Guided tours let people walk the historic grounds at Drummond Hill Cemetery in Niagara Falls.
Might the dead walk among the crowds on those nights?
The cemetery turns 200 years old this year (if the land of the dead can celebrate a birthday, that is). But this graveyard genuinely is unique in Canada – it witnessed one of the most vicious battles in Canadian history.
In the War of 1812, back in July 1814, the invading American army faced a combined force of villagers, British soldiers and Indigenous fighters.
It was a night battle, with soldiers covering themselves by tombstones, shooting at targets guided only by the moonlight, musket fire and noise.
Nearly 300 men died fighting on this ground and hundreds more were wounded. Their monuments still stand there.
Is it haunted?
Go ahead, scoff. Those who believe in such things might want to consider that over the years neighbours and nighttime visitors have occasionally reported hearing the echoes of gunshots or seen misty figures moving in the darkness.
You can come see for yourself. Over two weekends in October guided tours are being offered through the grounds, on the nights of Oct. 18, 19, 25 and 26, at 7 and 8 p.m. It can be a creepy place at night. Just off historic Lundy’s Lane and within walking distance of Clifton Hill, it’s a little quieter here. The land is elevated, with iron gates and trees that sway in the evening breeze.
Take a moment to imagine the battle – the Americans positioned on the lower ground, shooting up into the British forces led by Gen. Gordon Drummond.
Cannons, horses, in places the dry grass and shrubs catching fire.
Think of the horror of fighting in pitch darkness, which armies very rarely did then. The cannon blasts would have been that much louder in the night, the fiery blasts from their muzzles so much more terrifying.
Nowadays, the cemetery attracts visitors year-round. In addition to the soldiers’ monuments, this is the final resting place of War of 1812 heroine Laura Secord.
Also resting here is Karel Soucek, a Canadian daredevil who survived a trip over Niagara Falls in a barrel in 1984.
He died a year later, trying unsuccessfully to replicate his feat in a staged performance at the Houston Astrodome. Evel Knievel tried to talk him out of it, calling the planned stunt the most dangerous he had ever seen.
Soucek’s headstone at Drummond Hill is instantly recognizable, with a stone top in the shape of the barrel he went over the falls in.
For the cemetery tours, guides in costume will lead the way and talk about the history of the grounds, and the stories of some of its most famous inhabitants like Secord and Soucek.
It’s a cool way to learn a little history, see part of Niagara Falls you might not otherwise get to visit, and be at least a little bit creeped out among the tombstones and darkness – maybe more than you’ll care to admit.
What a great way to mark Halloween! The tours are organized by the Niagara Falls History Museum, and there is a small fee to join.