Considering the superstition and lore around Friday the 13th, it was the perfect opportunity for me to head to Old Fort Erie for their Friday Night Frights Ghost Tour. This historical site on the Niagara River was the first fort built in Ontario by the British in the ripe year of 1764.
To this day it is Canada’s bloodiest battlefield and is known to be haunted by multiple spirits including the ghosts of American and British soldiers, women, children and orbs. There are also reports of moving shadows, unexplainable noises, smells and instances of people being pushed, touched and spoken to.
When I arrived at the Fort I was not alone. About 100 people were there to experience whatever haunts Friday the 13th had to offer. We were greeted by 4 guides dressed in period costume who waited until darkness fell before splitting us into groups and then leading us, with one candle-lit lantern, into the dark fort.
Old Fort Erie is a sight to be seen in the dark. The front gates are dark black iron, creepy and creaky. Crossing the draw-bridge and avoiding and outlying spikes is quite intimidating to even a guest like myself on a dark night like this was.
We started in the guards quarters – a dark, humid, cramped room with a stone fireplace lit by candles. Here, our guide told us legends of cramped rooms full of soldiers and their families – perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and other illnesses. Many people (3000+ soldiers) died not just from the Siege of Fort Erie in 1814 but also from the lack of space and medication available in the 19th century. Since that time Old Fort Erie has been riddled with moving shadows, battle screams and footsteps. I couldn’t help but hope that I’d encounter something that would cause my hair to stand on end.
Next we headed to the second floor and by then it was completely dark outside except for the faint glow of lights reflecting off the river. In the upstairs camp room where we found the original bed of Captain Kingsley, paymaster to the Kings 8th regiment foot. He served and then died in 1813 at Fort George of fever but was said to have suffered from respiratory problems. Treated with mercury, the Captain died a very painful and unsettling death as he drowned in mucous and blood built up from the poison in his lungs. When he passed, his bed was given to his wife at his homestead where it lay with his estate until it was donated to the Canadian Government in the 1920. The bed eventually came to rest in Old Fort Erie where, as our guide explained,”it has been causing trouble ever since”.
Tourists and staff of the Fort alike have reported footsteps and screams of pain coming from the room, believed to be that of Captain Kingsley. Also, on multiple occasions the sheets and pillows were found on the floor of the room in the morning and the windows found open despite the bed having been made, the windows closed and doors locked the night prior. As I descended the stairs I couldn’t help but feel the hair on my arms stand-on-end as I had lost the group for a moment having stopped to take a picture. I had such a strange feeling of urgency and, having just been warned of spirits who run fingers through hair, could have sworn I felt an ant crawling on my arm (although there wasn’t anything there). I love that spooky urgency that comes with being in a place like Old Fort Erie.
As we continued through the Fort we stopped at the bloody bastion and dark, hot-smelling commissary until we reached the kitchen. Considered to be one of the hot spots both staff and tourists alike have seen a husband and wife cooking by the fire while their children play on the other side of the room. The woman, supposedly, looks calm as she prepares a family meal. However, not one adult has ever reported seeing the children in the kitchen. It’s only children themselves that have been known to wave and then explain that there were other kids in the room, playing behind the table near the fire, when no other children were present.
We weaved through the Fort for over an hour – exploring the barely lit corners of under-ground tunnels, barracks and the eerily quiet battlefields. Our guide, Daryl Learn, was very informative and a great character and shared many a Fort Erie ghost-story of his own. I’m looking forward to returning during the day to learn more about the history and see the Fort, on my own, in the daytime.
Either way – whether in the dark or light, I’d suggest taking some time to visit Old Fort Erie. The next Friday Night Frights event is happening on August 24 and costs only $5.00 (which you have to pay in cash).