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Scugog historical site opens doors for Halloween tours

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WATCH: A Scugog historical site is opening its doors this Halloween. It's a first for the Town Hall Theatre, as it looks at ways to keep the lights on since being closed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Aaron Streck reports – Oct 29, 2020

Town Hall 1873 in the heart of Port Perry has decades of history and stories.

The heritage landmark, built in 1873, started out as the town hall and has since transformed into what it is today — a theatre.

“Once the town hall outlived its use at this location, they kind of decided to demolish it and a group of like-minded individuals in 1974 decided this was a beautiful building and they didn’t want to see it demolished,” said Alissa Smith, a Town Hall 1873 board member. “So they went to the township and asked if they could save it and use it as a theatre.”

Some of the building’s history is on display for the public this Halloween — specifically, its spookier moments.

Borelians Community Theatre member Dave Ellis says in the early ’80s, he was directing a play at the theatre when he had an encounter with a ghost.

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“In those days, we had to close the doors and shut off the lights up over the stairs. I would come in the darkness looking for the exit sign, hit the knockout door and go out,” said Ellis, who has been part of the theatre scene in Port Perry since 1975.

But one night before he left, he stopped and looked up at the balcony.

“And there she was: the lady in white,” said Ellis.

Ellis says he couldn’t make out her features and has no idea who she was but there are rumours she could be the wife of the building’s founder.

“I stood for a few moments, I hit that door, I ran out, I slammed it, I ran down the parking lot and I have never been alone in this theatre since 1982 — ever,” said Ellis.

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Town Hall 1873 was forced to close its doors when the pandemic struck in March. The stage has been dark until now, as the theatre welcomes the community back for a first-of-its-kind ghost tour — a fundraiser to help keep the lights on.

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“Our hall has such history that also includes some encounters — footsteps running up and down the hall up onto the stage,” said Smith.

Jeanna Smeenk, also a Town Hall 1873 board member, says the tour will allow people “to be able to see areas within this building in the theatre that they wouldn’t normally go into, such as backstage or in the dressing room.”

While it’s unclear when people will be allowed back in to watch a performance, organizers hope to make the walking ghost tour an annual Halloween event at the theatre.