It’s no secret that Ontario is home to some spooky places – or all of Canada for that matter. As a country built on the theft of land from the Indigenous people who have lived here for millennia, it’s not surprising. Combine that history with the numerous wars, infamous sanatoriums and unsavoury characters that have graced the streets of “The Hammer” and you’ll quickly understand just how haunted Hamilton is! If you dare to keep reading, I’ve got all the details on these haunted places in Hamilton.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Albion Falls is considered one of the best waterfalls in Hamilton and for good reason. This majestic cascade waterfall is a popular spot to explore in the city, though many don’t realize the darker history it has. From the top of the falls, you’ll see a trail which leads to the right. Follow it and you’ll find a piece of the Niagara Escarpment which juts out. Known as Lover’s Leap, we’ll have to go back to the 1800s for this tragic tale.
The area where you’ll find Albion Falls used to be known as Albion Mills and was one of the earliest settlements of the area. In the early 1800s, it had become a bustling village thanks to the United Empire Loyalist William Alexander Davis who invested in the 2300 acres of land he was granted here.
It was in this village that Jane Riley met Joseph Rousseau and fell head over heels for him. While these feelings were reciprocated for some time, it seems as though Rousseau had the tendency to show affection to many women. Combined with the fact that his mother disapproved of their relationship, it seemed their relationship was doomed not long after it began.
Poor Jane is said to have been distraught with this news, disappearing for days on end to occasionally be spotted weeping in the woods. The heartbreak deemed to be too much for her and she tragically took her own life as she fell from the top of the Escarpment into the water below.
Based on the research I’ve done, it seems as though some recounts say she jumped from the top of Albion Falls itself where others say she jumped from the outcrop referred to as Lover’s Leap. Wherever Jane tragically met her end, her spirit is said to occupy the area to this day. There have been recounts of a glowing outline on moonlit nights and sorrowful cries carried along by the wind.
Battlefield House & Park
History buffs may recognize this location as this is where the Battle of Stoney Creek occurred. On June 5th, 1813, an invading United States army of approximately 3000 men were camped in the area. That evening, around 700 British soldiers attacked in the early hours, using the cover of darkness to their advantage. While both sides suffered great losses, the British came out victorious and this battle is credited with preventing Upper Canada from being taken in 1813.
Despite this vicious battle, most ghostly recounts seem to focus on a widow named Mary Gage. While her homestead was used as a headquarters for invading American forces during the War of 1812, it is her who seems to haunt the house. There have been sightings of Mary Gage herself walking around the house and it is said she tends to move objects around within it. In spite of this, I have it on good authority that this area is indeed haunted.
I have to say though, the spookiest looking part to me is the Battlefield Monument which looms above Battlefield House. Head to the southeastern corner of the park and you’ll see what I mean.
This unsuspecting cemetery might be small, but it’s said to have quite the thirst… for bodies!
Burkholder Cemetery was officially established in 1839, some 45 years after the arrival of one of the first families to settle in the area – Jacob Burkholder and his wife. However, settlers have been using this area to bury the dead as early as 1800. About a decade later in 1850, the “Little White Church” was built until it was demolished in 1955. During its early years, many were incredibly superstitious and believed in signs and omens. The story goes that if Burkholder Cemetery claimed one victim, it would not be satisfied until it had at least three!
With the demolition of the Little White Church, a new one was built in its place in 1958 which is the Burkholder United Church you see today. However, some sightings have transcended the old church to the new. Many visitors have seen a light orb moving across the top of the church as if it were running. While there’s no explanation as to how this would occur, the theory is that the light is a faithful church member’s spirit passing on.
If that’s not enough, Burkholder Cemetery was also the victim of a grave-robbing. I’ve been unable to determine when or who exactly but it seems as though a local pioneer doctor stole a skeleton. He was only found out after one of his servants told others about suspicious pieces of “meat” being boiled in the doctor’s home!
In March of 1876, Ontario’s sixth asylum officially opened. What is now a practically empty field once housed the Hamilton Asylum for the Insane, a community for the mentally ill complete with a self-sufficient farm, chapel, bakery, butcher’s shop and so much more. All that’s left of the grounds now is the decaying state of Century Manor.
Built in 1884, it was originally home to a treatment program for alcoholics and housed 60 patients that were deemed mentally ill. However, many intense residents passed through the asylum grounds – some of which were forced to endure horrific treatments like lobotomies and being subjected to Utica cribs. These aren’t the only atrocities that occurred though as violence and abuse were common among both patients and staff, many of which are outlined in this video. Originally referred to as the East House due to its location east of the now-demolished Barton Building, Century Manor and the tunnels below are all that’s left of the complex.
Presently, the fate of Century Manor is up in the air. The building only closed in 1995 and while it received heritage status two years later, the province has let it fall into disarray. There was the possibility of Mohawk College revitalizing it to turn it into a student residence in partnership with the Ontario Government, but that was before the current government backed out of the deal. Though I have to say… I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to sleep in the building – refurbished or not! The future is murky for Century Manor but if you can spare a moment to help save one Hamilton’s last grand Victorian gothic buildings, please sign this petition.
As one of Hamilton’s oldest buildings with such a turbulent history, it’s not surprising to hear it’s haunted. I definitely felt uneasy (mind you, I’m a total chicken) while snapping a few photos on the grounds. Though I have to say, I had more than one chill run up my spine during the short time I was there…
Coach & Lantern
If you’re not looking out for it, you might miss it but this is one adorable gem in the heart of Ancaster. Sandwiched between two buildings, you’ll see an adorable alleyway where you’ll find the Coach & Lantern British Pub. It wasn’t always a pub as it’s been a number of things over the years, including the Old Union Hotel back in the 1870s. Originally built in the late 1700s, it burnt down and was rebuilt in 1823, making it the third oldest building in town. This isn’t the only turbulent time in its past as this was the site where traitors were sentenced to death in 1812.
FUN FACT: Ancaster is the 3rd oldest community in Ontario – beat only by Kingston and Niagara-on-the-Lake!
With a history like that, it’s no wonder the place is haunted! The pub doesn’t deny it either with mentions of ghostly sightings shared right on their website. There’s even video evidence of this trickster’s deeds! I asked my server Krista (who is amazing, thank you for letting me pick your brain!) about it when I visited and she’s had a number of experiences herself, including the light bulb on the coat of arms on the main floor flickering and sudden cold spots. Let’s just say that I’m not surprised that the old owners refused to be alone in the building at any time!
If you’re looking to have an encounter yourself, Krista told me most of these shenanigans occur in the evening so that may be the prime time to visit. No matter when you stop by though, be sure to grab a bite to eat. The food is absolutely amazing and I highly recommend their roast beef stuffed Yorkie. Deliciously roasted beef mingles with sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions, all nestled inside a massive Yorkshire pudding bowl. Served with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables, everything is smothered in their incredible Guinness gravy to top it off. The meal is massive and will warm you up on the coldest of days!
Before you depart Ancaster, pop across the street where you’ll find a historical plaque marking The Bloody Assize of 1814. This series of trials resulted in executions for treason of Upper Canada residents who were found guilty of aiding the enemy.
In 1860, the Custom House was completed to handle the bustling trade industry coming through the Port of Hamilton as well as the Great Railway line. Now home to the Workers Art & Heritage Centre, this National Historic Site was many things throughout her time including a school, yarn factory, martial arts academy and more. While it’s unknown when exactly tales of Hamilton’s oldest ghost appeared, “The Dark Lady” or “Woman in Black” as she’s referred to has become a legend of sorts today.
Stories say she’s the ghost of a young woman who came to Hamilton aboard one of the immigrant ships. Raped and with child, she was sent by her family to Canada with the hopes of a better life for the two of them. While on board, she became involved with the ship’s captain. She had thought she found her new life but alas, he had other plans. It is said he lured her on deck with the promise of a dance – one which ended with his hands around her neck as she and her unborn child fell dead to the floor.
Unfortunately, her tragic tale doesn’t end there. Wrapped in a rug, the captain uses the dark of night to his advantage as he slips into the tunnels from the port. He takes her body to the Custom House and seals her body within the stone walls of the vault. There is no proof that her body is there however, the City of Hamilton refuses to excavate to confirm either so we may never know. Though it stands to reason that something is keeping here within Custom House if there have been sightings for almost 200 years!
If you’d like to know more about the tragic history of The Dark Lady, it seems as though Steph from Haunted Hamilton is an authority on this part of Hamilton’s history.
It was March 12, 1857 when Hamilton experienced what is known as the worst train accident in the area’s history. Winter was holding on strong as The Great Western Railway train was due to arrive at 6:15 pm from Toronto. But little did the people on board know what was in store for them.
As the train approached the Desjardins Canal Bridge, disaster struck as the locomotive suffered a broken axle, causing the train to jump the track. It smashed through the wooden suspension bridge, plunging 18 metres (60 feet) through the two feet of ice covering the canal below. The crash killed 59 people and injured 18 more, making it (at this point in time) the worst train disaster in Canadian history. Rumour has it Sir Allan McNab (more on him shortly) purchased cheap wood to construct the bridge which may have played a part in the accident.
There are a few places where you can access the canal. If you follow the Hamilton Waterfront Trail from Bayfront Park, this will meet up with the Desjardins Recreational Trail. This is where you can see just how far the train fell into the water below as you look up to the McQuesten High Level Bridge from the path. Further into Dundas, you can get a closer look at the canal itself from Desjardins Canal Park and it’s at the most western point of it that you’ll find the historical plaque dedicated to the canal.
I’ve had the pleasure of touring Dundurn Castle in the past as it’s one of the top indoor attractions in Hamilton, but it wasn’t until recently that I learned of its spectral side. If you’ve visited Dundurn Castle before or are familiar with it, then you know it was the home of Sir Allan MacNab. While it isn’t actually a castle, it certainly has enough ghostly activity to be considered one!
There have been numerous ghoulish sightings within Dundurn Castle, leading many to believe that Sir Allan MacNab and his family still roam the halls. It is said that just outside the room where MacNab’s second wife, Mary, wasted away due to tuberculosis, you’ll experience chills and there is a mysterious draft that likes to blow out any nearby candles. Then there’s the possibility of MacNab’s favourite daughter, Sophia, who was sent off to be married at 23 overseas. It was during this time that MacNab passed and she was never able to return home. Maybe her spirit found its way back here and now resides within Dundurn Castle?
Prior to the MacNab’s living in Dundurn Castle, the grounds around it have a violent history. A few decades earlier on June 20th, 1814, fifteen men were convicted of treason and sentenced to death in an event now known as the Bloody Assize which I mentioned earlier. It was here in Burlington Heights that eight of these men were hung and decapitated for their crimes. The other seven were exiled, though three of them died of typhus while still in custody with one escaping, never to be found again.
As the city’s largest and oldest public burial ground, it would be a sin not to include it in a round up of haunted places in Hamilton! Located across from Dundurn Castle, Hamilton Cemetery is actually three separate burial grounds spread across 100 acres. Burlington Heights Cemetery, the Christ Church Grounds and the Church of Ascension Grounds became one under its current name when a deal was struck with the city of Hamilton to oversee upkeep in 1892.
It wasn’t long before this time that the cholera plague was running rampant, killing 1 in 20 people in the city. After surviving months in disgusting conditions on board ships coming from Europe, many of those who made the journey were left to die in shacks built along the bayfront. As a result, the bodies were piling up as they were dragged into a hole which became a mass grave. There were even some rumours of people struggling to live being buried alive.
A century later in 1962, road work commenced for the widening of York Boulevard. Hundreds of skeletons were unearthed with officials decided to transfer the mass grave into the Hamilton Cemetery – but it was never marked. Over 500 souls were laid to rest but were forgotten once again until the 90s when a historian discovered the location. A marker was then placed but it honoured the historian and not those who died! All of this to say, it’s no wonder there have been numerous ghost sightings here. The locals avoid the northern end of the cemetery as that’s where the mass grave lies, preferring to stick to the area closer to Dundurn Castle as fewer appearances seem to occur there.
The Hermitage Ruins
Inside the Dundas Valley Conservation Area, you’ll find some of the best hikes in Hamilton… and some of the spookiest! This is where you’ll find remnants of The Hermitage. While this property is now a point of interest for those hitting the trails, the 165-year-old ruins are also a hotspot for paranormal activity.
The ruins you see are of the stone house and outbuildings built by Mr George Gordon Browne Leith when he bought this property in 1885, though the haunting tales are older than this. 52 years earlier, this land was sold to Otto Ives, an Englishman who came to Canada from Greece with his wife and her niece. Legend has it that the Ives’ coachman, William Black, caught the eye of Mrs Ives’ niece and they had a secret relationship. Due to their class difference, they knew their relationship would be frowned upon but their love was strong. She and William wanted to get married.
William gained the courage to ask Otto for his wife’s niece’s hand in marriage, but to no avail. The next day, he didn’t appear with the carriage. Heartbroken, he had crafted a noose and hung himself from the stable rafters. His lifeless body was later found by Otto himself who, disgusted that a man would end his own life, hastily buried him at the crossroads of Lover’s Lane and Sulphur Springs Road.
There have been sightings of William since that day, often spotted walking from his resting place to the ruins. Some have even seen him with an arm outstretched carrying a lantern, looking for his lost love.
Woodend Mansion & the Griffin House
It was 1891 when John Heslop was the treasurer for the town of Ancaster. One night, he was abruptly awoken by his wife, thinking she heard burglars in their home, the Woodend Mansion. Grabbing a lamp in one hand and a chair in the other, John made his way towards the front door. A shotgun blast echoed in the darkness and to her dismay, John’s wife found his dead body on the stair landing. To this day, nobody has been convicted of his murder.
Now home to the Hamilton Region Conservation Authority, it is said Heslop’s spirit is still present within Woodend Mansion. There have been reports of footsteps heard throughout the building and even a dragging noise in the attic. Could it be the chair he took with him to the door? There’s even a rumour that his blood can still be seen on the stairs where his body laid many years ago.
Just down the road is the Griffin House and while the building itself doesn’t seem to be haunted, there seems to be plenty of paranormal activity on the grounds. Is it possible that John or his wife wander here because it has something to do with his murder? Chances are we’ll never know but if you’re hiking in the area, be prepared as you might just experience it yourself.
More Haunted Places in Hamilton
Are you an avid ghost hunter looking for more places for a spiritual encounter? Are you curious to know more about the darker history of Hamilton? Have you been to the above haunted places in Hamilton and are looking for more? Here are some more ghostly destinations within the city.
Augusta’s Winking Judge – Touted as the city’s first pub specializing in microbrews, Augusta’s Winking Judge has seen its fair share of characters over the years… and some linger more than others! The legendary ghost known as Gord is said to haunt the floors of the tavern with many believing he would hide on the off-limits third floor. While nobody knows for sure where he lurks, there have been sightings of a well-dressed elderly man adorning a top hat. Stop on in for a pint and maybe you’ll catch a glimpse… if you’re brave enough!
Glendale Golf & Country Club – It is said the Glendale Golf & Country Club has one bartender that just won’t go home. Back in the day, Colin served up drinks to the club’s clientele for 25 years. Both staff and golfers have heard phantom footsteps as well as watching glasses move as if they have a mind of their own.
James Street Armoury – Also known as the John W Foote VC Armoury, the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry was formed in 1862. Though it wasn’t until four decades later that they received a proper facility for militia training. As you can imagine though, a historic location like this comes with its fair share of hauntings! There have been sightings of suited up soldiers materializing from thin air and commanding snarls of what sounds like a drill sergeant.
The Royal Connaught – The infamous “Woman in White” calls The Royal Connaught home. There have been several sightings of a woman wearing a flowing white gown who seems to elegantly float, sometimes from room to room. While it was once a hotel, it has since been converted into condominiums. I wonder if she’s still meandering around the hallways?
St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church – There seem to be a number of churches in Hamilton with the same name, however I believe it’s the church on James Street South [map] which is home to the haunted Sunday School Belfry. In the 18th century, it called the town of Barton’s residents for public announcements, gatherings, meetings… and public executions. The church’s main tower received an upgrade in the early 1900s but the original bell is still inside.
Want to Explore More of Haunted Hamilton?
As you can see, there are a number of potentially paranormal sites in just Hamilton alone. Personally, I think it’s safe to say that Hamilton as a city itself is haunted. This makes me wonder about just how many hauntings in Ontario there really are!
Do you frequent, live or work in a building located in Hamilton that you think might be haunted? I’m thrilled to say that I’ve befriended the fine folks at Team Spirit: The Science Behind Spirit who will happily investigate paranormal encounters. Gerry and Laurie Rooney are not only amazing people but love to show others what else is out there in the spirit world.
If you’re looking for more Hamilton ghost stories and encounters, I recommend hopping on one of the local ghost tours. I haven’t gone on any myself but based on my research, it seems like there are a few fan favourites. As I mentioned earlier, Steph from Haunted Hamilton is said to be one of the most well-versed individuals for Hamilton’s haunted past. She’s not running tours right now but hopefully sometime soon! The other is Ghost Walks who run a number of haunted tours in Hamilton, Toronto and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Tours are sporadic so you’ll need to keep an eye on their website for availability.
I’d be amiss to write about the haunted happenings in Hamilton without mentioning local writer Mark Leslie. Growing up in Hamilton, this Canadian writer has written a number of books about the haunted happenings in Ontario including one about “The Hammer”. Purchase your own copy of Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle and Other Steeltown Shivers to find out even more about the city’s ghoulish past.
Now for the big question… are you brave enough to check out these haunted places in Hamilton? In case you are, the map below should help you plan your ghoulish encounters.