Lisette was the sceptic. "I only believe in scientific evidence," she claimed.
Kathy McBride can see, hear and feel spirits. She does ghost hunts, shows and private readings. She was extremely friendly and approachable and her sense of humour had us laughing from the beginning. Imagine having a conversation with a person and then realising they were dead because they have vanished in front of your eyes? It's happened to Kathy.
While getting a drink from the bar we spoke to Hannah who works at Downstage and she told us a lot of people have had experiences with ghosts in the theatre - including herself.
"Do you believe in ghosts?"
"Well, I didn't before I worked here!"
Uh oh. This was getting a bit freaky.
We met Jo who was helping Kathy by being one of the callers. What is a caller? Someone who calls the spirits. Jo is part Kathy's development group. Kathy is helping this group to develop their spiritual gifts.
Kathy McBride called us all together for a debrief. We had to go over the rules and regulations and sign a disclaimer:
"I ____________ release Downstage, Kathy McBride and staff of any physical injuries or mental health issues that may happen or eventuate from the Ghost Hunt."
Mental health issues? Oh well, I shrugged. Lisette and I already have those.
Tony was our Downstage representative. He told us about the cleaner who always feels a cat rubbing up against her legs (a ghost cat not a live one).
"Everyone has had their own little experiences." Tony showed us the ladder that had rattled for him one night over and over.
I got a little shiver down my spine.
Kathy needed to do a protection on all of us. We were asked to summon whatever we believed in to protect us - apart from the devil.
I looked around the group of people pretty sure that a lot of them could conjour the devil quite easily.
I did feel comforted about being protected though. A nice touch. We were also told before we left that we were to wash our hands just to make sure "nothing decided to go home with us". That made me feel uneasy. Visions of Regan doing the spider crawl down the stairs in The Exorcist sprung to mind. Mental note: wash hands before leaving.
One man was at the hunt with his brother. They had grown up in England in a 600 hundred year old house. He recalled childhood memories of door knobs twisting and opening to invisible people, unexplainable footsteps running across the floor upstairs and the occasional smell of pipe smoke - none of his parents smoked and they didn't have any neighbours.
There were a few kooky ones. One girl claimed to have had a past life flashback of committing suicide. She also informed Lisette that she could see her aura. It didn't have a colour it was just a blurred shape. Well whataya know! Lisette can see peoples auras too! When she dosen't wear her glasses that is! However optometrists call that astigmatism! Funnily enough it was past-life girl who claimed to see the most ghost activity.
We were split into groups to explore Downstage. With torches and cameras, it was time to do some hunting. Stay with your group was the instruction. We called and hunted and roamed the building. Things were heard - something crashed. I jumped and clutched Lisette's hand at one point. It would have been great to do even more exploring but we came back together and spread ourselves around the stage. Lisette and I were placed at the back left behind a curtain. That's when I started to get bored. OK, I know I don't have a very large attention span but I was tired and it's the end of the term so while we were sitting there, I could hear a bit of action going on out the front and I just wanted a little look. I got onto my hands and knees to inspect.
"Where are you going?" Lisette hissed
I kept moving slowly. Creeeeeeak, creeeeeak, creeeeeeeeaaak. I stopped still.
Then all the attention was on me.
"What was that noise at the back left?"
I was supposed to own up but I couldn't.
I had been mistaken for a ghost that had walked onto the stage. Kathy saw him clear as day coming from the back left.
"I should have dobbed you in," Lisette told me.
Anyway, it was then time for table tipping. You sit around the table with your hands placed upon it and call the spirits to move it. Our table officially moved and tapped and squeaked and people were touched on their legs and backs. But, we had to be fair and give the others a turn so we were moved off the table to watch the next group. I really was getting quite tired but stuff was starting to happen at the table. Lots of talking going on. This ghost only liked to be told what to do by a man so Dale had to take over with the talking "Please move the table."
The table moved and moved again.
We were in for the long haul though if the aim was to get the table to the other side of the room.
"I have some pretzels."
"Can I have them?"
They were delicious.
I continued to stare onto the dark stage listening and waiting and listening and waiting for the table to flip or levitate or something.
"Can you please stop eating in the corner?"
Shit. I let the remaining pretzels disintegrate in my mouth.
I checked my phone. It was twenty past two. This ghost was eating into my precious sleeping time.
"Lisette, we have to go."
"I'm not leaving. Stuff's happening."
I'd had enough though.
"I'm not coming."
"Yes you are."
That's when Kathy saved the night. "Let's take a short break."
"That's it Lisette, we are going."
Lisette was pissed. We yelled at each other all the way down the stairs (keep in mind we are like sisters so this is a regular occurrence).
"Oh come on" I said scathingly "You know it's a crock of shit."
"The table moved."
She looked at me.
"DID YOU MOVE THE TABLE?" she yelled.
I stayed silent.
She gasped "And the squeaking and the tapping. Was that you too?"
"Mariana, we are supposed to be unbiased reporters who are simply there to watch."
"But those people paid $60. I had to give them something. And besides, the table moved with the next lot of people and I wasn't even there."
We stopped speaking to each other.
Lisette believes now.....She went in a sceptic and came out a believer. I went in a believer and came out a sceptic. Who's right?
We drove home silently in the car.
"What?" Lisette asked.
"We forgot to wash our hands."
"Well that's just great."