By Mark Squibb/October 28, 2021
It’s October in Harbour Grace— the smell of fall is in the air, leaves crunch underfoot, and a ghoulish undertaker leads frightened souls on a haunted tour of town.
The Haunted Harbour Grace tour grew out of efforts to combine local history with the spookiness of the season in an effort to raise funds for the museum.
“We thought about hosting a hike that would tell the stories of some of our most famous characters, who are legends in their own ways,” said Patrick Collins, chairman of the Conception Bay Museum.
Collins leads the hike, playing the part of Undertaker Rogers, telling stories along the way of real-life murders and dark happenings. Actors in period garb reenact the stories to the delight of tour goers.
“People seem to enjoy it, we have full houses every night, and my goodness, it’s a lot of fun,” said Collins.
He said attendees expect a good fright – the event is advertised as suitable for 16-years plus, unless accompanied by an adult.
“People get a little scare, and they learn a little bit of history,” he said.
Folks hear stories of ghostly happenings around the Ridley House, of local murders, and of other strange occurrences. The infamous pirate Peter Easton even makes an appearance.
“Through the medium of storytelling we demonstrate or display the history of these characters, and how important they were,” said Collins. “We see the places where these people actually lived and walked and where some of them are actually buried.”
Collins, when not frightening residents, is an author, and several of his works, including his most recent, The Body on the Beach, are based on local murders. Some of those stories are told along the hike.
The event requires a large volunteer base. Collins said about 20 people volunteer their time, whether as actors or security or whatever else is needed.
Funds from ticket sales are set aside for programing in the coming year and help with expenses such as the curator’s salary and maintaining the grounds.
Collins estimates the museum budgets between $15,000-$20,000 annually.
“We have enough funds to get us through this year, but next year is another year,” said Collins. “So, we use that to go towards the expense of running our institution. Any given year, the museum is open almost entirely through the volunteer base, and largely through charity. This is our major fundraiser, so as much money as we can bring in through this event is much appreciated.”
COVID of course has made organizing events a little more complicated than usual, and Collins said they’ve had to cap the event to 150 people per night.
As to why people enjoy a good spooky story, Collins said it’s built within us to enjoy being scared.
“I think everybody, even from early childhood, loves to be scared,” said Collins. “I think human beings by nature love to be scared. They love the unknown. And I think it’s a natural thing. We all love the unknown to a certain point— some of us more than others.”
The event was held over two nights, Friday, and Monday of last week.
Just in time for Halloween.