Ever been by yourself at night and get the eerie feeling you're not alone? Your heart races. Your hands sweat. You scan the darkness to quash your panic. You feel uneasy and unsettled. What was that noise? Quickly turn on a light. Is someone there?
They might be. Several times a week, Light Workers Paranormal Investigations receives reports of unusual, unexplainable ghost activity in houses across Nova Scotia. Moving inanimate objects, whispering voices of children, the unmistakable sense of being watched.
From the barracks of the Citadel to Devil's Island, ghost sightings and stories have been recounted since Halifax's founding. Some ghosts appear over generations. Others appear only once. If you've ever seen a ghost, you know the experience was real.
That's why Kimberly Lapierre began the LWPI four years ago. After her daughter encountered a visitation, and after Lapierre witnessed ghostly energy herself, she wanted to find evidence for the phenomena and help others. With a team comprised of historians, videographers and psychics, Lapierre mostly responds to reports–sent in through lightworkerspi.com–that have a traceable connection to a certain individual.
"There are two kinds of things we see: visitations, which aren't recurring, and hauntings, which are long-term," Lapierre explains. "A haunting is usually done by someone who didn't crossover for religious reasons, or someone who doesn't know they're dead like in the movie Sixth Sense or by someone with unfinished business, someone with a reason to stick around."
Visitations by recently deceased loved ones are most often reported, she says, citing her own experience seeing her father. But hauntings have a much more complicated schematic. "Sometimes, hauntings are about the building or the house. Sometimes they're about the land. Sometimes it's about a particular person or article that somebody brought home," she says. "When people go antiquing, that object could be haunted. Everything has an energy imprint."
Using KII electromagnetic field testers, night-vision gear and audio equipment, LWPI relies on energy regulation to determine areas of paranormal activity, based on scientific theory. "The first law of thermodynamics is that energy is never created or destroyed, so when you die, the energy leaves your body but changes polarity. That's the energy we see," Lapierre says.
This energy is sometimes manifested in light. During an investigation at the Alexander Keith's Brewery, LWPI captured a light orb on film weaving between beer kegs. The Victorian-era brewery is known to be haunted by the Keith family.
"He and his wife, Eliza, had a few children that died before age five," Lapierre says. "The light was about three feet high, and that was also the investigation when our cameraman was touched. At one point, he felt a cold hand on his thigh. When he got home later, he noticed his thigh was bruised in the shape of a hand. We also have audio of a child's voice saying 'Eliza.'"
The cold touch was one instance of aggressive, physical haunting that happens in rare cases, while the light is a sure and more frequent sign of paranormal presence. The LWPI also caught light orbs on camera at the Citadel Hill fortress. Lapierre believes it was the ghost of a woman whose body was found near the musket gallery in the early 1900s.
"When people report orbs, they're mostly seeing dust or bugs, but in the Citadel, you can clearly see in the tape that a light passes right through the wall, and it's not dust or a bug because it's reflecting light back onto the ceiling. We had a similar experience at York Redoubt." Just a few kilometres down Purcell's Cove Road, LWPI staked out the battlement and measured very high levels of electromagnetic energy in an unpowered area. A light orb was also filmed and the voice of a female child warned of fire. Since York Redoubt was never active in battle, with no record of a blaze, LWPI concluded they were spirits from the Halifax Explosion. "We held a spirit circle, asking questions to the KII meter, which would light up in response to the questions, and it was the longest conversation we've had yet."
The 1917 Halifax Explosion is the source of many stories of paranormality on the peninsula. The Five Fishermen restaurant on Argyle Street has been famously haunted ever since the building operated as a mortuary after the explosion and during salvage of the Titanic in 1912.
Same goes with McNab's Island. A burial ground for victims of cholera and a military fort, McNab's has always had a desertion that lends itself to ghost sightings. More recently, LWPI encountered the spirit of a young man whose cause of death was uncertain.
Many eyewitness reports identify ghosts that may have met an unjust end: the wrongfully convicted, the murdered, the betrayed. So it makes sense that the Halifax courthouse is haunted. Around since 1862, the seat of justice on Spring Garden Road was the site of a jail and many public executions for decades. The last was Daniel Sampson, an African-Nova Scotian hanged in 1935 after the murder of two young Caucasian boys who were taunting him with racial epithets. The circumstances of his racial discrimination have an air of unfairness.
"There have definitely been reports of strange activity in this building," says Peter E. James, director of court services. "In the 1960s, the live-in caretaker encountered something and quit immediately and never returned. I've been here alone before and certainly felt strange."
The original gallows are still stored in the attic of the courthouse. The walls are exposed wood and decrepit antique wallpapers. A few of the attic rooms are now used for file storage, but one in particular "has an overwhelming heaviness," says James, peering through the small window that looks down Market Street. "It's dead silent in here and it's hot and it's sombre."
But it's not just old buildings in Halifax that have ghost histories. The LWPI has investigated new apartment buildings and developments as well. The Dalhousie Student Union building has only been around since 1968, but CKDU has its share of ghost reports. Unsurprisingly, the radio station is a space with a very high electromagnetic field and a sad story of death.
"I used to do a radio show at CKDU from 1997 to mid-1999," says Chris Martell, who's now in Vancouver band Tough Age. "It was in July of 1998, a really hot Friday morning, and all of a sudden the room just went completely cold and I shivered. I looked over my shoulder and standing in the doorway was the right side of a girl, she looked about 17 or 18. Long braid."
After freaking on air, Martell talked to then-station manager Shane MacKinnon, who told him that in the 1970s a student committed suicide by jumping off the building, and she has been seen by janitors, construction workers and CKDU staff ever since. "Oh yeah, it's haunted," says current station coordinator Gianna Lauren. "There are ghosts," she adds, nodding her head convincingly.
The thing is, with ghosts, anyone who has seen one doesn't need to be convinced. Even the LWPI, which doesn't charge any fee for investigation, isn't trying to convert non-believers.
"I don't need convincing," says Lapierre. "I already know they're real, I know what I've experienced and seen with my own eyes. We're not trying to convince anyone. We know."
It's easy to be sceptical, but it's easier to be spooked out, either by the imagination or by an encounter with an apparition. Sometimes it's more believable to view ghost stories as tales.
"We live on the edge of the deepest chasm known to mankind, the Atlantic Ocean," says local storyteller and author Steve Vernon. "There is a deep and natural tendency to look into that darkness. It's human nature to be curious about what comes next. Remember, a ghost story is a tale of the afterlife."