Miss Uphoff wafts briefly through the history of Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park like a ghost. She appears out of nowhere, suffers a tragic accident, and then vanishes from the historic record. Even her true name is unknown.
On Thursday night, 21 March 1912, Miss Uphoff was travelling with her sister — Nellie — aboard the eastbound No. 14 express train, en route from Vancouver to Winnipeg. At 10:15 PM, the train rushed through Glenbow. Miss Uphoff did not.
The next day, word of her unexpected arrival in Glenbow travelled far and wide. A newspaper in Nelson, B.C. reported: “Lady Somnambulist Meets With Serious Accident on Train — Is Much Injured.” Addressing less scholarly readers, the headline in a Saskatoon paper announced: “Stepped Off Moving Train: Young Woman Performed Tragic Act While Asleep.”
According to the newspapers, 38-year-old Ethel Uphoff sleepwalked off the train, clad only in her nightgown, and fell down a 30-foot embankment. She apparently suffered a broken arm, dislocated hip and internal injuries. However, she was able to crawl to a nearby deserted building, seeking shelter from the freezing weather, before she lost consciousness.
Meanwhile, Nellie had alerted the CPR employees of her sister’s disappearance, but their search of the train had proved fruitless. At 7 AM the next morning, the injured woman was found at Glenbow by the CPR section foreman, Edwin Chapple. She was attended by Dr. Park, and brought to a nearby residence to await the 11 AM train to Calgary, where she was admitted to the General Hospital.
Initial news reports of her condition were dire, but within a week, the increasing likelihood of her recovery caused the news agencies to lose interest.
Hospital records held only a few more tantalizing clues to her story. They listed the wounded woman as Anna Uphoff (with no trace of an Ethel), her place of birth as Chicago, and her profession as nurse. She spent a month in the hospital, before she was discharged. Then she disappears into the mists of history.
Despite being haunted by this saga for over a decade, I have been unable to reliably identify either of the Uphoff sisters before or after their apparition at Glenbow.