Escape Manor in Regina, Saskatchewan celebrates Halloween a little differently than most places. While some people embrace Halloween, most don't try to actively contact spirits. But, Escape Manor, alongside Jeff Richards of APTN's The Other Side, does just that.
Every October 30th Escape Manor and Jeff Richards host Devil's Night, a night dedicated to solving escape rooms and contacting the deceased.
I wrote a lot about ghosts and ghouls on my blog, but I have never seen a ghost. Like how I've never seen a kangaroo, I believe they exist although I have never verified it personally. Jeff made an excellent point when discussing this during Devil's Night. The human brain will try to piece together the unexplainable with rational thoughts. Why did the bell ring? Where did the voices come from? Why was there a strange shadow? We will try to rationalise any paranormal event until it makes sense, even if it doesn't.
I tried to keep this in the back of my mind during Devil's Night. Does what I experienced have a logical explanation? I'll do my best to explain it, but I'll let you decide.
To better explain the night, I'll break it down into several pars, starting with:
Part 1: Meeting Jeff Richards
The night began with a little over a dozen people sitting in a circle at Escape Manor. I sat immediately across from Jeff Richards.
I've known Jeff for just over a year now, but I've never met him before. Besides the investigators at PAST, I've never met a paranormal investigator. Part of me wants to believe in spirits, but part of me also thinks what investigators and psychics do are just magic tricks. I didn't want to discredit Jeff, but I was keeping a close eye on him during the night.
Jeff started off the evening by passing out four blank cards. He passed two to the people on his right, and two to the people on his left. Three of the people were to write a living person's name down, while the fourth wrote a dead person's name. He knew who wrote the name down, but after shuffling the cards, he didn't know which card belonged to who.
He read the names on the cards to the audience, placed them down on the table and took out a crystal pendulum. He dangled the pendulum over the cards and said if it made a circle, that person was alive, but if it made a line, that person was deceased.
The first three cards were alive, but the fourth was deceased. He flipped over the two cards and verified that yes, they were alive. He then mixed up the remaining cards and used the pendulum again. It identified the deceased card again, although he didn't know what the name was.
I had my doubts at this part in the experiment. I could see the cards where I was sitting, and the deceased card had a curl on the corner. Was this intentional? Could Jeff had seen this curled card, given it to the lady to write the deceased name, and then known throughout the experiment which card it was? This was the logical explanation. He must have known what card it was from the beginning.
But then Jeff stopped and looked down confused, seemingly looking into nothing. Perhaps it's been all the horror movies I've been watching this month, but I had a feeling like he was looking for answers – not from a person, but from something ethereal. The thought came to me was that he was looking at a dismembered head sitting under the chairs. I imagined the head was sitting there on its stump, with grey skin and patchy hair. I could imagine the head mouthing to him the answer, and Jeff's perplex face was him trying to figure out what the head was saying.
Of course, that is crazy... but a moment later he knew the name.
He flipped over the card, and he was right.
That feeling I had during this moment was strange. Sure, that card had the curled corner and he went over the names earlier. By matter of deduction and identification he could tell what the card would be. This proved nothing, but I still felt weird about it.
Part 2: Cabin 13
After we finished with the cards we were separated into three groups to tackle the Escape Rooms. My room was Cabin 13. This is one of Escape Manor's new rooms and focuses around your friend Alex. After an event the following night, of which you have no memory of, something demonic attached itself to Alex. Upon entering the room, you have one hour to solve the mystery surrounding Alex before the demon comes for you too.
I've done a few escape rooms before, but what I really liked about this one was the "live actor" they had in the room with us. Alex was a real person and she muttered, snarled, lied and taunted us along the way. She said everything from "You're doing that wrong" to "You're never going to get out of here". We were told the live actor couldn't touch us, but once she reached out and poked one of the other people in the room – a very eerie but interesting way to break the wall between real-life and fantasy.
We didn't solve the room, making this the third of four escape rooms I've failed. My team members were good and given five more minutes we probably would have had it, but the demon in Cabin 13 got us too.
I won't give too many details about Cabin 13, but if you're thinking about trying it, here's a hint: look up.
When we finished up the rooms, we met back in the lobby of Escape Manor for the main attraction.
Part Three: The Séance
This is the part of the night I will have the most trouble writing about.
Jeff said the original plan was to contact any kind of spiritual energy in the Double Tree Hotel, since hotels are a hotbed for lost spirits. But, when he walked into his office the previous night to prepare for the events, he saw the box open in the middle of the floor. Inside the box was one of his most haunted dolls. This doll is said to be responsible for fires and has caused people who look into her eyes fall into convulsions.
Sitting in the middle of our séance circle was this box, locked, with a ring of salt surrounding it. Tonight, we would attempt to contact the spirit of the doll.
When Jeff took the doll out of the box, I immediately thought about my time at Isla de las Muñecas, or the Island of the Dolls. I began to remember their small, plastic rotting bodies hanging on fishing line. I remembered their eyeless heads sitting on stakes in the ground, and their twisted limbs hanging between tree branches. Then, of course, I remembered the room full of black, burnt, melted dolls, with their faces deformed and frozen in a permanent scream.
The moment Jeff took the doll out of the box, I did not like it.
The doll was about a foot tall, had a plush torso and limbs and a plastic head. I couldn't see its face, but the back of her had black marks on it, the kind of marks any commonly played with doll would have. There were also some odd stains on the back, that again could have been marker.
Jeff took out his EMF detector, waved it over the doll and asked for the spirit to come forward. Nothing happened. He asked again. Nothing happened. He brought out some candles and asked the spirit to use his energy. Again, nothing.
He had told us before that seances were often like whale watching. You're probably going to see a whale, but sometimes you don't. We were going in expecting nothing but hoping for something.
Jeff reached into his bag and took out a small bell. He rang it for us so we could hear it. He set the bell on a stand and the stand on a base. He then put it to the right of me, behind everybody, in between us and the front desk of Escape Manor. He told the spirit they could use the bell if they want. The bell did nothing.
Jeff then told us that our bodies were far more sensitive than any piece of technology he has so if anybody was feeling anything to let him know. A small voice chirped up from my left. A thin woman said she felt very heavy. Jeff immediately went to her.
As he walked, I saw something move around the edge of the table. It seemed like an electrical cord, or a long black cat's tail. It curled around the corner of the table just for a second. I looked to see if I could figure out what it was. I didn't see anything. Maybe it was just Jeff's shadow.
Jeff got to the woman, reached out to her and brought her into the centre of the séance. He passed her the EMF detector. It finally lit up.
The woman began asking the doll questions. She picked up that the spirit's name was Kathy. She asked if the spirit was a girl and the detector lit up. Then, a moment later, I heard a voice.
Jeff put his hand up and asked if anybody else heard that. A few of us did. From where I was sitting, it sounded like the voice came from in front of me, to the left. Beyond the room we were in was a hallway that connected to the Double Tree. Could there just be a girl in the hallway? It was a Tuesday night. There's not a good chance a young girl would be in the hallway on a Tuesday that, at that very moment, would say yes, and nothing else. Besides, had it been so easy to hear people in the hallway, wouldn't we have heard something before?
The woman who was speaking to the doll asked a few more questions, getting frequent replies. One flash on the detector meant yes, and two flashes meant no. As somebody who is on the fence about spirits, I would have asked it to be the other way around – one flash is no, two flashes are yes. If there is an anomaly, it's much easier set off a device once than twice. Twice would verify a response. But, we got both yes and no responses, something that isn't as easily explained. For all intents and purposes, it seemed intelligent.
I don't remember the other question the woman asked. I think it was if her house had caught on fire. But, again the detector lit up, and again I heard the same voice.
Once more the voice seemed like it came from the hallway. The people close to the hallway looked that way too, to verify my thoughts. But, why didn't we hear anything else out there besides a young girl?
The woman passed the EMF detector back to Jeff and went back to her seat. She felt a little better; a little lighter. Jeff asked if anybody else was feeling strange. Another woman on the opposite side of the group said she felt cold. Jeff walked over to her and gave her the detector. Immediately it lit up. She began asking simple questions, and then asked her to spell her name. She began going through the alphabet.
The first letter was D.
The second letter was E.
"Death," a person beside me whispered. "It was Death."
The woman kept going. The third letter was V.
"Devil", the person beside me gasped. Of course, I thought. It is Devil's Night after all.
The woman kept going. The fourth letter was Y.
Everybody stopped. "Deyv" isn't a word. The woman looked at Jeff confused. Jeff told her to keep going.
"Do you speak English?"
One flash. Yes.
The woman kept going. The fifth letter was K.
"Devyk" the woman whispered, and the bell rang.
Part 4: Analysis
I don't remember much after the bell rang. I remember there was cold spot on the other side of the room, near where Jeff and the woman were standing. I remember I felt cold too, but I ignored it. It was just my imagination.
A few minutes later we wrapped up the séance. We said some words to prevent the spirit from attaching itself to us, and we ended the night.
Some of the events of that night I could explain. Knowing which card had the deceased name on it? The card had a curled corner. Disembodied voices? Somebody in the hallway. Shadows moving? Just people, candles and a paranoid mind.
I spoke to some of the staff afterwards. Some of them had heard the voice too, so they radioed to their coworkers in the hallway waiting for the next group. There were people out there, but they were quiet, and there were no children.
But, what about the bell? Would it have been on a remote? While everybody was looking at the woman with the EMF detector, did Jeff press a button on his cufflink to ring the bell? It would have been simple enough to rig. I didn't have a chance to review the bell afterwards. Could it have been faked?
The thing is, if I had faked it, I wouldn't have used a word like "devyk". I would have picked an actual word, a better word, or something a little less bizarre. I would have gone with "death" or "devil" or something like "Ann". If it's fake, why ring on that word?
I had a weird feeling when I left the building. I didn't like the feeling I got when Jeff identified the name on the deceased card, I didn't like how the doll reminded me so much of the Island of the Dolls and I didn't like that bell.
I pondered over the events all night. How do I reasonably explain what happened? I decided to try something. I put "Devyk" through Google Translate. There was no match, but there was a recommendation for the Russian word "devok".
It meant "girls".
I don't know how much Jeff knows about the Double Tree's location in Regina, but it sits on the edge of Germantown, a community known for its early Eastern European heritage. Was the spirit Russian? Was it wanting to play with the doll, or was it the doll itself?
I don't know. I don't know if what I experienced was real, or a very elaborate parlour trick. I respect Jeff and I have a feeling he'll read this, so I look forward to the next time I see him and his doll. I'm not convinced one way or the other, but I know something strange happened last night at Devil's Night.
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
Do you love football? Especially Canadian Football? I'm excited to team up with Tall Grass Apparel, Piffles Podcast and the Centennial Mall on November 25th for a 2018 Grey Cup Watch Party! Tickets are $10 and includes 1 drink (beer, spirits or non-alcoholic beverage). Food will be available for purchase as well as tasty snacks such as chips and popcorn!
The doors will open at 4pm, with kickoff of the CFL's biggest game of the year scheduled for 5pm.
When it comes to Saskatchewan, your next adventure can be around any corner. As you venture off the main highways, signage is scarce and directions such as "if you've passed the gate with the buffalo skulls, you've gone too far" are all too common. Communities grow smaller, people grow warmer and the list of things on your Saskatchewan Bucket List seems to only get longer.
My adventure to Leader started a few months ago when Christine over at Cruisin' Christine shared a list of Leader bus tours on Facebook. Some of the tours were in June, but one was in September. The September tour caught my eye because it was a two-day tour and I had to ask myself what we would do for two days in Leader. Leader has a three digit population, so I was perplexed on what the tour would comprise.
I was so perplexed that I decided contacted Leader Tourism and booked the tour to find out.
Although the hot summer days of July are long behind us, 2017 is still Canada's 150th year. In honour of Canada's sesquicentennial birthday, I decided to put together a list of 150 things about Canada. This list talks about our quirkiness, our strengths, our weakness, and our legacy, for better and for worse. There are some sad facts, some odd facts and some facts that will probably make you open another tab to look into for yourself.
Hope you enjoy this list, and I hope you all had a great 2017!
1. Canada's two official languages are French and English, but only 20.6% of Canadians speak French.
Part 12 of my cross Canada series takes us to the smallest province in Canada, Prince Edward Island. However, don't let the name confuse you: PEI is actually 232 islands!
PEI also happens to have smallest population of any province in Canada, with only 146,300 people as of 2014. This means this province has less people than my hometown Regina!
Being so small, however, it was difficult to find images on Instagram. That isn't to say there's nothing there worth seeing! Quiet the quandary, actually. PEI has a few very unique locations that drive their tourism. One of them is the gorgeous themed village of Avonlea, named after the village in the hit novel "Anne of Green Gables" published in 1908. This story, and the subsequent stories, follows Anne, a red-haired "fiery" orphan who grows up on PEI. The story is an international bestseller, and is strangely very popular in Japan (or so I've been told)!