Halloween best time for sharing ghost stories

By Penny Coles, Niagara Advance

Kyle Upton, creator of the Ghost Tours at Fort George, leads a group of about 35 people into the Fort days before Halloween, "the most haunting time of year" in the most haunted place in NOTL, the most haunted town in Canada.

Kyle Upton, creator of the Ghost Tours at Fort George, leads a group of about 35 people into the Fort days before Halloween, "the most haunting time of year" in the most haunted place in NOTL, the most haunted town in Canada.

"It was a dark and stormy night . . . "
That may be a cliche for how all good ghost stories begin, but it actually was a dark and stormy night at Fort George Saturday, the rain threatening but holding off, the full moon peering intermittently between the quickly moving clouds to lend an eerie atmosphere as Ghost Tour creator Kyle Upton led a group of about 35 people, most of them hoping to be terrified by the appearance of a spirit apparition, through the historic site.
Ghost tours at Fort George are not what might be expected of a good, scary outing elsewhere—there are no planted fake limbs with oozing fake blood, no bone-chilling music, nobody jumping out from the dark in an attempt to elicit screams of terror.
No, at Fort George, Upton promises, you hear real stories, about real ghosts.
And the intent isn't to scare the bejeezus out of anyone in the dark. It is rather to shed light on the spirit world, especially as it exists at Fort George, the most haunted place in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the most haunted town in Canada, and at Halloween, the most haunting time of year.

So says Upton, who dreamed up the idea of the ghost tours at the fort almost two decades ago, when he was just 19.
He had volunteered at the fort through high school, and would go on to work there through university.
He says he loved the fort, and still does. He met his wife there, was married there, and has in the last 18 years led thousands of people through its grounds at night, sharing some of the stories he has gathered about the other world of Fort George.
Most of the stories for the tours, he says, came from the hours spent talking to other staff members, many of whom had experienced chilling occurrences while working in the fort after dark. There were just too many stories to ignore the possibilities, he says.
After all, he says during the tours he leads, it is a place that has all the necessary ingredients for ghost stories from its history as a battlefield—hatred, terror, pain and suffering, blood and death, with 60 to 70 per cent casualties and more wounded left behind on its grounds than soldiers marching off.
The stories he shares on each tour are the stories of the War of 1812 years—the soldier in the red coat who still resides in one of the block houses, the little blonde girl in the white night gown who has appeared to staff and been seen on ghost tours, and the terrifying aura psychics have experienced as they near the area that was once a hospital, where surgeons amputated routinely without the benefits of anesthetics.
But Upton shares much more than ghost stories. His tours are as much about the history of 200 years ago as it is about the spirits who remain. And ghe ghost tours are not about being scared, although they tend to be more so at Halloween.
The ghosts continue to be co-operative—about 60 per cent of the time, someone on the tour will report a ghostly sighting, says Upton.
One often repeated is the vision of a man in the window of the most modern building, which is not part of the tour, where a window is left on through the night.
Upton was sceptical himself when he first heard reports of a face looking out that particular window, he said, until one particular dark night, making his way out after being spooked at the back of the fort, when he saw the face himself.
But his approach is less about offering up terror on a platter and more about sharing not only history, but a sense of understanding the tortured spirits who inhabit the fort, as Upton shares a little of his philosophy as well.
And if at all possible, while recounting his tales of real people who have been left behind, as he describes them, in the dark, trapped alone forever, Upton seems to feel an affinity for the spirits, and a responsibility to them—he would rather we feel sympathy for their situation, as he does, than be scared by them.
For those who have never experienced a ghost tour, there were a few tickets left for Halloween night, an unusual situation for the tours which are usually sold out—likely, said Upton, because of the weather reports.
For more information call 905-468-6621.


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