It has been a little bit more than a week between my feats recently. Having achieved one month at my new job, I am now starting to come up for air. I feel strongly that I am in the right place, but admit there is a lot for me to learn. Since my feats are meant to be a “positive psychology experiment,” I am not getting stressed about being slightly behind; rather, I see that I am extending my enjoyment over a longer period – my story, and I’m sticking to it.
However, coming into the long weekend, I had a plan for this week’s feat: St. Catharines’ downtown association Full Moon Ghost Walk was on the calendar. Initially, I had suggested this activity as a “feat with friends,” but forgot that it fell on a long weekend when people tend to head out of town to take advantage of the extra day and the first of the summer weather. While I am comfortable attending events solo, I decided to extend an invitation to The Navigator (previously introduced in the Isle of Wight adventure last summer) to join me. When I told my son of my plans, he articulated my own apprehension: “he’ll definitely hate it.” Knowing that the Navigator is a very logical creature, I decided to keep the nature of the evening’s activity as a surprise; to his credit, he accepted my limited information of time (9 p.m.) and location (Market Square).
We arrived to find about a dozen other people milling about by the front of the square. My surprise was somewhat given away by the long black cape clad, lantern toting tour guide and I gleefully announced to the Navigator that we were going on a ghost walk. While I expected I might receive a little reluctance about participating, he shocked me by noting, with a smile, that there were similar walks in Ottawa. I exhaled a tiny sigh of relief – potential obstacle avoided.
The cape and lantern were juxtaposed against the IPad that our guide used to provide her own path and knowledge. We began by the old courthouse. As she stood on the steps and gave us some of the history, the clock on the tower chimed. Startled, our guide told us that in all the times she had given the tour, the clock had never chimed. By the side doors, she told us of the cramped cells that kept prisoners in the basement, where the stress of such close quarters occasionally caused one inmate to murder another. She also told us of the old slaughterhouse in the basement and the numerous reports of people hearing animal noises (or is it the cries of the ghostly prisoners?) in the space so many years later. When we moved on to the fountain out front, it, too, was surprisingly spouting water – another first for our guide. While the overcast sky didn’t allow the moon to shine down on us, I felt some of the lunar effects were in play.
We moved about the downtown, stopping at churches, row houses, and parking lots. Each place was illustrated by its own story: an accidental death from a fall, a decapitation and subsequent hanging of the axe-wielding culprit, ghostly voices warning against an unseen danger, a gargoyle atop a building with an uncanny resemblance to an unpopular government official of the time. The tour ended at Merritt House. I had no knowledge of the long history of paranormal activity associated with the present site of several radio stations. As our guide stood on “Oak Hill,” she described the numerous recorded events, including hearing voices, seeing ghostly reflections in windows, and bizarre closing of doors and movements of articles. She referred to an on-air moment when an other-worldly voice broke into a broadcast with an proclamation that those in earshot should “go to hell.” (I actually looked that one up after the walk and listened to the recording. It was eerie).
Throughout the hour and a half, I kept an eye on The Navigator to determine his reaction to the tour. Each time the guide provided information about the various events, activities, and historical contexts, he seemed engaged, smiling and laughing along with the rest of the participants. I was impressed, but remembered that, in addition to being a skeptic, he was also a historian. As we walked back to the car after the tour, he expressed his enjoyment of the evening. Going out on a limb, I asked “So, do you believe in ghosts now?” to which he smiled and simply replied “No.” So, while I have a healthy interest in the possibilities of the extraordinary, apparently you don’t have to believe to enjoy the ride.
Next up: A little live history at the Niagara Falls Battleground Museum