Lazy Faire Visits Haunted Buildings at the University of Alberta
Written by: Rodvie Barnachea
As seen in the October 2018 issue of Lazy Faire magazine
On September 13th (ooh spooky — but don’t worry, this was a Thursday), the bravest souls of Lazy Faire ventured on a quest in search of the supernatural.
For some background, it took awhile to organize this event. Campus Security was contacted to let them know that we weren’t robbers on campus late at night. The Facilities and Operations Department of the University of Alberta was also made aware to allow us to enter these buildings in the first place. Unfortunately, video recording was prohibited, so our dreams of being “Mystery Hunters” was a nonstarter. Facilities and Operations were, however, “fascinated” enough by our request that they even sent a list of buildings that we should visit. From these suggestions, we picked Pembina Hall, Athabasca Hall, and Convocation Hall. Why? Because they had the scariest stories.
Pembina Hall was built in 1914 as a residence for nursing students. It served as a temporary hospital in 1918 when the influenza pandemic heightened. Apparently, a young nurse died in the aftermath of the epidemic, and her spirit was reported to have been zipping around the building in search of her boyfriend ever since. So, we went on a hunt in search of the “girlfriend.” The building, completely empty, now has most of its rooms converted into offices. We soon discovered that the Faculty of Native Studies resides in Pem, making sense of the tipi outside. After ten minutes of the “you go first” attitude whilst walking through the building, we weren’t able to find — or feel — anything. Maybe the “girlfriend” runs too fast.
Athabasca, built in 1911, is the oldest building on campus. One night, during its construction, a young boy went missing while his parents were part of a work camp in charge of building Athabasca. His body was found frozen in the North Saskatchewan River the next morning. The ghost of a shivering, sobbing, little boy has apparently been seen wandering Athabasca. It is said that every year, at the end of autumn, the boy appears near Pembina, before disappearing into the river valley. So, being the bravest souls of Lazy Faire, we went into Athabasca — for you, our reader. When we arrived at the front door, we noticed something tragic. The door was locked. However, we found a convenient side door that sneaked us in. The interior of Athabasca looks exactly like Pembina. Offices. After eight minutes of touring the seemingly empty building, something quickly became apparent. There was someone in an office — it was a real person, relax. I asked him if he’s ever noticed anything scary at night. He replied, “No, but if you walk down the hall, there’s a scary room on the right.” So we did. It was the furnace room. To be fair, he was right. Leading up to the room was a short hallway devoid of light, unlike all of the other hallways in the building. Could it be scary because the frozen boy wants to be by the heat? Okay, bad joke. If someone who works there hasn’t had any unnerving experiences, then we probably wouldn’t either.
One of the main uses of Convocation Hall is to refine the skills of music students who are preparing for pivotal performances. Allegedly, an organ player has been using the hall for practice, as well. Practicing since the late 1930’s, in fact. The organ would be heard playing with no one seen on some nights. So, we tried to sneak in for a personal concert. Now, I can lie to you and say that we walked in and searched for several minutes before leaving (and probably finding nothing), but the building was locked. We tried other entrances, but to no avail. Maybe the organ player is simply on tour right now?
Personally, I believe in ghosts. During the buildup of the few days before we went on our search, I prepared myself for the thought that I’d see something — even wanting to catch a glimpse of anything. Truthfully, I think I’d freeze if I did. Be careful what you wish for.