Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Olde Angel Inn

The Olde Angel Inn in Niagara-on-the-Lake was established in 1789. Originally known as the Harmonius Coach House it hosted a variety of patrons, including politicians, military personnel and writers.  Among its more esteemed patrons were Prince Edward ( the father of Queen Victoria), Irish poet, Thomas Moore and even the Scottish explorer Alexander MacKenzie, best known for being the first person to traverse the North American continent from West to East.

At this time Niagara-on-the Lake was known as Newark, and was chosen by Governor Lieutenant John Graves Simcoe as the capital of Upper Canada in 1792. However due to its close proximity to the American border Simcoe changed his mind and York became the capital in 1797. Newark was officially renamed Niagara.  Being a meeting place for many prominent citizens, that had political influence, it is said that the First Act Against Slavery was enacted in 1793 and celebrated at the Coach House. 

In 1815 John Ross rebuilt the Coach House after it was razed by American troops in the war between the British and the Americans of 1812. The Americans conquered the town and burnt many of its buildings. John Ross renamed the Coach House, The Angel Inn, for his wife. In 1826 Richard Howard bought the establishment and it was then purchased by a John Fraser in 1845.  The Angel Inn become known as Frasers Hotel or the Mansion House. After serving as a library, apothecary, a billet for soldiers and a dental office the Ling  family purchased the building, refurbished it and rename it The Olde Angel Inn.

It was as early as the 1820s, when John Ross owned the establishment, that stories of ghostly occurrences began to circulate. The ghost was said to be that of a British soldier called Captain Colin Swayze.  Captain Swayze was apparently given orders to flee the town, with a raid by American soldiers imminent.  It is said that instead of leaving he stood at the intersection of Regent and Market Street till 10 o'clock waiting for his love.  When she didn't arrive the American soldiers were already swarming through the town.  Captain Swayze sought refuge in the Couch House.  He was forced to hide down in the cellar in one of the wine barrels as the American soldiers ransacked the town.  Three soldiers went down into the cellar and started to stab at the wine barrels with their bayonets.  It's said one of the wine barrels started to " bleed".  They had killed Captain Swayze.  Leaving his body in the cellar the soldiers burnt the Coach House to the ground.  

The ghost of Captain Swayze is said to click silverware, clink glassware, and rearrange table settings.  Most of the paranormal phenomena allegedly occurs in the cellar where Captain Swayze was murdered.  Guests of the Olde Angel Inn have reported hearing phantom footsteps, whistling and whispered conversations.  Several guest have sighted Captain Swayze standing in one of the rooms they have hired at the top of the Inn. It is said that the Union Jack must always  fly in The Olde Angel Inn.  Many owners have tried to take the flag down and the paranormal activity has increased. They believe Captain Swayze is angered if the Union Jack is removed. 

I love the Olde Angel Inn and I have been there many times.  It's a cozy place with low beamed ceilings and the feeling of a bygone time.  I do think that the long staircase down to the women's washroom, which is situated next to the cellar, has a strange feel about it.  As you descend towards the cellar there is something electric in the air.   The Olde Angel Inne is a wonderful place to visit. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Eilean Donan

Situated at a junction between Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alish, on a small tidal island, is Eilean Donan. Literally meaning "island of Donnan", Eilean Donan is believed to have been named after Donnan of Eigg, a Gaelic Saint that was martyred. Donnan of Eigg purportedly tried to bring Christianity to the Picts of North Western Scotland.  Vitrified stone found on Eilean Donan may have been the remains of a monastic cell built on the island in honour of Donnan of Eigg. 

Sometime during the reign of Alexander II, which lasted from 1214 to 1249, a large curtain wall, constructed to protect the existing castle, was built. It almost enclosed the entire island. Eilean Donan became a stronghold against the Viking expeditions.  It was situated on the boundary of the Norse-Celtic Lordship of the Isles and the Earldom of Ross. By this time the Vikings had occupied much of the North of Scotland and the Western Isles. 

Eventually the island became a stronghold for the Mackenzies of Kintail. The castle was garrisoned by the Macraes and MacLennans. When King Magnus VI returned the Hebrides to Scotland a bid was made for the castle but it was repulsed. In 1331, soldier and diplomat Thomas Randolph, Earl Of Moray announced that he would be visiting the island.  In preparation fifty people were beheaded and their head were displayed on the castle walls as a welcome. 

By the Mid 14th century the Mackenzies were loosing an ongoing feud and  Eilean Donan was protected by Duncan Macaulay for the Mackenzies. King David II awarded the castle to Murdo Mackenzie. The Macrae clan settled in the area and became the protectors of the Mackenzies. 

In 1427 James I was determined to unite the feuding clans of the Scottish highlands and invited clan leaders to join him in Inverness.  At the fateful meeting James I decided to execute and imprison most of the chieftains.  He sent Alexander Mackenzie the Lord of Eilean Donan to Perth to school due to his young age. Duncan Macaulay held the castle for Alexander, even thwarting takeover attempts by Alexander's uncles. Alexander was returned to his lairdship and went on to support the monarch against the MacDonalds. 

In 1539 Donald Gorm MacDonald of Sleat ravaged the lands of the MacLeods of Dunvegan on Skye. Gorm learnt that Eilean Donan was weakly defended, in fact there were only two people in the castle.  Donald MacDonald decided to attack Eilean Donan Castle challenging King James V in his quest for Lordship. The attack was foiled by Duncan Macrea who wounded Donald MacDonald with his last arrow. The MacDonalds were defeated. 

During the Jacobite uprises, there was an increase in military presence in Scotland, as the government tried to quell the Highlanders. Following the failure of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion the Jacobites received support from the Spanish.  In 1719 Eilean Donan castle was garrisoned by Spanish soldiers who had stockpiled gunpowder but we're waiting for the delivery of weapons and cannons. The English got wind of the delivery and sent three heavily armed frigates. The Flamborough, The Worcester and the Enterprise bombarded the castle for three days, the cannon attack doing little to damage the 14ft thick walls of the castle. Finally Captain Herdsman of the Enterprise sent a landing party.  They overwhelmed the Spanish soldiers and then using the stockpiled gunpowder, partially destroying the castle.

For almost the next two hundred years what remained of the castle lay abandoned.  In 1911 Lieutenant  Colonel John Macrae-Gilstrap purchased the island with the intent of restoring it to its former glory. The restoration of Eilean Donan, which included the construction of an arched bridge between the island and the mainland, took twenty years.  A war memorial was also constructed with lines from John Macraes poem "In Flanders Field".  Eilean Donan Castle was reopened in 1932.  The castle has been described as one of the most photographed castles in the world. It has been featured in many films, including Highlander. 

Eilean Donan Castle is said to have two ghost.  The first is an unknown female called Lady Mary who supposedly haunts one of the bedrooms.  The second ghost is thought to be one of the Spanish soldiers killed during the Jacobite rebellion.  This ghost is said to be headless, walking with his head underneath his arm.  

Rumours also abound about a large marine creature seen near the castle in Loch Duich.  There is also a legend about a "Macrea" film that exists showing a creature in Loch Ness and Loch Duich.  The alleged films have been stored away for safe keeping.  

Mermaids and Seal Maidens have also been connected to Eilean Donan.  Through the centuries sailors have reported sighting mermaids near the castle. A legend also exists about three seal maidens, in Loch Duich near Eilean Donan, whose seal "coats" were stolen when they were in human form, by three brothers.  One brother allowed the seal maiden to return and as a reward she was allowed to visit him.  The eldest brother burnt his seal maidens coat so she couldn't leave and inadvertently burnt her to death. The middle brother lost his seal maiden when she found her coat and escaped.

I loved visiting Eilean Donan.  The castle is breathtakingly beautiful.  Once you walk across the bridge from the mainland you feel transported to a magical place. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Amsterdam Brewhouse and the Sconce

This post is about one of the photographs I have personally taken with an anomaly in it. This photograph was taken in taken in Toronto.
I met up with a Facebook friend to have dinner. Both loving photography, we walked along the Toronto harbour front taking photographs and decided to stop and eat at the Amsterdam Brewhouse at approximately 6.50pm. The Amsterdam Brewhouse is situated in Pier 4. 

The Pier 4 building, originally known as Transit Shed #4 was constructed along the East side of John Quay in 1930. Spanning almost 14000 square feet, the building has housed several restaurants including Wally Magoos Marine Bar and the Pier 4 Restaurant that operated for 35 Years. The Amsterdam Brewhouse took over the premises in 2013. 

The night I went the Restuarant was busy at the front in the bar area so we were led to the back of the restaurant to a seat in the corner looking out at the water.  There was no tables behind us.
We ordered dinner and as I love to share my adventures on social media I was taking pictures all the time, alternating between my camera and my iPhone camera.  I saw the sconce on the wall between where we were seated and loving steampunky stuff  I took a picture of it.  The sconce was no bigger than a dinner plate, the shards roughly 10cm at their widest.   I was sitting side on to the sconce, my friend was facing it.  I turned and took the picture.  The only people anywhere near me when the photograph was taken was my friend, facing the sconce and me side on.  No one was behind us or around us. 

The next day I cropped the picture and placed it in a collage with a photograph of the exterior of the Amsterdam Brewhouse and the yummy meringue I had eaten for dessert and placed it on all my social media but didn't notice the  "face".  I was inundated with private messages asking about the "creepy face" reflected in the sconce.  When I saw it my stomach turned.

The next night I went back to the Amsterdam Brewhouse and I approached the wait staff and showed them the picture on my iPad.  Their response was like mine, creeped out.  Even though there was a private party and it was busy they led me to the table to look at the sconce.  That table was empty despite the crowd.  We all sat with the iPad open at the table and tried to reenact the picture.  Within seconds knowing and seeing it was impossible.

Freaked out I sent the picture to a friend that is a video production person.  He broke the picture into shards on the screen.  He explained that each shard of the sconce was reflecting normally.  The centre of it was concave and the images in it were upside down, also normal.  The one shard that wasn't normal was the one with the face. He  said it seemed like the face was not reflected but was inside the shard looking out.  He could not explain the anomaly. 

Another friend placed the picture on his paranormal show forum.  All that happened was people saying it was photoshopped. I wish it was. Firstly I have no where near the skill to do something like that in Photoshop but most importantly it's on the Raw file on my camera. 

There is all sorts of mythology and belief around the spirit world and mirrors. 
Ancient Chinese myth has a notion of the mirror as an alternative universe.  Some cultures believe that mirrors have the power to capture and trap souls, even going so far as to cover mirrors when a house has illness or death.  Mirrors are also used in divination. catoptromancy and enoptromancy, practices in which mirrors are used to capture the reflection of the moon to foresee the future. 

The picture and the reflection in the mirror sconce remain a mystery.  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Gibraltar Point Lighthouse

The construction of the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse began in 1803 on a site chosen by John Graves 
Simcoe, founder of Toronto and Lieutenant Governor.  Erected to help assist with the safety of maritime vessels sailing on Lake Ontario, the lighthouse began operating in 1808. With a distinctive hexagonal base the original tower was 52 ft (16m) high, built using Queenstown limestone, shipped to the site by barge. Eventually the lighthouse tower was heightened to 84ft (25m).

After almost a 150 years of service the lighthouse was decommissioned and replaced by an automatic electrical signal located to the east of Toronto Island. Though it once stood right on the shore, the lighthouse is now about 100m from the waters edge, as over the years sand has built up in front of the structure. 

The stories of hauntings at the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse may have had their beginnings on January 2nd 1815 when the first lighthouse keeper, John Rademuller vanished under suspicious circumstances.  It is said that Rademuller use to brew his own beer and perhaps even smuggled whiskey from America.  He was popular with the soldiers of Fort York who came for his wares.  On the fateful night of his disappearance it is alleged that two or three soldiers came from the fort and asked for some of Rademuller's brew. He apparently refused them and in their anger they killed him. The accounts of how they may have killed him range from beating him with their belts, stabbing him with a bayonet, flinging him from the tower of the lighthouse to chasing him up the lighthouse stairs where he fell.  It is believed that after his death, the soldiers chopped up his body and buried the pieces in different places around the lighthouse. 

As was apparently reported in the York Gazette January 14th 1815.

“Died on the evening of the 2nd of January, J.P. Radan Muller, keeper of the lighthouse on Gibraltar Point. From circumstances there is moral proof of his having been murdered. If the horrid crime admits of aggravation when the inoffensive and benevolent character of the unfortunate sufferer are considered, his murder will be pronounced most barbarous and inhuman. The parties lost with him are the proposed perpetrators and are in prison.”

It was rumoured that two soldiers, John Henry and John Blowman, were tried for the murder but acquitted. 

April 15 1815  York Gazette printed the outcome of the trial: “No conviction of the supposed murderers of the late J.P. Radan Muller.”

The mystery of the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse grew more bizarre in 1893 when George Durnan, the fourth lighthouse keeper, discovered part of a coffin and a jawbone buried near the lighthouse keepers cottage. 

Over the years there have been countless reports of paranormal occurrences in and around the lighthouse. Orbs and strange mists have been seen and photographed coming from within the tower.  Strange echoes and footsteps up the stairs have been heard by visitors and subsequent lighthouse keepers.  Sometimes the sound of dragging can be heard as well as a moaning. Shadowy figures have been seen by visitors to the lighthouse flitting and darting around the tower.  

When I visited the Gibraltar Point Lighthouse I heard a thud coming from inside the apparently deserted tower.  It was loud enough to hear from the pathway that makes its way through the foliage towards the red door. It's worth a trip to beautiful Toronto Island to visit this marvellous beacon.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Keg Mansion

Keg Mansion was built in 1868 by Arthur McMasters.  It was constructed on Jarvis Street, one of the wealthiest streets in Toronto at the time.  Boasting twenty six rooms, twelve fireplaces, stables and a large carriage house, the mansion was purchased by industrialist Hart Massey in 1882.  Hart Massey was the sole owner of the farm equipment company Massey-Harris, founded by his father.  Massey and his wife bought the mansion when they returned from a stint in Cleveland.  They renovated the house adding a turret, verandah and large greenhouse.  The mansion became known as Euclid Hall, named by their only daughter Lillian in honour of the street they had lived on in Cleveland.  The Massey's went on to become one the most prominent families in Toronto

Eventually the house was bequeathed to the University of Toronto's Victoria College in 1915. It was also  the home of Toronto radio station CFRB and in the 1920's it served as an art gallery. In 1960 it became a restaurant named Julie's Mansion.  The grounds were sold off and the greenhouse was demolished and replaced with a service station.  In 1976 the mansion became home to the Keg Restaurant.

In the 1950's paranormal activity was first reported at the mansion.  Hart Massey's daughter Lillian died in 1915 and it was rumoured that one of her maids hung herself by attaching a noose to the oval vestibule above the main staircase. At the time it was suggested that the maid had killed herself because she so missed her beloved mistress however there was some speculation that infact the death of Lillian may have resulted in a dark secret revealing itself about the maid and that was why she had taken her own life.

From time to time it is said that the body of the maid can be seen by patrons of the Keg restaurant swinging above the staircase.  There have also been reports of a presence in the ladies bathroom where toilets flush unexpectedly and doors unlock.

Sometimes the sound of children laughing can be heard.  There have been reports of a child being seen dragging a chair.  It is said that during Massey's time in the mansion he had once forbidden his son from playing on the Sabbath and the boy had dragged a chair in anger. Some diners have reported hearing a boy crying for his mother and even seen a boy sitting on the stairs watching them.

Regardless the mansion is a beautiful piece of architecture where you can enjoy an amazing steak !