My Haunted Winnipeg

Historical sites make good sets for thrills and chills

Winnipeg is known for its many haunted locations. This month, the public can visit these places and hear the stories – and perhaps have a first-hand experience.

“It gives people an opportunity to be engaged in the idea of trying to make contact with spirits,” Kristen Treusch, host of the Talking to the Dead Bus Tour, says.

Treusch takes participants to four well-known haunts: the Manitoba Legislative Building, the St. Boniface Museum, the Vaughan Street Jail, and, of course, the Fort Garry Hotel. She uses simple, low-cost tools and techniques such as dowsing rods and pendulums.

“We also try what I call … ‘ghost bait,’ objects that are related to the location, to bring the spirit closer towards us,” Treusch says. “I use toys if I’m trying to draw in some children.”

At the beginning of the tour, Treusch explains to her group the different ways in which spirits may try to make contact.

“I go through this so that people understand what they might experience. They might hear things, feel things, smell things,” she explains.

For those who would rather keep their distance, Treusch suggests her City of Ghosts Bus Tour, which is more historical than interactive.

Another paranormal option is Stage Frights, an immersive haunted house situated in the basement of the Burton Cummings Theatre.

The theatre is rumored to be haunted by the ghost of Mabel Hackney, an actor who drowned shortly after performing there over 100 years ago. Stage Frights, created by One Trunk Theatre, will feature Mabel as a character.

Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of venues and entertainment for True North Sports + Entertainment, had the idea to use the theatre as a set.

“The basement has never been seen by the public, and it’s pretty creepy down there,” he says.

Attendees walk through a series of rooms in the style of a traditional haunted house, where they encounter different scenes, many of which last several minutes. Andraea Sartison, artistic producer of One Trunk Theatre, explains that the scares are based on storytelling rather than gore.

“It’s a haunted house with a theatre twist,” she says. “We had to envision how to transform the basement into a haunted house that celebrates the ghost stories of this building.”

Donnelly believes that the potential of an authentic spiritual presence will lend itself to the show.

“There’s a real history behind this place,” Donnelly says. Yet, he admits that the play is for entertainment and does not pretend to be historically accurate.

Treusch, on the other hand, begins her tours by casting a protective “white light” on the group and explaining to the spirits that they have no obligation to respond, but that the group is there to learn. After all, these haunted places come with a rich history, and experience is the best teacher.

The Talking to the Dead Bus Tour takes place Oct. 25, 26, 30 and 31, from 7-10 p.m. Tickets are $50.02 for adults, or $17.37 for youth. Stage Frights takes place at the Burton Cummings Theatre from Oct. 26-30, with shows every 30 minutes from 5-11:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults and $15 for those 12 and under.

Published in Volume 72, Number 6 of The Uniter (October 19, 2017)

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