A haunting in the vaults

Megan Webb says she experienced paranormal activity while working in the Memorial University folklore and language archive. 

A woman stands holding a box with light coming out of it. She looks surprised. The photo is in black and white.
Pauline Cox is the archivist at the MUN folklore and language archive. She says strange happenings aren’t uncommon in the folklore department. Abby Butler/Kicker

Abigail Butler

Megan Webb has a master’s degree in folklore. As part of her studies, she worked as a graduate assistant in the MUN folklore and language archive during the winter semester of 2020.

On her first day, she was sent down to the vault to read and sort through files.

The vault sits in the basement of the MUN education building.

“I had done stuff like that before, so I had no problem whatsoever,” said Webb. “It wasn’t my first time in the vault.”

The room was quiet except for the slight hum of the fire suppressant system, and the rustling of boxes and papers she was sorting through. 

She reached last box, and was reading through the last file when, suddenly, she froze.

“The hair on the back of my neck stood up. I just felt this impending sense of doom.”

As she stood in a state of horror, the once quiet room began to echo with the sound of footsteps.

Her senses went on high alert as fear consumed her.

“I mainly just felt on edge and uneasy,” said Webb. “Like, there was suddenly something else there with me.”

Loud, clacking shoes were pacing the room, making their way to Webb and getting faster with each step until she felt as though the entity was hot on her heels.

“As it came up to, like, just behind me, I turned around,” said Webb.

There was nothing there.

Webbs’ heart was racing. 

She dropped her pencil onto the paper she was using and it rolled off and onto the floor.

The room was silent except for her deep, heavy breathing that drowned out the sound of the pencil as it hit the floor.

“I walked through each of the aisles of the vault,” said Webb. “I checked the fire suppressant system. I noted that no, you couldn’t hear anything from outside the door in the hallway.”

She was the only person in the room.

“There’s part of me that wants to go back and see if I experience it again. And then there’s another part of me that wants to never go back in there ever again.”

– Megan Webb

Fear set in and she jammed the files back into the box from whence they came and shoved it back onto the shelf, desperate to escape the room.

In order to exit the vault, the lights have to be turned off.

She recalls those few seconds between turning out the lights and getting out of the room.

“I’ve never moved so fast in my life.”

She ran out of the vault and sprinted up four flights of stairs to reach the office of the assistant archivist, Nicole Penny.

She burst through the doors and told Penny what had just happened in the vault.

Other members of the folklore department had experiences in the past, Penny told her, but nobody encountered anything in the vault until that day.

Webb has not been back to the vault since.

Up and running since 1968, the Memorial University folklore and language archive has collected tens of thousands of records including photos, videos, recordings and written documents. 

Pauline Cox has worked in the archives at MUN folklore and language since 2000, and became archivist in 2014.

Since working in the archive, Cox hasn’t had any of her own ghostly encounters, but says bizarre happenings aren’t uncommon. The founder of the department and the archives, Herbert Halpert, is said to still roam the halls.

“We hear strange noises or creaks,” said Cox. “Or things that we thought were placed in one place are suddenly not to be found there, but have moved somewhere different.

“We kind of have a running joke where we chalk it up to be the ghost of our founder, Dr. Herbert Halpert,” said Cox. 

It wasn’t until she heard about Webb’s story that she thought this might be more than just a joke in the office.

Is the joke about the ghost of Herbet Halpert true?

Or did Webb encounter someone, or something else, lurking within the vault?

“There’s part of me that wants to go back and see if I experience it again,” said Webb. “And then there’s another part of me that wants to never go back in there ever again.”

Abby Butler is a student journalist studying at the College of the North Atlantic. A lover of photography from a young age, she aims to tell her stories as much through photos as she does through writing.

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