Known ghost stories you’ll never hear on the historical tour…
Dundurn Castle was saved from the decay of time by an ambitious city.
Once home to a former Prime Minister. Sir Allan MacNab (knighted thanks to his role in the Rebellion of 1837) served as a leader of Upper Canada (today the province of Ontario). A high point of his roller coaster life.
3 years long, from 1832 to 1835, to build Dundurn on land at the mouth of Burlington Heights. Land once owned and made famous by pioneer Richard Beasley.
Beasley helped found Ancaster, served in Parliament and donated his land to the British war effort. Soldiers camped out across the street before marching on Stoney Creek, initiating a pivotal turning point in the War of 1812.
MacNab kept the foundation and basement of Beasley’s home into the final design of Dundurn Castle.
Controversy followed MacNab in life. Many shady dealings attributed to his fading wealth. Even in death he generated negative press, sparking a city-wide controversy around his religion.
MacNab was a dedicated Anglican in life, faith and reputation. Then the Catholic Bishop of Hamilton declared MacNab converted to Catholicism on his death bed. Nobody believed it.
It’s true MacNab’s Catholic sister-in-law invited the Bishop to give last rites. Inside Dundurn with only the three of them to witness.
Most, including the Hamilton Spectator and Toronto Globe and Mail passed it off as rumour. Not the Mayor of Hamilton. That dedicated Catholic backed the Bishop’s move to ensure MacNab was buried a Catholic.
A posse of men were hired to stand guard at the funeral with weapons in case of religious violence. Word got out and the public stayed away. Only some family attended MacNab’s funeral as his body was buried in the family cemetery once located on the east side of Dundurn Park.
His body remained in the family plot until a law was passed not allowing family cemeteries in the city’s core. The MacNab’s were moved to Hamilton Cemetery… all except Allan the Catholic.
Thrown into an unmarked grave in the back of Holy Sepulchre (now part of Burlington). Located in the historic section near the chapel.
Thankfully in 1967 a historical group put down a stone marker over the resting place of this once famous man.
Direct line to the Royal Family
Sophia (pronounced So-fi-ah) MacNab was the favourite daughter of Sir Allan. Married at 23 to an English Earl named William Keppel.
The line starts from there and ends with a great-great granddaughter named Camilla. She would become the second wife of Prince Charles.
Across the street
Beasley gave up his land for the British troops during the War of 1812. He did it again in 1814.
Eight men were executed for treason in a historical account known as the Bloody Assize of Ancaster.
The trial in a small courthouse once on Wilson Street. Eight men kept in the basement of the Ancaster Mill before being transported to Beasley’s land (now across from Dundurn, site of the Hamilton Cemetery)
Gallows setup and we know the men were hanged. What happened after the hanging remains a mystery as there are two different accounts (details recounted on the Ghost Walks at the Hermitage Ruins & our Dark Trolley Tour).
Later this land became Canada’s oldest city run burial ground – the Hamilton Cemetery. Includes graves of many notable Hamilton-ians, and original earthworks made by the British during the war.
A Haunted Building, we think
The Hamilton Civic Museums, who run Dundurn Castle, are amazing caretakers of historic buildings. Our only disagreement is about ghosts.
They don’t believe in ghost stories. Tour guides have to sign contracts stating if you’re caught telling ghost stories you’ll be fired. But even with the tight leash, a couple of ghost stories have escaped.
Including the famed Wedding Ghost…
The Wedding Ghost
Countless wedding photos have been taken around Dundurn Castle.
During one such session, the groomsmen were standing behind the mansion across from the bridal path. A photo snapped with stone and windows in the background.
A reflection in the pane of a window stood out. It stood out, didn’t look normal. The confused photographers sent it to the Hamilton Spectator. Not expecting much, the reporters blew up the anomaly and found someone who recognized it.
Shape and look just like a famous sketch located inside the castle. Created by Earl William Keppel carefully capturing his beloved wife, Sophia MacNab.
Sophia is said to haunt her childhood home.
Look at her history and it makes sense. Sent away and married off at a young age. She missed the death of her father and the house was taken by Hamilton due to debt. She didn’t return to her beloved home… that is until after death.
Daniel of The Ghost Walks shares this story on YouTube
A 1960’s tour of Dundurn Castle in Hamilton
Photographic tour of Dundurn Castle done in 1967 for the Hamilton Spectator. Featuring…
- Entrance with iconic columns
- Grand staircase leading up to the…
- Upstairs parlour featuring a piano built in Hamilton in the 1800’s
- Sir Allan Napier MacNab’s bedroom
- Dundurn’s Dining Room, with angle of windows were the Wedding Ghost (see above) would appear about 30 years later
- Including a drawing of the Drawing Room