Niagara on the Lake : Canada’s most haunted town

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada – MAP

Take a tour of Canada’s most haunted town…
Ghost Walks of Niagara-on-the-Lake

 

The History of Canada’s Most Haunted Town

Clock Tower & Courthouse of Niagara on the Lake - - Current day
Clock Tower & Courthouse of Niagara on the Lake – – Current day

Upper Canada’s first provincial capital was home to many firsts for Ontario.

  • Library
  • Courthouse
  • Post Office
  • Pharmacy
  • Newspaper
  • Church
  • … Public Executions

The British accomplished a lot in the short time after Colonel John Butler, his men and families settled Niagara-on-the-Lake (then called Newark).

Loyalists – – 
Loyalist is a simple term, meaning “staying loyal to the British crown”.  This was a bad thing in the 1700’s while living in the United States.   They fled the Revolution into British Upper Canada to keep their loved ones safe.

Coming here for a new life, and meeting the native inhabitants.

The Natives of Canada

Natives called this land home for over 10,000 years, with the Neutral Nation taking up much of Southern Ontario for 500 years.  Credited with maybe providing the name Niagara, for raging waters starting in Niagara-on-the-Lake and along the river to the massive falls.

Translating to, we believe, “thunder of the waters” or “neck” (because of the shape of the Niagara River).

The Neutrals called Niagara-on-Lake “Onghiara”, or paradise.  That was until the Iroquois found them.

They were plentiful, but peaceful as the name suggests.  It would be their downfall as warring tribes forcefully took the land, killed, starved and pushed the Neutrals out.  Eventually they all disappeared.

 

Starting “Butlersburg”

John Butler of Niagara-on-the-Lake
John Butler

John Butler and his men met with the Mississauga’s when arriving in Niagara in 1781. The town was purchased for the Brits, and in return the Mississauga’s received a ridiculous sum of 300 suits of clothing.  Or as some historians might say,

“They were ripped off!”

 

In 1782, 16 families started “Butlersburg”.  Just 10 years later it was renamed “Newark” by Lieutenant-Governor John Graves Simcoe, who changed it for their big plans.

Newark (Niagara on the Lake) was to become the first capital of Upper Canada (now Ontario).

The Capital

5 Parliament sessions held over 3 years.  This included one of the most important decisions in our history, the outlawing of slavery in Canada.  One of the first laws of it’s kind in the world.

It’s rumoured that after the decision, government officials retired to The Harmonious Coach House Tavern to celebrate.  The Coach House became The Angel Inn after the War of 1812 and is now one of the town’s most haunted locations.

In 1796, the capital was moved to the less vulnerable York, now called Toronto.

Burning of Niagara-on-the-Lake

On May 27, 1813 as the War of 1812 raged, the American’s marched into town.

Burning effect from 2013's 200 year anniversary
Burning effect from 2013’s 200 year anniversary

The conquering army took Queenston Heights, killing our famous General Isaac Brook.  Fort George later burned to the ground as 5,000 Americans defeat 1,000 British.

The Americans held the town until December 10, 1813.  Just 7 months before they are defeated at Stoney Creek (now part of Hamilton) and Lundy’s Lane (part of Niagara Falls).

The British advance on their former capital and the traitorous Brits and American soldiers decide not to fight. But as they leave, one final blow… they burn Niagara-on-the-Lake.

It’s to deny the Brits shelter during a cold winter.  Most every building and structure destroyed.  All that survived, the McFarland House (used as an out post), half of Brockamour Manor (fire went out), the Power Magazine in Fort George (didn’t want to blow up) and some random wooden houses for citizens to huddle.

After the War of 1812, the people of this town rebuilt.  As you will see, all “Original” houses do not predate 1814.

Freemasons are a Symbol of Hope

Freemason Lodge in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Freemason Lodge

The first of hope was North America’s oldest Freemason Order on King Street.

Built back up using the rubble of destroyed houses and structures as a symbol of rebirth, removing the sadness of destruction for the creation of greatness.

Take a tour in Canada’s largest Freemason Cathedral at Hamilton’s Scottish Rite.

Canada’s Most Haunted Town

Most towns have haunted locations attached to history, regular tragedies and events normal for any Canadian place.  Niagara-on-the-Lake is very different.

The only war fought on Canadian soil affected here like no other.  Death, violence, emotion and tragedy afflicting a small place with history spanning almost 300 years, and don’t forget the natives, confirming Niagara-on-the-Lake is Canada’s Most Haunted Town.

 

So many ghost stories

History is the foundation of ghosts.  The stories of war still told today, how they interact with the living causing this town to rightly receive a reputation of having more ghosts than living.

Stories don’t stop, and if all told on our Ghost Walks of Niagara-on-the-Lake the tour would be over 4 hours.  So we cut to a manageable 90 minutes.

But this proves a point.  So here are 2 stories not featured on the tour.

The Legend of Sobbing Sophia

Sophia Shaw was the love of General Isaac Brock.  The great general for the British was our important strategist against the Americans.

Some are unaware he didn’t want to be in Canada.  How the Americans chose 1812 because they knew most of the British soldiers were fightin Napoleon in Europe.  That where Brock wanted to be, but Canada needed a leader.

Brockamour Manor in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Brockamour Manor

Brockamour – – 
At the time, the Powell family lived in the house now called Brockamour.  Sophia Shaw was Captain Powell’s sister-in-law and lived with the family.

Isaac Brock was stationed at Fort George when he met and fell in love with Sophia.

Their courtship was quick due to tragic times, and they were forced to talk about the future. Marriage, a family, a life together.

But Sophia’s father, Aeneas Shaw, was against it.  He knew Brock was important for Canada, but he wasn’t a noble, he didn’t come from money and couldn’t afford the best for his beloved daughter.

Aeneas denied Isaac permission to marry Sophia, but the couple was not deterred.

Sir Isaac Brock, Niagara-on-the-Lake
Sir Isaac Brock

Then it was October 1812 and Isaac Brock was summoned to join his men and defend Queenston Heights.  If lost this would give the Americans a straight march to Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The couple said their goodbyes.  Sophia didn’t know this would be the last time.

Brock Dies

At Queenston Heights Brock charged his men into battle.  Up the hill and into a heavy American assault.  Some of the British dropped back as Brock screamed out,

“This is the first time I’ve seen the 49th turn their backs!”

 

The men surged forward and Brock was shot in the wrist.  This didn’t slow him, but maybe a distraction as  50 yards away an American sniper emerged from a bush, lined up and fired.  Hit square in the chest, Isaac Brock fell to the earth.

The great General was dead.  His men retrieved his body, pulling him away and down the hill as blood spread across his bright red coat and sash once given to him by Tecumseh.

Sobbing Sophia – –
Sophia was told her beloved was dead.  She mourned for years, never marrying, always wondering what could have been.  Then dying at a young age, many believed it was a broken heart.

During her final years, the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake didn’t see Sophia, they heard her.  Cries coming from an open second floor window of Brockamour.  They called her “Sobbing Sophia” and she’s still heard today.

Many reports of a woman crying in that room at Brockamour, and even heard at night along the mainway of Queen Street.

The Watcher of the Town

Many in the town report a strange blue light.  Some called it an orb, seen floating the streets at night near the modern Post Office (across from Starbucks).

Locals say it’s a former constable, hence blue like police.  No one sees it long enough to investigate, feel any emotion or notice a figure in the shadows.  Instead they simply call it the “Watcher”, the mysterious light that appears while the town is sleeping.