There are about five seconds of Pat Rundell’s life he doesn’t remember. Yet, they are five frightening and bizarre seconds that, in some ways, changed his life.
Rundell has been to the Maritime Museum of B.C. many times, especially after hours, as an actor in the musical Nevermore – a depiction of the life of poet Edgar Allan Poe. Rundell plays Poe.
The musical is presented in the old courtroom on the museum’s top floor where “Hanging Judge” Matthew Baillie Begbie was head of the B.C. Supreme Court. The actors rehearse after hours, until 10 p.m.
In that former courtroom, Rundell and his fellow actors have seen their share of inexplicable events.
Rundell remembers holding a parasol that would continually snap shut. He’s certain he’s seen the likeness of the museum’s architect, Francis M. Rattenbury, watching the rehearsals from the upper balcony. And fellow actor Heather Jarvie says she was once pushed – quite forcefully – into the courtroom by an unseen hand.
Those five missing seconds, though, came much later one night while Rundell was participating in a so-called Ghost Hunt, led by medium Dawn Kirkham.
He was walking through the main hall, near the ornate birdcage elevator shaft on the main floor, with some women in the group.
He blacked out.
His next memory is of the women’s shocked faces. After a tense moment, they explained Rundell began speaking in a trance with another’s voice. Suddenly, his body lurched forward and he snapped back to reality.
“I don’t remember any of it,” he says.
Minutes before Rundell tells me the five-seconds story, Kirkham sits in the former judge’s chambers on the museum’s third floor.
“I think in the courtroom it was the most oppressive I’ve ever felt the courtroom to be, and that means they’re not happy,” she says, referring to spirits that still occupy the court.
“This place is incredibly active. There are spirits that are connected to artifacts here. There are spirits that are connected to the building. There are spirits that are drawn to the building.
“I believe there is a lot of energy that runs throughout Bastion Square, which spirits will use to allow them to manifest, and I think this is a fairly hot spot for spiritual energy.”
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I tell the former Liverpool, U.K. resident I’m a skeptic. I’ve never encountered a spirit, heard noises that couldn’t be explained or seen a ghost. She explains I’m simply not in tune with the senses that would make me aware of the presence of spirits.
Later, she takes me to some of the most “active” parts of the museum.
We enter the engine room on the first floor.
“Can you feel the energy in here? It’s quite heavy.” Apparently, there’s very sad energy emanating from the deepest corner of the room. I think I feel the heaviness, but just because this room is dark.
Next, we pass the Tilikum boat. Stepping through a threshold into the next part of the room, it’s clear there’s a different feel, but I chalk it up to – once again – darkness.
So Kirkham has me rub my hands together, close my eyes and hold my palms out as I walk forward slowly.
“When you feel your hands tingling, stop,” she says.
And I do, just as I’ve approached the threshold. Spirit energy? Perhaps – but I tried the trick back at home and sitting still on the couch. Within about six seconds, like in the museum, I sensed a tingle.
After standing in several dark rooms and attempting to feel spirits, I am admittedly spooked. But still skeptical.
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Even after countless nights of rehearsals in what is often called Victoria’s most haunted place, Rundell and Jarvie aren’t completely comfortable with the place. They’ve altered their routine slightly, saying hello to any spirits when they enter the courtroom and saying goodnight before they leave.
Since those five seconds, Rundell doesn’t walk that main floor alone. Before his work in the museum began, like me, he wasn’t much of a believer, but now he’s a changed man.
“(Spirit energy) was something I always kind of felt, but I always kind of shrugged it off,” he says.
“But since working in here … we’ve all felt things and started talking more openly about it.”
To skeptics, Rundell says: “Open up and just go with it. Talk about it, don’t shrug it off as something else.”