It's confirmed: the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts is haunted.
But don't take the word of the spooked staff who work there.
The Vancouver Paranormal Society has conducted several investigations over the past few weeks and has evidence of both a female and a male spirit in the James Cowan Theatre.
"We've seen shadows, and we've heard voices and stuff like that," said Peter Renn, president of the society. "We've actually picked up and documented a lot of evidence in there as well. We've got some photos and some EVPs - electronic voice phenomenon - tape recordings of voices that just can't be explained."
The buildings at the Shadbolt include several heritage homes - Ceperley Mansion, Mathers House and Anderson House, all built around the turn of the last century - that are reputed to have at least one spirit that makes its presence known.
"Everybody thinks it's Mrs. Ceperley," said Cory Philley, facility and event services coordinator.
"We were tickled by it," she said of the society's interest. "We've had some opportunities for them to go in and do what they do. We just said, 'Sure, that sounds kind of fun, actually. Please feel free.' Because there was enough staff members who have had some kind of experience, we thought, well, that would be fun to see what they come up with."
Philley said that she herself has never experienced anything out of the ordinary, but knows of several employees who, in the 11 years she's worked at the Shadbolt, have heard, seen, felt and even smelled some strange things that gave them the heebie-jeebies.
While Renn said he and his team usually investigate businesses and homes by request, he learned of a possible haunting at the James Cowan Theatre online and requested access to investigate.
When the team does an investigation, it uses extensive, high-tech equipment to search for paranormal activity, using $20,000 worth of audio, video, photography and thermal imaging equipment.
There is no cost to the client. Renn said the non-profit society - started in 1993, making it the oldest such group in the Lower Mainland - was started as a means for members to pursue something they're interested in, and, more importantly, to help people deal with paranormal problems.
"We get a lot of calls from private residential cases, people that just don't know where to turn, or who to turn to," he said. "They're not sure whether they're experiencing things that are paranormal or not, so we go in there and either try give a logical explanation as to why things are happening or, obviously if things are proven to be paranormal, to document what we find for the clients."
They are never at a loss for a haunting to investigate, Renn said. This year alone, the team has conducted between 15 and 20 investigations in Burnaby, and they have been called to solve ghostly mysteries as far away as Alberta and even into the U.S.
By day, Renn is a project manager for a contracting company in Vancouver. He became interested in paranormal happenings as a child growing up in a heritage house in London, England.
After witnessing what he refers to as strange occurrences - objects moving of their own accord, noises that couldn't be explained - his curiosity was sparked and as a teenager he joined a paranormal investigative group. "I've been doing this now for 17 years and have investigated a few places throughout the world," he said.
Not long after moving to Vancouver in 2008, Renn joined and became president of the the Vancouver Paranormal Society, which he said is the only such group accredited by The Atlantic Paranormal Society, an internationally-recognized organization. If Renn and his team confirm at the end of their investigations that there is indeed a haunting, they present their findings to clients and educate them on how to live in peace with their ghosts.
"We don't clear any spirits or anything like that," he said. "There isn't anybody on the planet that can guarantee that they can clear spirits."
Except in a few rare cases, however, the ghosts have been peaceful and had no malevolent intentions. "Generally the intentions of the spirits are misread through what is perceived on TV, and they're automatically deemed as negative because people just don't understand."
"I can count on one hand the negative ones I've come across in the past," he said.
From his years of investigating the inexplicable, Renn said the reason ghosts stick around certain places is because they are, for various reasons, not ready to pass on.
The deceased may or may not have actually died in that location, he noted.
"They're not moving on for a reason," he said, noting it is most often because the location was the person's "safe zone" while alive - their home, workplace or other location that held some personal meaning.
Of course, there are those who are skep-tical that the bumps in the night are anything other than human or nature-caused.
To them, Renn says, "For people to be totally skeptical and be a total nonbeliever, I'll say they're entitled to their own opinion, but on the same note, they should maybe come on three or four investigations with us and we can change their mind."
At the Shadbolt, Philley said she is not convinced either way, but is looking forward to hearing the report from the investigative team's efforts.
"I'm not saying ghosts exist or don't exist," she said. "If they confirm, then the people who actually saw everything, they'll be, you know, validated that all their experiences were the same. And it's a great story to tell."