Skeletons, Ghosts, and Gallows: A Haunted Tour of Kingston, Ontario

This past week, my boyfriend and I went on a trip to one of Canada’s oldest cities, Kingston. Known as “Limestone City” from its old, 19th-century buildings, Kingston was Canada’s first capital and a significant military outpost, likely due to its location on the St. Lawrence River, which connects Toronto and Montreal.

Here is a haunted self-guided tour that we did throughout our trip as we visited some of the spookiest and most haunted spots in Canada.

Kingston Penitentiary

Perhaps one of Canada’s most notorious historic sites, Kingston Pen is known as the “Alcatraz of the North” for a good reason. The prison opened in 1835 and operated as a penitentiary until it closed in 2013. We did a guided tour of the prison to learn all about its architecture and history, including some tragic stories of murder, riots, and perhaps the craftiest escape story you’ll ever hear (there were only two successful escapes from the Pen). We even got to hear stories told by retired prison guards about the work halls and the prison riots.

The main dome pictured above was the site of the third and biggest riot in the Penitentiary. In April 1971, this riot involved the taking of staff hostages which resulted in several inmates’ deaths and some structural damage.

Frontenac County Courthouse

The city’s old courthouse was once a cellblock and the public gallows. Although the building is still a courthouse today, the jail was demolished in 1973. Over 80 years, seven inmates were hanged outside of this courthouse, and it’s possible that some remains are still buried underneath the site.1

Prince George Hotel

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, we enjoyed a pint at Tir An Og, situated below the hotel. Although the restaurant is new, the bar itself remains quite historic. I could imagine still hearing the loud chatter of voices, smelling the cigar smoke, and seeing buggies outside the windows from the 1800s. But the hotel has a sinister and ghoulish history.

The Prince George Hotel dates back to 1809, built for the Herchimer family. One daughter, Lily, was in love with a sailor of whom her parents disapproved. Certain nights when he was in the harbour, Lily would light a lamp in her window to signal to him that he could secretly visit. One night, she fell asleep with the lantern alit. A gust of wind blew the flame back into her room and set the room on fire. Sadly, Lily died in the fire, and since then people have reported seeing a shadowy figure of a woman on the third floor. The cleaning staff has often reported seeing and hearing things on that same floor, like lights turning on and off and doors slamming shut behind them.2

Skeleton Park

Every place and person has skeletons hiding inside their closet. Well, Kingston has real skeletons hiding underground…

McBurney Park is its official name, but everyone calls it Skeleton Park. Located about 10 minutes north of downtown by foot, the park was once a garrison burial ground in 1816 and then turned into an Anglican and Catholic cemetery in 1825. By the 1850s, the cemetery was at capacity, eventually closing in 1864. The grounds became neglected until it was eventually converted into a city park. Several of the remains were moved to other cemeteries, but the monument pictured below still remains. The park is still in use today, but perhaps unbeknownst to some passersby, they may be treading on dusty, old skeletons. The park is so famous throughout Kingston, that there’s a brewery named after it.3

Hochelaga Inn

We passed by this eerie-looking building while on our way to the waterfront. While it may resemble the Bates’ mansion, this is now a BNB called the Hochelaga Inn.

The house was built by John McIntyre and his wife in 1879, who were relatives of Prime Minister John A. MacDonald. Guests have reported feeling auras while staying at the inn and also seeing a ghostly older woman in black. Other reports indicated being woken up in the night to the wails of a young boy with blonde hair, hearing a woman singing a lullaby, and seeing objects thrown across the room.4

The Toucan Alley

Situated between Kingston’s major streets – Princess and King Street East – this alley is a beautiful limestone walkway where visitors can eat at Chez Piggy for dinner and grab a pint at The Toucan pub.

Kingston’s Haunted Walk tells the story of Teresa Beam, a woman who was murdered while pregnant in the alley by her husband John Napier in 1868. A store owner in the 1970s wondered why he was always hearing sounds of scraping on the walls and pounding on the door to his shop. It’s rumoured that Teresa never had a proper Christian burial after her death. People have also said they spotted a woman approaching them in a black dress, saying “Help me find my bones.”4

References:

1 https://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2012-10-12/features/prison-past/

2 https://globalnews.ca/news/6102235/spooky-kingston-ghosts-stories/

3 Information from the city plaque

4 https://www.queensjournal.ca/story/2005-10-28/features/kingstons-most-haunted/

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