Construction of the courthouse began in 1855-1856.
During the course of our research for this project, we were able to speak with several individuals who work within the walls of this building (some who have done so for decades) and the feeling was pretty much unanimous – this place is haunted. Some felt it could be former judges reluctant to leave their court, others felt that if there are spirits here, they are mostly like those of prisoners who died during their detention or were executed for their crimes.
One individual we spoke with noted a painting which hangs on a third floor of the building. We knew before she said the name, which painting she was speaking of. She shivered as she told us how the eyes of the former judge seem to follow you as you pass. We have had the same feeling every time we’ve passed this painting of L.B.C. Livingstone. Could this former judge be one of the ghosts who haunt the building?
We spoke with one member of the security staff who, while claiming to be for the most part a non-believer, said even she had to admit that there were times she experienced a certain level of unease within these walls. She said there were some things that just couldn’t be explained – such as why motion detection cameras would be activated in areas where no one is present. The screen showing that area is automatically enlarged and there is nothing/no one there. We brush it off with one excuse or another, but such occurrences do add to the air of mystery surrounding the building.
The old jail cells are not accessible to the public. It is evident the conditions prisoners were kept in make today’s holding cells look like luxury living.
On the third floor, you will find the gaol museum. Within the museum are the original gallows, behind which the berry formula is on display. For those of you unfamiliar with this formula, it was used to determine the required depth of the drop based on the weight of the person to be hanged. The weights listed on the chart range from 196 lbs. – 112 lbs. It was assumed that no one weighing less would ever be hanged.
Hangings were a spectacle and drew crowds of thousands!
The first hanging was in 1859. A man claimed his wealthy wife had fallen to her death at the Niagara Gorge. Evidence showed he had supposedly bought a one-way ticket for his wife, but return tickets for his sister and himself!
In total, nine murderers were executed here by hanging between 1890 and 1958, including one of only 11 women ever executed in Canada.
These words are thought to be those of a woman convicted of murdering her husband. She had professed her innocence until the day she was hanged for the crime. The poem remains, in a state of deterioration, on a cell wall within the jail:
To my darling Gill,
Whose murder I have been accused of,
Did you know that god above
Created you for me to love.
He picked you out from all the rest,
Because he knew I’d love you best.
I had a heart and it was true,
But now it’s gone from me to you.
Take care of it my darling, as I have done,
For you have two and I have none.
If I go to heaven and you’re not there,
I’ll paint your name on every stair
For all the angels to know and see,
Just what my darling means to me.
I’ll give them back their angel wings,
Their golden harps and other things.
And just to show you what I’d do,
I’d even go to hell for you.
Love always, Wanda