Haunted Kitchener: Local Ghost Stories

Post by Jarvis, Information Services staff

Happy Halloween! The leaves are changing, the weather is cooling, and the scariest night of the year is fast approaching. Are you feeling a chill up your spine? Is your hair standing on end?  

Not yet? Never fear (or, do…), check out these local tales of mystery, murder, mayhem, and a ghost or two… 

The Missing Corpse 

The waterloo county jail

The Waterloo County Jail sits at 73 Queen St North and was in use from its construction in 1852 until 1978. Today the building houses a courthouse as well as office space, but in 1940 it was the site of Reginald White’s execution. White had been convicted of “a most cowardly crime” – the murder of his employer, an elderly farmer named John Milroy, as well as Milroy’s sister Annie. In a dispute over money, White had taken an axe to both the Milroys.  

After his execution, and with no-one to claim his body, White was supposedly buried in the jail yard. A 1986 archaeological survey turned up the other bodies known to be buried there, but mysteriously, White’s was never found. The location of his body remains unknown to this day… 

300 Traynor Avenue Poltergeist   

Located in the Vanier neighbourhood of Kitchener, 300 Traynor Avenue is a complex of 44 townhouses. In the 1980s, one of the townhouse residents was somewhat otherworldly. Strange occurrences were reported by a number of tenants, especially in Units 18 and 25.

Resident of 300 Traynor Ave, KW Record Sep 11th 1981
Resident of 300 Traynor Ave, KW Record Sep 11th 1981

The “bath taps suddenly turning on full blast, tea towels flying out from the rack when all the windows are closed, footsteps on the stairway, and the sounds of cats lapping milk when there are no cats” as well as “feelings of sudden fear, of being held… by arms that don’t exist, and the appearance of apparitions.” (KW Record 15-09-1981) led some residents to move out early. One resident reported “something was holding her and she couldn’t move” until a neighbour grabbed her. (There was nothing to be seen holding her, of course.) (KW Record, 11-09-1981). Another resident reported he had “seen shadows of a man cross his room when he was the only one home.” 

Despite these disturbing reports, other tenants took a brighter view of their ghostly visitor, describing the presence – whatever it may be – as a “good neighbour.”   

Phantom Hitchhiker 

This story of a mysterious hitchhiker was published in the Niagara Falls Evening Review in 1933:  

"Aged optimist does magic disappearance trick again" Western Ontario motorists amazed when hitch-hiker vanishes. FROM BACK SEAT
Kitchener, Ont, June 19 - (CP) - Here's another story of the mysterious old man who, when picked up on the road, converses for a while and then disappears mysteriously from the back seat as the car pelts along at 50 and 55 miles an hour.
A Waterloo motorist swore it happened. Another at Galt became angry when friends doubted the story. A Kitchener lawyer, now tells the tale.
He was driving along when he met the old man with the patriarchal beard. The car stopped. The old man got in the back seat.
"Well," the driver said, "times are pretty tough on you, eh?"
"They are," the old man replied. "But the depression's over, mark my words. It ended on June 7."
The driver chuckled. "You seem to know."
No answer from the rear seat.
"I say," repeated the driver in a louder tone: "You seem to know."
Still no reply. The driver looked around. The rear seat was empty.
19 June 1933, courtesy of the Niagara Falls Public Library

Thomas Lacey Seances 

Thomas Lacey immigrated to Canada in 1923, and worked as an engineer. From the 1920s-1960s Lacey acted as a medium – a channel for spirits to communicate with the living during a séance. Some of Lacey’s séances, undertaken in the home of Otto Smith at 362 Frederick St in Kitchener, were recorded and are now held in the University of Waterloo archive. These séances at various times involved philosophical discussions, visits by spirits of friends and family, and occasions when spirits were helped to “cross the veil.” Those at the seances reported experiences of apports, automatic writing, and materializations. Lacey was also well-known for his use of a spirit trumpet in his seances. 

Photo of Thomas Lacey.
Photo from The Two Worlds: a weekly journal of spiritualism, religion and reform, no. 2541

You can hear more about Thomas Lacey, including audio clips from the seances, in the Ghost of Thomas Lacey podcast

Homer Watson 

Another famous Kitchener spiritualist is artist Homer Watson, who tried many different means, including seances, to contact his wife Roxanne after her death. He held many of these seances in his home – now the Homer Watson House & Gallery.   

Phoebe Watson, in 1885
Phoebe Watson, in 1885

This is not the only otherworldly connection for this house, however. Homer’s sister Phoebe Watson (an accomplished artist in her own right) – has been sighted many times as an apparition at the gallery. She has been seen carrying art down a stairway, observing an art class, or even sometimes speaking to gallery visitors (Waterloo Region Record 29-10-2011).  

Have you had your own mysterious or ghostly experiences in Kitchener? Leave us a comment below!  

Want to read more stories? Check out The Waterloo You Never Knew: Life on the Margins, or come do your own ghostly research with KPL’s local history collection


Have questions? Want more recommendations?  

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