The Great Waterway of Southeastern Ontario is world famous for its rich history. Home to two UNESCO world heritage sites and the place of several significant battles; we are constantly standing where a nation was forged – more often than not: in combat.
The story from then until now wasn’t always squeaky clean. There were times when public executions were not uncommon. Smugglers, cutthroats, and even the occasional pirate once stalked the St. Lawrence River. At one time an illness that is easily treated today – could be your undoing at the ripe old age of 35. Our forebears faced a daily gauntlet of ways to meet an early end. As a result, this entire region is a prime destination for paranormal enthusiasts.
Whether you’re a firm believer in the supernatural or a guarded skeptic, It will be hard to deny the icy chill you feel up your spine while exploring these fascinating and frightening locations.
1) Historic Cornwall Jail
In the 1800’s the justice system was a much different version of what is in place today. In addition to murderers, thieves, and other villainous criminals – jails were also a repository for the insane, mentally disabled and other unfortunates that society would deem undesirable.
In addition to this – women and children of similar disposition were thrown into the mix. The ‘Gaol’ as it was called then, was often over-populated. Suicide, horrific diseases, and violence were rampant within the confines of incarceration.
The Cornwall Jail opened in 1834 and was in operation until as recently as 2002. Today it is open to the public as a museum. Needless to say, this is an alleged hot-spot for paranormal activity. The jail’s current location was where an army barracks once stood during the war of 1812. In 1826 it burned down while several soldiers and livestock were trapped inside.
Various unexplained encounters, sights, creepy sounds and even ghastly odours have been reported by visitors and staff. Phones that have been disconnected for years will often ring. Ghostly apparitions appear, and doors slam. Visitors even claim to have even been ‘touched’ by cold and unseen hands. Over the years, these chilling tales have inspired scores of ghost hunters and supernatural detectives to explore and investigate. Should you possess the bravery – this notorious building belongs on your itinerary.
2) Lost Villages Museum
The Lost Villages consist of ten hamlets, villages; and an entire farming community which no longer exist. These communities were not lost due to natural disaster – but rather they were authorized by the government to be ‘disposed of’ in the interest of expanding the St. Lawrence Seaway.
As a result, over six thousand people were displaced and lost their homes and very livelihoods. Today, they are commemorated at the Lost Villages Museum located in Ault Park on Fran Laflamme Drive, a short drive East of Long Sault, Ontario. Visitors can (seasonally) participate in Ghost Hunting sessions alongside a group of seasoned paranormal investigators. Perhaps you’ll make contact with some lingering earthbound spirits lurking within their former dwellings.
3) Fort Wellington National Historic Site
Fort Wellington was first commissioned during the War of 1812 by the British. The garrison’s construction was integral at the time, to guard a major artery of Upper Canada’s shipping and commerce.
Today, the fort is open for the enjoyment and education of the public. According to a study conducted by the Toronto & Ontario Ghosts & Hauntings Research Society: The historical reenactors aren’t the only soldiers who roam the fort today. Based on their findings and testimony provided by staff, there is a ghost who inhabits the second floor of the blockhouse. Reportedly a lost soldier from the War of 1812 by the name of Terrence Anderson, this alleged spectre is known to slam doors, startle staff members and is particularly active during fife practice.
4) Fulford Place
Fulford Place is a turn-of-the-century Edwardian (1901) mansion famous for its lavish décor and rich local history. It is an incredible edification to Canada’s industrial elite. Originally built as the summer home of George Taylor Fulford, this illustrious manse was designed by then-famed Architect: Albert W. Fuller of Albany New York. Today the home is a museum featuring original furnishings, rare antiquities, and the stories of her former inhabitants.
Mr. Fulford was the proprietor of a drug store and later came into pharmaceutical fame after patenting Pink Pills for Pale People. Mr. Fulford’s wife Mary (nee Mary White) was reportedly fascinated with spiritualism and the occult. It is said that many séances were hosted by Mrs. Fulford after her husband’s untimely death in a car accident at 53 years of age.
Mary was close friends with Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King – who was a well-known paranormal enthusiast. King attended the home to participate in several of Mrs. Fulford’s séances. Along with their own personal mediums King and Mrs. Fulford would ‘commune with the dead’. In fact, Mr. King was known to stay at the residence long after Mary’s death as a close friend of the family.
Does the lonesome spirit of Mary Fulford roam the mansion’s grand halls in search of her lost husband? The presence of once cherished furnishings and belongings within the house – coupled with the history of spiritual communication certainly make this a must-see location. Several of the paintings seem to watch your every move – especially a portrait of Mrs. Fulford on the grand staircase. It’s unimpressed facial expression and dark eyes seem to stare right through you.
5) The Blinkbonnie House
For over 170 years the Blinkbonnie has stood as an icon of 1000 Islands culture, heritage, and the subject of local legend. The property was first inhabited by Charles MacDonald who was a prominent businessman and co-founder of the town itself. Later, in 1920 the house’s owner William; son of Charles II died of an unexpected heart attack. He left no will behind – which left his father suddenly displaced from his own ancestral home.
In 1923 a local schoolteacher: Rebecca Edwards bought the home and turned it into a lavish hotel. Charles II begged her to allow him to live out his remaining years in the home. She agreed and ensured that the 86-year-old MacDonald was made comfortable. She re-purchased some of the home’s original furnishings in order to please the aging progenitor of the home. He remained at Blinkbonnie until his death in 1928.
The house has been visited by psychics, and there are theories that Charles II never left his beloved family home. There have been accounts of disconnected taps running, slamming doors, unexplained footsteps, and other odd occurrences.
Today the Blinkbonnie sits vacant with only the dust and echoes of her long and near-mythical history within. The future may be bright for the house, however. A recent article in the Gananoque Recorder reports that the house has been purchased with the intent of restoring it into a bed & breakfast or pub. It would appear that soon this house could be a prized landmark attraction once more.
6) Fort Henry National Historic Site
It should come as no surprise that the Limestone City is a hotbed of paranormal activity – with generations of stories and testimonials from residents and visitors alike. Topping Kingston’s list of haunted places is Fort Henry. For over 170 years this fort has stood guard over Kingston and was never once attacked. Over the years however, the fort has been the site of hangings, and even a prisoner of war camp.
The fort was even featured on an episode of SyFy’s Ghost Hunters. In the episode, staff members were interviewed, and the team recorded convincing evidence to support the countless tales of the Fort’s supernatural incidents. From summer to early September the Fort is also included in the Haunted Walk’s roster of tours.
Visitors who want to be truly scared out of their pants should check out Fort Fright; an annual event which begins outside the fort and ventures into the darkest bowels of this ancient fortress. There, visitors will be treated to what is inarguably the most horrifying funhouse ever created.
7) Skeleton Park
The official name of this location is McBurney Park. However, the grisly nickname stems from a rather dark and macabre history indeed. The park that today hosts a playground, wading pool and basketball courts was once a massive cemetery with over ten thousand graves. Established in 1814 it was one of the City’s first and largest graveyards.
In 1864 the cemetery was closed and left more or less derelict. Over the next thirty years, reports of skeletal remains surfacing in the park and complaints of a horrid stench forced the City to eventually ‘clean up’ the mess. Grave desecration and robbery were also rampant at this point in history – as medical students attending Queen’s University were made to provide their own cadavers for exams.
Headstones were bulldozed and the only the bodies transferred to another cemetery were those whose families could afford it. Otherwise, over ten thousand corpses were left in the now transformed grounds. Human remains are still discovered occasionally to this day and what remains of gravestones can be found in the grass if you look close enough. There are several reports and witness accounts of supernatural incidents including terrifying dreams, strange visions, ghostly mists, and even physical apparitions.
8) The Haunted Walk of Kingston
The Haunted Walk of Kingston is most certainly a must do for any paranormal enthusiast to visit the city. For over two decades this interactive and fun tour has operated and has remained a popular and educational attraction ever since. The good news is that there is still time this season to get in on the ghastly goodness. Tours still run until the end of November. The Fort Henry tours run until September 4th.
9) The Prince George Hotel
Now home to a trio of pubs, this former hotel was once the home of the Herchmer family during the 1800’s. Their daughter Lily is said to have had a love affair with a rum smuggler and would leave a lit lantern in the window to signal for him. One night this caused a fire which set the building ablaze and claimed Lily’s life.
Her ghostly figure has been seen staring out her third-floor window looking for her lover. Also, during the buildings operation as a hotel – there are stories of cleaning staff encountering bizarre incidents such as radios turning on, whispers and more. Apparently, a former employee of the Tir Nan Og pub abruptly quit after a frightening encounter, according to an article in the Queen’s Journal.
10) Rochleau Courtyard
Few urban locales send shivers up one’s spine quite like Kingston’s beautiful and infamous Rochleau Court. This picturesque series of alleys and carriageways is accessible from either Princess, Brock Street or King Street East and lead to the courtyard proper where Chez Piggy Restaurant and the Toucan Pub are located today.
The eerie tale tells of a woman named Theresa Ignace Beam who was strangled to death in the carriage-way by her lover (John Napier) in 1868. During a secret meeting; Theresa informed him that she was pregnant. Being a prominent entrepreneur, he was overcome with anger and panic.
In a fit of rage, he murdered and later dismembered Theresa, burying her remains in random locations throughout the courtyard and alleyways. Some claim that her remains are buried in the basement of an adjacent building. Despite past efforts, her remains have yet to be discovered.
The alley is featured in the Haunted Walk tour and was also in a segment of Creepy Canada (Skip to 30:36). Does Theresa’s restless spirit wander the shadowy back alleys of Rochleau Court, eternally in search for her unceremoniously disposed of remains?
11) The Hochelaga Inn
The Hochelaga Inn is another of Kingston’s most popular paranormal buildings. Originally built in 1879 by a relative of Sir John A MacDonald, and later used to house travelling Bank of Montreal employees – The Hochelaga Inn was opened as a bed and breakfast in the mid-80’s.
There are a series of stories from former guests that describe the ghostly apparition of a woman in black sitting in their room at night, an unearthly wailing baby and even mischievous child-spirits who throw objects and turn on televisions. One particular TripAdvisor review entitled: “I think it’s haunted” only adds to the intrigue surrounding this quaint and historic inn.
12) Allan Macpherson House
Allan Macpherson was a prolific entrepreneur and member of Napanee’s budding society in the mid-1800’s. Today his former home is a landmark for local tourism and potentially a spiritually active building.
The mansion, which is now a museum – has been investigated multiple times by at least two paranormal groups. The Canadian Haunting & Paranormal Society (CHAPS) conducted a search in 2014 which rendered ‘inconclusive’ results. Another group: Bytown Paranormal investigated MacPherson House around the same timeframe.
One thing I can say for certain is that this house has always given me the creeps. This could be partially due to the fact I lived next door to it while in high school, and while arriving home at night I’d always get an uneasy feeling as though I was being watched. Maybe it was the cardboard cut-out of Sir. John A MacDonald blankly staring out from the upstairs window that overlooked our driveway… You be the judge.
13) Prince Edward Heights / PRZ Paintball
Photo Credit: The Paranormal Seekers
As far as freaky ominous buildings go; they don’t get much freakier than abandoned government asylums. Technically, the Prince Edward Heights facility was not an actual asylum – but that doesn’t make this place any less scary. Originally a military barracks and then converted to a “hospital for the mentally disabled” in 1971 the building and images from within invoke spine-tingling reactions.
There are several unconfirmed stories of patient abuse and even fatalities while the hospital was in operation. Supernatural investigators: The Paranormal Seekers visited the complex in January 2014, and their gallery is full of menacing images of the derelict asylum’s interior. Another group by the name of PROO(f) TV conducted an extensive event – which they posted on YouTube.
Today, Prince Edward Heights is an ideal destination for paintball enthusiasts more than ghost hunters. Current tenant: PRZ Paintball has turned this massive complex into what is undoubtedly the most epic competitive paintball arena ever. So if you want to shoot your friends, while being simultaneously scared out of your wits, this is the place for you.
As always, thanks for reading! The Great Waterway possesses a venerable bounty of opportunity to immerse one’s self in our nation’s history – in addition to the wide variety of other activities there are to choose from. Whether it’s hiking, dining, or tracking ghosts our activity planner can help you get started!
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