The Ghosts of Fort George

Niagara on the Lake is the most haunted town in Canada

Visiting a historical fort is fun for any history loving person, but it takes on a whole new flavor when you’re psychic. I’ve been to Fort George in Niagara on the Lake a few times now, but it was my first visit that I will always remember with the most clarity.

I used to work with a local tourism company called Haunted Hamilton (now The Ghost Walks). They offered local walking tours and group meetings as well as bus tours. The Fort George tour was the first one that I did with them as their resident psychic.

What did it mean to be the resident psychic for a tourism company? I sat at the front of the bus getting poked and yelled at by random spirits until I stood up with the microphone and asked the passengers to whom the spirits belonged. When we got to our destination, I was permitted to wander the grounds to see what I could pick up, and that information would be shared with the group. It really was a lot of fun! You haven’t really toured an old fort, museum, asylum or empty prison until you’ve done it in complete darkness in the middle of the night with 50 other people.

The Fort George bus trip gave participants a few hours in Niagara on the Lake to explore and shop before the sun went down. After a great walk in and around the beautiful little town and probably one too many glasses of wine (NOTL: the most haunted town in Canada AND the wine capital of Ontario!), we laughed our way along the winding road from town to the fort. The sun was going down behind us, and the fort ahead of us was obscured by the dense trees surrounding it. We were all looking forward to spooking ourselves, so we went around the parking lot and cut through the forest where darkness had already fallen instead.

We met Daniel and the park staff in their Gift Shop/Registration building and waited for the rest of our tour group to drift in from town. I wasn’t the only one who’d enjoyed a few of the local vintages. We were a loud bunch of historical nerds, and we were ready for some ghostly action!

My night vision has always been bad. When I’m driving I see starbursts regardless of changes in my prescription, and I cannot see street signs until I’m right in front of them. At night, the grounds surrounding Fort George aren’t just dark, they are entirely masked. As this was unfamiliar terrain to me, I stuck close to my friends for guidance. We hadn’t even hit the ramp leading up to the entryway when I felt the first rush of goosebumps on my arms.

When I come in contact with unseen energy fields, I have a couple of physical “tells”. Goosebumps that start on my arms or back will quickly traverse my entire body, including my cheeks and the hair on my head. The other tell is a little less pleasant; I call it the “ick factor”. It’s mostly nausea, but if the energy is decidedly negative it blossoms into a mild panic attack.  The goosebumps I felt as we approached the entryway were exciting, but my stomache was fine so I felt no fear.

The questions began immediately after walking through the tall fortress walls. What are you feeling? Can you see anything? Are there any ghosts? Let me tell you something. It’s really hard to focus on seeing into another dimension when a dozen people are talking to you at the same time! I didn’t have anything to report yet, but told them that the place was definitely full of energy, as evidenced by the little hairs that were still standing on end all over me.

I looked out over the field of buildings contained within the fort walls and really could not see much more than I’d been able to outside of the fort. If there were spirits out there, they were waiting for us to come closer to reveal themselves.

The first building we stopped in front of was a long, two story barracks. Our park guide gave us the history of the building, and then took us inside. The lights were all out except for one dim bulb on each of the main support posts. There were glass display cases on the main floor that held relics from the War of 1812 (for my American readers, that’s the one you never learned about in school because we beat your asses and burned down the White House for fun), and original wooden furniture that soldiers had used. Our guide talked about what a typical day would have been like for a soldier during the war, and then took us upstairs.

We settled on the old crates and furniture around him to listen to our first official ghost story of the evening, but my attention was elsewhere.  I don’t remember doing it, but I’m told I stood up and slowly walked away from the group, navigating the dark room like I knew where I was going, and opened a window behind a bunk.

It wasn’t a true window; it was a long narrow slat, about 3 feet by 3 inches, with a wooden shutter that sealed out the light, held closed by a hinge at either end. I was peering out that little slit when I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to find a number of people standing behind me staring.

“How did you do that?”, they asked, “How did you know?”

I blinked a few times, unsure of what they were referring to, then saw someone trying to open the shutter beside the one I was looking out of. Apparently I’d silently left the group, gone to the far end of the bunkhouse, stopped at the second to last bunk, turned toward the wall, reached up and simply unhinged the window as if I’d done it a hundred times before.  I turned to look at the bunk and a young man was sitting on the lower bed, obviously desolate. I frowned and moved to ask him if he was ok. He met my eyes, and faded away.

I don’t know who I’d thought he was, but I jumped in surprise when he disappeared.  No one else saw him, but they certainly saw me reacting to him. Within moments everyone was standing around the bunk that I was holding onto trying to get pictures of the young man I’d seen.

More questions came that I could not answer. The group spent a few more minutes investigating the bunk and window before being called to move along for the next stop on the tour. I stayed behind.

I went back to the window and looked out over the quad, but this time it looked different. It was still nighttime, but there were people down there. Soldiers in uniform, women in long skirts and bonnets bustling around, and lights and music coming from a building in the centre of the grounds. A cool breeze rushed up my back, and the sad young man was suddenly beside me, watching with me. He heaved a heavy sigh, dropped his chin, reached out to clasp the hinges closed, and turned back to his bunk where he disappeared once more.

Standing completely still, I realized I’d been holding my breath and let it out in a whoosh of wine-soaked breath. I looked back at the window; it was still open. Of course it was. I quickly shuttered it and ran down the stairs to catch up with my group before they noticed that I was missing.

We went through several more buildings listening to the history of each one and a few more ghost stories, snapping pictures and jumping at odd sounds. At the back of the grounds there is a look out tower with a tunnel that leads to its spiraling stairs. Putting aside my fear of spiders hanging from the old stone ceiling of the tunnel, I followed the group in. Our guide stood above us on the stairs holding a lantern, telling stories related to the tower. He hadn’t been talking long when at least half of the group yelped and jumped back against the right wall in surprise, myself included. A large invisible mass was rushing past us and out the exit of the tunnel, and I wasn’t the only one to feel it! Cameras flashed in the darkness blinding me, and I stumbled backwards trying to get out. I just needed OUT!

Whatever had run past us had dissipated, and I was alone under the night sky catching my breath for a moment. My head suddenly snapped to my left where I could see the vague outline of a man dressed all in white, standing alone on the rampart in the corner of the fort. A second, shorter figure, also dressed entirely in white drifted up the hill. They seemed to merge into one figure before fading away like a fog.

Other people had joined me by this time, and a few were pointing their cameras in the direction I’d been staring. Wordlessly I ran for the rampart, struggling up the dewy grass until I was standing where I’d just seen those two figures meet. The air was crackling with electricity, my whole body shuddered as I absorbed it and it passed through my nervous system. I kicked off my shoes and stood barefoot in the grass, allowing the build up to discharge into the ground.

An image flashed through my mind so quickly I could barely grasp it before it was gone. A young man in his nightclothes, a young woman in hers, meeting under the stars in this corner of the fort for a stolen kiss before separating and finding their way back to their sleeping quarters. The emotional charge that they created when their lips met still clung to the air as I breathed it in, reliving a snapshot of a moment that had happened 200 years before. A charge so powerful that it seemingly replays itself  on this spot even now.

I left the rampart to rejoin the group, my nerves still tingling. We were led into the small gun powder magazine, the oldest surviving building in the fort. I didn’t feel any spirits in this building, but was curiously drawn to a black and white photo of soldiers sitting around the building, mounted to the wall under plexiglass. After studying it for a moment, I realized there was a man visible at the roof line who seemed to be almost transparent. I asked the guide about him. He winked and nodded. I’d found the image of a man who’d died before that photo was taken. Employees knew about this ghostly image but liked to wait for visitors to find it themselves!

Touring the rest of the grounds with our group, we learned a lot of interesting facts about the War of 1812 and the people who had lived in the fort, defending our country. There were many energetic hotspots where candlesticks were known to move around and boot steps were often heard, but my mind kept going back to that sad young man in the upper floor of the barracks. I wondered who he was, and what was distressing him. He wasn’t just a residual replay like the lovers on the rampart had been. This young man had looked into my eyes.

We exited the officer’s quarters and I turned to look up at the window that I’d stood at and stared out of an hour earlier. It was open. I pulled my friends aside and pointed up at it. They asked if I was sure I’d closed it when I’d left, as I’d been the last person up there after the group had moved on.

“Yes, she did.” A voice behind us said. Our tour guide. His partner had been following the group all night, turning lights off and locking doors after we’d left each building. He’d personally checked that window to make sure I’d latched it properly. It was closed.

I asked the guide if he knew who the young man was, but he shook his head no. That young man had never been reported before, and no one had ever been drawn to wander away and open a window like that, either. This was a new story for his ghost tour nights. He unlocked the building and went upstairs to close the window again, leaving us to head back to the entryway with the rest of the group.

Back on the bus, Daniel asked the group if they had any interesting stories they wanted to share with the group, any activity they’d witnessed inside Fort George. A few people volunteered their experiences, but most were content to just listen. And then one woman near the back of the bus raised her hand timidly, saying that she might have something to share. She was unsure of herself, clearly struggling with telling us about her experience. Daniel encouraged her to tell her story whether she believed it herself or not. What was the harm?

She spoke quietly, nervously, but her words stopped my heart. She’d been exiting the tunnel under the lookout tower near the back of the group, and had been momentarily paralyzed while, as she described, a small woman dressed in white nightclothes quickly tip-toed right through her. She’d come from the direction of the rampart that she could see me standing on, and hurriedly continued around the back side of the magazine where she disappeared into the darkness.

This was the young woman I’d felt, the one who had snuck out of bed to steal a kiss from her forbidden love in the back corner of the dark fort. It had to be, the timing was uncanny. She’d rushed down the hill before I got there, and this tour guest had been directly in her path. I stood up at the front of the bus and told the group what I’d experienced. Everyone was silent. I hadn’t told anyone what I’d seen or felt in that spot. The woman in the back of the bus smiled and blushed, no doubt happy to have her experience validated by someone who’d shared it.

The bus pulled out of the lot and Daniel popped a scary movie into the DVD player for anyone who wanted to watch it on the long ride home. My friend and I pulled out a bag of fudge we’d purchased in town and passed it back and forth while we chatted about the day.

Fort George is rich in history and atmosphere, and more than worthy of a day trip. But if you ever get the chance to explore it at night, make sure you check out that upper floor in the barracks. Maybe you can find out who the young man is and how to help him.

3 thoughts on “The Ghosts of Fort George

  1. I was happy to be part of a tour to Old Fort Henry in Kingston with many of these same people. We stayed overnight. The tour was amazing, the stories unforgettable and the company was perfect. I wish we had experienced some of the visitations you describer here, Kate. That would have put the tour over the top.

    Another great story, even though I had to remind myself to breathe a couple of times.

    Like

  2. Very awesome, thanks for sharing. I will have to post my experience and pics from Eastern State Penitentiary and Pea Patch Island. Very cool experiences.

    Like

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