Life remains in history

A ghostly tour at Citadel Hill

All hundred of us – give or take – are packed together like sardines in the fort’s entrance when the gate behind us closes. Dressed in an 18th century artillery soldier’s outfit, our guide brandishes a lantern, making the shadows upon the wall dance in chaotic rhythm, and directs us from the front to follow after him.

We’ve all gathered for the same thing. To be led through Citadel Hill’s history of hauntings and spooky goings-on. While our guide, who has split us into two groups, one of which is lead off by another “soldier,” makes disclaimers towards the authenticity of his tales, a doubt lingers in the back of the mind.

Like the days of old, we gather around the light and listen to the storyteller spin yarns about life, death and the tragic web of fate inherent to them. Without a microphone, he relies on his own projection to make his voice be heard and, like the tribe around the fire of old, we quiet ourselves in order to let his words be heard.

His stories cover the gamut of technological projections that could not be rationally explained, sounds that should not have been heard, love lost and forever wandering, and ghastly specters stuck searching for scripted statements.

Each of these stories follows a predictable, yet entirely enjoyable, pattern. First we’re brought to a location, lit only by lantern light. We’re given a few moments to allow the silence of the Citadel to wrap us in its’ cloak, and then the speaker begins the tale, first taking his time to set the stage and impart our third eye with the details of the day in question: a stormy night in the 1800s, a cold winter day in the 1970s, even just several months earlier while summer was in full bloom.

After the stage is set, we meet our characters as we approach the inciting incident of the tale: the idea to stay over night, the arrangements for a wedding being finalized, a figure sighted on a security camera.

The middle part of each story is almost always followed an investigation into what was seen, and as our guide begins making the last dash towards the climax, his voice drops lower, low enough that we all seem to lean in to hear the final revelation we know is approaching.

Finally, as the climax hits, the voice raises back up, delivering a punch to the metaphorical gut that drives a chill down the spin.

The way these tales are presented offer nothing new to connoisseurs of ghost stories but serve as a fun way to prepare for Halloween.

While they claim to be based on historical accounts and evidence, we’re not presented with any of it and it seems more likely that they have been written by, or at least extended upon, by the hosts.

In this sense they show a knack for horror writing and a respect for the conventions of the genre that have been developed over the years. The choice to light the experience only by lanterns, based on period design, serves to heighten the suspension of disbelief and while you are being presented with each yarn it helps to set you in a “this could actually be real” mindset.

For only ten dollars, you are given ninety minutes of entertainment that, while not top notch, is more than suiting for chilly October nights.

This particular Ghost Walk is run by Citadel Staff, starting at the Citadel’s Main Gate from July through October. It is only one of the few ghost walks available around Halifax, and more details can be found on the Halifax Citadel website.

Leave a Comment