UPDATE February 2nd, 2017. Seems synchronicity may have been at play when I wrote this story. The Zoo bridge is scheduled for demolition and to be replaced by a new bridge. It is old and a questionable structure. NEWS STORY HERE

Cowboys, Indians, and Oil. 

Perhaps that is what the Canadian city of Calgary is best known for in history and linked to in modern days. There is no doubt that Calgary, which was originally called Fort Brisebois in 1875, has its unique history. I grew up there as a child in elementary school and I learned all about the early settlers, the fur trade, the buffalo and the native history.  I went to the historic sites and crossed the “Zoo Bridge” to St George’s Island many times.  I often visited the wilting historic area of Inglewood, that is now a resurgence of culture in the city.

Modern day skyline of Calgary


What I wasn’t aware of at that young age was the ghostly past that echoes to this day in old Calgary, and you may have already guessed, I’m about to tell you a mysterious story. A story of a horrific crime and a subsequent ghostly phenomenon.

Back in 1946, Calgary was a small budding city with a population of just over a hundred thousand people. The city had expanded out of and around a fort that was originally established by the North West Mounted Police in 1875. By 1946 the city had already established a renowned city zoo that was located on St. George’s Island, which is along the bank of the Bow River, a river that runs through the entire city.  To get from the historical community of Inglewood to St.George’s Island you have to cross the St. George’s bridge, also simply known as Zoo Bridge.

It was on an August day in 1946 that six-year-old Donnie Goss was playing at a park on the southeast end of St. George’s Island.  Currently, a zoo security building occupies the space where the park once was.  However, back in 1946 people didn’t helicopter parent their children and kids ran free in the park to play without much concern.  Sadly on this day, Donnie Goss had been lured away from the park, with the offer of a toy or candy and he has never been seen alive again.

Google map of the area of St. Georges Island and Zoo Bridge


Unbeknownst to the locals at the time the suspected child murderer Donald Sherman Staley was navigating the park looking for his next victim. He had ventured over from the city of Vancouver, where he was under investigation for the murder of another little boy that happened in Stanley Park.  On this particular day, he ran into little Donnie, lured him away from the park, brutalized, raped and murdered him, then abandoned his body in a bush near the Zoo Bridge. It was such a horrific crime that shocked the entire city and to this day relatives of Donnie Goss still recall the loss. 

Staley was eventually arrested and tried for his crimes in both murder cases and sentenced to death. Justice was served on December 18th, 1946 when Sherman was executed by hanging along with 4 German prisoners of war at the Lethbridge Provincial Gaol. It was the largest public execution in Canadian history.  It was the end of a horrific murder case and the predator got his punishment. Case closed.  Or is it?

If you happen to be walking along the river pathways near the “Zoo Bridge” at night you might experience what others have reported, the screams of a young child crying for help.  It’s so realistic that local police receive reports several times a year from people claiming that there is a child screaming in danger near the bridge.  Even more disturbing, there was a report from a ghost tour guide in Calgary stating that a mother on the tour claimed her child told her that an unseen boy named Donnie kept trying to play with him.

On my investigation, I came across a comment on an article from a lady declaring that she was the cousin of Donnie Goss. I will not link or use her name as I never received her permission. However, in the comment, she declared that she truly believed little Donnie was still there by the bridge reliving his horrific death. She also asked that a medium should go there and contact Donnie and tell him it was okay to go on to whatever comes after this life.  Whether or not she is a relative I think the idea of a “crossing over” would be a great blessing.

Another view of Saint George’s Bridge aka Zoo Bridge


The murder of a child is a terrible tragedy that is hard for a community to endure, let alone understand.  Children are some of our most vulnerable citizens and it is with much heartache that Donnie Goss became the victim of a horrible monster that day back in 1946. To this day, relatives of Donnie still live in the province and remember the horrific crime clearly.  I think it is appropriate to leave this article with remembrance for a young life that was cut so short.

In memory of Donnie Goss.

Headstone in memory of Donnie Goss


If you have an experience of the Zoo bridge or any other local ghost tales please leave a comment or message me.   

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