When a town is as historic and old as St. Thomas, its heritage buildings make perfect haunting grounds for ghosts – or at least, tales of them. Our city’s extensive past provides us today with many legends, myths, and stories of spirits, and even a witch, that have been passed on from generation to generation. While they may be mere speculation, they are a part of St. Thomas and its history. Where able, check out some of these locations and keep your ear to the ground and eyes peeled for the paranormal. But remember that many of these places are private property, and should not be trespassed upon – especially with ghosts guarding them!
Alma College is often cited as one of the most haunted locations in our region. Though it tragically burned down in 2008, the girls’ school had stood since 1878. Both before and even after the fire, there have been many stories of supernatural activity occurring on the grounds.
One particular tale tells the story of a woman named Angela, who was rumoured to be a cruel music teacher locked in a closet by students and left to die. The western tower was often referred to as “Angela’s Tower,” as this is where she supposedly remained for many years after her death, haunting Alma College. Her footsteps were frequently heard pounding up and down the tower’s staircase, but despite Angela’s menacing post-mortem behaviour, students celebrated her each year on Halloween. There had also been reports of cries, voices, and other strange noises, along with apparitions of young girls.
An investigation of the grounds by Haunted North America resulted in chilling experiences of young girls allegedly whispering abusive threats, showing the investigators that their presence was unwelcome. Whether or not it was haunted, there is no doubt that Alma College was stunning, but a bit sinister… So much so that it was used in the horror films Orphan and Silent Hill!
Princess Ave Playhouse
The Princess Ave Playhouse, originally built as a church in 1907, is allegedly a hotspot for multiple spirits who roam the building. In fact, multiple documentaries have been filmed there, as teams investigated for paranormal activity. One story speaks of a team of Ryerson students who recorded a video about the haunted playhouse in 2001. When listening back to an interview with an Elgin Theatre Guild member, the group found the audio had inexplicably cut out as they spoke about a particular ghost, then returned as they went to another topic.
One ghost is said to be a young girl named Maisie, whom women have heard around the playhouse. One late night, the women in a cast rehearsal heard a child crying, and refused to leave until they found the source of the noise – which evidently, they never did. A medium who spoke to the Princess Ave spirits confirmed this young girl’s identity. The medium also learned of the spirit of an old female church secretary, seen at the top of the staircase, where people often feel suddenly chilled and hear fake teeth clattering.
The playhouse also hosts a spirit referred to as Mort, who appears to have a sense of humour. Mort has been seen sitting during plays, typically comedies, wearing a top hat. He is often blamed when items go missing in the theatre, but after one crew member yelled angrily and cursed at the ghost to return his belongings, Mort seemingly did so.
The Canadian Haunting and Paranormal Society have conducted multiple investigations at the playhouse, resulting in reports and videos which can be found on their website.
Next time you go to see a play at Princess Ave, keep an eye out for these regulars!
Old St. Thomas Church Graveyard
The Old St. Thomas Church and its graveyard are full of fascinating real-life history, along with some petrifying legends. Most famous is the tale of the Witch’s Grave, which belongs to Maria Baldwin. Legend has it, Maria was a witch, which is why her grave has turned an eerie black colour (this is admittedly due to acid rain and other pollutants entering the porous sandstone.) The myth also says that the grave catches on fire on Halloween. Four posts surround the large gravestone, and the legend goes that you will be cursed if you step within those posts and touch the grave.
In actuality, Maria’s story is a tragic one, as she died during childbirth at 22 years old in 1863, and her baby died soon after. Her husband was a reverend at the church, and it is unlikely he would have married the town witch - or that she would have been buried in a Christian graveyard. But the legend is one of the best known in St. Thomas, and has been passed down throughout the years – a testament to our love of mystery.
Another tale of the church’s cemetery is that of the Chisholm Family. The very large and ornamental grave honours seven members of the same family, all having died one after the other in quick succession.
The Chisholms are said to have fallen victim to the “Irish Curse” after a widow warned William Chisholm, a ship captain, to not sail that day because she knew her only son would die out at sea on his ship. He sailed anyways, and the ship was destroyed in a storm, killing the woman’s son. In revenge, she set the Irish Curse on William: “may all of your children die young and not one in their bed.” This seemingly resulted in seven deaths in the family between 1828 and 1835. Legend has it they died in brutal ways, including a runaway horse carriage, a train accident, and a drunken bar brawl.
The family’s story was posted in the London Free Press nearly a hundred years later in 1925, citing Ella Lewis as the source, who learned of the curse from her father. In reality, the family’s story was likely dramatized, with a more probable cause of death being tuberculosis or cholera. But a curse is always a preferable tale, and thus the legend lives on.
The Old St. Thomas Church graveyard is open from dawn to dusk, giving you the opportunity to check out these infamous graves for yourself. While we encourage you to explore the church’s history, please remember that this is an active cemetery and respect needs to be paid to the deceased and their families. Do not vandalize or trespass on the property after hours.
The St. Thomas Courthouse has also been the subject of various local ghost stories. The building dates back to 1853, and it was the site of multiple hangings. One local describes many strange oddities when working there as a teenager, including missing tools and bizarre noises, which he believes could only have been the spirits of those who were put to death on the grounds many years ago.
The last people to be hung in the courthouse were Frank and Fred Temple, a father and son duo who were caught stealing a bike. When police officers Sam McKeown and Colin McGregor went to their home with an arrest warrant, a scuffle began and Frank fatally shot McGregor. Despite Frank being the one to kill the officer, both the father and the son were sentenced to death. Officer McKeown, who testified at the trial, was later buried in the Old St. Thomas Church, while the city’s police headquarters were named after McGregor. Frank and Fred Temple were hung at the St. Thomas Courthouse in June, 1935. Perhaps the tormented spirit of the unjustly sentenced Fred Temple and his angry father still remain...
Wellington Street School
Constructed in 1898, Wellington Street School (now home to the STEAM Centre) is very historic, even designated as a heritage property. It stopped functioning as an elementary school in 2009 but not before many of those who attended were apparently subjected to paranormal experiences.
There have been multiple testimonies of unexplainable and alarming noises in the school, and many claim even today to have witnessed young children peering out of the window and playing on the playground.
Myrtle Street School
Myrtle Street is another century-old elementary school, opened in 1904 and closed in the early 2000’s. At this school, too, people have testified that they witnessed ghostly children in the windows. But even more puzzling, there have been sightings of apparitions appearing to be 19th century soldiers in the hallways.
Though now demolished, disembodied voices on the surrounding grounds have been said to fill the air.
The Sparta Tearoom doesn’t just serve tea; it’s said to be home to two mischievous ghosts. Inhabitants Norma and Ken Roberts say they repeatedly experience various mysterious occurrences, including multiple items flying off of shelves and their bedroom’s latched door frequently being opened and closed.
One spirit is said to be a woman in a dress and bonnet, while the other is a man in a dark coat. These identities were confirmed when a medium visited the house, who was supposedly able to communicate with the spirits. The Sparta House's spirits were also featured on the television show Rescue Mediums, which can be watched online.