It was late, around midnight, and drummer Kevin Dunbar was alone in the jam space at the old Yellowknife dairy in Kam Lake when he saw a young Inuk boy looking at him from the doorway.
“He kind of did a little bit of a jump in front of me — kind of like ‘grrr,’ like a tough guy — and took off.”
Startled by his surprise visitor, Dunbar chased after the kid, who just seconds ago had been a few feet away. But when he got to the doorway, there was no one running down the hall. The doors were all closed and locked. Without a sound, the child had vanished.
When it was really active, you had a really odd feeling of evil or something. I didn’t want to be there. Not thinking it’s haunted or anything — I’m not a huge believer in that kind of stuff — but a lot of people were getting that feeling.”
“The kid jumping in front of me was the one that really did me in,” Dunbar says of the incident — just one of many spooky moments at the venue where his band jams regularly.
“There was nobody around, the doors were locked and closed, and nobody could have gotten in,” he says. “There was nothing. We couldn’t account for where this came from. It didn’t make sense.”
On another occasion, the band was practicing when an iPod they were using suddenly flipped over on its own. Everyone in the room saw it happen, but no one could explain it.
“I was on the drums, standing right in front of our control mixer, and the iPod was right to my left, and it was lying flat — it wasn’t on an angle or anything — and it actually flipped 180 degrees,” Dunbar recalls. “It just rolled over. But there’s no possible way. There were no cables or anything like that to tug it.”
While those two sightings are the most memorable so far, Dunbar says there was a period when the space gave many of its occupants an uneasy and ominous sensation whenever they were there.
“At the time, we were seeing all sorts of black shadows creeping down the hallways,” he says. “There’s been times where my hair’s been standing straight up on the back of my neck. When it was really active, you had a really odd feeling of evil or something. I didn’t want to be there. Not thinking it’s haunted or anything — I’m not a huge believer in that kind of stuff — but a lot of people were getting that feeling.”
The hauntings became so unnerving that about a year ago a self-described energy worker was brought in to address the situation. She spoke with EDGE on the condition of anonymity.
“I’m just a conference-call operator,” is how she explains her abilities to communicate with otherworldly beings. “Usually it’s just somebody who is lost and looking for help, and I don’t treat them any differently than I would any human who had, say, hurt their leg.”
In the case of the old dairy, she said she was asked to help clear some of that weird paranormal energy from the space.
“What I sensed was mischievous and a bit playful,” she says, “like a teenager wanting attention. It was kind of harmless, misdirected and curious.”
Dunbar says that since the energy worker’s intervention, the creepy visions have stopped.
“It seems to be better now. We haven’t really seen anything out there in a long time,” he says. “Knock on wood, right?”
According to the energy worker, musicians may have an ability to open themselves more to ghosts when they are “in the zone” and picking up on different frequencies, which is possibly why the rehearsal space was intercepting such supernatural entities.
Perhaps she’s right. After all, it isn’t just the old dairy that is spooking Yellowknife musicians.
The Northern Arts and Cultural Centre’s (NACC) mentorship rehearsal space in the downtown mall is also reportedly plagued by a recurring visitor who seems to desperately want to get inside.
During her mentorship, composer Carmen Braden said she worked at the space every day from early morning to late at night.
“I was there all the time,” she says, “and one thing that I noticed was there’d be this knocking on the emergency exit door.”
It would begin almost every night around 8:15 p.m.; not just a few taps, but minutes of incessant banging on the door.
“Sometimes I would hear it for days and days in a row, and they would bang on it for a long time. Like three or four minutes. Not like somebody who bangs on it on their way down [the stairs], but it would be like ‘boom, boom, boom,’ like they were sitting outside,” she says.
“It would scare the crap out of me the first couple of times. I remember someone who was in there before telling me, ‘Oh yeah, I heard that a lot. Just don’t open the door. Never open that door. We don’t know who that is.’”
Who — or what — was doing the banging, Braden never found out.
“I was thinking of doing like in movies, where they put the mirror under the door, but I was just too freaked out about what I would see,” she says.
But if she ever gets the motivation to write a rock opera of some sort, she has her inspiration.
“If I had to make up a weird story, it would be: who is this person, what is their story and why are they banging on the door? I haven’t done it, and I don’t know if I ever will, but if I did, it would be about this person who is very interested about getting into our space for some reason.”
Even now the knocking persists, says singer-songwriter Greyson Gritt, who attested to the eeriness of the space.
“There are rumours that it is haunted. Everyday, you hear ‘someone’ banging on the fire escape door,” Gritt said. “And you just hear sounds. Late at night, there’s a weird energy. I feel like I’m going to see someone, or someone is lingering about.”
Though many have mused on the phantasmagoric vibes at the NACC space, for Braden, part of the spookiness is likely also a result of its dead mall aesthetic.
“It’s creepy enough during the day when there’s nobody in there. That’s more like a ghost town feel. But at night, the ambience of the mall and the fact that I’ve watched it decay over the years, you can feel the ghosts of the past in the sense that there used to be so much activity there but now there’s not,” she says, letting out an audible shudder. “It’s all echoey and cavernous.”