Merritt House | 97.7htz FM | St. Catharines

Merritt House (Radio Station for 97.7htz FM) at 12 Yates Street, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada – MAP

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History

William Hamilton Merritt was a respected veteran of the War of 1812.  Captain and leader of a volunteer militia of 50 dragoons, or horse mounted infantry. 

Stationed at Chippewa, the idea for the Welland Canal struck him while patrolling around Niagara Falls.

Illness did keep him from major events.  Including the Burning of Buffalo.  But he was ready for the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.  It occurred at today’s location of Drummond Hill Cemetery

Merritt captured and kept prisoner in a POW camp in Cheshire, Massachusetts.

William Hamilton Merritt in his later years - - circa late 1800s
William Hamilton Merritt in his later years – – circa late 1800s

Remained here for 8 months until the end of the War, but not by choice.  Many of the British constantly tried escaping.  So often that the American soldiers had to threaten them with cannons.  Kept the weapons around the camp in case any tried to run.  Merritt was officially released in March 1815.

After the War he bought and ran a Grist Mill.  His life almost dedicated to this pursuit.  If not for a problem that set his mind elsewhere… lack of water.  This lead to developing a canal flowing water to his mill at Twelve Mile Creek.  Then leading to Upper Canada’s approval of a project to connect Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. 

Alfred Barrett, the engineer behind the older Erie Canal put in charge.  The Welland Canal officially opened in 1829.

Oak Hill, also known as the Merritt House, built in 1860.  This was after William’s old house burned in 1859.  Set by an unknown arsonist. 

And good it did!  Ah, in a way.  Because the Merritt House’s history is amazing.

Tunnels – –

Starting with slavery.  William was part of The Refugee Slaves Friends Society.  Started by the first mayor of St. Catharines, Elias Adams, in 1852.  Dedicated to providing assistance to escaped slaves.

There’s a tunnel under the Merritt House.  I’ve seen it personally during an investigation in 2000.  In the basement there’s a door leading to stairs going down.  A sub-basement and off-limits space.   

Legend says the sub-basement led to a tunnel, which then led to the Welland Canal.  Perfect for sneaking anything into the basement of the house.  Including people, during the days of the Underground Railroad.

Harriet Tubman

The Railroad was a network of secret routes, safe houses and hiding places for escaping slaves coming up from the US.  This tunnel an example of the impressive history of in St. Catharines’, Ontario, Canada, location of the Merritt House. 

This city once home to the famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman.  She arrived here in 1851 while escaping with 11 other slaves.  Remained till 1861, over which time she brought about 300 people to safety. 

She lived across the street from the Salem Chapel on Geneva Street.  This is where she attended church, and today the chapel honors her with a museum.

As far as I know, the tunnel still exists in the basement of the Merritt House.

Now back to the past!  William died in 1862 while on a boat near Cornwall, Ontario.  Left the house to his son Thomas. 

The Merritt’s kept ownership until 1923.  Leaving when it was donated for use as a military convalescent home during World War I.

In 1928 the house was converted to an Inn.  During this time there was big business in bootlegging.  During Prohibition when alcohol was banned in first the United States and then Canada.

Bootleggers were organized crime to produce, receive and sell illegal booze.  It’s believed the tunnels were put to good use by “bootleggers”.  If true, it would have been part of an operation overseen by Canada’s own Al Capone, a man from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada named Rocco Perri.

Only 10 years later the house was converted into a much different use.  The same use remaining today.  In 1938 the house became a radio station.  Eventually becoming the home of 97.7Htz FM.

The Merritt House or Radio Station for 97.7 Htz FM - - Current Day
The Merritt House or Radio Station for 97.7 Htz FM – – Current Day

CDs

A small paranormal investigation occurred at the Merritt House in 2001.  The events from this night changed the way I saw ghosts. 

Was part of a team.  I as the “journalist” recording the night’s events.  Along with an investigator and two psychics. 

Michele was the experience psychic.  With many years of investigations and readings.  Kate, at the time, was new to investigation.  She looked to Michele for guidance during a night inside the active Merritt House. 

What happened that night ensured no other group, or anything ghostly related, would be invited back in.  Not because we did anything wrong.  And here’s what sets this place apart.  It’s because of what the ghosts did!

Something happened the night before we came in.  We had no idea until arriving the next night.  Being greeted at the door with a frown.  We were all confused by the hostility until being brought into the basement.

I’ll never forget the moment, walking up to the CD Library door.  A small radio was playing 97.7 from the corner.  I wasn’t listening until a small pause, then ACDC’s Highway to Hell came on.

Didn’t know what to expect as an employee opened the door.  Inside, the entire CD library was sitting piled and broken on the floor.  Hundreds of CDs missing from their carefully organized shelves.

A Believer Now

That single moment made me a complete believer.  My mind went through all the scenarios, natural explanations to explain it away.  But nothing fit. 

A low funded radio station existing in a dying medium.  They’d never willfully damage or destroy CDs.  Wasting money they didn’t have, and time to reorganize the library.  Summed up when the employee said, “We found it this way”.

Throughout the night Kate was harassed by a male energy in the house.  She and Michele asked for a name, and the thing only mocked them.  Said to call it, “Booger”. 

We knew it was a joke.  Yet the name stuck, with similar karma as Beetlejuice from the movie.  To this day we’re all careful not to say the name as to call on the ghost. 

“Booger” followed Kate through the house.  Pushing for her attention and distracting her from everything else.  Maybe a reason the night was energetic? 

Not so much during the actual investigation, but what occurred after.  Starting when we walked through the parking lot to our cars.

The Aftermath

Walking with the team, three of us noticed Kate was gone.  I turned to see her by the garage standing straight and shaking uncontrollably.  Not the kind of shaking you can fake.  More like when you’re sick.  Shudders from a cold weak body. 

She yelled out, “He trying to possess me!” 

Back then I was new to the paranormal.  It’s my first time working with Kate and Michele.  Since then, by the way, together we’ve done many events, investigations and appearances.  But in that moment, I didn’t know what to think.   

What could only be described as a ‘clearing’, like Reiki.  Michele put her hands an inch away on both sides of Kate.  Ran them down, shot them out and shook them off.  Sweeping away bad energy. 

Then she said, “He’s gone” followed by a vivid experience.  As Michele called out, a single amber spotlight over the garage shut off.  Darkness for a few seconds before lighting up again.  The timing was eerie. 

Ghost Voices

We ended the night.  Over the next couple of days, going through the evidence yielded another first for me.  EVP’s.

In case you don’t know, an EVP or Electronic Voice Phenomenon, is basically ghost voices over tape.  Recordings said to pick up details the human ear cannot.  The Merritt House was full of them.

Here are a couple of standouts.  Please note… I’ve heard these many times and think I know what’s being said.  However, the human brain is dedicated to making sense out of nonsense.  And at times it can get confused.

So, even though I hear those words, you might not.  Disclaimer out of the way, here they are…

The EVPs

Coming out of the basement.  Kate asks if the ghosts of the basement can follow us to the main floor.  Michele answers no.  Then the EVP voice sounding like an older woman says, “Don’t count on it”

Taken from a random moment that night.  During a quiet part, a gruff woman’s voice sounds to be saying, “Anna”

Our investigator was talking about some information related to the house.  When done, it sounds like a woman’s voice agrees, saying, “Of course Stephanie”.  That’s the investigator’s name.

Maybe you heard what I heard.  Either way, the recordings were controlled.  The voices not any of the teams or guides in the building.  They were something else.

Followed Home

Soon after reviewing the evidence, the haunting began.  Another belief I got from that night is how a spirit can follow you home.  Assumed it was only legend until experiencing.  Even after never saying the dreaded and hilarious name “Booger”. 

It started with some fake greenery in my kitchen.  I left the room and came back seconds later.  Some plastic leaves had moved from the top of the cabinets down to the fridge.  Same position, same amount hanging over the edge.  Just moved 3 feet down and 1 foot out.

The Dirt

Then in the dinning room I had a plant.  Sat in the far corner behind the table.  Again it starts with me leaving the room for a moment.  Coming back to find dirt scattered throughout the room. 

300 square feet of carpet.  Dirt lightly sprinkled evenly throughout.  As if somebody took a handful from the plant, sprinkled it and ran off.  And before you think they could’ve run off, note the apartment door was locked, and the other route included a 12-story drop. 

At the same time it felt strange being in there at night.  I’m in no way afraid of the dark.  Wouldn’t possible when running headfirst into the most haunted places at night.  Yet being in the living and dining rooms at night was unbearable.  I didn’t dare turn off the lights without increasing the dread.

Can’t Take It

Couldn’t take it after a week.  I called Michele, told her the situation and asked her, “Is there anyway to get rid of it?”  She passed along an amazing piece of advice.  I’ve since shared it with countless folks at the Ghost Walks’ events. 

She said, “You need to confront it.  Remember fear is our enemy, making it strong.  We have the body.  We have the power.  Be brave and tell it to leave!”

That’s exactly what I did.  One night, walking out into the dining room with the lights off.  Dread so strong it hurt my chest.  Standing there with my eyes closed.  Not sure what to say, but I didn’t have to wait long before feeling it. 

Will never forget it.  How air in front of my face was blocked.  An aggressive stance and the real feeling of another person standing there.  That was enough. 

I got angry!  Telling the thing to get out.  Might have included some curse words.  Followed by the amazing feeling of lifting air.  The room felt light and clear.  The dreadful feelings gone.

I heard afterward this thing jumped to Kate’s house, then Michele’s.  Each of them easily clearing it.  Not sure where it went from there.  My guess, it returned to the Merritt House. 

Changed Me

And there’s the investigation that changed how I see the paranormal forever.  All starting with what I consider the most haunted house in Canada.  This strange energy with a disgusting fake name is the reason why.

You might be thinking, if it’s a radio station filled with EVPs, then why don’t sounds seep through during shows?  The answer… they do! The following was from a 97.7Htz FM morning show not long after the 2001 investigation.  A seemingly innocent trivia contest interrupted by something very creepy.  The hosts easily accept it being a ghost…

Morning Show EVP sound – court. 97.7Htz FM