True Canadian Ghost Stories: Shadow Figures at the Haunted Hermitage in Ancaster, Ontario

True Canadian Ghost Stories: Shadow Figures at the Haunted Hermitage in Ancaster, Ontario


I like to think that I’m a fairly logical person. It takes a lot for me to even consider the possibility that something might actually be genuinely paranormal in nature. I tend to be suspicious of evidence as I think most people in the paranormal community tend to be as of late. Thanks to paranormal television and it’s capacity to categorize nearly anything as otherworldly, we’ve stopped taking a real interest in people’s personal experiences with the strange and the unexplainable. I like personal accounts and though I’m aware most are understandably clouded by any number of things, I think there’s something more interesting about them than a series of blurry photos taken in a dark building at night or. So, in keeping with this update’s theme, I’m going to tell you about my own personal account with the strange. While I’m certainly not expecting anyone to believe it solely on it’s own merit, I at least hope you’ll find it interesting.


Five years ago in the early fall I was filming the last episode of The Girly Ghosthunters, a television series that focused on haunted locations across Canada. The location in question was a place in Ancaster, Ontario, lovingly deemed The Hermitage. Set deep in the surrounding Ancaster woods, the Hermitage is best described as the stone ruins of an enormous mansion, a mansion which burned to the ground on two separate occasions. To date, the site is a national historical monument and can be visited during daylight hours by way of a long snaking pathway through the woods. When I first was informed that the producers had gotten permission for us to film at this location, I was obviously ecstatic. The Hermitage has a very lengthy and blood-soaked history, but it was the grounds that were of particular interest to me seeing as they had been used as sacred ritual soil for the first nation’s people.



After spending the previous months visiting many of Ontario’s purportedly “haunted” sites, I had found myself feeling more and more skeptical about the possibility of the paranormal with every location we’d visit. At that point during filming I had seen more than a few things that someone could classify as weird, but when you looked closely enough, they could easily be explained away. Needless to say, I was not prepared for the experience we had the night we filmed at the Hermitage, and even years later, it remains the one paranormal experience I’ve had that I can safely say has kept me guessing.

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We arrived on location in the afternoon and filmed a series of interviews with local paranormal investigators and Ancaster historians who gave us a better understanding of the actual history of the house and grounds. I still wasn’t convinced that anything unexplainable was happening and chalked most of the hype up to exaggerated campfire stories. The house was secluded in the woods far from the main entrance, clearly an eerie experience for anyone who had visited at night, and my logical brain told me that this was the reason so many people had claimed to have had experienced paranormal encounters.

Once darkness set in, we began to make our way down the large pathway leading into the woods towards the house. It was dark and the woods were loud. I was, reasonably, a little apprehensive, but logic weighed out and I knew the noises were most likely due to animals in the nearby brush. After making it roughly a quarter of the way down the path, I can remember hearing a large branch snap on the trail behind us, but before I had the chance to react I was being dragged the rest of the way by Jen Kieswetter, my fellow cast member, who was screaming incoherently. By the time we made it to the bottom of the path, she was in complete hysterics. In between sobs, Jen described seeing something moving very quickly down the pathway towards us. I hadn’t seen a thing.

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Though everyone was clearly upset by Jen’s reaction on the path, we decided to make our way around to the inside area of the Hermitage away from the pathway and the grassy front garden. At the bottom of the hill the face of the building lies toward you, and though the sides are collapsed in some places and held up by solid steel beams, the Hermitage still retains much of it’s original foundation. Trees from the woods have swallowed most of what would have been the lawns around the house, in some instances even the inside the area, which would have been the entertaining rooms. It was here where I saw what I’ve never really been able to explain.

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With my flashlight off, I knew that I had three members of the Girly Ghosthunters standing to my right, plus a camera man and audio woman off to our left, roughly 5 feet away. I hardly noticed it at first, only turning to face it when something moving in my peripheral vision caught my eye. It was standing about twenty feet away. It slid out from behind a tree and stood there for a solid minute without moving. It’s body was thin, appearing almost stretched, and had to have been at least 6’6. It had no substance to it at all.. it just fizzled like static on a television set against the dark night. For a moment, I thought I had lost my mind. I remember looking over to guage the reaction of the two-crew members to our left; they were dumbfounded, staring open-mouthed at the exact spot. I’m not proud to admit it, but I freaked out.

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Oddly enough, it wasn’t until we started to scream that it moved forward a few feet, hunching awkwardly, the kind of stance an animal goes into when it’s unsure about something. Suddenly, a few feet away, there was another smaller one to it’s right. Inside the Hermitage, there are a set of 8 foot tall safety bars to keep visitors away from the crumbling walls, and out of sheer panic, our entire group had unconsciously backed themselves up against the them. Some of us were crying, others staring silently at the two static shadows inching slowly closer to us, almost as if they were curious yet watchful at the same time. Then as quickly as it had started, the two shadows moved towards the woods to the left and disappeared into the trees. No one stuck around to see if they would come back. Everyone was, I believe understandably, in a state of panic. Keep in mind, during this whole experience our crew’s cameras and audio were rolling as the rest of the crew watched from the side of the building. Unfortunately, nothing was captured on film other then our reactions and the obvious commotion that transpired during the 5-minute event itself.

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In all honestly I’m sure I could find quite a few logical ways to explain what it was that we saw that night. Maybe it was nothing more then a group of people responding to each other’s reactions. Afterwards it seemed as if all the details coincided but then again maybe they didn’t and we were remembering the experience the way we wanted to. I’ve been back to The Hermitage since then and have never seen anything even close to what I saw that night or what I believe I saw. I’ve also, since that time, spoken with quite a few people since who claim to have had similar experiences in different parts of the world with comparable shadowy beings. Most aren’t claiming them to be anything but personal accounts, in which case you can either choose to believe or disbelieve. Either way, you can’t help but admit that it’s interesting.

So I pose this question to you readers of Week in Weird: what are your first hand accounts with the paranormal? I think it’s important not to forget the power of personal story when it comes to this hobby; it may not be what most classify as legitimate evidence, but then again, what evidence do any of us really have? As we all know, we have absolutely no way of proving or disproving anything that falls under the category of paranormal. I’d rather hear about yours and decide for myself.


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  1. Jason Korbus

    11/29/2009 at 7:16 PM

    Cool story, Dana…definitely an interesting account. There’s a number of reasons I got interested in ghost hunting/paranormal adventuring (or whatever it should be called), and among the reasons was to have fun and maybe have an experience. I haven’t had the experience yet that took me from belief to knowledge of the paranormal, but I’m still holding out hope. And it’s stories like this one, and the many other people’s who I come across that keeps that hope alive. Thanks!

  2. Creepy Bastard

    11/30/2009 at 1:16 PM

    Great article Dana,

    It’s nice to read a first hand account, rather than the typical repeat-what-the-ghost-guides-tell-you account. I live near the Hermitage and have walked that stretch of woods more times than I can count. I have been there in the day time, and night time; before I got involved in ghost hunting, and afterwards. I get absolutely no vibe off that place. My opinion is that the place is not haunted.


    Once (in my angst filled youth) I was there at night and saw three people (shadows) run across the dirt road and vanish into the other tree time. At the time, I assumed it was another group of punks. It didn’t occur to me how it was that they made no sound running through the bushes (which is impossible at the close distance we were to each other, and it being night and all…)

    Bringing me to your point about the land being tied to Native Americans makes sense to me.

    In my experience, I am – what could be described – as oblivious to Native American spirits. Sounds corny? Yes it does… but I can’t think of a better way to explain it.

    At one site in Thorold, Ontario, I have seen these exact same shadows and they were unreadable. The feeling was so similar to the Hermitage experience of my youth, that the experience dredged up these long lost memories.

    Now I had no problem picking up other things, but the Native American spirits seemed ‘blocked’.

    I can’t explain it.

    If anyone else has this sort of thing happen, I would love to hear your thoughts!

  3. Greg

    11/30/2009 at 7:01 PM

    I was totally going to throw in a screen capture from the Girly Ghosthunters, one of Jen absolutely freaking out, but then I thought she might be angry.

    That’s actually not true. In reality, I ended up losing my GGH collection when my hard drive crapped.

    You win this time, Kieswetter.

  4. Christina

    12/01/2009 at 4:00 AM

    Very cool of you to share and admit to screaming! I keep my personal experiences to myself because they belong to me and I don’t really care if anyone believes me.

  5. Dave

    12/03/2009 at 10:24 PM

    Great article! over the last three years I have posed the question to people I’ve been on investigations with what they would do if they actually came face to face with something that they were completely unprepared for. Including myself, I’ve never gotten a clear-cut answer. I just hope that when and if that time comes I’m still able to point a camera in the right direction.

    As far as experiences, it’s seems I experienced more stuff when I wasn’t interested in looking for it than when I was. On one particular trip to the Charlelmont Inn in Massachusetts I was forced to spend the night with two folks who saw ghosts all the time, and didn;t mind letting everyone around them know it. I lost interest and decided to just hang behind them doing my own thing as best I could. While Mr. and Mrs. Seethem were rambling on and on about grey men and living shadows, I felt what I can only describe as a surge of electricity shoot from my hand up my arm. It was strong enough to make my wrist curl involuntarily and drop the temperature gauge I was holding. As we were in an a section of the building that had been abandoned and had no electricity I could find no way to explain what happened, but because the Mr. and Mrs. Seethem were still rambling on like over-caffeinated chimpanzees I just kept my mouth closed and hoped it wouldn’t happen again. Absolutely a freaky, unexplainable event.

  6. Jacky

    12/03/2009 at 11:06 PM

    I would love to see this be a regular feature on “Who Forted?”; Seasoned ghost hunters sharing their most impressive experiences. I thrive on this stuff. Anyway, I must applaud an excellent experience, and I do wish you had been able to document it. Great personal experience though!

    And as you wished, I’ll share my own. It’s nothing as impressive as yours, but its still… interesting.

    First, I must set the scene. Durhur. It took place in the house I grew up in, ages 2 to 18. It happened when I was sixteen, and I knew this house and its quirky noises like I know my own face.

    I was sixteen, spending the evening in the basement on the computer. This was usual for me. My parents had left to visit someone, and I took the opportunity to blare my shitty teenage music.

    As I did my thing and blared my music for quite some time. But in between the songs, the momentary silence, I heard something. Footsteps, above me, in what would be the kitchen. I assumed that one of my parents had come back to grab something, as there was only one pair of footsteps and it sounded like they were wearing boots. I jumped from my spot to grab their attention: I had to deliver a message of a phone call from earlier.

    Being the typical lazy teenager, I only stood at the end of the stairs and hollered up, calling out to my dad. When I received no response, I wasn’t phased as sometimes he doesn’t always hear that well. 🙂

    So I went upstairs, seeking out my father, and I was met with my first shock. All the lights were off upstairs. Okay, it wasn’t really a shock, I’m being dramatic. It was weird though — why would he leave the lights off? But I dismissed it, thinking that they really WERE in a hurry and continued to look for him.

    It was only after I searched the entire upper floor that I was truly weirded out. I had located no one. Of course, I was kinda creeped out by this, but chalked it up to mishearing something. I returned to my post at the computer, and turned my music up.

    But it happened again. During the pause of the song, I heard footsteps, went to check find him, was met by — yet again — an empty upper floor. By this time I was getting pretty freaked out.

    And it didn’t stop this time. It happened one more time. Like before, during the pause of the song, I heard footsteps from upstairs. But this time, unsure of what I had heard earlier and eager for some kind of validation or to be able to debunk this, I turned my music off, muted the computer and just listened. And sure enough, as well as I know my house, it was goddamn footsteps.

    I know that most people can explain away phantom footsteps as creaks and bumps, but like I said — I know this house. I recognize the weirdo noises the toilets make, or how the house settles. I also recognize the sound of footsteps in the kitchen. My dad is a handy kinda guy. And he regularly stomps through the house, coming in from the garage wearing his boots, to answer phone calls or get something. That’s what I heard. I hear footsteps that sounded like THAT.

    I think that’s what adds validity to my claim/story, not just my assertion that I know my house. I think it speaks volumes that I was so sure that it was a person that I went and checked it out twice, simply to deliver a phone message. Only to be unpleasantly surprised.

    Needless to say, I didn’t react well. I coped by turning my crappy music to ear splitting volume till my parents actually came home.

    Damn, I write too much. 😐

  7. bellaboo

    12/04/2009 at 6:02 PM

    you say there was a cameraman and that you were filming a show. was there a light source? could these ominous and evil-seeming shadows that were stalking you have simply been shadows of cast/crew? it sounds like you all had a heightened sense of fear so that would certainly contribute.

    it’s interesting to note that people who are really, really skeptical of the paranormal usually don’t have this innate fear and so likely would look at any kind of anomaly calmly and rationally.(it’s likely we are all born with these fears – fear of the dark, fear of shadows, fear of the unknown — being afraid of these things would help keep the species going after all)

    was any of this captured by your camera crew? i’m guessing not, or we’d have a link to youtube by now.

  8. bellaboo

    12/04/2009 at 6:07 PM

    @jacky – perhaps your parents were just sneaking around.

    parents do that sometimes.

    was your home in a rural or urban area? loud radio sounds from passing cars can often sound like pounding steps, as can certain tire sounds on a road.

    another explanation might be an unseen tree branch hitting your roof or house wall.

    there are lots of explanations that are much more plausible than ghosts.

  9. butch

    03/19/2013 at 6:16 PM

    sorry to jump in on this at such a late date, but you said others have repoted this activity from around the world, camp lejuene north carolina didn’t happen to be one of those places did it? just curious, have witnessed some eerily similar shit at the above mentioned. would you please comment.thank you

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