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Shopping takes on a new dimension at Dayle’s Grand Market in Amherst

A headless mannequin moving when nobody's nearby, footsteps in the dark? Those are just two of the many encounters of the paranormal kind experienced by Charlene MacDonald, left, and Karen McKinnon at Dayle’s Grand Market in Amherst.
A headless mannequin moving when nobody's nearby, footsteps in the dark? Those are just two of the many encounters of the paranormal kind experienced by Charlene MacDonald, left, and Karen McKinnon at Dayle’s Grand Market in Amherst. - Dave Mathieson

AMHERST, N.S. – If you’re shopping at Dayle’s Grand Market in Amherst and happen to see paranormal activity, just relax.

“The key, when you see something like that, is to embrace it. Not to freak out over it,” said Karen McKinnon.

That’s easier said than done.

It was only about a month ago when McKinnon, owner/operator of Maritime Mosaic in Dayle’s Grand Market, had a bit of a freak-out herself.

Alone at the market on a Friday night, McKinnon experienced something very unusual.

“I kind of looked up at the balcony and I swore that the mannequin in Electric Kitty Clothing, the one without the head, turned,” said McKinnon. “It freaked me out so bad that I had to call the restaurant owner next door to come over and wait with me until I locked up.”

McKinnon says it’s quite common to feel a spiritual presence in Dayle’s, and a month before the incident with the mannequin, another incident helped bolster her suspicions.

She was at home and, not long after midnight, she received a notification on her smart phone informing her that the motion sensor on her camera at Maritime Mosaic was activated.

Soon after, McKinnon looked at a recording of the incident.

“It looked like something was moving off to the side and floated over to my cabinet, and it continued to set my alarm off. At the end of the video you hear a sigh,” said McKinnon.

Paranormal activity is nothing new to many of the people who work at Dayle’s, including Charlene MacDonald, owner/operator of Bliss Crystal Café.

Besides hearing, on at least two occasions, the same sigh heard in McKinnon’s recording, and hearing her name echo within early-morning emptiness of the store, MacDonald has also heard footsteps on the second-floor balcony.

“About a year ago, my boyfriend and I were here on a weekend. It might have been a Saturday night at about 11 o’clock,” said MacDonald. “We were here late because we were putting in plumbing for one of the sinks I installed.”

When they were getting ready to leave, her boyfriend went across the street to grab his truck and MacDonald turned the lights off.

“The light switches are in the corner over there. When you shut them off, everything goes dark and then you have to walk to the door,” said MacDonald. “As I shut the lights off I heard somebody walking upstairs and I thought ‘what the hell is that, who the hell is in here?’”

The doors were locked while they were working, so nobody could have walked into the store.

While Macdonald was thinking about who it could be, the upstairs bathroom light, which is controlled by a sensor, flicked on.

“It gave me a weird feeling, and I certainly wasn’t going to go upstairs and check it out, so I turned the lights back on and I waited for my boyfriend to come back,” said MacDonald. “When he came in I said, ‘I swear to God somebody is upstairs. Can you go check it out.’”

He went upstairs and found nothing.

MacDonald shut the lights off again and they went out to the truck.

“When you drive around the side of the building you can see where the bathroom light is, and as we drove by the bathroom light came on again,” said MacDonald. “I would have said it might have been a mouse that set off the motion sensor, but I heard the footsteps. I have no idea what it was but it scared me, I’ll can tell you that.”

Trish Porter, owner/operator of Gifted Earth, refuses to be alone in the building.

“I don’t come in until somebody else is already here and has all the lights on, and I leave at least 10 minutes before everybody else leaves because I’m not going to be here by myself.”

She doesn’t want a ghost following her home.

“I don’t know nothing about ghosts and spirits, all I know is they say you can take entities home with you, and I don’t want them in my home,” said Porter. “I know not to mess with it, and I’m not going to.”
Kathy Chappell, owner/operator of The Copper Tree Boutique, has a routines she follows as well.

“Sometimes you wonder if it’s just your imagination or if it’s something beyond that, but when I shut the lights out and leave, I won’t walk by that basement hole anymore,” said Chappell. “You almost feel it right in your gut. Is it my imagination or is there something there?”

She says the elevator gives her the same sensation.

“Again, maybe it’s just my imagination, but when I stand by that elevator, it’s freaky, just like the basement hole.”

The Dayle’s building was built in 1906 and housed the Two Barkers department store, which sold everything from groceries, to cars, to clothing. In 1955 Barkers became Margolians, and then Dayle’s in 2004.

As an epicenter of activity in Amherst for more than a century, Dayle’s has seen thousands upon thousands of people pass through its doors.

McKinnon says the spirits give off a good vibe and thinks they might be former owners, employees or customers who love the building.

Whoever they are, she’s learned to embrace them and believes the spirits have learned to embrace them as well.

“I love this building. It has really good energy and the people who work here are amazing people to work with. I imagine it’s been like that forever,” said McKinnon. “That’s why I feel, if there are spirits, that they’re coming to be here because this is the place they loved to be.”

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