Arts & Culture

History of haunting Halifax

Halifax Citadel Ghost Tours highlight Halifax’s spooky past

History of haunting Halifaxphoto by : Gina Grattan
written by Jessica Briand
October 19, 2017 2:36 pm

JESSICA BRIAND with files from Maddie Watson

Halifax Citadel Ghost Tours draws local visitors to the hill for a night of spookiness and intrigue during the summer and fall.

Halifax Citadel saw about 495,000 visitors in 2015/2016. Although usually seen as a tourist attraction, the ghost tours aim to please locals by focusing on the spooky past of the city.

The best part of any ghost story is all in the way it’s told; staff members at Citadel Hill undergo specific training in order to give the tours.

“We started with a short tour after work where our supervisor, Mr. Adams, who runs the program,” said ghost tour guide, Danielle Arseneau. “He gave us the run down on how to give a good ghost tour and told us a few stories, but not all.”

Given a packet with more stories to memorize the storytellers-in-training must shadow a city tour guide during a ghost tour to see how others tell the stories. Once completing these steps, the tour guides are ready to curate their own tour.

There’s leniency in the way stories are told, but the facts are based on evidence gathered from reports, from commissionaires, diary entries and stories from other visitors.

“The quality of a ghost story lies in how it’s told, not so much in the story itself,” says Arseneau. “So as long as you get the point across and people enjoy it, you don’t have to get every part of the story perfectly.”

Maddie Watson attended a ghost tour in early October and experienced the incredible storytelling first hand.

“My favourite was about a little ghost girl trapped in a well,” Watson recalled. “He described the story very well. It goes as follows:

‘Soldiers were posted down at the old town clock during the 1850’s, one night a guard went to dip his bucket down into the well but when he got out there he saw what he thought was a little girl inside. He reached down to try and grab a hold of her and pull her out of the well but he couldn’t grab the girl, he couldn’t grab a hold of her because his hand would go right through.’

Now the story goes on for a while but it ends with them filling the well with rocks and closing it off to stop the ghost sighting.”

Watson originally bought her ticket out of intrigue about Citadel’s past. She summed up the evening as spooky and enjoyable due to the quality of the stories told throughout the night.

“People really like to be scared,” said Arseneau.

“The act of being scared releases endorphins, so there is some science behind it. But generally, I think that people are drawn to things that are foreign and unknown to them,” Arseneau sums up, “I think people enjoy hearing about the strange things going on in their city. Like they think they know the city and the Citadel well already, but then there’s a new and interesting thing about them.”

Halifax Citadel Ghost tours run every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday starting 8:30 p.m. at the main gate until October 28; only private tours will be offered after this date, so check out a tour while you still have the chance!

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