Winnipeg’s supernatural history


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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/11/2020 (935 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Halloween 2020 is officially in the books, and for many people it probably served as another stark reminder of how terrible this year has been. Yet another date people circle on their calendars has been ruined by the pandemic.

 For those who didn’t get enough of a paranormal fix, it might surprise you to know that Winnipeg is rife with options.

 Cities such as Baltimore, hometown of spooky writer Edgar Allen Poe, and places like Maine, which is the backdrop of so many Stephen King novels, are generally considered the eeriest on the North American continent. But the supernatural has a long and colourful history in Winnipeg.

 Room 202 of the Fort Garry Hotel is infamously “haunted”. People have reported seeing ghosts, blood, and experiencing all manner of strange activities in the room. Le Musée de Saint-Boniface, originally built as a nunnery, is also apparently haunted. So are the Marlborough Hotel, Pantages Playhouse Theatre, Burton Cummings Theatre, St. Boniface Cathedral, Seven Oaks House, and St. John’s Cemetery, among others.

 With so many “haunted” sites all over the city, it’s no wonder Winnipeg has been a centre of the occult for a century. It’s also no coincidence that many of these sites are theatres where touring vaudeville acts headlined in the early 1900s.

 In those days, Winnipeg was a major stopover for travelling shows. On any given night, at any given theatre, one might be able to catch Fred and Adele Astaire, Houdini, or Charlie Chaplin. The Little Tramp was not yet a character he had portrayed on film, and some say that it was here in Winnipeg that he first met Groucho Marx.

 Less well-known is one of the reasons Chaplin so often came back to our prairie hamlet. The famous actor was also, somewhat less famously, a mystic. Winnipeg happened to be one of his favourite places to practise the “black arts.”

 The aforementioned “haunted” sites are those that are best-known but any old, spooky-looking place can work just as well. In South Osborne, the St. Mary’s Cemetery is one of the oldest in the city. Established in 1883 (for some reason the Victorian era is generally considered the spookiest in history), it could serve as the perfect backdrop for a spooky evening walk among the “undead.” No need to social distance; I’m told ectoplasm is not especially affective at harbouring and spreading this awful virus.

The two days that make up the end of October and start of November have, for centuries, been considered those of the highest paranormal activity.

Even though it’s beginning to look more like Christmas than Halloween, those who believe unfortunate souls have been straddling the line between this and the netherworld can still pay them a visit.

When you’ve spent the better part of a century waiting to cross over to the “other side,” your social schedule probably isn’t that busy.

Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.

Andrew Braga

Andrew Braga
South Osborne community correspondent

Andrew Braga is a community correspondent for South Osborne.

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