Photos C/O Hamilton, Local History & Archives, C/O Whitehern Historic House & Garden
By Andrew Mrozowski
Content warning: this article contains mentions of suicide
What if I told you that you are living in a haunted city? Hamilton has had a long history with ghosts dating back to hundreds of years, so naturally, there are claims of specters still roaming the city.
With All Hallows Eve quickly approaching, paranormal activity is reaching a new high. Once the sun goes down, an eerie feeling fills the crisp cool air as darkness seeps through every corner and alleyway in the city.
This means good business for Stephanie ‘Spooky Steph’ Dumbreck, founder and owner of Haunted Hamilton. She has been leading ghosts walks and tours across Hamilton for nearly 20 years and has a passion for Hamilton’s haunted scene.
“It has evolved [since] I first started Haunted Hamilton… The paranormal wasn’t even looked at the same. All along [Haunted Hamilton] has been a passion for local history for me and what better way for that than a good ghost story,” explained Dumbreck.
Originally starting off with her spine-chilling tour of downtown Hamilton, Dumbreck has since launched a variety of different tours from her haunted cruise along Hamilton’s harbor to a haunted bus trip taking you on an overnight paranormal investigation.
“Hamilton is extremely haunted, it’s just a matter of where you look and how you look because anywhere can be haunted. Hamilton has such cool historical landmarks and locations,” said Dumbreck.
One stop on Spooky Steph’s downtown tour is Whitehern Mansion. Located right behind Hamilton City Hall, Whitehern is one of the only period mansions remaining within the downtown core and has since been turned into a historical museum.
What many do not know is that Whitehern Mansion is haunted by the ghost of Issac McQuesten. This fact is eluded to by the house’s staff who reportedly sign a contract during their employment stating that they will be terminated if they mention the ghost.
Calvin McQuesten was a famous industrialist who helped build the Queen Elizabeth’s Way, Rainbow Bridge and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington. Three years before his death in 1885, he moved his family from Boston to Hamilton and entrusted his son, Isaac McQuesten, with his business and family fortune.
McQuesten never had the drive his father had to run the company and ended up destroying the business. This caused him to turn to alcohol abuse and drive up a crushing debt. Afraid of the social repercussions of seeking help in his own city, McQuesten ended up spending time in an asylum in Guelph.
On one grueling night in 1888, McQuesten kissed his six children and wife goodnight and told them that he was going to work in their parlor. At midnight, his wife woke up to check up on him and found his body laying still on the floor. The remnants of a sleeping draught made from a mix of sleeping pills and a generous amount of alcohol were in a cup on his desk.
McQuesten took his own life at Whitehern that night. His body was laid to rest but a superstitious belief dictates that if a life is taken before its rightful time then the soul will be stuck in purgatory. McQuesten’s spirit is in a state between death and the afterlife, forever trapped on earth.
Fast forward to present day Hamilton, two employees of the Whitehern Museum were closing up for the night. One staff member went upstairs to ensure that no spectators were still roaming the house while the other swept the outside of the front door.
As she made her way downstairs to leave, she felt somebody push her. She braced herself against the wall to avoid tumbling down the stairs. Suddenly, she caught sight of a grey and shadowy human figure in front of her.
She watched him run down the stairs and as he attempted to reach the front door, the figure disappeared as quickly as he appeared.
According to Dumbreck, the incident is proof that Issac McQuesten is trapped within the house and every time he attempts to leave it, he is forced back inside.
This amongst other chilling tales have spooked Hamiltonians in the past and present, with new encounters surrounding the supernatural occurring in the shadows of some of the oldest parts of the city.
Whether you are a believer or a skeptic, Hamilton is a fascinating place for indulging in rich history, but you also never know what might be peeking at you from the darkness, waiting to make its move.