Merritt House Investigation
The Merritt House, located on Oak Hill in St. Catharines, Ontario, was once home to William Hamilton Merritt, builder of the Welland Canal and long considered one of the "fathers of Canadian transportation".
Before the building became a radio station in 1938, this historic structure also served as a military convalescent home during the First World War, a brewery, and an Inn in the mid 1930's. With a lively past such as this, it is no wonder that the house was reputed to be haunted.
We here at Haunted Hamilton were invited to visit the infamously haunted locale by Diane Daniels, a fellow HH member who is a Radio DJ for 97.7 HTZ FM. Being highly interested in the historical aspect of the house, as well as the hauntings, we couldn't pass an opportunity like this up.
Stephanie and Daniel first visited the house on September 14, 2001 to conduct a preliminary investigation. Then, on September 20th, 2001, they went back, this time, accompanied by Haunted Hamilton's two resident psychics, Michele Stableford and Kate Kingston.
The following is a report of the entire investigation and our findings. Everything recorded here is true and actually happened.
The Merritt family had found life unbearableas they werepersecuted Loyalists in the new American republic. They moved to the Niagara district in Upper Canada, settling in what became the area of St. Catharines. There, young William Merritt grew up, eventually taking up surveying and navigation with his Loyalist uncle in New Brunswick. At age 17, back in the village of St. Catharines, he ventured into a partnership in a general mercantile business.
When the War of 1812 began, William marched with the militia to serve under General Brock in the British capture of Detroit, went on to fight gallantly at Queenston Heights and Stoney Creek, was promoted to captain but was then taken prisoner at Lundys Lane in 1814. At wars end he was released and returned home in 1815.
Merritt now began a partnership in another merchant business in the fast-growing St. Catharines neighbourhood. He bought land there, ventured successfully in developing local salt springs and, above all, began to envision a canal to connect Lakes Ontario and Erie across the Niagara peninsula. In 1818, at 25 and full of energy, he carried out a rough survey of his own projected canal route and that year submitted, to the Upper Canada legislature, a petition, signed by the influential settlers in his area, that sought an appropriation for a more accurate survey. Two thousand pounds was voted for this survey. Then Merritt proceeded to have the survey redone, raised more money, and finally sought an act incorporating The Welland Canal Company (named for the Welland River which would play a main part in the route). In 1824 the act was passed, and Merritt went to New York City to gain American investors for his project. His promotions succeeded, and the digging of the canal commenced in November of that year. Five years later, in November 1829, the first two vessels entered the completed canal to pass St. Catharines on their way to Buffalo. Merritts bold vision had been realized.
Upon first arriving at the Merritt House, Stephanie and Daniel were amazed at how beautiful the home looked. Being that they arrived fairly early, they wandered around the local premises of the home. It was fairly dark outside and the house was illuminated with it's outdoor flood lights, causing large shadows to cast upon the surrounding front lawn. The Carriage House which stood at the back of the Merritt House, looked like a historic gem in itself.
We met Diane at the back entrance, and she began by telling us some of the strange and odd occurances that have happened in the building. There have been distinct tobacco smells on the third floor towards the attic, cold spots around the house, the t.v. in the basement turning itself on, whispers calling out staff members names, and footsteps heard creaking across the old wooden floors. The above mentioned are just a few of the many unexplainable events that occur in the Merritt House on a daily basis.
As Diane continued to take Stephanie and Daniel through their tour of the house, they were introduced to a very cheerful lady who was the custodian at the Merritt House. She was very anxious to lead them to a room in the basement which held the radio stations music CD library.
The caretaker proceeded to explain how she was the last one out of the building late one Friday evening. Between the hours of 12 midnight and 6 a.m., the house is empty because the radio station plays pre-recorded material. She made sure that everything was clean and in order and that all the necessary doors were locked, including the one to the CD library. When she arrived the next morning, she was the first one to enter the building. She went to unlock all of the doors, and when she opened the CD library door, she was shocked to see that more than half of the CD collection had been thrown off the walls and onto a huge pile on the floor. The shelving units that hold the CDs were in tact and still had a few CDs sitting in their proper spots. We're not just talking about a few CDs here... literally hundreds of them were all on the floor, many of the cases cracked and broken. What an interesting way to start off the investigation!
The other interesting aspect of the basement are the underground tunnels that lay beneath the home. The tunnels are connected to the carriage house from the main building, with one tunnel extending north to meet the river and the other emerging by the river where the current Burgoyne bridge stands. The tunnels originally played a large part in the Underground Railroad, and were later used by bootleggers during the Prohibition days. The tunnels were sealed over for safety reasons in 1967.
After leaving the older basement area, we headed upstairs to the main floor of the house. This is where the front reception desk is as well as all of the recording and sound studios. Diane gave us a quick run-through of the studios and then we made our way up the winding staircase to the second floor of the home. (Notice that strange orange glow on the right side of the photograph below?)
Because the custodian was in that evening, as we mentioned earlier, Stephanie and Daniel were lucky enough to see the manager's office, which at one time was the master bedroom of the home. There was an antique marbled fireplace in the room, and Stephanie pointed out that it was obviously used alot since the top section of the rim was blackened by the roaring fire. If anything, you could definately pick up active vibes from this room. We immediately sensed that much time was spent in this room which served as a quiet retriet.
We then made our way across the hallway to the present day Board Room. We're not sure what this room used to be back in its day, but there sure was an active energy present. Diane showed us a large matted and framed photograph which rested atop the fireplace mantle in this room. It was an old restored photo taken of the Merritt House circa the late 1800's. This photograph is called the "Ghost Picture" as coined by resident staff. Within the photo, you can distinctly make out three ghosts. One is of an older gentleman with a long beard sitting on the verandah, and another one of a spirit walking across the stoney street, while another figure is visible to the left of the house, where the parking lot is. It is hard to see from this photograph above, but if you ever make a trip yourself to the Merritt House, be sure to ask about this particular photo.
After their tour around the second floor of the Merritt House, Stephanie and Daniel made their way to the attic of the home. The staircase that led up to the attic was the location of a tragic death in the home. Mary, the maid, lived in the attic's quarters, and on day while coming down the stairs, she tripped and fell to her death. Her spirit is said to haunt the upper floor of the home, and be the most vicious and reckless. Diane refused to go upstairs because it creeped her out too much. She tries to avoid that area as much as possible. When they began to walk up the narrow staircase, they immediately sensed a negative energy.
Stephanie made her way up the staircase first, and just as she was getting close to the top step, she saw a mist dart infront of her and dissolve to the left. It wasn't like a smoke mist or cloud, but rather a "wet" mist which Stephanie could only describe as resembling a custard texture. The picture to the left was taken just seconds after Stephanie saw the mist, and shows the exact spot of the sighting.
When Stephanie and Daniel were both in the landing of the attic, they felt overwhelmed by the intense amount of negative energy. When standing in the center of the attic, there are many doorways that lead in each direction. For some reason, Stephanie and Daniel were not able to move. It was like their feet were glued to the floor. Even though they wanted to proceed and investigate the rest of the rooms up in the attic, they just couldn't.
The following photo above was taken from the entrance of one of the rooms in the attic. As you can see in the picture, there is a long whisp of some sort coming from the top of the photograph. Interestingly enough, at the time when the photo was taken, this whisp was not there.
As you'll notice, the pictures taken were all from where they were standing in the center. However, there is one photo that Dan took when he became brave and entered one of the rooms briefly. He took a quick shot of a doorway in one of the rooms, and as he was looking through the camera, just as his flash went off, he saw the silohette of a figure including a head, shoulders and a body. This immediately frightened him and they were quick to make their way down the stairs to the main floor.
After discussing their findings with Diane, Stephanie and Dan bid her goodnight and headed towards the car. As they were in the parking lot, another radio DJ caught them, and explained his frightening experiences while broadcasting. The tape reels would start to play on their own, which is next to impossible because the switch to turn them on is a rather large and stiff. Stephanie and Dan sure had much to talk about on their ride home that evening!
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