This week, Rocket 5 ventured into Kingston to do a little research for our upcoming game, “The Phantom P.I.” Kingston’s Haunted Walks Inc. offers walking tours of the city, sending you out with a cloaked tour guide that shows you Kingston’s ghostly landmarks. With a horror game in the works, we figured we needed all the scares we could find, so we signed up for TWO of these tours, a move which the woman at the main office actually advised me against (“too spooky,” she said).
Our first tour was The Original Ghost Walk of Kingston, a walk through the downtown starting at the Prince George Hotel. While this walk wasn’t exactly terrifying, there were a couple hair-raising stories to be found and tons of inspiration for a team of hopeful game-makers turned ghost-hunters.
One of my favourite stories was about the Resurrectionists, a group of grave robbers in the late 1800s who dug up bodies so they could sell them to medical students from Queen’s. At the time, students were required to provide their own cadavers. As you would expect, it wasn’t easy to acquire a DEAD PERSON legally, so students were forced to get creative (unless, I guess, they were lucky enough that someone they knew died). It was common practice to buy a corpse off the Resurrectionists… unless you were brave enough to dig one up yourself.
Kingston also seems to have an abundance of haunted inns. We visited several on our walk, but my two favourites were the Hochelaga Inn, which is haunted by a little boy that watches you sleep, and the Rosemount Inn, which is haunted by an old lady who is suspected to be a former resident. The old lady digs through guests’ luggage, looking for the possessions she left behind in her house (sounds a little like the ghosts in our game, eh?) You can stay at either of these inns if you’re the kind of person that doesn’t like sleeping.
We also visited a parking lot built over the corpses of hanged men, a church haunted by a dead organist, and added Skeleton Park to our list of future adventures. It was an awesome tour, but it wasn’t exceptionally scary. It definitely didn’t prepare us for our visit to Fort Henry.
Fort Henry was first built during the War of 1812, but the structure that exists now was built in the 1830s to protect the naval dockyard at Point Frederick. The fort is open for tours during the day, but that’s not nearly creepy enough for us. We opted for the ghost tour instead, which started at 11PM.
Finding our tour group was a perilous journey, which leads me to believe it was some kind of initiation to see if we could handle the Fort Henry experience. We passed (maybe just barely), and walked up to the gates to find that our tour would consist of only 6 people, including the tour guide. In fact, we were the only people at Fort Henry at all except for a security guard. It was like the set up for a horror movie.
We first toured the dry ditch, a precaution to keep out invading forces (if they survived the deadly drop into the ditch, they would then be showered with gunfire from several directions). Fort Henry was never actually attacked, which is possibly a testament to the quality of its defenses, but it still has reason to be crawling with ghosts. Accidents, harsh weather conditions, hangings- the fort had no shortage of ugly deaths. We were told to keep our eyes open the whole trip for the fort’s Wandering Ghost. I spent a lot of time psyching myself up and staring into the darkness, but I didn’t see him.
We toured tunnels and swirling staircases, tight enough to make anyone feel claustrophobic. We visited the bakery, infamous for poltergeist activity, and walked through a room that allegedly makes any children who enter it violently ill.
For me, one of the most horrific stories was probably about one of the men hanged at Fort Henry (there were many). He didn’t die on the first drop, so the executioner dropped him again- and then three more times until he was finally dead. If anyone has reason to haunt Fort Henry, it’s that guy.
It’s hard to say if we truly had any ghostly experiences. We didn’t see any ghosts, but even the bravest among us were a little freaked out when we heard footsteps echoing down the hall, though we were pretty sure all our own feet were still.
Touring Fort Henry in the middle of the night was amazing. Touring the downtown was awesome and interesting, too, but if you can only do one tour, I would recommend Fort Henry. Both tours gave us a few good scares and a LOT of great inspiration for the game (which, by the way, is looking AWESOME!) It’s a challenge to make a game scary without getting carried away, but I think the subtle, footsteps-down-the-hall scary is usually more hard-hitting than the dropped-from-the-gallows-five-times scary… though I do enjoy a gruesome tale on occasion.
If you have a ghost walk or ghost encounter experience, we’d love to hear about it in the comments. Happy haunting, everyone!