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Monday, January 30, 2023
Ghost Walks take visitors around haunted NOTL

There is no place more ominous to spend Halloween than Niagara-on-the-Lake, at least that’s the claim made by The Ghost Walks professing this corner of Niagara “Canada’s most haunted town.”

Haunted buildings and ghost sightings – NOTL has no shortage of historical ghost tales and cries of spiritual encounters.

It could be happenstance, or it could be the town’s dark history surrounding the War of 1812, the many fallen soldiers and the burning of the town that laid the foundation for so many ghost stories taken as near fact.

The Ghost Walks is one of several local guided tours offering an in-depth look at the origins of each story. Walkers are taken on an eerie journey from the small office on Queen Street to nearby haunts.

The first stop on this tour is the Royal George Theatre. The first theatre in Niagara, it was built in 1915 and changed names several times – landing on the Royal George Theatre of today.

And though the old theatre’s history dates back to the early 1900s, the resident ghosts didn’t appear until after 1989 when the head of lighting design Jeffrey Dallas died.

Said to be occupied by not just one, but two spirits, tour guide Bill Hamilton says both Dallas, and an actress named Nancy Kerr have been seen roaming the old theatre.

“He was no ordinary lighting guy. He used to create amazing effects on stage – so much so that he became world-renowned. But he always returned back to his favourite theatre,” Hamilton says.

And when Dallas died, Hamilton says, “he returned to his favourite theatre one more time, and of course he never left.”

“Dallas doesn’t want to be behind the scenes anymore – he wants to be front and center, and he wants to be seen,” he says. As lights flicker and an apparition appears on stage, the tales are just as strong now as when they originated two decades ago, Hamilton says.

Kerr, the second resident ghost of the theatre, has been said to make her presence known as well, but she doesn’t play with the lights, Hamilton says.

“Nancy has been said to bump young actors on stage, nudging them along when frozen on stage,” he adds.

Hamilton spouts local history and tales of ghost encounters as expertly he would if they were part of his own past.

He guides walkers toward Regent Street, where The Olde Angel Inn sits. It is arguably one of the most well-known haunted buildings in town. Supposedly inhabited by Captain Colin Swayze who chose love over command – he was killed attempting to hide from the American forces after his lover failed to arrive at their rendezvous location at the front of the inn.

“I think basically the Angel Inn is probably our most famous ghost, it’s got a kind of weird, dark past to it,” Hamilton says.

His favourite story, though is that of the Trisha Romance house at 177 King St., he says.

“That one probably creeps me out the most. I’ve had stuff happen on the tour I can’t explain.”

He says he’s heard countless claims by tour-goers whose cameras refuse to take photos, not turn on or most often drained of all battery power after one shot – the house has an “eerie aura surrounding it,” he said.

Whether an avid believer of the paranormal or a skeptic doubting each ghost story’s origins, Hamilton says there’s no doubt NOTL’s rich and dark history would make for a chilling Halloween night walk.

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