William Hamilton Merritt was a respected veteran of the War of 1812. Captain and leader of a volunteer militia, Merritt was captured at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and kept a prisoner of war until 1815.
After the War of 1812, in 1824 he formed the company that led to connecting Lake Ontario and Lake Erie via his invention, the Welland Canal.
Oak Hill (or the Merritt House) was built in 1860 after Merritt’s first house burned due to arson. And good it did, because Oak Hill’s history is amazing.
Tunnels – –
Merritt was part of The Refugee Slaves Friends Society. The tunnels under Oak Hill house connected it to the coach house and another to Twelve Mile Creek. Plenty of space to hide escaping slaves, and an important stop on the Underground Railway.
A part of the impressive history of St. Catharines’, which was home to a famous historical figure Harriet Tubman from 1851 to 1861. The local Salem Chapel honours her.
And the tunnel’s entrance still exists in the basement.
William died in 1862 and left the house to his son. The Merritt family would keep ownership until 1923, only leaving once when the house was donated for military use as a hospital during World War I.
In 1928, the house was converted to an Inn. It’s believed the tunnels were put to good use by “bootleggers” during Prohibition sneaking illegal booze in and out of Canada. If true, it would have been part of an operation overseen by Hamilton’s own Rocco Perri.
In 1938 the building was converted into a radio station.
Ghosts of the White House of Rock
A 2001 Investigation – –
A small paranormal investigation occurred at the Merritt House in 2001. The events stemming from this experience would forever change an investigator’s view of ghosts. In his words…
“I led a an investigation at The Merritt House in 2001. What happened that night has ensured no other group would be invited into the house to again stir up the very active ghosts.
First issue happened the night before inside their CD library. The workers were not happy. Then one of our psychics became bothered by a male spirit. She called him “Booger”, but said it was a joke, that the ghost didn’t want to say his real name.
This troublesome energy stuck around the entire time.
“Afterwards, we left the building and headed into the parking lot. Walking with my ex, the other psychic and myself. We noticed Kate was missing. I turned to see her by the garage, standing stick still. She started shaking uncontrollably, as if she was sick. She yelled out, “He trying to possess me!”
“I was new to the paranormal back then, and it was our first time working with these psychics. Watched it happen, as the other psychic did what could be described as a ‘clearing’, like Reiki. Then she said, “He’s gone”. And next is one of the most vivid experiences of my career.
“The amber garage light shining down on us turned off for a full 5 seconds before coming on again. The timing was creepy.
“Events before, during and after our investigation at the Merritt House changed me, forming much of my beliefs which spanned an almost 20 year career in ghosts.”
Ghostly Proof over the Air Waves
The following was from a 97.7 Hitz FM morning show not long after the 2001 investigation.
A seemingly innocent trivia contest interrupted by something very creepy. The hosts are very accepting of it being a ghost…