An inside look at Concordia’s haunted residence
For many Concordia students, the ghost stories surrounding Grey Nuns—the former convent and current downtown residence—are nothing new.
According to former Grey Nuns resident Gabby Crowley, people have claimed multiple children from the building’s daycare report having the same “imaginary friend,” a man with tattered clothing and burnt flesh.
“It was actually kind of cool,” Crowley said, “but I was never really freaked out [by the stories].”
In 2016, CBC News confirmed 50 orphans died in a fire in 1918.
Concordia professor Daniel O’Leary explained that, among the many stories about Grey Nuns, the Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk is a chilling first-hand account of the convent from the 19th century.
Monk, who O’Leary described as a “non-voluntary inmate” at Grey Nuns, claimed the building hid an oubliette—a secret dungeon—containing the bodies of dead fetuses and infants from nuns who had secretly gotten pregnant.
Monk’s account might be seen as anti-Catholic propaganda, however O’Leary admitted to feeling uncomfortable being inside the building.
“It is an eerie place, and it is a common thing to see shadows and flitting figures” O’Leary said.
While I have never lived in Grey Nuns, both of my roommates have. After hearing our fair share about the supernatural, we decided to investigate.
On Oct. 26, we embarked on a slightly non-conventional investigation: a séance, complete with a talking board and a protective circle (a space that is safe from demonic entities, and cast by reciting a spell).
As we set up our protective circle, we heard eerie, operatic music echoing from a piano down the hall. Neither of my roommates remember this being a normal occurrence, but we decided it was likely nothing more than a coincidence.
For several minutes, my roommates and I waited in silence—our fingers on the board’s pointer—but nothing happened. It wasn’t until we were ready to give up that we felt the pointer glide across the board. In nearly perfect unison, we all insisted it wasn’t us moving it.
The planchette continued moving across the board, spelling out four letters: G-E-M-A. Then it stopped. Over the next 90 minutes, we seemed to have conversations with multiple entities, each one sliding to “yes” to tell us when they arrived, and “good bye” when they left. Few were as talkative as “Gema” seemed to be. When we asked her if she had been affected by the 1918 fire, she indicated no. When asked why she was here, the planchette slid from letter to letter, spelling out N-E-E-D-C-A-R-E.
Towards the end of the session, we noticed the pointer was repeatedly circling over “good-bye.” While this left us with a bad feeling in the pit of our stomachs, we continued, until the pointer began sliding manically across the board. When we asked who was with us, the pointer spelled out “Gema” again. Before we could ask another question, “Gema” began spelling out: G-E-T-A-W-A-.
Before she could finish, I quickly thanked her and told her she was released, as the board’s instructions indicated I should do. My roommates and I were fine not knowing if “Gema” had really intended to send an ominous “get away” warning.
As my roommate Hanna Buchanan explained, it’s interesting that many Grey Nuns residents are first-year students as there is something almost symbolic about spending your first year away from home in an allegedly haunted convent.
“Since Grey Nuns is essentially a place where students go to […] get out of their comfort zones, the fact that there’s this whole mythology around ghosts and the other world feels symbolic,” Buchanan said. “It’s all linked to the unknown.”
Photo by Megan Hunt