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The ghost in the theatre

Is the Maury Young theatre haunted? A Halloween investigation

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Local filmmaker and theatre artist Angie Nolan considers herself a "sensible girl." But she still doesn't know what to make of a pair of strange late-night occurrences in the empty theatre at the Maury Young Arts Centre.

"My imagination was going crazy," she recalled. "As it does every time I'm in there by myself now."

The first eerie happening came following a rehearsal for the Chairlift Revue several years back. With the cast and crew gone home, Nolan was in the theatre by herself preparing for the upcoming show, when a pair of backstage lights started flickering on and off, "talking to each other," as she described it.

When she went to investigate, flipping switches, searching for a lingering crew member who might be playing a trick, she found nothing. "Then, I got this crazy, cold shiver up my spine," Nolan said.

The second incident came months later, again following a rehearsal. Nolan had just wrapped up loading stage props into a truck on the ground floor of the building, before returning back to the theatre in a backstage freight elevator. Again, she witnessed a light flickering, and thought once more than it was a prank. She called out to no response, before a sudden, loud bang resonated from the empty elevator.

"I don't know what that was. I've never heard it do that before," Nolan said. "It could have maybe been (the elevator) settling in, but the combination of the light flicker and that, I was like, 'OK, something freaky is going on.'

Nolan isn't alone in her experience. Similar stories of fluttering stage lights and icy shivers have circulated from tech crews and night-shift cleaners. Stephen Vogler, longtime local musician and creative director at The Point Artist-Run Centre, said he's been hearing the tales for some time.

"Rehearsing there, I heard some stories that the ghosts are over on stage left, in that area. Little weird things had happened and the cleaners had some issues. I think they even brought someone in, your local Ghostbuster," he said.

It even prompted Vogler to pen a song last year, aptly titled, "There's Ghosts Around."

"I have had some weird stuff go on sidestage there, but that could just be people's nerves before they go onstage. Or it could be that they're being tampered with by the resident ghost. It's hard to say," he added with a laugh.

Arts Whistler director Mo Douglas said she's heard from a local medium that the building housing the arts centre has "a good energy."

"People who say it's spooky back here, they never say it feels uncomfortable. It's just that there's energy in that building, and there's energy from being that kind of building, when you're a theatre," she said.

A longstanding theatre superstition is to leave "a ghost light" on backstage at all times. This is, practically speaking, for safety purposes, but a commonly held belief dating back to Victorian times holds that every theatre has its own ghost. To this day, the Palace Theatre in London, England keeps two balcony seats reserved for its in-house ghosts.

"We leave so much of ourselves on the stage. It's a raw, vulnerable, open place. It's a natural place for spirits to come," Nolan mused. "I like the idea of that, just a bunch of spirits hanging out, watching theatre from beyond."

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