In the dark of winter, with wind howling and snow whipping in shifting patterns and swirls, it’s easy to wonder what your eyes are seeing. Flying into Rankin Inlet, like many Nunavut communities not connected by roads, the isolation is palpable. Strange things lurk just outside the halos of street lamps and the warmth of doorways.
Even stranger things lurk in the shadows of the fire hall. Mark Kappi was working one lonely night when he heard something impossible—footsteps, running down the hall. When he glanced through the window in the door, he saw something that shouldn’t be there: two shadowy figures, in the dark.
“I blinked my eyes and looked again, opened the door and it wasn’t there any- more,” he says. “I swore and ran out.”
He didn’t come back into the fire hall until the next day. After all, he’d seen a ghost.
It wasn’t the first time. The Rankin Inlet fire hall has a long history of being haunted. Over the years, other people have seen eerie spectres as well. They’ve seen the evidence. One of the spirits seems to have a particular fondness for gloves and other loose items—or at least, that’s what forgetful staffers like to tell the chief.
“It seems to be a constant issue with the firefighters that they’re missing gloves or things like that. I don’t know if they’re just careless or if the ghost is collecting gloves,” says fire chief Mark Wyatt.
Some people have reported seeing what looks like a man walking up the stairs to a room that’s currently storage but a decade ago was the chief’s office. Kappi’s first year, a security camera captured objects on a chalkboard moving around—not falling, but slowly moving.
“There were things that just fell off the board. And paper just going down really slow on the board.”
The recording has since disappeared, perhaps another victim of the glove-stealing spectre. But Kappi isn’t the only one on the current 26-person team to have spotted something inexplicable.
“Last summer one of the girls in the middle of the day was out by the truck and then she comes running screaming in here, saying she saw a little girl in the [ambulance] bay. There was no little girl,” says Wyatt.
The fire hall has been in use for around 30 years, at least before Kappi was born in 1996. It also houses the community’s ambulances, and that’s where the other most commonly seen spectre tends to lurk—a small girl seen hovering by the vehicles.
“We’ve had dead people in the ambulance. We deal with a lot of dead people here. Some of the sea cans have housed remains for a while,” says Wyatt. “The little girl could have been a victim of something, maybe we took her in an ambulance and she passed away, something like that. I don’t know.”
Wyatt hasn’t seen the ghosts himself, but it’s not for lack of trying.
“I’ve been here three years, I’ve spent a lot of time here, I’ve even made efforts to go out there and talk to them and see if they want to socialize or whatever,” he says. They’re not rising to his bait, however.
So it’s time to bring out the big guns— the station’s thermal imaging camera, that is—to see if it can pick up any otherworldly presences. It’s usually used to find hot spots in fires, reading temperatures in the dark, but while Up Here was visiting the station Wyatt busted it out to see if any ghosts were around, just out of range of human vision.
“When I came here they told me it was a haunted fire hall and I was like, ‘yeah OK,’” he says. “I believe in all sorts of things. I’m not going to rule out ghosts. It’s not like it’s a fleeting experience that a few people have. I mean it’s something that’s been around for a long, long time.”
Kappi’s brothers and cousins were firefighters before him and told him about the apparitions. “They tell me stories about this place.”
The other figure spotted, generally through doors, is a shadowy human all in black. Kappi says he’s seen it but couldn’t make out its age or gender. “I see it like every month but I hear it every night that I’m here. Footsteps, running and walking.”
He’s not afraid. He just wants to know what they’re up to, and why they keep appearing to him.
“I just say, if you leave me alone I’ll leave you alone.”
While they may be startling for the uninitiated, Kappi says he doesn't feel any malice from the spirits, or like they mean him any particular harm (although they may have designs on his gloves).