'We didn't want it to be just a walk. We wanted it to be a multi-sensory experience'

After years of sneaking into the tunnels beneath the old Tranquille sanatorium, the historic site is now being opened to the public as a visitor attraction.

Tranquille Farm development manager Tim McLeod estimates that between the 1920s and mid-1970s, two kilometres of tunnels were built beneath the former tuberculosis hospital 15 minutes west of downtown Kamloops.

Earlier this summer, the property's management decided to offer tours of the underground corridors to the public.

A walk through revealed a big mess of vandalism, evidence of partying and eroded infrastructure. But after months of selecting the appropriate route, cleaning it up, passing building inspections and turning it into a true attraction, the site is ready for guests.

"We didn't want it to be just a walk. We wanted it to be a multi-sensory experience," said McLeod.

Until the facility closed in 1985, the 2.4-metre tall, 2.4-metre wide passageways were used to deliver food, transport goods and even bodies between the site's buildings.

The tunnels were also crucial to the hospital's laundry service, which processed 682 kilograms of textiles a day for several health-care facilities including Royal Inland Hospital.

But the underground space includes more than just hallways.

"It's like a small village down there," said McLeod.

While investigating, Tranquille Farm staff discovered a series of rooms including a barbershop, storerooms, dining halls and even a morgue.

According to records, about 1,600 mostly young patients died of tuberculosis on the premises.

That led the MTV series Fear to shoot a 2004 episode on the site where visitors spoke of ghostly children's voices and sightings of orbs of light.

The show prompted a stream of phone calls to McLeod from paranormal societies and individuals wishing to explore or "debug" what came to be called "the most haunted place in Canada," he said.

But there's a limit to what Tranquille Farm management will do.

"We've just gone back and said, 'Thanks for your interest but the real history is more fascinating than the legends. And out of respect for all the people who worked, lived and died here, we just don't want to go down that path of ghost and goblins because there aren't any,' " said McLeod, who lives on the property.

Nonetheless the tunnels are "spooky" and upcoming tours are being given at night with the use of headlamps and other light sources to capitalize on that.

Tunnel tours cost $25 and begin Friday, Sept. 6, shortly before the opening of the highly popular corn maze on Sept. 14.

It's only one more step in attracting interest in the property, which is in the process of becoming a residential complex as well.

About eight years ago, a group of investors purchased the site and renamed it Tranquille on the Lake. It's well on its way to becoming a master planned community of approximately 4,500 people.

Lots are expected to start selling in two years, said McLeod.

? Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News