Friday 5 May 2017

Is the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre haunted?

A few years ago, I got an email from a woman by the name of Jaimie, asking me if I knew any ghostly tales about the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre building in St. John's, specifically concerning the basement.

“I’ve spent the last couple of weeks cloistered down there on the library side, working on a project and if you haven’t already got something, I have a story to share,” she wrote.

It sounded like too good a story to pass up. I got in touch with Jaimie, and asked her about her experiences.

At the time, Jaimie had been working in the archives on a project which involved a lot of trips back and forth through the collection.

“I’ve always found the basement to be a little creepy,” she describes. “I can hear voices and whispering and little snatches of song and such sometimes, but always assumed that it was just activity carrying through the ductwork from the children’s library, which is directly over my head, or the theatre.”

Jaimie figured it was just her imagination. Then one day she heard the noises again, on a day when the theatre was empty and the children’s library had closed.

“I was moving a truck of books from one area towards another area,” she says, “and I ended up passing by a whole bunch of shelving units (those neat rolling ones), when passing by one of the aisles between the units, I saw someone standing there.”

Jaimie turned her head, expecting to find a lost library patron; “as we occasionally do,” she explains. Instead of another person, she found herself looking at nothing but an empty aisle and a pale grey concrete wall.

“The person that I’d seen was wearing dark colours,” she describes. “I had the impression of something resembling a nun’s habit.”

“Well, needless to say, I finished off that truck, got back in the elevator and went upstairs, where I commiserated with a co-worker about the general creepiness of the basement,” Jaimie adds.

The co-worker informed Jaimie that the site apparently once housed a boy’s orphanage, hinting that this might explain some of the ghostly goings on.

The co-worker did indeed have some facts correct. The site of the current Arts and Culture Centre was formerly the site of the Shannon Munn Memorial Orphanage. In 1918, Sir Edgar Rennie Bowering and Mrs Mary Munn presented the property, to be known as the Shannon Munn Memorial, to the Church of England Orphanage.

The current theatre and library building was opened on May 22, 1967 as the province’s principal Centennial Year project. The building was designed by the Montreal architects of Ameck, Desbarets, Lebensold and Sise and the St. John’s firm of Campbell and Cummings.

Is the basement of the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre home to a singing ghost? You’ll have to make the trip there and be the judge of that yourself. But as Jaimie puts it, “I’m definitely not the only one who finds it creepy down there!”

Photo: "Dance School - ballet" credit Karen King Parsons,

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I worked at the St' John's Arts & Culture Centre for 5 years (2002-2007).
I had a couple of different experiences and also heard a few from my co-workers at the time.

1) In the balcony of the main theater, there is only one flight of stairs for patrons to use, which enter the theater on the south side.
There's a hallway (the full width of the theater) at the top of the stairs which leads to the north side of the balcony. On either side of the hallway, there is a single light switch that controls the same set of lights for the hallway.
One night before the show had started I was preparing the balcony as usual
and i walked through the hallway headed south from the north-side balcony.
So I flicked on the light switch and started making my way, I made it about 10 paces across the hallway when I heard a "click" and the light went off.
I had been walking in the direction of the south-side switch and could see that no one was there so I quickly spun around, thinking someone was playing a prank, but as I turned around I heard the "click" again and the lights came back on. there was no one at the south-side switch and no one had access to the north-side switch in the empty balcony.
I had written it off in my mind as faulty wiring in an old building until...

2) Later that same night during the show, I was being relived on my break from balcony-north by a co-worker who was stationed in the coat-check.
When my 15 minutes were up I made my way back to my post but I was surprised to see my co-worker making her way down the balcony stairs before I got back to her. As soon as I saw her, I could tell she was visibly shaken, she immediately pointed her finger at me and said "was that you...someone was sitting behind me kicking the back of my chair but when I looked there was no one there..." my stomach dropped because it seemed to be a similar style of school-aged pranking that I had experienced earlier in the evening.

That same night was the first time I had ever noticed the plaque on the wall by the downstairs washroom commemorating the old orphanage that once stood on the grounds. I never told my co-worker about that.
After that night I would occasionally catch glimpses in the corner of my eye of children running between the spaces in the pillars of the balcony on slow nights when the theater wasn't sold out.

I've heard other stories, but I won't comment on them as I wasn't present