Candle Lake was reputed to be haunted long before white settlers arrived.
Candle Lake — 45 minutes Northeast of Prince Albert — is located in the Canadian Province of Saskatchewan. It’s more than just a lake, though. The Provincial Park is also a resort community, boasting a population of 700 people during the winter months, and up to 2000 people in the summer. The lake’s a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and tourists alike, making it an even busier place during the summer months than the resident population might suggest.
The Boreal Forest that Candle Lake is located in is home to a wide array of wildlife, including the wolf, bear, coyote, fox, lynx, cougar, fisher, deer, elk, moose, badgers, otters, and many others including birds such as owls, eagles, hawks, herons, loons and cranes. During the winter months, it’s not uncommon to be looking up at the Northern Lights while listening to the haunting howling of the wolves. In many ways, it truly is paradise.
I’ve spent a fair bit of time at Candle Lake over the years. I grew up in Prince Albert, and this was one of the places our family would often travel to when I was a kid. My aunt and uncle had a cabin there. Then, some twenty years ago or so, my stepdad and mom bought a home there. Later, my dad and stepmom also bought a cabin on Candle Lake, as did one of my sisters who also lives there full time. My other sister’s in-laws have a cabin there as well.
I have some great Christmas memories from Candle Lake over the years: ice fishing, snowmobiling, playing board games, or just sitting around the fire talking late into the night. Truly, Candle Lake’s an amazing place to be.
It isn’t just the fishing, family adventures, Northern Lights, and howling of the wolves that captivates me, however. Like any good destination (for this dark-loving soul), Candle Lake is also reputed to be haunted. It just happens to be how the lake got its name in the first place.
The legend isn’t always consistent — especially as to where the light’s actually seen — but it goes something like this:
When white settlers first found Candle Lake, there were no First Nation people living there at all. Decrepit rotting home-sites were found, as were grave sites, and later several artifacts, but the people were nowhere to be found. Much later, historians would theorize that some of the tribe members contracted small pox and died. The survivors then left the region. But if this is true, there isn’t a record of what happened to them in oral traditions of nearby Cree tribes at all. All of the people simply vanished.
For the most part, the neighbouring tribes avoided the lake thereafter, citing it was blackened by something dark and evil, that it was haunted, and that some of them had even seen a hovering light — some sort of malicious spirit — hoovering over the lake. In their own language they called the place “Candle Lake”. Later, the translated English version became the lake’s permanent name.
Usually, the story states the light is seen at the North end of the lake. This area is less visited by people and is more remote and further away from development. Other claims, however, state that the lights are seen between the two islands — known as Curly Islands — on the East side of the lake. The light is usually either described as a single luminescent very bright light or as a low hovering phosphorescence similar to the Northern Lights. As already stated, people have been reporting these lights before the white man came around. As far as I know, no one has ever claimed to have seen them when the lake was frozen over. I’ve never seen them either.
Candle Lake can be a dangerous lake. Storms arrive quickly, and the water can be very unforgiving. Intense lightning storms strike the turmoiled surface of the sudden pitch-black water. Candle Lake is also a frigidly cold-water lake as well. For these reasons, a lot of people have drowned in the lake or have met similarly untimely deaths. These tragedies make the water seem even more ominous. In such a small community, everyone knows someone who’s been taken by the lake at one point or another.
Typical to places where unexplained lights have been seen, people sometimes claim scientists have stated that these lights are “swamp gas” or decaying wood on the water. No scientist has ever made this claim about Candle Lake, however, for to do so they would have to first observe the phenomena, put forth a hypothesis, and then test it to prove that they were correct. Also, if the light is gas, why has so many people only seen it in these two exact spots? Also, why wouldn’t it be more consistent? And how would this swamp gas hover so far out over the water away from land only to ignite? I’ve spent countless hours fishing by the Curly Islands, and I’ve never once seen logs of wood just floating, rotting in place, waiting in a fixed position long enough to release this type of ignitable decaying-matter “swamp gas.”
I promote two possibilities: The first is that the story’s simply an oral legend, handed down from one person to another with no one having really seen the light for some time. Okay.
The second is that people really have seen these lights, and that the phenomena remains entirely unexplained to this day. If the light is paranormal in nature, it leaves one wondering exactly what it is? And most importantly, what really happened to the Cree people who vanished from Candle Lake without a trace, so very long ago?