In ancient times, there were holidays during which everyone believed the veil between this world and the next one grew thin. Spirits could commune with us, and humans could visit the spirit world. Halloween still has some echoes of those lost times — especially in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada’s most haunted town!
October is a time for leaf-peeping, Halloween and dancing in the moonlight. Maybe you don’t believe in all this hocus-pocus, but don’t let that stop you from opening up and enjoying life’s little surprises. Go find some moonlight, dance in it and see what happens. (Pssst… there’s a full moon on October 28.)
And the perfect place to do all that and more is Niagara-on-the-Lake — Canada’s Most Haunted Town. A few sites in and around town might have you “seeing” things differently.
Book a Ghost Walk
Begin your spooky adventure on a guided ghost walk. One tour features the town’s most memorable haunts, such as the Olde Angel Inn, the iconic Courthouse, the Royal George Theatre, and the Prince of Wales Hotel. Another introduces you to the most famous ghost in Niagara and North America’s oldest legend at the Apothecary. On another, a hidden gem reveals its secrets and dark history in the biggest battlefield of the War of 1812.
During the month of October, “investigate” the scariest aspects of Fort George, a location so rich in paranormal activity that an entire book has been written on the subject. In fact, a young playful child named Sarah Ann may decide to join your tour group.
Expect the Unexpected
Of course, there are plenty of ghost stories to go around, and as you go about your business of sightseeing, you may encounter a few apparitions or inexplainable incidents of your own.
For instance, the ambience may be greatly enhanced by a chance encounter with the spectral Captain Swayze, the resident ghost at the Olde Angel’s Inn pub.
Gazing out over a foggy Lake Ontario, you may hear the creaking of wood out on the water. Or the curtain of grey may part to reveal a small sailing vessel that appears to be derelict, abandoned and adrift in the open water. Some say the ghosts of the victims on board the Foam, which met its tragic end offshore in 1874, still linger in St. Mark’s Cemetery.
Many people insist that the 1812 Battle of Queenston Heights occasionally erupts from the past to be re-fought by phantom soldiers. Many died upon the Heights during the battle, and their souls have yet to leave.
The Lakefront Gazebo at Queen’s Royal Park is among the most frequently visited attractions in Niagara-on-the-Lake. But at night, things change. Many after-dark visitors feel a tightness in their chest. The gazebo, alluring by day, takes on the shape of a cage by night, while tree branches resemble grasping claws and a dark mass of shrub looks like a crouching animal. And then, there are the faint sobs of the ghostly woman in eternal torment who wanders along the water’s edge.
And who can explain the random appearances of a flogged soldier and headless Native walking aimlessly at Fort Mississauga on storm-tossed nights? Or the ethereal little girl that appears at the Cannery Restaurant?
Few realize Cork’s restaurant, a fixture in town, was the site of a horrible tragedy that left two dead during a murderous rampage in 1850. The haunting echoes of that crime are still heard within the building today in the form of footsteps and disembodied whispers.
Unearth Mysteries at St. Mark’s Cemetery
St. Mark’s Anglican Church is the most attractive and historic church in Niagara-on-the-Lake. You can easily spend an afternoon roaming through the cemetery headstones and delving into the stories they hint at. Don’t miss the 200-year-old trenches.
Life’s a Masquerade
Get ready to embark on a thrilling journey at the Halloween Masquerade hosted by Spirit in Niagara Distillery. The fun begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday, October 28. Be prepared to immerse yourself in an evening of spine-tingling excitement with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, live music, a costume mask contest and ghoulish gifts.
Bumps in the Night
Perhaps you want the full ghostly experience. You may be surprised to learn that a few bed and breakfasts, inns and short-term rental cottages and villas harbour ethereal residents of their own. We won’t single them out for you here, but you can find them at STAY Niagara-on-the-Lake. The owners are only too happy to share the history and their own stories and experiences at the breakfast table. It’s all part of the fun of the hallowed season.
Fall Celebrations in Niagara-on-the-Lake
Check out what’s in store this fall:
October 14: Oktoberfest at the Exchange Brewery
October 21: Doors Open Niagara-on-the-Lake
October 21: Reif’s Annual Harvest Dinner at Reif Estate Winery
October 28 to December 3: Bravo Niagara!
November 3 & 4: Sip & Savour in the Gardens
November 1-26: “The Power of Water” Solo Exhibit at Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre
November 5 – December 23: A Christmas Carol at the Royal George Theatre
November 10: “Hello, It’s Me! ADELE” at the Court House Theatre
November 15 – December 23: Lerner and Loewe’s BRIGADOON at the Festival Theatre
December 1 & 2: Holiday Market at Niagara Pumphouse Arts Centre
December 1 & 2: Rotary Club’s Holiday House Tour
December 1: 2023 Candlelight Stroll
December 2 & 3: Reif Holiday Market at Reif Estate Winery
Did you lose something while you were in Niagara-on-the-Lake? Contact the lost and found centre at the NOTL Chamber of Commerce located at 26 Queen Street in the lower level of the building. Or call 1-905-468-1950 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Most Town parking meters, except for four located in the Heritage District, no longer accept credit card payments. They do, however accept credit card payments via the Honk Mobile app. The Town understands the frustrations this has caused visitors and apologizes for the inconvenience. Town is working on short- and long-term solutions to the matter. In the meantime, coins are accepted at all parking machines, and the four machines that still do accept regular credit card payments are located in the Court House lot, the Prince of Wales lot, Queens Royal Park lot (down by the lake) and near the Post Office on Queen Street. Parking is free after 8 p.m.