Ask Alicia – Haunting in St. Catharines?

Hi Alicia,

I hope you are well.  As Halloween is fast approaching, I thought I’d suggest an idea for a blog that fits with this theme.  Here is the suggestion:  Last summer, I went on a Full Moon walking tour organized by the Downtown Association.  On this tour we were told the old Merritt House (now CKTB Radio station) may be one of the most haunted buildings in Canada.  Therefore, I’d like to ask about the history of this building and any ghost stories.

Thanks for your consideration of this suggestion.

Regards,

Dan McKnight

merritt-house-mcknight
12 Yates Street. Photo Attribution: Dan McKnight 2016

 


Great idea Dan, thank you for your email.

The designated heritage building that Dan is referring to is 12 Yates Street, the large white house located at the corner of St. Paul and Yates Streets in St. Catharines. It is most commonly known as “The Whitehouse of Rock”, home to 97.7 HTZ FM and 610 CKTB Radio.

The first fact I can share with you about the building is that it is not the first house to be built on the property. The original home, built in 1824, was destroyed by fire.  An investigation had taken place and it was believed that the fire was the result of arson.

The current house was built and completed in 1860 by the Honourable William Hamilton Merritt, who dubbed it “Oak Hill”. At the time it was also referred to as “The Merritt House”.  Unfortunately Merritt passed away just two years after its completion. Ownership

2001-134-31
Military Convalescent Home WWI. Photo Attribution: Wendy Young, StC Museum 2001.134.31

of the house was left to his son Jedediah Prendergast Merritt who remained a resident of the home until his death in 1900. J. P. Merritt’s daughter Miss Catherine Welland Merritt resided in the home until 1916 when she voluntarily lent it to be used as a Military Convalescent home for wounded World War One soldiers.  This was the first time since 1860 that the Merritt family moved out. They moved back in right after the war. The Merritt family would keep ownership until 1928.

Since the Merritt family ceased living in the home, the building has served as an Inn operated by E.T. Sandell, owner of Taylor and Bate Brewery, and in 1938 it became the CKTB radio station.

s1939-14-2-1
C.K.T.B. Radio Station 1939. Photo Attribution: St. Catharines Standard Collection, StC Museum S1939.14.2.2

Another fact that many people may not be aware of is that tunnels had been built from the house to the lower area along 12 mile creek. Local folklore says that the tunnels were used to transport runaway slaves. This however is unsubstantiated. Another story is that rumrunners (mobsters) would sneak illegal alcohol into town during Prohibition and used the tunnels to transfer the alcohol from boats to the building that was, at that time, operating as an Inn.  It is most likely that the tunnels were built to allow easier transporting of goods from boats to the house, since it was quite a distance and the incline is rather steep. The tunnels were filled in in 1967 but were recently rediscovered with the overhaul of the Burgoyne Bridge.

As for ghost stories, I am unable to factually confirm any of them, however I can tell you what I have read. Apparently the house has been haunted for many years.  There have been reported ghost sightings and odd events in the building which include: doors opening and closing on their own, the smell of tobacco on the third floor, unexplained cold spots and electronics turning on and off on their own.  Staff at the radio station invited “Haunted Hamilton” and a group of psychics into their building to investigate.  During their investigation they took EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) recordings, which turned up multiple results.  More about this can be seen on the following web-site: http://www.torontoghosts.org/index.php?/20080817279/South-Central-Ontario/St.-Catharines-Merritt-House-CKTB-Oak-Hill/All-Pages.html. There is also a Youtube video with 5 separate EVP results that you can listen to, should you be so inclined.

Their report concluded that there were indeed spirits in the home, one of which was named “Booger”.  Apparently the day after the visit from Haunted Hamilton, staff returned to work to see that over 1000 CD’s that had been stored on a shelf in perfect order had been thrown off the shelf against the opposite wall and were left lying in a pile on the floor.  They had no explanation for the destruction.  Perhaps Booger does?  Needless to say, they have decided to leave the subject alone in hopes that they avoid more destruction of their property.

 

 

3 comments

  1. Thanks Alicia. Very informative article and photos. Interesting 1939 photo of this building with elaborate Royal decorations. I believe the King & Queen visited St. Catharines at this time, so this may be the reason.

    Like

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