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Boys and ghouls: Meet the ghosts of Vernon

Gabriel David Sumegi Newman the Second outside the haunted Towne Theatre.

VERNON - Have you ever noticed a strange shadow lurking in the back row of the Towne Theatre in Vernon? Positive an invisible hand knocked over your popcorn? Well it could be Loyd, the ghost that haunts the theatre.

The Towne is one of Gabriel David Sumegi Newman the Second’s favourite stops on his annual Halloween ghost tour. It’s where the audience becomes alive with their own stories. Teenage theatre employees whisper personal tales to their friends, children bristle with excitement as the breeze plays tricks on them. Or does it?

“You know the audience will go there again, and the story has changed their relationship with that place,” Newman says. “I love telling stories in a relevant location. You can try as you might on stage to recreate the streets of Vernon, but it will always be a recreation.”

This is Newman’s tenth year touring people around Vernon’s haunted houses and giving them a macabre history lesson. He holds a theatre degree from the University of Victoria and a master’s in performance from the University of British Columbia, but his expertise in the paranormal is self-taught. When he and his young family moved to the city in 2001, Newman immediately went to work gathering ghostly rumours and doing research at the Vernon Museum and Archives.

“My relationship to this place was strengthened by creating the tour and learning about the community,” Newman says. “All a place is a collection of stories held together by a series of touchstones.”

He admits the stories have changed a bit as new information was gleaned and he was able to flesh out the plots. But since that first year, he hasn’t added many new tales to his repertoire.

“If I was just making them up, I’d have a lot more,” he says.

Having gathered the facts and spoken to eye witnesses, Newman tells the ghost stories to the best of his ability. It is as true a telling as he can give. Whether to believe in the paranormal activity or not is up to the listeners.

“I’m not trying to convert anyone to a paranormal belief. Some guys really want to convince you it’s real. I tell the audience the choice is theirs,” Newman says.

While Newman has never seen a ghost, he believes the frequency of stories told through history cannot be ignored.

“There is an evidence of truth in there. Different religions use different wordage and explanation but for the most part, it’s the same story. There have been so many stories for so long, this isn’t a new thing, or an all the rage thing, it’s not hip. There are all these people that swear this is what they saw,” Newman says.

And even for those who don’t believe, these narratives are still part of an age-old tradition of oral storytelling. In a world that is growing increasingly closed off through electronic devices, being told a story is becoming a rare gift. Ghost stories not only entertain, they add another layer of connection between people and places. They’re a way to make a history lesson fun. Whether you’re nine or 99, everybody loves a good story.

Newman’s Ghost Tours of Vernon run nightly October 28, 29, and 30. Meet at 7 p.m. outside the Vernon Museum and Archives and bundle up as the tours go rain or moonshine. Tickets are $10 for those over 12 and $5 for those under. Cash only. Contact Newman at (250)260-8757, email or visit his website for more information.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

News from © iNFOnews, 2013

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