Downtown Napanee’s haunting past comes alive on Ghost Tour

A group of around 25 people took in the Chamber’s History and Hauntings Ghost Tour last Saturday evening, Oct. 22. 2022. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

Lisa Bird has had many jobs, her current one being Business Manager of the Napanee and District Chamber of Commerce. A part of this job she particularly relishes is the role of tour guide for the Chamber’s History and Hauntings Ghost Tour, which debuted last Halloween and became a tourist draw this past summer. On Saturday evening, Oct. 29, 2022, Bird and the final tour group of the year will take a leisurely stroll through downtown Napanee, visiting historic sites and contemplating the haunted stories that have grown up around them.

Bird has a wealth of experience with paranormal investigation herself, working with Bytown Paranormal at various sites including Napanee’s Allan Macpherson House and Park. “Every time we’ve been there, we’ve had some sort of evidence that we can’t explain,” Bird says. “We’ve had disembodied voices. We haven’t seen apparitions, but we’ve heard heavy footsteps, and going into the parlour one time just freaked me out.”

That particular evening Bird walked into the Macpherson House parlour, and it smelled like she was walking through an overpowering cloud of fresh wood smoke. The other investigator she was with smelled smoke too. They stepped into an adjoining room to get their partner, who was using a camera with night vision. However, he had just shut the camera off and said, unprompted, “My eyes are watering so bad from the smoke that I had to shut it down.”

Built circa 1826, the Allan Macpherson House and Park still stands along the banks of the Napanee River at 180 Elizabeth Street, north of Napanee Falls. Allan Macpherson operated the grist and saw mills at the Falls starting in 1818. For almost three decades, Macpherson was one of Lennox and Addington’s most civic-minded and politically active entrepreneurs. He created fine-quality flour shipped to Montreal and England and became Postmaster at Napanee in 1820. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell.

Bird has a digital recording of that conversation between her and the cameraman; she says that in their midst, between their two voices, a third voice hoarsely speaks the word “water” as though directly into the microphone, though neither heard it at the time.

They returned to the parlour as a group and set up their equipment. That done, a member of the group, who Bird says was a psychic, spoke aloud: “Mrs. Macpherson? You must do a lot of entertaining in this parlour.”

“No,” said a sharp disembodied voice. Bird heard it, as did the others.

Macpherson House has produced all kinds of interesting findings and phenomena in Bird’s investigations, from noises to moving objects, as well as one unexplained photo taken by a camera that had been left alone in the summer kitchen. It appears to be the shadow of a person in the dress of that period. Bird says no matter how much filtering was done to eliminate tricks of the light, that shadow remains, where no shadow should have been.

In the Macpherson House summer kitchen, a camera on a tripod took shots every five seconds on a timer; in only this one shot, the “figure” on the right of the photo can be seen. Bird sees a bonneted woman carrying a basket. What do you make of it? Let us know in the comments. Photo submitted.

Another strange occurrence happened in 2010 when Bird worked for the Napanee Business Improvement Area (BIA), at a different historical building on the tour.

She was alone in her office downtown when friends popped by for a coffee date on a Sunday afternoon. As the women chatted, Bird shut down her computer. One of her friends stood in the doorway but kept looking down the hall.

“What are you looking at?” Bird asked.

“Are you the only one here?” the friend asked in return.

Bird replied, “Yes, who else would be stupid enough to work on a Sunday?”

Her friend looked a bit alarmed and said, “I could have sworn I heard somebody walking down the hallway and clearing their throat.”

That incident remained forgotten for some months, until one stormy dark day when a coworker needed to step out for a moment. He was expecting a client and asked if Bird would seat the man upon his arrival.

Bird was now alone in the building. Then she heard someone walking down the corridor toward her office: the swish of a windbreaker, and a pause while the person cleared their throat. Assuming it was her coworker’s client, she got up to greet the man and invite him to be seated — but there was no one in the hall. The door remained closed. The bathroom light was off.

Baffled, she returned to her office.  A short time later her colleague returned and met with his client, who arrived late.

Three weeks after that, another employee told Bird that when she was alone she had heard the sound of a man clearing his throat, the swishing of a jacket, and footsteps in the hall. 

Some research on Bird’s part discovered that at various points in its history, the building had been a funeral home and the office of an auto repair shop. She even heard how a mechanic named Jim had worked there, before dying of throat cancer.

That fall, Bird hosted a ghost walk of Napanee as a one-time special event by the BIA, and she brought along a psychic to comment on the locations along the way. This person had no prior knowledge of the tour locations or the stories behind them. When the tour halted in front of the building, and before she told the stories of the throat-clearing man, Bird asked her guest if she had any particular thoughts about the sight.

“There is a man here in a blue coverall; he is also wearing a nylon jacket,” the woman said. “He seems to be having some issues with his throat.”

This summer and fall the popularity of the ghost walk prompted many in the historic town to come to Bird with paranormal tales of their own, so next year the walk will have many more mysterious and macabre stops along the way. You can find coverage of two more haunting stops along the way here and here

To get your tickets to the final History and Hauntings Ghost Tour or to find out more about an evening outing next season, visit the Napanee and District Chamber of Commerce.

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