Unexplained Phenomena

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Great Canadian Ghost Stories

Great Canadian Ghost Stories

Legendary Tales of Haunting from Coast to Coast
also available: Paperback
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Real Hauntings 5-Book Bundle

Macabre Montreal / Creepy Capital / Spooky Sudbury / Haunted Hamilton / Tomes of Terror
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Macabre Montreal

Macabre Montreal

Ghostly Tales, Ghastly Events, and Gruesome True Stories
also available: Paperback
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Ghosts of Niagara-on-the-Lake

Chapter 1
Laura Secord Homestead

The town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is home to some of Canada’s most cherished historic shrines, but none is more revered than the homestead of the hero Laura Secord, a humble woman whose legendary wilderness trek two hundred years ago warned the British of an impending American attack and likely saved the nation.
With the exception of this one fleeting moment, Laura Secord’s story is not one of glory, but rather of hardship and heartache. Her life, like that of most pioneer settlers in early Ontario, was an almost endless struggle. One would think that upon her death, after ninety-three years of near-constant work and worry, her spirit would have been tired and ready for eternal rest.
Perhaps not. It may be that Laura Secord’s spirit still walks through the rooms of her former home. If anyone would be strong-willed enough to resist the pull of the grave it would be Laura, a woman who throughout her troubled life demonstrated unusual persistence and determination.
For the first few years of her marriage to James Secord, Laura lived a comfortable existence. True, she worked hard, but her husband was a relatively successful businessman and their farm was well-established.
That all changed, irrevocably, when the War of 1812 erupted and Niagara became a battlefield soaked in blood and hatred. During the war, the Secords and other colonists of Niagara lived in a state of fear, not quite sure who to trust — many residents had freshly immigrated from America and had questionable loyalties — and were constantly worried about their personal safety and loved ones. They struggled daily to tend and plant crops, care for livestock, and conduct business, despite the disruptions caused by war.
Laura tried to ignore the conflict, to remain aloof from the fighting and the dying. But her hand was forced when a small group of American troops appeared at her door on June 21, 1813, demanding food and shelter for the night. During the course of the meal, Laura overheard the soldiers boasting of their army’s plan to surprise the unsuspecting British forces at Beaver Dams in the coming days. It was to be a trap. The Secords realized how important it was to warn the British of the coming attack, but who would take the message? There was no question of James going; he had yet to fully recover from injuries suffered the year before while fighting at the Battle of Queenston Heights. The responsibility fell to Laura.
At four thirty the next morning, well before the sun had even risen above the horizon, she set out. It had rained hard during the night, so the ground was a mire of mud, and even at this early hour the country steamed with humidity, promising to be a stifling day. But Laura was on a desperate mission and wasn’t about to let anything — or anyone — stand in her way. To minimize the chance of meeting an American patrol, Laura took roundabout routes and avoided the main roads between villages. This added hours to her walk, and each hour added fresh misery. The heat was oppressive and soon her clothing was soaked with sweat. Her feet ached and blistered. Her eyes blurred from the heat, humidity, and fatigue. Still, she kept moving. Alone and hungry, she summoned all her strength to complete her vital mission.
As the sun set, there was some relief from the heat, but there were still other hazards to contend with: clouds of ravenous mosquitoes, night-prowling animals, and the very real chance that in the darkness she might lose her way or take a painful fall. At one point Laura even lost her shoes in the thick woods, and as a result her feet were soon raw and bleeding, so tender that each step was a fresh definition of agony. Finally, when her strength had been all but sapped from her slender body, Laura came upon a First Nations camp. She had to convince these warriors to let her pass so that she might accomplish her goal. Steeling her nerves, she strode into the firelight. The First Nations people were shocked to see a disheveled white woman stumbling from the forest, and at first were skeptical of her story. But when she explained the urgency, they relented and took her across the fields to the headquarters of Lieutenant James FitzGibbon, commander of British forces in the area.
Armed with her information, the Red Coats and their First Nations allies were able to ambush and soundly defeat the American army at the ensuing Battle of Beaver Dams.3 But Laura received no recognition for her role in the victory, nor any form of financial reward. The Secord family fortunes never really recovered from the disruption brought about by the war and they struggled most years.4 Laura’s financial woes only got worse when, on February 22, 1841, James — the love of her life and constant companion — died.
A widow at the age of sixty-four, Laura had to quickly put aside her grief and look after her own needs and that of her family. She submitted petition after petition over the ensuing years, but the government refused her petition each time.
Finally, in 1860, Laura Secord received the recognition she deserved. The Prince of Wales, Albert Edward (future King Edward VII), toured Canada that year, and on September 8, stopped in Queenston to pay tribute to the veterans of the War of 1812. After being told of Laura’s heroic adventure, he made note that upon his return to England he would arrange a reward for her. He was true to his word. The prince sent Laura £100 as thanks for her bravery. It was to be the only financial compensation Laura Secord ever received for her part in a war that could have ended differently if not for her selfless, courageous journey.
Laura’s travels came to an end in 1868 at the age of ninety-three. Upon her death, she was laid to rest alongside her beloved James in Drummond Hill Cemetery. Today, and largely because of the heroics and self-sacrifice she demonstrated during that legendary walk in 1813, the Laura Secord Homestead is among Niagara’s most popular historic sites. Each year thousands visit the home in which Laura Secord lived during the greater part of her adult life. According to some, her spirit still dwells on the premises.
Countless strange goings-on in the house over the past three decades do seem to suggest that Laura still inhabits the house. On the second floor, people have reported hearing voices. Not the distinct voices of staff or visitors, but rather otherworldly whisperings that hang in the air like a quiet breeze. People look around, but there’s no one there. Others have reported seeing a female ghost in an upstairs bedroom at the foot of a bed.
Once, these ghostly manifestations were accompanied by the pitiful moans of an obviously pained man. Interestingly, after Laura’s husband had been wounded at the Battle of Queenston Heights he endured a lengthy recuperation in this very room. Psychics have claimed that Laura is a sad spirit, but what troubles her is something of a mystery.
Beth (whose name has been changed at her request) worked for the Niagara Parks Commission some years ago, spending most of her time at the Laura Secord Homestead, where she felt strangely at home. Beth was always the quickest to say there were no such things as ghosts, but her experience at this historic building radically altered her view. Over the course of one particular summer, she had numerous encounters with an unexpected — to say nothing of immaterial — guest.
“My first experience happened early in the morning, just as I was walking into the home,” Beth explains. “It was my job to make sure everything was in order for the daily visitors, and I felt it was an important job. After all, many people travelled for miles to visit the place where a heroine who changed history once lived.”
No sooner had the young woman crossed the building’s threshold that particular day than she began to get a strange feeling, and instinctively knew she was not alone. A cold chill slowly seeped through her body even though it was a hot summer day, and goose bumps formed on her suddenly icy flesh. The now-frightened woman could feel someone’s presence, yet she could see no one.
“I called out, but got no answer,” Beth continues. “I thought maybe my mind was playing tricks on me as I tried to make sense of what I felt. I started to shake off my fear, at least enough to be able to move again. Slowly, I started to walk further into the home. But no sooner did I begin than I froze to a stop, as I clearly heard footsteps across the room above me.”
Terror gripped her like a bony hand and wouldn’t let go. She tried to scream but no sound would escape her throat. Her eyes widened with disbelief as a white figure, wearing an old-fashioned floor-length dress, gently floated in front of her. Seconds later — though it seemed like an eternity to the fear-rooted employee — the spectral woman slowly began to fade away.
“After that first incident I continued to occasionally hear strange noises in the house, even though there was never anyone in the building. Sometimes it gave me the chills as I entered the home, but I was never afraid again. I knew whoever this ghost was, she didn’t mean any harm.”
She was just a lost soul greeting her guests.

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