There is no doubt a rich history beneath the modern veneer of Old Strathcona's bustling streetscape, but the neighbourhood's lineage is one complete with its own sordid and chilling urban lore.
Dead Centre of Town, Edmonton's travelling haunted house, presented by Catch the Keys Productions, has returned for its sixth season. The production has been steadily gaining an eerie story of its own, a supposed curse that seemed to cause a monumental change at each venue it descended on: the Globe, its first host in 2007, was demolished and turned into condos; the Artery took on new management, as did Avenue Theatre; the Iron Horse changed hands and was left vacant for several years; and New City was torn down. The abandoned floors above Block 1912 will serve as the backdrop for this year's retelling of Edmonton's spooky past—particularly that of Old Strathcona during the early 1900s.
“It just celebrated its 100th birthday last year,” says Catch the Keys artistic producer Megan Dart of the building, adding that the second and third floors, which served as businesses such as a furniture store in the '50s and a possible general store before that, are “amazingly terrifying.”
“There's no light fixtures up there so we're working in the dark, which is kind of exciting and terrifying all at once, and any old, tired building that hasn't had a lot of traffic in the last little while has that sort of eerie feel.”
Not to mention, the building seems to possess a ghostly inhabitant. But don't worry, the staff says it's friendly. Dart adds that several staff members recounted instances where lights would turn on and off, doors would mysteriously unlock or objects would move on their own—the cast hasn't experienced anything themselves, but Dart remains hopeful.
Dead Centre of Town has focused on a linear storyline in years past, but Dart says its sixth installment will be more immersive and experiential for audiences—think of it like a ghost museum. Once the show gets underway, expect to hear about the jilted bride in the Princess Theatre who hung herself after being left at the alter, a mysterious murder at the Strathcona Hotel where the victim's head was never located, a rumoured deadly room at the Commercial Hotel and Dapper Dan, a spirit who likes to mingle and have a drink with bar patrons every evening, among other eerie tidbits.
“For the most part, we're telling stories from the very early years of Edmonton's development, so the late 1800s through the '20s, '30s. It's incredible. Edmonton was sort of this wild frontier,” says Dart, noting Dead Centre of Town has yet to repeat a story—that's how many Edmonton seems to have. “It's equal parts telling Edmonton's history but also having the chance to give people a good scare.”
Tue, Oct 29 – Thu, Oct 31 (8 pm and 9 pm, nightly)
Block 1912, $15