Places to avoid tomorrow night

The Journal presents the stories behind Kingston’s most haunted locations

Spirits of hanged prisoners reportedly haunt the Frontenac County Courthouse parking lot
Image by: Harrison Smith
Spirits of hanged prisoners reportedly haunt the Frontenac County Courthouse parking lot

Prince George Hotel

The Prince George Hotel—today home to the Tir Nan Og, the Old Speckled Hen and Monte’s Lounge—was once owned by, and home to, the Herchmer family. Lily, the daughter of the family, was in love with a rum-runner during the days of prohibition. He was often at sea, said Claudine Santos-Smith, a manager at the Tir Nan Og.

Lily would set a lamp in the window of her third-floor bedroom—if you look at the Prince George from Ontario Street, Santos-Smith said, it’s the second window in from the right—to signal to her sailor to come visit.

The details are unclear as to what exactly happened one fateful night in the early 1800s. One version of the story says that Lily fell asleep by the lantern, waiting for her lover to come, and a gust of wind blew in, knocking over the lantern and setting the whole building ablaze.

Another version suggests the young woman, watching from the window, saw her lover’s ship go down in the Kingston harbour before the flames consumed the building.

Either way, Lily perished in the blaze, but her ghost apparently remains, haunting the third floor and watching for ships in the harbour.

Santos-Smith said Lily’s not the only ghost who frequents the Prince George.

Two spirits are said to haunt the rum-running tunnels beneath the Prince George, she said, and guests have reported seeing a young boy dressed in old-fashioned clothing staring from an upstairs window.

Santos-Smith herself has encountered one of the Prince George’s many ghosts.

“I heard somebody ask me if I could help them, and I thought it was my server, but it wasn’t,” she said. Her server had been standing across the room at the time, but Santos-Smith swears she saw a dark-robed figure in the corner of her eye talking to her.

The bartender, she added, saw the same mysterious figure.

One ’Nog employee even quit after a ghostly encounter. He was changing in a back room, Santos-Smith said, and the room was empty when he stretched his arms out to pull on his shirt.

“The minute [his head] emerged from his shirt, he saw a man staring at him, right in front of him,” Santos-Smith said.

The employee quit moments later.

Rochleau Court

The dark pathway between Princess Street and King Street East leading to Rochleau Court, where the Toucan and Chez Piggy are located, is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of a woman.

In 1868, pregnant Theresa Ignace Beam was murdered by her lover John Napier in the pathway. Her bones are believed to be buried underneath. Since then, many locals have seen her ghost carrying a cross, asking people to help her find her bones.

The Courthouse

Behind the Frontenac County Courthouse, where there’s now a parking lot, there used to be a jail. In the 1800s, convicted murderers were hanged in the jail’s courtyard and some of their spirits allegedly still remain.

During the full moon, a spectre with a noose around his neck can apparently be seen by the courthouse wall.

Skeleton Park

McBurney Park, affectionately nicknamed Skeleton Park by the locals, got its spooky name due to its former status of being Kingston’s Upper Cemetery from 1813 to 1865. Spirits of those once buried there are said to still remain in the area.

“There are estimate[s] of 10,000 [bodies] buried in the area,” said Tony O’Loughlin, president of the Kingston Irish Folk Society that helped put up a Celtic memorial cross in the area for the unmarked graves. “The cemetery was actually bigger than what is the park area.”

In 1894, the municipal government tried to move the remains in the Upper Cemetery to St. Mary’s and Cataraqui Cemetery, but many locals objected as the graves were being opened up.

“Because a number of people who had been buried died from contagious epidemics in Kingston, they thought that by graves being opened up it would spread the diseases,” he said.

Only a small amount of remains were moved to other cemeteries, because the city only opened graves on the condition that the family members of the deceased would pay for the removal and many families had been wiped out completely due to various typhus epidemics going around at the time.

“[The city] just lowered the gravestones and put a thin layer on top of them,” he said. “Whenever there were other groups working in the area, it was not unusual for bones to be brought to the surface.” The Cemetery was transformed into Frontenac Park in 1895, and then changed its name to McBurney Park in 1965.

“Over time, different remains would come to the surface; that’s why it has the name Skeleton Park,” O’Loughlin said.

House on Rideau Street

A young lady living in an old stone apartment building on lower Rideau Street heard muffled cries and screams and “school-room noises” one night. She investigated the building’s attic for the source of the clamour, but found nothing. The noises continued for some time and she eventually decided to research the building’s history. The woman soon learned that in the 1800s the building was used as a school until a fire destroyed most of the building. Several children were caught in the fire and died in the building.

The young lady moved out shortly after.

Rosemount Inn

Located on the corner of Earl and Sydenham Streets, Flare magazine called Rosemount Inn the “best B&B experience in Canada.” Guests might get even more of a friendly surprise when they arrive at the inn.

“We have very good ghosts here, and they’re very happy,” said Holly Doughty, innkeeper at the Rosemount Inn.

“One lady came to me and said, ‘I won’t be doing breakfast.’ I asked why, and she said that she was going to church because of the ghost,” she said.

The client proceeded to tell her that when she woke up in the morning, there was a lady looking through her purse.

“She was just looking for something … I’m not sure what, she was just looking,” Doughty said. “So [the guest] said that she was going to church and pray for the ghost to be released.” The lady apparition looking for things is a common sighting for most of the guests, and many have told Doughty of their experiences seeing her on the landing looking out the window, or reorganizing their things.

Another ghost at the Rosemount is an old man walking through the rooms with a walking stick, but Doughty said the guests haven’t seen him as frequently as the lady.

She said the guests’ reception of the ghosts have never been that of fear or anger.

“Nobody’s ever been upset or angry—just curious,” she said.

“People in touch with the spirit world come in, the spirits they feel here are very happy and very good.” The ghosts are a friendly presence at the Rosemount and Doughty said she doesn’t mind having ghosts haunting her inn.

“I’m happy to have them stay here—I like to have them around.”

—Source: Kingston This Week, July 6, 1983

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