Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Who doesn’t love a spooky tale at this time of year, especially if it’s true? So allow me to introduce you to the ghost of the venerable old Academy Theatre in my hometown.
She is thought to be a former caretaker, who, along with her husband, lived in an apartment on the third floor. In the early 1900s she died in a fall down the stairs, but according to theatre staff, she resides there still.
“Mary” is a friendly but mischievous spirit, who moves or hides objects like keys and wallets, and then returns them, sometimes days or weeks later, to the exact location where people knew they had left them. She methodically lowers seats after the cleaning staff have raised them, and turns lights on or off, including the stage lights. Harried employees have, on occasion, appealed to Mary to tone down her antics, and she complies. She has, however, also scared the daylights out of men working in the control booth up on the third floor, where she once lived. Who wouldn’t be terrified when a heavy steel door that requires a really strong arm to manoeuvre it just slides open or slams shut of its own accord? An electrician once reported that he glimpsed a woman out of the corner of his eye, on the staircase to the upper floor, but when he turned to look at her there was no one there. Others recount that they have seen an apparition in the glassed-in control booth from the stage, or felt a hair-raising presence when in there. Even a former theatre manager admitted that he didn’t go up there alone at night, after the audience had gone, despite several decades of happily working alongside Mary. They say that if you want to feel her presence, you should sit in seat #13 in any of the rows when the theatre is silent and empty.
I never did, although I was on the Board of Directors for a few years. It’s a beautiful Victorian building, but when it’s not filled with crowds, it is definitely eerie, and not the sort of place I would care to spend any time alone. Employees, however, soon become accustomed to Mary, and speak fondly of her, even when she sometimes frustrates them with her pranks.
It’s the possibilities of spirits heralding an afterlife that surely intrigues us. That’s why I like to include that in my novels. For instance, I have a character in my “Muskoka” series who is either mad or psychic - or both. She sees dead people. You can meet her in The Summer Before The Storm and Elusive Dawn.
And one day I will finish the spine-tingling supernatural novel that I began some years ago.