Chasing Haunted Tales with Ghosts of Stratford
The end of summer sun was beginning to set. Wandering down Stratford’s York Street, with its red-bricked buildings and their rust coloured fire escapes, I already felt transported back in time. The humidity of the day waned with a light breeze to welcome the night. It couldn’t have been a more perfect night for a Stratford ghost walk.
Our group gathered outside Edison’s Café Bar & Inn, just before the clock struck 8pm. Dusk settled in. I turned to look for our possible guide, not sure what to expect. Then, as if appearing out of the Perth County Courthouse, came a pair. Faces white, eyes darkened – by time or makeup, I chose not to ponder. She in a pale pink dress, with crinoline creating a bell shape, and a bonnet that all screamed she’d gone before her time. He with simple black trousers, black vest, and a peasant blouse. Atop his head a sad, black chapeau, and cradled in his arms a small guitar. He strummed a tune as they floated towards us with wide eyes. They were Euphemia and Edward. Ghosts of Stratford, here to take us back in time to experience Stratford’s dark and haunted past.
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Our Stratford ghost walk started in front of Edison’s Café Bar & Inn, where it turns out Thomas Edison once lived. Edison lived briefly in Stratford as a teenager. He worked for the Grand Trunk Railway. But after a near tragic accident, caused by his negligence, he quickly moved back with his parents in the USA.
As darkness blanketed the streets of downtown Stratford we were led across the river and onto hallow ground. Standing before the dark St. James Anglican Church, built in 1870, with gravestones flanking the path we stood on, Euphemia spoke of harrowing tales. Tales of premature burials. Yes, people were terrifyingly buried alive on the ground before us. After nightmarish stories of people with bloody fingernails from desperately digging at their wooden boxes, I shrunk to the back of the group. People suffocating due to lack of oxygen. I dared not even try to imagine this horror. But because of those horrible happenings instruments were put in place to ensure you weren’t buried alive. Like bells for you to ring, and hopefully alert someone.
Our ghostly guides really knew how to set the moment. Euphemia with her sharp and hushed story telling. Matched with Edward’s strum of the guitar, a near echo of my racing heartbeat. And always, her wide, darting eyes. I could barely tear my eyes away from her, at times, penetrating gaze.
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Staying close together we made our way into one of Stratford’s historic residential neighbourhoods, dating back to the 1860’s. Here, we paused before the William Buckingham Home. Built in 1880, in an Italianate design, we all peered into the upstairs window, with the only light on in the house. It’s said that it’s haunted by a young girl who killed herself within. It was striking how many homes, simple or grand in design, that are said to be haunted in this quiet neighbourhood. But with their age, it was no surprise there also lies a past.
One of the grand homes we stopped in front of was the Annie Macpherson Home. A two-story building with dormers that peered down on us. It was the epitome of a classic haunted looking house. This heritage home was once home to English orphans, dating back to 1869, who were brought overseas for a ‘better life’. Sadly, I don’t think many found that ‘better life’. It’s said some of the children never truly left and still haunt its hallways.
With a quickened pace we wandered back along the river. The only light from Edward’s wee flashlight. The night felt even darker and made more oppressive after tales of ghosts that haunt the riverside. One of the Stratford ghosts was a headless man who haunts the shores of the Avon River.
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The next stop was the new old jail. Built in 1886, it stands with odd sized windows and other strange architectural details. This wasn’t just a jail. It also had a sick ward and a mental ward. One of its ghosts is a young girl from that sick ward who died of scarlet fever.
Our last stop on our Stratford ghost walk was the striking and, at night, spooky Perth County Courthouse. We stood at the base of the courthouse steps, basking in a golden light. But just behind us stood tall spruce trees whose branches appeared to weep along with the last haunted tale. Turns out Stratford had its own Jack the Ripper just after the horrid London attacks, in 1894. A drifter named Almede Chattelle was convicted of the murder of 13-year-old Jessie Keith. She was found mutilated, throat slit and abdomen slashed, just like Jack the Ripper’s victims. Chattelle became the first man to be hanged in Stratford’s jail, with hundreds in attendance.
Ghosts of Stratford
Okay, so maybe I’m a little melodramatic. But I love ghost walks. And love letting myself be swept away by the pure theatrics of it. The Ghosts of Stratford ghost walk is put on by actors from the Playmakers Theatre School. These theatrical walking tours run during the summer, as well as during late October for Halloween.
There are a few different tours to choose from ranging from the God’s Acre Tour, which is the one we took, to a Pubs, Pilsners and Spirits Tour where you can enjoy a few pints along with tales of haunted taverns. And of course, you can enjoy a Stratford ghost walk for Halloween too!
Would dare to take a Stratford Ghost Walk?
I was a guest of Visit Stratford and the Ghosts of Stratford ghost walk. But as always all opinions are my own.
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