Haunted Hall?

Paranormal investigators look into odd happenings at theatre

Tara Bradbury tbradbury@thetelegram.com
Published on October 27, 2012
A photo illustration of the main theatre in the LSPU Hall by PHB Group, Altered by Perfect Day. — Submitted photo

When the LSPU Hall in St. John’s underwent major renovations a couple years ago, it’s possible that more than just dust was stirred.

Last Saturday night, The Tele­gram took part in a paranormal investigation at the Hall by Newfoundland Paranormal Investigation, in response to reports of strange happenings in the building.

To see video from the investigation, CLICK HERE.

The Resource Centre for the Arts (RCA), which calls the Hall home, has traced the first use of the site to 1789, when it was the first Congregationalist Church in Newfoundland. The structure was destroyed in two fires — one in 1817 and the Great Fire of 1892 — and was sold in 1912 to the Longshoremen’s Protective Union (LSPU).

Owned by the union, according to the RCA, the building was frequently rented out to local residents for bingo, political rallies and other social events. In 1975, the RCA, which was leasing the building from the LSPU, bought it. Since then, it has come to be known as one of the performing arts hubs of the province, hosting hundreds of theatre productions, concerts, workshops and more.

The Hall was closed for two years for extensive renovations, reopening in October 2010.

Over the years, many staff members working late at night have reported strange, supernatural-like happenings in the building: footsteps walking up stairs, shadowy figures, knocking noises and voices. Patrons have recalled seeing the form of a man, sitting in the main theatre during performances, suddenly disappearing.

Workers also had a number of bizarre experiences during the renovations, general manager Suzanne Mullett told The Telegram.

“The electricians were upstairs and they were frantically looking for their measuring tape,” she explained as an example. “Then all the lights went out and they heard this weird noise, and the lights came back on and the tape measure was fully out, right in front of them, and they had no idea why.”

A number of objects were found during the construction: old letters from the 1800s, a pair of boots and a fossilized, enshrined bird skeleton among them, Mullett said.

Who might be haunting the Hall?

“I think a lot of the arts community would like to think that it’s former artists, but to me, the entities that they were describing seemed older than that, like from the 1800s, when (the building) was a church,” Mullett said.

A paranormal investigation was done by a local team at the Hall about a year ago, and a number of phenomena were recorded: investigators reported feeling something touch them, brand-new batteries in equipment died inexplicably, glowing orbs were captured on video and a voice in the main dressing room — on a recording examined afterwards — was heard saying, “Run!” The majority of the activity took place in the theatre, main dressing room, Second Space (formerly the art gallery space) and the stairwell, where a man had reportedly died of a heart attack during the time the building was owned by the LSPU.

Mullett said she was “semi-skeptical” about the presence of ghosts in the Hall.

“Part of me would like nothing to happen (tonight) because it’s scary to work here when you don’t think there are ghosts here,” she told The Telegram before last week’s investigation. “But it is kind of exciting to think that you could talk to people on the other side. It would be nice to talk to someone who was in the arts community.”

Paranormal investigators Mike Barnes, Diana Leadbeater and Wanda Stansbury led Saturday’s investigation, first setting up infrared cameras in some of the rooms. They then went through some of the equipment the group would be using, including hand-held infrared thermometer guns, used to take the temperature at various spots in a room (ghosts are said to create cold spots); digital cameras, electromagnetic field detectors (apparitions are also thought to have EMF fields) and digital voice recorders, used to capture EVP: electronic voice phenomenon.

“The best way I can say it is it’s audio that we hear when listening back on voice recorders that we can’t hear with a normal human hearing range,” Leadbeater explained. “We’ve captured children’s voices, we’ve captured full-on sentences. Mostly there’s something there, but you can’t quite make out what they’re saying.”

After doing a “sweep” of the building — going from room to room with the lights on, taking photos, temperature and EMF readings for reference — the participants were divided into three groups: one group stayed at “base camp” to monitor the infrared surveillance, and the other groups of four split up to investigate individual rooms separately.

While the team recorded the audio, Barnes and Leadbeater greeted potential apparitions in each area, attempting to entice them to respond: “Is there anybody here?” “What do you think of the renovations that have been done?” “Is there a message you might have for a loved one?” “Why are you still here?”

A number of paranormal happenings were experienced.

Shortly after 12 a.m., after three hours of investigating, the event ended. The Newfoundland Paranormal Investigation team took their findings home to examine — and told The Telegram later in the week the investigation was successful.

“Any event is successful, because it just helps clear up some things people have experienced,” Barnes said. “But yes, we did capture some activity.”

Barnes, Leadbeater and their team will reveal their findings at the Hall Hallows’ Eve Bash on Halloween night. Open to the public, the party will start with a children’s drop-in for treats and games from 4:30- 6:30 p.m. An adult costume event with cash bar will begin at 8 p.m, at which time the results from the overnight stakeout will be presented.



Twitter: @tara_bradbury