What do the Masonic Temple, St. Andrews on the Red Anglican Church, the Fire Fighters Museum and the Burton Cummings Theatre all have in common? According to some, they are all hot spots for paranormal activity.
Kristen Treusch, owner of SquarePeg Tours says she “was not a believer in spirit stuff” when she started leading paranormal tours.
“Initially, (the ghost tours) were a way to extend the tourism season in Winnipeg, because it’s a little short here. So it was a way to get people out and learning about their heritage,” she says. Treusch now leads several ghost and paranormal tours, including one that involves communing with spirits.
She and Matthew Komus, author of Haunted Winnipeg, have both become important figures in Winnipeg’s paranormal scene. They both also lead haunted and paranormal tours this month.
Treusch and Komus both strive for a very particular tone in their tours, drawing on the history of different sites rather than leaning into over-the-top scares for participants.
The two ran more conventional tours before moving into ghost and paranormal tours 11 years ago. Komus says that before offering ghost tours, he would get a lot of questions about whether tour locations had ghosts, which was part of what led him to expand into ghost tours.
He says that while some non-paranormal subject-specific tours get very few takers, “the very first ghost tour I did over 10 years ago, it was cold, it was raining. I thought, ‘I’ll show up, I’ll stand outside for like 15 minutes, and no one will show up, and I’m going to go home,’ and as soon as I got there, there were 20 people standing out in the rain waiting for the tour.”
Treusch says that while there are always people excited for her paranormal tours, compared to other cities with a similar amount of paranormal stories per capita, Winnipeg’s paranormal tourism industry does not get the same kind of year-round support or have the same level of competition between companies as in cities like New Orleans or Las Vegas.
“No one would think of doing a ghost tour in Winnipeg over the Christmas break,” she says. “When I first started these tours, we were able to run them through June right through the end of October, and in October, we were able to run them every single night, and then over the years, it just got harder and harder.”
Still, Komus says Haunted Winnipeg has consistently sold well, and he has another book, Haunted Manitoba, coming out this month. Even if Winnipeg can’t sustain a year-round paranormal industry, “the ghost stuff is staying popular, or even still increasing,” he says.
Tours from both Treusch and Komus can be booked on squarepegtours.ca. For a more full listing of ghost tours, haunted houses and other Halloween-season activities, go to the Tourism Winnipeg website. Komus’ new book, Haunted Manitoba, is launching at McNally Robinson on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m.