The history of the Devil’s Punch Bowl dates back at least 450 million years when materials which form the Niagara escarpment were originally deposited in a large inland sea.
This sea most likely originated from the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States.
Approximately 1 million years ago, the area was subjected to four great ice ages.
By this time, the inland sea had already retreated and great slabs of ice covered the land. Their effect on the landscape was to either sharpen and expose the escarpment rock face or to bury it with drift material.
Following the end of the last ice age there was a period of high water levels. This is what etched the final details into the landscape of the Punch Bowl.
One of these powerful streams plunged right over the escarpment at Stoney Creek and carved out what would later become known as the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
The development declined after this time period, but left a gorge that seems bottomless if viewed from the safe side of the surrounding guardrail. It has become a landmark that is famous with geologists worldwide for its exposed rock strata.
Origin of a Spooky Name
A number of stories circulate as to how the Devil’s Punch Bowl got its name.
Maybe named for the pails of moonshine bought at one time by the gallon in the woods around the Punch Bowl. Or that locals saw it as a true work of God, but knew God wouldn’t want something named after Him, decided to name it after the devil instead.
Although not named after God, one monument at the Devil’s Punch Bowl is a large, 10 meter high steel cross.
This cross was erected on December 18, 1966, believed to be the work of William Sinclair (1925 – 1994). However, the Ghost Walks received information from a descendant of the man who built it.
See “My Family Built the Cross” below
Since 1991 the cross has lit up every night, being turned on automatically thanks to donations from the Stoney Creek Knights of Columbus.
An incredible view as the Punch Bowl overlooks Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour off the escarpment. The lookout platform was installed in 1991.
The Punch Bowl is known as the location of TV and movie shoots. In 1989, television star Super Dave Osborne taped an atomic yo-yo stunt at the Punch Bowl.
Despite being perfect for photography and a romantic picnic, the Devil’s Punch Bowl has seen much vandalism. Also some suicides such as a man and woman in the 1980’s, and a jumper off the lookout point in 1991. Another happening in 2016.
Conservation authority shut down the washrooms building due to vandalism, and it’s not uncommon for picnic tables, cars, portable washrooms and pieces of fence to be tossed into the gorge.
Locals complain on summer nights drunken parties can be heard making a lot of noise, sometimes till 3am.
But regardless of the bad, the Devil’s Punch Bowl remains one of the most beautiful and significant sites in Canada.
Evil Spirits of Downtown Stoney Creek
Legends have been told by partying teens, drinking while taking in the nighttime fields leading to that dark abyss.
No ghost stories, just one legend about the cross.
They said an eccentric man had it built. He had strong religious beliefs about lower Stoney Creek and said it was filled with evil spirits. Living on the mountain, he wanted to stop evil from infecting his house. So, build a cross at the Devil’s Punch Bowl.
It kept the spirits at bay.
This is false. There was no eccentric man.
The true history is…
My Family Built the Cross by Wendy (Kott) Ariens-Tomes
William Sinclair was a Linesman for the Stoney Creek Hydro, volunteering his time to help install and hook up the electricity and the 600ft of electrical wiring to the Cross, for the installation of the Cross At Devil’s Punchbowl.
He gave a quote to the Stoney Creek News at the time of its Grand Opening, “I hope it stays lit for many years to come!” and thus became the fellow ‘Who Built the Cross” forever more.
My Aunt Marie Kott, a devout church-going lady who lived on Lake Avenue got very involved with fund-raising to instigate this Cross.
Donations were taken and the people of Stoney Creek got behind it.
It was Wentworth Industries, a steel fabricating company belonging to my Uncle, Charlie Kott, and my Father, Stanley Kott and 4 other partners who donated the steel, created designs, welded and laboured over the structure.
They created it right down to welding the 106 light fixtures.
My dad did most of the design work on his own time, many months of donated welding time. Stoney Creek Hydro donated the electricity for many years to light it up.
The Stoney Creek News neglected to mention Wentworth Industries in the write-up, much to my father’s chagrin, so the facts are historically true but not complete.
There would be no Cross without The Kott Brothers, through Wentworth Industries.
My Dad built things to last, as evidenced that those lights are still shining nightly, having had only one repair done in 54 years costing $7000.
Many thanks to the Stoney Creek Historical Society, the Stoney Creek News and Wendy Ariens-Tomes for the documentation and images
Image of lit up cross from www.garypaakkonen.com (Gary Paakkonen Photography)