Exploring Locations Near the Tunnel
St. Peter's, The Old German Church and The Old Burial Grounds of Thorold, Ontario
For years Internet rumors circulated about an abandoned cemetery that once had been exactly above where the Blue Ghost Tunnel now resides. Eye-witnesses claimed to have seen coffins floating in the water deep inside the tunnel as well as protruding through the limestone roof. Witnesses could not, however, provide photographic evidence and the eyewitness accounts were either ridiculed or dismissed as people mistakenly seeing things in the dark.
To this day, there are still Internet rumors about an abandoned cemetery above or very near the tunnel that is the root to the paranormal activity inside the tunnel.
And this rumor is partially true. There was and still is a burial ground in the area of the Blue Ghost Tunnel, but to say it’s near the tunnel is a matter of interpretation. It would also be a stretch to believe that a cemetery some distance from the tunnel could be the source of its paranormal encounters.
In the early years throughout the Township of Thorold, there were numerous cemetery sites, including several family-operated grounds. In the early 1880s a proper cemetery was established alongside a structure commonly known as The Old German Church.
The log church was erected in 1773 on the crossroads of the former Ten Mile Creek Road and St. David’s Road. In 1775, the first burial occurred on the property. Thorold resident, Jacob Ball, deeded additional land to the church in 1802 so that the church could bury its dead adjacent to the churchyard. Jacob Ball deeded five acres and the transaction was approved by The United Empire Loyalists who governed the local community.
In 1829 plans were drawn up to erect a more functional and impressive church made of nearby limestone, and by 1832 a new church with a new name, “St. Peter's”, had been built across the street from the decrepit log structure, which had in the meantime been transformed from a church into a feed stable.
In 1836, George Keefer, church warden and burial-grounds trustee, motioned for the community to build a new church closer to the vibrant downtown of Thorold. As these plans were set into motion, the congregation slowly abandoned St. Peter’s, save for special occasions and funeral arrangements.
In 1862, St. Peter’s was replaced by St. John the Evangelist in Thorold and by the end of that decade St. Peter’s had become an empty shell with its cemetery filled to capacity.
In 1875 the Thorold Post published an article about the poor conditions of the cemetery grounds. The author wished to have the city regarded favorably by visitors and called the state of the cemetery “...a crying evil...” and a “disgrace to humanity.” The Welland Canal was considered an engineering marvel in its day, and was often visited by astonished tourists. Noting this, the Thorold Post writer asked rhetorically, “...if a stranger came to see the new canal, what would they think by coming across such a site? I am sure they would have a low opinion of the region.”
The article did little to entice the city or populace to act. The cemetery remained in a state of neglect and the lack of care caused the yard, headstones and fence to fall further into disrepair.
In 1876, another article was published in the Thorold Post, emblazoned with the headline: “Oh, Why Is It So?”
The article asked why the city had abandoned the care of the cemetery, allowing cattle to roam inside the church and in the cemetery proper, causing damage to headstone and property. In chastising the local authorities the author concluded: “Why, Oh Why, Is It So?”
The new article gained much more attention as residents felt it ungodly to have cattle defecating on the graves of their forefathers, and in August of 1876, one month after the article’s publication, a plan to have the cattle expelled and the fence repaired at St. Peter's was brought forward to the town council. In addition, a motion to commission a new burial site was also approved.
St. Peters fence was repaired and some of the monuments were re-established after being knocked over by the roaming cattle.
By 1886 a new cemetery was developed on the escarpment, far from the developments of the Welland Canal. With the new cemetery, St. Peter's and the old cemetery were once again forgotten.
In 1903, another article about the old cemetery appeared in The Thorold Post. The author described his visit by saying it was like “...walking through a jungle, with overgrown brush, and neglected grave markers that popped up through the brush. Some of the stones were broken and the fence that surrounds the grave yard was broken in many areas.”
No one took much notice or concern.
In 1921 the cemetery once again in the news, but this time the topic of conversation was its demise. A new canal, one that would be able to transport larger vessels, was needed and the land on which St. Peter's church was on, as well as the cemetery, would be used in the construction of a large pondage area.
The Thorold Post ran a notice asking relatives of those interned at the old cemetery to have the bodies exhumed and re-interned at the new Lakeview Cemetery (which is now known as The Old Lakeview Cemetery).
The residents were given one summer to make arrangements and have the business completed. It was a daunting task, as many of the graves were over 100 years old; the oldest being that of Hannah Lampton, buried in 1793. The total number of graves on record was 842, but only 253 of these would ever be moved to the new cemetery. Families simply could not afford the re-internment and many graves had no family members to care for them.
When excavation and re-internment of the bodies occurred, some corpses were shuffled around and some went missing altogether. Adding to the confusion is the fact that some remains were not recoverable and only some body parts and coffins were moved to the new location.
According to the superintendent of Lakeview Cemetery there are 118 graves with no record of whose body they contain and as many as 72 others which may contain only body parts for which there are no records. He also stated that a number of the monuments were damaged or destroyed when they were moved to the new location.
The limestone bricks of St. Peter's were moved to the new cemetery and used in one of the outbuildings. Other stones were used by local quarrymen to build houses. The remains of St. Peter's, including the hardwood floorboards, were burned.
The Canal construction began and the entire grounds were flooded with a pondage area that was used for excess water flow.
Today, the remains of headstones that were left behind can be seen when the pondage is drained by The Seaway Authority. At first, the authorities had denied that the cemetery actually existed, fearing that they might have to, in modern times, move the remaining bodies or preserve the land somehow.
However, with evidence of pieces of headstones, grave markers and human remains, the authorities have finally said, that, yes, indeed, the cemetery was and is there. There are no plans to move the remaining bodies or preserve the area.
For several years I attempted to find the location of the cemetery, and while I found evidence such as gravestones and grave-markers, but the actual plot of land eluded me. I was convinced I was near the cemetery, but never entirely sure. I did, however, experience a very unsettling feeling when I was near the area.
Gord Westwater of The Shadows Project and Kevin Valencourt, formerly of NAGS, reviewed archives and maps to pinpoint the cemetery’s precise location, and to date, the only paranormal group to conduct investigations into the area is The Shadows Project.
The members of The Shadows Project each experienced different activity at the old cemetery grounds, and with it they recorded several EVPs. You can read about their experiences at www.theshadowsproject.com.
Lakeview Cemetery is divided into two separate plots of land―The “Old” and “New”. Old Lakeview Cemetery, which had its first internment in 1886, holds the remains of over 253 bodies from the cemetery known as St. Peter's or The Old Burial Grounds. The New Lakeview Cemetery, which was developed in 1962 to accommodate the growing population of Thorold and the surrounding communities, feels modern, but on it are the remains of The Bishop Fuller House as well as a monument to Bishop Fuller himself.
The Old Lakeview Cemetery is darker and more historical. Some tombstones are so dated that all the inscriptions are worn off.
Since the early 1940s this cemetery has been known to locals as a haunted site, and children dared each other to walk through its shadows. Even today, visitors get an eerie feeling when walking the grounds, while paranormal enthusiasts have recorded EVPS and describe strange activity.
I've investigated this cemetery several times and each time I felt like I was being watched. On every occasion, as I stood there, a feeling of urgency began to occupy my mind. An urgency to leave. I am always drawn to the back left corner of the grounds and often find myself at the same tombstones each time. Others, such as Stephan Willet, currently of The Shadows Project, have also happened upon the same tombstones in the same locations.
Here, on these grounds are the final resting places of the founding fathers of Thorold and many prominent families from the Region, including the Smiths and The Keefers.
Do the Lakeview Cemetery and its stories of being haunted have a relationship with the activity at The Blue Ghost Tunnel?
The Smith House
Just a short distance from The Blue Ghost Tunnel are the remains of what once was a family home belonging to James Smith, who in the 1840s listed himself as farmer and then later, capitalist.
The only elements remaining of the house are a limestone foundation, a nearby small well and a staircase that climbs to what was once a vegetable garden.
Here one can find the residue of broken housewares originating from England and Scotland.
There is little historical documentation about the house, but it was known to be abandoned by the early 1920s as farms had amalgamated into larger operations.
I happened upon the foundation while hiking around the Blue Ghost Tunnel, believing that perhaps other structures or evidence of such could be found.
On a separate hiking adventure, Gord Westwater, of The Shadows Project and Kevin Valencourt, formerly of NAGS, had found the same structure and conducted a few investigations in which Gord said he had evidence of it being haunted.
Are the spirits who haunt this particular location responsible for the paranormal activity at The Blue Ghost Tunnel?
The Mystery House Foundation
In the general area of The Blue Ghost Tunnel, a larger house foundation was discovered by Gord Westwater and Kevin Valencourt. All that remains of this structure is a limestone foundation and there is so far no documentation found to determine who owned this particular structure. It is of a much larger scale, and perhaps this was simply a farmhouse or even an outbuilding from the Smith property.
The House on the Hill
Above the Blue Ghost Tunnel's East Entrance, near the edge of the Quarry, stood a large three-story house. It is seen on only a few photographs of the Blue Ghost Tunnel as a blurry haze. During my investigations into the tunnel I approached a psychic medium who drew an aerial view of the tunnel and placed a house upon a hill, alongside a large barn. She indicated that the source of the paranormal activity of the tunnel was the house on the hill.
In venturing up the hill and looking for a house, I found no evidence of its existence. Walker's Quarry is still operating and they have taken much of the hill in extending their operations. Officials at the quarry insist that a house was indeed on the property and was owned by one of the Walker Brother's―most likely John Walker himself―but they could not provide any more details. They said the house was most likely torn down in the late 1960s when the quarry was expanded.
In talking to many locals I learned that they used to regard the abandoned house as a foreboding presence upon the hill. These same locals played as children around the wooded areas surrounding the Blue Ghost Tunnel, and often spoke of a haunting inside the walls of the dilapidated mansion.
“As kids, we used to call those two buildings on the top of the hill, ‘the haunted house’. Even in the 60's going over the Skyway you could see them,” says Pendykowski. “There was only the stone shell, no floor or roof. What would have been the rear, facing the canal, had a large doorway opening on to a 10'x10' pad with steps down to the ground. This also was when they still cut stone blocks using a cable & pulley system as well as with a saw.”
Several other residents of Thorold told me the house was said to be haunted by an angry old man who would try to capture children if they came close to his dwelling. The story proclaimed that this old man could travel as far as the Welland Canal and possibly into the Blue Ghost Tunnel.
Could the source of the activity originate from this house? Or are these simply fables formulated by children to scare one another? And what of the psychic's assertions about this house on the hill, of which she had no prior knowledge or even awareness?