlain said she usually dismisses such tales as little more than folklore.

"I know I wouldn't want to have another experience like it. If it happened a second time, well . . . "

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Global Energy Reporter

Shawn McCarthy is an Ottawa-based, national business correspondent for The Globe and Mail, covering a global energy beat. He writes on various aspects of the international energy industry, from oil and gas production and refining, to the development of new technologies, to the business implications of climate-change regulations. More

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