Written by Linnea Uunila
I just returned from a trip to Smiths Falls, where I had a unique adventure– ghost hunting. Two ghost hunting organizations, G.H.O.S.T. and Nightwatchmen Investigative Team, teamed up to host a fund-raising event for the Smiths Falls Heritage House Museum. Although I was hesitant to go ghost hunting, my friend convinced me, and we took the train to Smiths Falls for the weekend.
Smiths Falls Heritage House Museum is a house built in the 1860s by Joshua Bates. The house shows how different rooms in the house would have looked like during this time period, with local artifacts and even artifacts owned by the Bates family. The upper floor of the house also includes exhibits on the history of the town of Smiths Falls.
When we arrived, we went to the museum during the daytime to learn more about the history of the heritage house and the family that occupied it. Little did I know, this would be very helpful when “talking” to the ghosts later that evening.
Joshua Bates came to Smiths Falls wanting to build a railway. However, he did not have enough money and rallied the town behind him to help pay for the railway. The railway failed, and the town grew angry with Bates. He also lost money from his milling business. He then built this house and moved in with his family, only to die soon after from illness. Ironically, his business competitor, Truman Ward, bought his home and mills for his family.
Equipped with the knowledge of the history of this house, we came back in the evening ready to look for ghosts. I came in skeptical of the existence of ghosts, and I left skeptical, having not witnessed any paranormal activity. Having said this, the night was still exciting, and I left with greater knowledge and appreciation of the paranormal.
We hunted for ghosts from 11 pm to 3 am, with the guidance of professional ghost hunters with decades of experience. Using equipment such as electromagnetic field detectors and thermometers, we attempted to prove or disprove the existence of ghosts in the house.
Employees and visitors of the museum have had many paranormal experiences over the years. People have claimed to see a lady in a vintage dress walking down the stairs and disappearing. Others have said they feel like they were being followed or watched in the upper hallway. The ghost hunting professionals assured us that the potential spirits living in the house were nothing to fear but must be respected.
Our investigating was done in darkness, with only the dim glow of our devices to light the way. The upstairs area of the house was the spookiest, and the creepy dolls watching over each room were unsettling. Previous visitors to the museum have found one of the upstairs rooms to be hard to breathe in. Also, a ghost hunter said they may have seen a little girl’s ghost there. We learned that, a long time ago, a little girl had died of smoke inhalation, which might explain the paranormal activity in this room. We used the equipment to search the room but ultimately did not find anything unexplainable. When our equipment indicated anomalies, we were usually able to debunk it by testing for nearby electrical devices such as radios or wiring inside the house’s walls.
Next, we went downstairs and tried to have a “conversation” with the spirits. The Nightwatchmen Investigative team introduced us to a gadget called the para-light, which tests for electromagnetic fields. The theory behind this gadget is that if a ghost goes near the device, it will disrupt the electromagnetic fields, and the para-light will light up. We had to control the environment, as other things such as phones or radios would also set off the light.
The ghost-hunting professional led the way in “talking” to the spirits. She asked the ghosts to reply to her questions by touching the para-light to make it light up. She apparently was communicating to a spirit who liked the piano. We asked the ghost to play the piano for us, but nothing came of it, unfortunately. Upon reflection, the para-light seemed to go off on coincidence. In our human nature, when it aligned with what we were hoping for, we celebrated. But when it lit up at inconsistent times, we disregarded it. Despite not clearly showing evidence of ghosts talking to us, it was still an intriguing experience.
Up to this point, I was mostly passive in my investigation, being skeptical and apprehensive. But then, I decided to jump in and try to communicate with a spirit. The knowledge I acquired when visiting the museum earlier in the day came in very handy.
Behind me was the men’s office, a room where only the men of the house were allowed to enter. The men would have smoked there to hide their smoking habits from their families. I asked if the ghost who occupied the office was here, and I got a response on the para-light. I furthered this line of questioning and talked about an artifact in that room I learned about earlier, a dog-shaped jar used to hide smokes. The ghost appeared to keep replying to my line of questioning, focused on the office room and his smoking habits. The ghost hunting professional told me to keep talking, as this particular ghost rarely interacts with people, and he apparently responded well to me. The questions were going well, with the light getting brighter and brighter, indicating higher electromagnetic fields being detected. But then, someone else walked into the room and disrupted the flow. After that, we were not getting many responses from the para-light.
Although this “conversation” was short-lived, and I do not believe I was actually speaking to a ghost, it was still an extraordinary experience that I doubt I will ever have again. At the time, I was attempting to talk to Joshua Bates, the original owner of the house, but I realized later that I could have also directed questions toward Truman Ward, the second owner. Both of these men would have spent many hours in that office, drinking, smoking, and spending time alone.
Next, we made our way down to the basement. Ironically, the basement was the least spooky part of the house, as it is an office space and library for the museum. We sat there trying to get the spirits to interact, with no luck. But then, the eeriest event of the night occurred. I heard a loud whisper noise coming from the stairwell. Then, the ghost hunter professional accompanying us asked on the radio if anyone just said “Hi Mark”, but no one did. Another person in my group agreed they heard “Hi Mark” from the stairwell. I did not hear those words, but I did hear the noise, a creepy whisper that I could not explain. A couple of the braver visitors ran over to the stairs with the equipment to try to capture evidence. The environment in the basement turned ominous, with everyone on edge. The ghost hunter seemed to be convinced that it was a ghost’s voice. I think a voice from a person upstairs somehow echoed peculiarly down the stairwell. Still, I am unsure what I heard, and it was the night’s creepiest and most unexplainable event to me.
Overall, I did not see any ghost evidence, and I am still skeptical of the existence of ghosts. However, after learning about ghost hunting, I have become more open to the possibility of spirits and paranormal energies. Other visitors were more convinced of observing the Smiths Falls Heritage House ghosts. Two guests said they saw a man in a top hat in the house’s kitchen. One time he was sitting in a chair, and the other time he was gazing out the window. Could this have been the ghost of Joshua Bates or Truman Ward?
If you visit the Smiths Falls Heritage House Museum, keep your eye out for ghosts, you would not be the first to have a paranormal experience in the house!
Smiths Falls Heritage House Museum Website
Smiths Falls Heritage House Museum Facebook
Nightwatchmen Investigative Team Facebook