Often referred to as the ‘limestone city’ Kingston, Ontario is a historic town filled with ancient buildings and stunning landscapes of the surrounding 1000 Island region. The town is home to about 130,000 people and also a couple of ghosts. That’s right, Kingston is one of the most haunted cities in Canada and one of the creepiest places I’ve ever visited. Though it may look like a charming and inviting place, and don’t get me wrong it is all of those things, it also hides a much more sinister past. From abandoned insane asylums that saw some horrific experiments during it’s time to hotels with a few permanent ghostly guests, these are the best places to visit in Kingston to spot some ghosts this spooky season.
Also known by its actual name, McBurney Park, this park is home to a swimming pool, a playground for children, as well as a couple of basketball courts. While the park is a great place for families to go on a Saturday afternoon for a picnic, it is also a great place to spot some ghostly visitors. Underneath it’s outside appearance, the area in which the park inhabits was once a cemetery created to house the dead. This cemetery was established in 1814 and was Kingston’s largest spaces for the dearly departed. This massive graveyard was shut down in 1864 and left in shambles and neglect for the the next thirty or so years. It wasn’t until locals complained of a putrid smell coming from the park and the sudden surfacing of multiple sets of skeletal remains, that the city of Kingston decided to do something about the cemetery. The headstones in the cemetery were bulldozed and gotten rid of while the bodies of the loved ones whose families had enough money, were relocated to a different resting spot. The bodies of the families who could not afford to relocate their loved one, were left in the ground and the park was built on top of them. It is believed that there are over ten thousand corpses that still reside underneath McBurney Park, with traces of skeletal remains and headstones being found quite often throughout the park. Evidently because of all of this death and disrespect to the dead, Skeleton Park is presumably quite haunted. Witnesses have reported strange, paranormal activity such as strange visions, physical apparitions, and ghostly mist, which is all thought to be caused by the spirits of the bodies who still live there.
The Prince George Hotel
Once operating as a hotel, the Prince George is now running as a pub loved by the locals and tourists alike. The Prince George was also formerly the home of the Herchmer family in the 1800’s. The Herchmer daughter, Lily, lived with the rest of the family in the house and is said to have been romantically involved with a rum smuggler. It is also said that she would leave a lit lantern in her window at night to attract and guide her lover to her. This romantic gesture ended up proving to be quite tragic when the lantern ended up causing a blaze which engulfed her bedroom in flames and claimed Lily’s short life. Her ghostly figure is reported to have been seen continuously roaming around the building and has even been spotted staring out the third floor window with her lantern waiting for her lover to return to her.
Often nicknamed the ‘Alcatraz of Ontario’, Kingston Penitentiary is a former maximum security prison that only just somewhat recently ceased operations in 2013. The penitentiary was the home of multiple infamous inmates over the years and was also the site of a deadly prison riot that occurred in 1971 which claimed the lives of two prisoners and saw six guards be held hostage. While Kingston Pen held many inmates throughout the nearly 200 years of operation, one of the most infamous prisoners the penitentiary saw was George Hewell. He quickly became known for being a handful as well as difficult to control which meant that George was often in trouble for fighting with both his fellow inmates and the prison guards. In 1897 after a situation involving George erupted, a prison guard was forced to shoot Hewell in self defense. It is reported that as George lay dying on the ground breathing his last breaths, he vowed revenge and that he would avenge his death. Ever since George’s death over 120 years ago behind the walls of the Kingston Penitentiary, his ghost has been seen multiple times roaming through the hallways.
Read also ‘Exploring the Kingston Penitentiary‘
Originally built for a Kingston businessman in the early 1840’s, the Bellevue House is more commonly known as being the residence of Sir John A. Macdonald, for about a year’s time. The Italian villa style house was the home of Canada’s first prime minister and his family from 1848 to 1849. The family moved into the house because John believed that the calmness and seclusion of the property would prove fruitful for his wife Isabella, who was seriously ill at the time. The house unfortunately did not bring good luck whatsoever and actually brought more tragedy and heartbreak more than anything else. Isabella’s condition never did get better and continued right up until her death in 1857. In addition to the prime minister’s wife’s poor condition, the MacDonald family were struck with another unimaginable tragedy after the death of their first born son, John Alexander, a month after celebrating his first birthday. Through all of the tragedy and heartbreak that the Bellevue house witnessed, many believe that the house is now haunted by the spirit of John’s infant son with visitors to the house reporting to have heard strange footsteps and the sound of a child crying.
Rockwood Insane Asylum
Built in 1859 by Kingston Penitentiary convicts, the Rockwood Insane Asylum was established to house the ‘criminally insane’ from the penitentiary. The asylum was built beside Lake Ontario in the hopes that it would help calm down the patients. During the early years at the asylum, the main goal was always to try to calm the patients as much as possible rather than try to treat them. Because of this, doctors often administered different drugs and even alcohol to calm the patients down. In it’s prime state, Rockwood was home to over 300 patients including ‘promiscuous women’ who were considered to be mentally ill. Treatments used at the facility included restraints, blistering, blood-letting, and enemas. It is even believed that some of the first lobotomies, which consisted of drilling holes in the patient’s skulls, were performed at Rockwood. By 1959, the patients were transferred to a different facility and in 2000 the building officially closed. While security is tight at the abandoned asylum and being able to get into the building is next to impossible, there are still ghostly trolley tours that make a stop multiple times a night at the asylum. Those who have managed to sneak inside of the abandoned building have reported hearing strange footsteps while others have said to have seen a ghost wandering the grounds at night and is believed to be the spirit of a doctor who was murdered by a patient at the asylum many years ago.
Fort Henry Historical Site
Known as possibly the most haunted place in Kingston, Fort Henry has stood overlooking the city for over 170 years and was never once attacked. Even though there may never have been any grand battles or deadly invasions that may have happened on the grounds, Fort Henry has still been the site of multiple hangings. While there are multiple spirits that allegedly walk the grounds of the historic fort, many of them being soldiers who were once stationed at Fort Henry, there are two well known ghosts who are often seen on site. One of the spirits that can be seen is that of John ‘Gunner’ Smith. John was a rifleman who worked at Fort Henry and also lost his life here too. He passed away after shooting himself accidentally after his firearm malfunctioned. He has often been spotted in the ‘dry ditch’ the area between the fort wall and the main gate. Another infamous ghost that has never left Fort Henry is that of Nils Von Schoultz, who is regularly seen wandering the grounds in his tattered blue uniform. Nils was imprisoned and then hung to his death at Fort Henry for his role in the Rebellion of 1838.
Frontenac County Courthouse
In the space beside the courthouse that is now occupied by a parking lot, there used to stand a jailhouse. The jailhouse operated for nearly 120 years and consisted of a yard for the inmates that was surrounded by a two story wall around the whole perimeter as well as an execution room fitted with doors that would open up to allow the public to view the executions. The prison was torn down decades ago and very little remains to suggest that it even existed besides of course the bodies of inmates that are allegedly still buried underneath the former jailhouse. Within 86 years it is said that seven prisoners met their demise in the jailhouse gallows. Convicted murderers were hung to their death with five of them being laid to rest on the jailhouse grounds. It is said that many of their spirits still roam around the grounds of the courthouse with multiple witnesses claiming to have spotted a prisoner with a noose around his neck, wandering around.
Built in 1849, the Rosemount Inn has been welcoming guests inside it’s doors since the beginning of the 1990’s. The inn is conveniently located in the historic area of downtown Kingston and is a short walk to Kingston’s stunning waterfront and of course, it is also a stop along the Haunted Walks tour. While the Rosemount Inn has been voted to be one of the best bed and breakfast experiences in Canada and is also known for being one of the most haunted as well. The Rosemount was once a family home for many years before opening it’s doors to guests. While the inn is widely popular among the living, there are also a few ghostly guests who are fond of the place. Not to worry though, while the inn may have a few permanent guests, those who have reported to have seen these spirits have said that they are not mean or scary and that the ghosts seem to be actually very happy. One of the most spotted apparitions is that of a woman with many guests having seen her either standing on the landing looking out the window or rearranging their belongings and even unpacking their suitcases for them.
Theresa Alleyway / Rocheleau Court
Made up of a maze of passages and alleyways, Theresa Alleyway or Rocheleau Court, is the scene of one of Kingston’s oldest ghost stories. This stop of the Haunted Walks tour became infamous in 1868 when a young lady known as Theresa Ignace Beam, was killed by her lover John Napier, in the alleyway. Theresa, who was pregnant at the time of her murder, was buried underneath the passageway but her bones have not yet been localized. Many people have caught a glimpse of what is believed to be Theresa’s ghost, dressed in old-fashioned clothing. She is often spotted walking around a corner and vanishing or walking around holding a cross in her hands, asking people to help her find her bones.
For even more fun things to do in Kingston that are a bit less spooky, read ‘20+ Things To Do In Kingston‘