Ghostly encounters in Room 202 of the Fort Garry Hotel, a deceased war veteran hanging out in the Burton Cummings Theatre, scandals and symbols in the Legislative Building: this is the supernatural history of our city, a history Matthew Komus is ready to share in his debut book, Haunted Winnipeg.
“I deliberately chose to omit nondescript buildings,” Komus says of the 20 places the work includes. “People would come forward with stories about how their aunt’s house in St. Vital was haunted. I wanted to make sure the landmarks were identifiable through their history.”
Komus leads the Winnipeg Ghost Walk as a part of Muddy Water Tours, a company that has been operating in the city for over a decade. The walk guides participants through Winnipeg’s Exchange District, narrating the unsettling events that took place where the Cube at Old Market Square now stands and discussing the history of the most haunted buildings
“It sort of began by accident,” Komus says about the walk’s supernatural focus. “I’ve worked as a guide for many years. On tours that had nothing to do with ghosts I would get questions about whether or not a building was haunted, or if there were any ghost stories connected to it. There was always a demand, so I started doing a ghost walk downtown.”
In his book, Komus will be able to elaborate on points that wouldn’t fit in the limited time of a tour. With stories of haunted museums, houses and theatres, Komus highlights not only the city’s growth over the past century, but also the more tumultuous aspects of its past.
“There’s enough history in the book for those who are interested in information, but also the supernatural and ghost stories for people who have interest there,” he says. “I occasionally interviewed people who personally didn’t believe in ghosts but would tell other people’s stories and sometimes share the same feelings of unease. With some of the buildings at night, you don’t see anything, but you kind of do start getting that creepy feel because you’re in there by yourself in these huge spaces.”
Haunted Winnipeg is certainly an opportunity for the more skeptical among us to embrace the unexplained this Halloween. The collection of stories gives familiar landmarks new life that will intrigue readers, native to Winnipeg or not.
“Often with historic buildings, it’s not just the value in the architecture, but the emotions, events and feelings that people connect to the space, and that’s true whether you’re talking about ghosts or not.”
Matthew Komus will be launching Haunted Winnipeg at McNally Robinson on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. Visit greatplains.mb.ca for more information.
Published in Volume 69, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 22, 2014)