Five Top Haunted Places on the Niagara River, Ontario, Canada
Ghosts Along the Niagara River
It's not all romance, honeymoons, and flowers on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls. The Niagara River connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario and it is along this route that ghost stories and legends abound from the village of Fort Erie and its surrounding hamlets to the historic Fort George. And there are eerie occurrences near the falls themselves. Ghostly sightings and tall tales combine to make the Niagara Region of Southern Ontario a truly spooky place to visit.
Eerie Erie Beach Amusement Park
Situated on Lake Erie, near the point where the Niagara River begins, just a short distance from the Peace Bridge and Fort Erie, lies the remains of abandoned Erie Beach amusement park where spirits who wander its weed choked pathways take phantom rides on the long gone Scenic Railway. Although a section of the park has become a housing development that reflects the old park's Victorian roots, bits and pieces scattered throughout the grounds testify to the park's glory days.
The eleven acre park begain as a picnic grove known as Snake Hill. By 1904 it became major competition for another Ontario amusement park, Crystal Beach, only 20 minutes north along Lake Erie's Canadian shoreline. Being closer to Buffalo than Crystal Beach, Erie Beach drew patrons from Western New York's major city. Ferries brought folks across the lake and docked either at the park or at Fort Erie, where a short ride on the train, the Sandfly Express, took them to the park's entrance. Rides included the Razzle Dazzle, Old Mill Chute, the Scenic Railway, and the Flying Ponies carousel. Tree shaded, bench lined pathways crisscrossed the property. An open air theater sat on the shore and hosted dances, Sunday hymn sing-a-longs, and vaudeville acts. Overnight visitors enjoyed a stay at the luxuriant, four-star Erie Beach Hotel. Day trippers ate their picnic lunches under a leafy canopy in the picnic grove. Erie Beach was a popular place. By 1919 more than 200,000 people had visited the park.
The Sandfly Express got its nickname from the pesky little insects that swooped into the four open-air cars and annoyed passengers.
Improvements and the addition of a thrilling, modern roller coaster, The Wildcat, in 1928, kept Erie Beach's walkways crowded all summer long. Then the stock market crashed in October of 1929 and people found themselves without jobs, homes and money. The park limped through the 1930 season. Unable to sustain a profit, it closed permanently on Labor Day of that year. J. Homer Pardee, who had owned Erie Beach Park since 1926, planned to turn the property into a subdivison based on a pastoral English Normandy colony. But his plans never materialized.
The park remained abandonded for 60 years until a new owner built his Victorian houses where the Wildcat once gave an exciting ride. But the rest of the park is a ghost of its past and still there for the curious to explore. A walk along crumbling pathways reveals supports from the Circle Swing, the Flying Ponies carousel, and the Tumble Bug, as well as footers from the Scenic Railway. Several feet of a concrete canal are all that is left from the Old Mill Chute. Stairs lead to nowhere. The place where the Erie Beach Hotel once stood is vacant, scorched foundatons testifying to the fire that brought it down in 1933. What is left of the pier can still be seen from Buffalo, a single concrete pad suspended in the water.
Sunbathers still use the beach. Dog walkers, skaters, joggers, bikers, and couples out for a stroll still meander along the pathways and lengths of the concrete promenade that are still in tact. But they are not the only ones visiting old Erie Beach Park. Many claim to see full bodied apparitions of a woman wearing clothing from the early 1900s and teens that died in fire. A little boy lingers near the Old Mill Chute where he fell out of the boat and drowned in the shallow canal.
Both American and British soldiers have been seen as this was one of the battle grounds of the War of 1812. Brass buttons, pieces of bayonettes and human bones have been found buried on the grounds. Light anomalies have been spotted at night, but not just by local teenagers partying on the grounds. Boaters steer clear of the park's shoreline, fearful of the dancing lights. Observers across the lake on Buffalo's shoreline have seen the strange lights as well.
There is no doubt about it. Erie Beach amusement park is haunted. So be careful when you are wandering the grounds. You just might meet someone wanting to take you for a ride.
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Frightful Fort Erie
Fort Erie has been protecting the Canadian shoreline of the Niagara River since 1764, when British forces were building a string of forts along the American border, following the French and Indian War, (known in Canada as the Seven Years War.) The harsh winters took their toll on the original fort, so a new fort was built in 1803. This is the fort that stands today. The new fort was unfinished when the United States declared war on June 18, 1812. The Americans were soon occupying the fort.
Many battles took place over the ensuing years and occupation by either the Americans or British depended on the outcome of those skirmishes. Then on November 5, 1814 the Americans destroyed the fort and withdrew to Buffalo. The Treaty of Ghent was signed December 24, 1814, ending the War of 1812. Fearing further American attacks, the British continued to occupy the ruined fort until 1823.
The Fort Erie area became significant as the major terminus in Canada for slaves using the Underground Railroad before and during the US Civil War. Many slaves crossed into Canada from Buffalo and were aided by sympathetic residents on both sides of the border. In 1866, a brigade of Fenians (Irish Republicans) used the ruins of the old fort as a base for their failed raid into Ontario. The Fenian Brotherhood invaded Canada on June 1, 1866 with more than 500 American Civil War veterans by crossing the Niagara River a little north of Fort Erie.
The fort eventually fell into ruins and the grounds were used as a park by the populace of the nearby growing town of Fort Erie. The Provincial and Federal Governments began a reconstruction of the fort in 1937 that was completed in 1939. During this time a monument was constructed on the grounds with 150 British soldiers and 3 American soldiers buried underneath. Today the fort has been restored to its grandeur as it was in 1814 and operates as a living museum. But not all the staff is living.
Fort Erie is the site of the bloodiest battlefields in the history of Canada. So it is no wonder that paranormal events happen frequently. Apparitions of both American and British soldiers are seen throughout the fort, on the ramparts, and on the grounds surrounding the fort. Phantom sounds of battle including booming cannons, musket fire, and men screaming orders resound throughout. Disembodied voices can be heard as well. Tourists see not only the real-time battle reenactments performed by costumed players, but the spirits battling as well.
Other activity includes reports of being touched and pushed, electronic devices malfunctioning, light anomalies, mysterious mists, shadow figures, feelings of unease, being watched and feelings of not being wanted, phantom screams near where the Bastion exploded and objects moving on their own.
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Legendary Bertie Hall
This Greek-Revival home was built in 1885 by William Forsyth, Sr. His two sons were well known abolitionists and Bertie Hall became a safe house for escaped slaves crossing into Ontario on the Underground Railroad. Rumors have persisted for years that there was a tunnel in the bedrock basement leading directly to the Niagara River. The tunnel, so the story goes, was closed off following the drowning of a child of a family who owned the home after the Forsyths lived there. No evidence of a tunnel has been found.
Bertie Hall served many owners. Recently it had housed the Mildred M. Mahoney Doll House Museum. However, a lack of funding resulted in the closure of the museum and all the doll houses were auctioned off in 2010. Stories of the paranormal abounded during the time the museum occupied the house. The most frequently reported: children laughing when no children were in the building and dolls moving on their own. Whispers, hushed conversations, large, moving shadows, unexplained noises and appariations in human form have also been reported.
Bertie Hall sits empty these days, waiting for new plans for its use to materalize...or does it? No living being dwells there, but the spirits of others may still roam its vacant rooms.
Near Thompson Road is an old oak tree that is said to be haunted by the spirit of John Windicker who hung himself from it after he fell into dispair following the destruction of his farm during the War of 1812. Passersby claim to hear gasps and screams. Some have even seen his hanging apparition.
Niagara Falls Spirits
One of the most majestic waterfalls in the world, Niagara Falls is a well known tourist destination. However, there are some tourists that just don't fit in. Sightings of red-coated British soldiers and American soldiers wearing tri-cornered hats patrol the shoreline, muskets at the ready. Spectors of Native Americans move through once-wooded areas on the hunt for game long gone. Cries for help and screams of agony can be heard near the brink of the Horseshoe side of the falls.
How many people died going over the falls? It is difficult to say. The Ongiara tribe sacrificed their most beautiful maidens, sending them over the falls, in order to appease the Thunder God, Hinum. He lived in a cave behind the falls and they hoped their sacrifice would persuade him to stop the people of their tribe from dying. Hence the Legend of the Maid of the Mist. There have been a few daredevils, barrel riders, who didn't survive the thrill ride of their lifetime.
Accidents have occurred: boaters coming too close to the rapids are suddenly swept over the falls, but many more have been rescued before plunging over the edge. Then there are those who are in despair and no longer feel their life is worth living. Have they gone over the falls or simply drowned near the river bank? The truth may never be known, but paranormal activity ranks high along the shore of the world wonder making those who experience these phenomenon wondering about it.
The Maid of the Mist and Daredevils
The area of the Falls known as Chippawa saw some of the heaviest fighting during the War of 1812, more than any other area along the Niagara River. Chippawa also has the highest claims of paranormal activity outside of the Village of Queenston.
Fearsome Fort George
Fort George is situated above the Niagara Gorge within sight of Fort Niagara on the US shore. Built in 1797, it was the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British army during the War of 1812. Among the forces was Major General Sir Isaac Brock, known as "the saviour of Upper Canada." He served at Fort George until his death at the Battle of Queenston Heights in October, 1812. Brock and his aide-de-camp were initially buried within the fort.
Fort George was destroyed and captured by American militia during the Battle of Fort George in May 1813. The U.S. forces used the fort as a base to invade the rest of Upper Canada, however, they were repulsed at the Battles of Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams. After a seven month occupation, the fort was retaken in December and remained in British hands for the remainder of the war. After the war, the fort was partially rebuilt, but by the 1820's it was falling into ruins. It was finally abandoned in favour of a more strategic installation at Fort Mississauga and a more protected one at Butler's Barracks.
The fortification was used by the Canadian Army as a military training base during the First and Second World Wars under the name Camp Niagara. The grounds were eventually abandoned by the military in 1965. The fort is now a National Historic Site of Canada, maintained by Parks Canada and is open to visitors from April to October. The staff maintains the image of the fort as it was during the early 19th century, with period costumes, exhibits, and displays of that time.
Fort George is the best documented haunted site in Ontario.
Reports include a man walking on the upper floor of the block house; a grey haired, balding man peers out from the bunks; a nine-year-old girl waits on the stairs; a man stands in a ground floor window; a young lady appears in a framed mirror in the Officer's Quarters; doors open and close on their own; shadow people roam the barracks; and a soldier has been seen patrolling with his musket along the bastion. A visit to Fort George can be a chilling experience.
Are You Brave Enough?
- Ghost Tour of Fort George
Are you brave enough to take a ghost tour of Fort George? Then this is the site you want to check out.