Ghostwriting about Kootenay ghosts an eye-opener for Kelowna’s Charlie Hodge | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?

Current Conditions Sunny  23.2°C

Kelowna News

Ghostwriting about Kootenay ghosts an eye-opener for Kelowna’s Charlie Hodge

Charlie Hodge with his new book: Lost Souls of Lakewood – The History and Mystery of Blaylock’s Mansion
Image Credit: Submitted/Charlie Hodge

After being a journalist for more than 30 years and a Kelowna city councillor for more than a dozen, the last thing Charlie Hodge ever expected to be doing was write a semi-fictional ghost story.

But five years ago, he opened himself up to a whole new way of writing after being approached by Dan McGauley, a former owner of Blaylock’s Mansion near Nelson, asking him to ghostwrite a book about the mansion’s history.

“I’m not interested,” Hodge told McGauley at the time. “Why would I take all the time and energy to write a book and have someone else put their name on it?”

McGauley said it was fine for Hodge to put his name on the book, whereupon Hodge, in turn, explained that a ghostwriter didn’t actually do that.

“No, no, no, he said,” Hodge explained. “The mansion has all these ghosts in it.”

Still, that wasn’t enough to convince him to write about ghosts even if he wasn't actually ghost writing the book.

“I said I was still not interested,” Hodge said. “I’ve been a journalist for 30 years and I don’t believe. I don’t disbelieve. I kind of take everything with a grain of sand but most ghost books are a bunch of malarkey as far as I’m concerned.”

But, the offer of a free stay at what is now a B&B, was too hard to resist.

“I looked it up and went, holy crap, that place is gorgeous,” Hodge said “And, a free night’s trip to the Kootenays, how can you go wrong? As soon as I walked into that place I went, OK, this is a little different than I thought. Now I’m interested.”

What came out of that is a 320-page book called Lost Souls of Lakewood – The History and Mystery of Blaylock’s Mansion, going back 700 years over the history and lives of people who lived on the land.

Image Credit: FACEBOK/Charlie Hodge

That includes Selwyn Blaylock who came from Montreal in the 1920s to Teck Cominco in Trail and helped turn it into the largest non-forest manufacturing plant in North America.

Blaylock built the mansion in the 1930s, complete with elaborate gardens on the 45-acre site.

He’s just one of the many characters who owned or lived in the mansion over the years, each of whom is worth a book of their own, Hodge said.

McGauley had started compiling histories and anecdotes about the mansion and decided he needed someone to help write and edit an actual book that he could have around the place.

Hodge soon decided the story was much bigger than a table-top book or a single character. What started as a two-year project grew into a massive research undertaking that took five years to complete.

“It was not without its moments of stress, I can tell you,” Hodge said. “I gave up a lot of fishing trips and hiking trips and parties in my backyard and cold beers with friends and times with my wife. I’ve got to admit, it was a huge sense of relief when I finally got this done.”

McGauley ran the mansion as a B&B from 1989 to 2015 but died in December 2020 before being able to hold a copy of the book in his hands.

This is Hodge’s third published book but his first foray into fiction.

His Golly Gee – It's Me: The Howie Meeker Story was a Canadian best-seller at about 30,000 copies, followed by Stop it there, back it up!: 50 years of hockey with Howie Meeker.

While Lost Souls of Lakewood is told in chronological order, it had to rely on invention to fill in the gaps.

“There are ghosts involved,” Hodge said in explaining why he blended fiction in with carefully researched history. “There are ghosts at the mansion. No one know who these ghosts are or where they came from so that’s speculation and guessing. When you’re doing research from 700 years ago to today, you’re filling in a lot of gaps. I don’t know all the facts and all the information on all the people so, you make it up as you go along.”

Hodge was inspired in his writing style by good friend and former Kelowna historical fiction writer Jack Whyte who wove fiction through ancient history. He died in February.

READ MORE: Jack Whyte, Kelowna author behind Dream of Eagles fantasy series, dies at 80

After all that time researching, writing about and visiting the mansion full of ghosts, is Hodge any closer to believing in them?

“I didn’t see any ghosts,” he said. “I did see a number of orbs, which some people consider to be ghosts. A number of people that I interviewed absolutely swore they saw a ghost. I can definitely tell you, when you’re in certain parts of that mansion – there’s this one part of the mansion that, any time we walked into it, the temperature of the room dropped, like, 10 degrees. Bang. Instantly. The hair on my neck would just stand up. You try not to let your imagination run wild, but there’s certainly a sense of foreboding in certain parts of that place.”

While the fictional side of the book was a departure from the non-fiction writing Hodge has done most of his life and “fiction does allow a lot of freedom I’m not used to having,” it’s not yet the style of writing he truly wants to do.

“I never wanted to be a sports writer, that’s something I just fell into,” he said. “This was more along the line of what I want to do but it’s still not what I want to do. It’s not my goal or dream. It’s a matter of, will I live long enough to write what I want to do?”

Next up is The Incomplete Works for C.W. Hodge, a memoir of the characters he’s known and interviewed and the adventures he’s had during his life.

He has no idea how long that will take to write.

“I just want to get this started,” Hodge said. “Over the last five years, I haven’t read anything that wasn’t related to the book.”

Nothing, that is, except city council agendas and reports.

“Now there’s a question,” Hodge joked. “Is that fact, or is that fiction?”

Hodge will be out in the Kootenays next week delivering copies of Lost Souls of Lakewood to the mansion and local bookshops.

The official launch of the book is June 5 at Mosaic Books in Kelowna and it will be available online at sites like Amazon and eBay.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2021

  • Popular kelowna News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile