ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The demolition of a centuries-old orphanage in Newfoundland is raising a curious question for people who once worked in the building — what will become of the ghost rumoured to haunt its halls?
"I hope that spirit is now at peace," said Lorraine Michael, the interim NDP leader for Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Belvedere Orphanage is in the process of being torn down in St. John's following years of abandonment and an extensive fire in April.
For years, people in the community speculated about a haunting presence in the decrepit building — particularly when it functioned as a school in the 1970s.
Michael was a Roman Catholic nun and served as the principal for Belvedere Junior High School from 1971 to 1976 when it closed.
She stayed in the convent portion of the building and admits to hearing some strange sounds she couldn't easily explain.
"It consisted of walking noises, somebody walking, and always on the top floor of the building," she said.
Michael said the janitor also reported doors to classrooms being opened after he had closed them.
She said at one point staff called in an expert in paranormal occurrences from Memorial University, who deemed the putative ghost to be a poltergeist.
"Poltergeists are usually connected with teenage girls," she said.
On another occasion, two women visiting from Argentina stayed at the school, and one woman came to her and said that from the minute she stepped onto the property her whole being was in touch with the suffering of young girls and she felt she was in touch with a particular spirit in the building.
Michael said she heard the footsteps on many occasions but never had the courage to go investigate.
"It wasn't scary. I think I laid there knowing that I was hearing a ghost. I wasn't going to go up and look, but neither was I scared of it."
On another occasion, Michael said the superintendent of the school board arrived for work and his secretary was in the parking lot and wouldn't go in. She said she had been alone in the building and heard footsteps down the main hallway. She wouldn't go back inside on her own.
Michael said she recently received an email from a former colleague at Belvedere who joked that the demolition might finally see the departure of the ghost.
Michael said she hopes that is the case.
"If the poltergeist was connected to the experience in the building — and I'm not an expert — but I assume now the spirit will be at rest," she said.
— By Kevin Bissett in Fredericton
The Canadian Press