From the woods near Manitoba Marine Museum (Shaylene Nordal)
Driving to Selkirk on the first of my creepy Halloween outings, I was wondering how scary a haunted steamship could be. Pretty scary, it turns out.
My destination was the Marine Museum, where the landlocked S.S. Keenora gets done up as a "ghost ship" during the Halloween season. As I headed down into the blackness of the Keenora's bowels, the rational part of me knew that I'd just bought a $6 ticket from a nice lady in a booth and that this was all a macabre bit of theatre. (And wouldn't a high on-board death rate be bad for business?)
But very soon the non-rational part of me was responding to the deep and utter darkness, the spooky blind corners, the sudden loud noises, and the strobey blue light that revealed glimpses of axe-wielding maniacs and bloody zombie babies. Jangling with adrenaline, I inadvertently broke the "no profanity" rule three times because this THING -- demon pig? were-swine? -- kept jumping out at me.
(And here's the embarrassing part: Even when it was pretty much established that things would keep jumping out at me, I still screamed my head off. At least I didn't "have an accident," which manager Shaylene Nordal tells me does happen.)
Since the show includes some ghastly tableaux of torture and death - not to mention those super-scary jumpy-outy creatures -- the S.S. Keenora part of the Halloween Haunt is aimed at adults. Children 16 and under must be accompanied by a parent, and even then, I'd be cautious. This grisly, gory experience is really suited to older teens who've already been hardened by repeated viewings of the Saw franchise. Nearby activities on the museum's other two boats are geared for smaller kids.
Selkirk's fake spooks made for real scares. Interestingly, my search for actual ghosts, three nights later, was more thought-provoking than heart-stopping. The Haunted Winnipeg Investigates Bus Tour isn't meant to terrify. Instead, this exploratory, experimental and interactive evening looks at the possibility of "life beyond life" at some of Winnipeg's hauntiest historic sites.
Led by engaging tour guide Kristen Verin-Treusch, participants can use copper dowsing rods, pendulums and something called a K2 meter -- lots of flashing lights! -- to call up spirits. Verin-Treusch, who likes to crack jokes, sometimes points out scientific explanations, sometimes offers supernatural possibilities, and encourages you to make up your own mind.
Even if you put aside the question of occult visitations, the tour's four destinations are pretty atmospheric, especially at night. It's easy to imagine echoing footsteps in the after-hours corridors of the Manitoba Legislative Building, while the St. Boniface Museum -- reportedly occupied by the spirit of a voyageur who's known to be a little grabby with the ladies -- is steeped in history and time. Then there's the eerie Elmwood Cemetery and the famously phantom-heavy Fort Garry Hotel.
On the night I went, participants snapped pictures and then eagerly searched for signs of orbs, smoke threads, fog patches and ghostly faces. Someone even used an iPhone app for ghost-hunting. Many of the bus tour's thrills were channelled through technology.
Alison Gillmor, CBC reviewer (CBC)
Pictured above: Kristen Verin-Treusch (Nicole Verin-Treusch)