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Ghosts of Old Town's past summoned
Musician runs sound equipment into the ground where 'House of Horrors' once stood

Evan Kiyoshi French
Northern News Services
Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Copper wires running from sound equipment into the ground near the former site of the city's infamous "House of Horrors" didn't produce any ghostly voices on Saturday.

NNSL photo/graphic

The 'House of Horrors', now demolished, was still standing in 2012. The building has a rich history that includes a drowning in a barrel in 1957. - NNSL file photo

Skot Deeming, aka, "Mr. Ghosty," the artist-in-residence for Western Arctic Moving Pictures, said the recordings he made near Pilot's Monument - where the so-called haunted house once stood - didn't sound other-worldly while he was carrying out his experiment but he won't know for sure until he's examined the recordings again in his studio.

"I'm pretty agnostic about the whole thing," he said. "I'm equal part skeptic and believer. I haven't gone through the field recordings yet. In the moment, definitely I didn't hear any voices. Who knows what I'll hear. Even if I do hear something, I still probably won't be convinced (that it was a ghost)."

Deeming said he's often billed as a musician who is also an amateur ghost hunter but the truth is he's interested in the sounds associated with the fringe-science of ghost hunting.

"I think the sounds themselves are interesting," he said. "It's been easy to promote me as an artist who is also an amateur ghost hunter. But what I'm actually more interested in is the aesthetic conditions of the sounds that are used in these instances rather than saying whether or not they're haunted."

Deeming - whose residency spans from June until the first week of September - said he'd heard about the "House of Horrors" before he came to the city and thought it was the perfect place to perform his experiment.

According to historian Ryan Silke, the home was built by Alphonse Cyr in 1938. Its most notorious reputation is as a bootlegger's lair and bawdy house, Yellowknifer reported in 2003. Cyr rented the rooms throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

The building earned its name for the wild parties and card games it hosted in the 1940s, according to a 2013 heritage committee document by Silke. It had also been a barber shop, according to the same document.

One night in 1957, a group of people were playing a card game in the home. Prospector Ben Melanson excused himself to fetch a fresh case of beer from the basement, said Silke.

"I guess on his way down into the cellar he hit his head on a beam and fell face-first into a barrel of water, or the sump in the basement, and he ended up drowning," he said.

Silke said he couldn't say for sure whether Melanson's story is the source of the house's eerie reputation but after it was converted into a private residence the home was abandoned during the 1970s.

"It was never fixed up, and it was demolished two or three years ago," he said. "But I'm sure there are people out there that believe the house was haunted, and certainly that may well be. It was a spooky-looking little place."

Deeming said he's planning another ghost hunt at Pine Point.

"In terms of performance it won't happen quite the same way," he said. "I'll be bringing that back and it'll be compiled in the exhibition of my residency that happens in August. It's all about visiting these abandoned sites and considering the material nature of things beyond our perception."

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