Exploring the Abandoned Holy Ghost Church
· 8 min. read
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The Holy Ghost Church is located south of Saskatoon.
Actually, that isn't true.
In fact, it is nowhere near Saskatoon.
But in the "urbex" (urban exploration) and "rurex" (rural exploration) communities, there is one rule: never reveal the location of an abandoned building.
This might seem like an odd rule, but it is so that people don't burn them down or damage them any further. I loved visiting Chernobyl, but a lot of it was staged by people over the years. I also really loved Eastern State Penitentiary, but again, a lot of the cells were staged. The abandoned houses, farms, barns and churches dotting Saskatchewan aren't usually like that ? and the genuine forgottenness of them is what is so alluring.
So, this church is nowhere close to Saskatoon, but it's south of Saskatoon. That's all I'm saying.
The parish was established in 1901 to the small community of Secretville. The first variant of the church was built in 1906 and was blessed in 1913. It was formally named after St. John the Baptist. In the 1930s, Secretville had grown and the church was too small for their needs. In 1934 the new church was built and in 1938 it was named the Holy Ghost Church. It served the community for eighty-five years until it was abandoned in 1991.
With the church closing in 1991, I'm not sure of the fate of Secretville. I do know that the post office closed in 1969 and the school closed in 1965. I assume that the town is completely gone now, except for maybe the odd abandoned building.
Although the church has been abandoned for almost thirty years, I was able to find some pictures of a wedding service held there a few years after it closed. To my knowledge, that is the last formal event that occurred in the church.
However, these days the church is home to a new audience: pigeons. A chorus of pigeon coos ring out from the hollow, rotting building, and they flutter in a cloud of squawks whenever anybody knocks on the wooden door. The windows of the once towering church have been smashed out and the pigeons criss-cross through them like freeways.
An attempt to slow the pigeons was made with the addition of a fake owl hanging from a chandelier ? but judging by the decades of pigeon droppings layering its plastic body, it was to no avail.
The floor was once red carpet, but now is a mixture of red fabric, white paper, brown wood and grey pigeon poo. The pews, stairs and upper balcony are all the same too. Nothing remains of the once beautiful church; nothing except ruin and waste.
Behind the altar is a small room, once used for preparation for the Sabbath. Today it is covered in pigeon waste ? although less than the nave. In this room, there are rotting clothes, broken chairs, scattered bottles and an armless statue of Jesus. Once a sacred place, the Holy Ghost Church is no more.
Across the grounds from the church is a small piece of what life once was, and the pagan pigeons have not yet found it. This small piece of life is an old dance hall. The windows are intact, the doors are closed and the silent sound of music seems to echo from the walls. One can almost imagine the ghosts of people dancing on the floor, laughing by the tables or whispering in the corners. You can almost feel the stomping of feet, the clattering of plates and the cheering of celebration.
But it too is empty. Rot has crept into the ceiling, and birds have pecked out the lightbulbs. Tables have been flipped and drywall has been peeled off the walls. Not all the damage here is natural, but we did not expect to be the first ones here either.
Much like in the church, the dance hall has a small room adjacent to it. This was the kitchen, where for decades women bustled about making food, preparing desserts, pouring drinks, and making sure the party went on.
Today the floor is covered in smashed plates. Rusty cutlery is piled in the sink, and cupboard doors lay open and bare. A small fridge from a bygone era sits in the corner, but I didn't have the courage to open it. Nor did I have the curiosity to look down into the cellar. Some secrets are not worth learning about.
We left the Church of the Holy Ghost and walked back to our car. On the other side of the road was a cemetery ? perhaps, even, a graveyard, due to the proximity of the church. We didn't explore it as the day was getting late. We did, however, explore our clothing and found a plethora of ticks in pockets, under shoelaces, under collars and even latched onto our skin. After more frantic searching, we got back into the car and left.
Exploring abandoned places gives one the opportunity to explore different lives, different times and different eras. It also gives one the ability to see how everything that we perceive as permanent is only temporary. For eighty-five years the church served the community, and for thirty years it has served the birds. If the original architects could see it now, would they have even bothered building it? I think yes.
I love exploring abandoned buildings, but it is technically trespassing. If you plan to explore them too, please respect signage, property, and the places you explore. They were once somebody's home, even if they are empty now. Also be sure to check out my earlier article "10 Tips for Exploring Abandoned Places" or "Why You Should Visit Depressing Places".
Do you explore abandoned places? How about abandoned churches? Do you ever go inside? Let me know in the comments below.
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Categories: Canada, Dark Tourism, History, Saskatchewan