Re-animating The Spirits of Historic Downtown

The Bowmanville Museum/photo by Nancy Ellis

Story by Nancy Ellis

An imprint is made on the mind when something happens – something sad, different or new – but what really creates a memory is something scary… scary fun! The ever popular, spirit walks hosted by the Clarington Museums and Archives can create that memory for you.

The tour takes place downtown Bowmanville and includes some downtown historic hot spots where ghosts might still resonate. The walks are lead by a costumed interpreter dressed in period clothing and are great for ghost hunters and legend lovers alike. Some people might be surprised to know that Bowmanville has not only rumours of ghosts but also stories about buried treasure, natural phenomena and strange happenings.  The spirit walks include reminiscences about the Alma Hotel from the 1800s and a story about bank robbers and a door handle that jiggles. Excited? Learn more about the haunted horse and carriage that trails through Bowmanville at night.

The walk begins outside the Bowmanville Museum at 37 Silver St. and continues downtown along sections of Church, King, Temperance, Scugog and Wellington Streets and is just under two kilometres. It’s mostly accessible save for the second floor of the museum where the tour is ended, but stories can be recounted in the parlor by request. During the spirit walk an anecdote is told about the wolves in Rotary Park, which is considered to be one of Bowmanville’s signature stories. The haunted law office, a mysterious run-down old hotel and a cemetery without gravestones are also featured on the walk.

There are also five ghosts rumoured to be in the Bowmanville Museum, from a short lady to pouting children and haunted furniture.

More legends are told during the walk and once you hear the stories, history truly comes alive! The spirit walks happen every Thursday at 7 p.m., starting Sept. 12 and run until Oct. 24 with a final walk on Wednesday Oct. 30. Admission is $7 and advance registration is necessary. Call the museum at 905-623-2734 for details.

While you’re in town why not have dinner at Maddy’s Pub or The Village Inn both located in Bowmanville within walking distance of the tour and maybe you’ll see a ghost! Both pubs are said to have their own ghosts who hang around, haunt and sometimes appear.

The Village Inn at 99 King St. W. is an old building that’s now a pub and restaurant, where ghosts are rumoured to linger.

Allegedly the ghostly happenings take place in the upstairs red room. Mysterious recounts by staff and patrons vary from moving objects to inconsistent radio signals. Other things have happened too, like missing gadgets and rearranged cutlery… pretty eerie. Could this be a ghost, a trickster or someone just having fun? If it’s a ghost, who is it and where did it come from? No specific rumours have surfaced but why not try to feel the ghostly presence yourself?

Click images to enlarge

Maddy’s Pub at 7 Division St. is one place that has a story. This old residential house built in the 1800s is home to a ghost… or is it?

As the tale goes most incidents happen once and do not reoccur, from appearances to unexplained movement. Allegedly the staff will hear a particular mysterious sound more often. They’ve heard what could only be explained as a person kicking at the side of the bar –a hard bang, bang, bang. Could this be a ghost inside the old house? If it is, what do they want?

Click images to enlarge

Many local residents believe this to be the spirit of Sybil Burk. Sybil would’ve lived in the house for a number of years, right up until it became a licensed establishment in the early 1970s.  The corner lot next door – which was the home of a church, a music hall, then an evaporator works for dried apples – later became John A. Holgate & Son Coal and Building Supply Company where Sybil worked. She was seen as a righteous woman who could’ve disapproved of alcohol, along with the rest of Bowmanville (for some time anyway.) In 1909 a local option was exercised and Bowmanville citizens voted against having alcohol in their town. Then that was it – no alcohol was allowed for sale or consumption until about the 1970s. The closest place to get drinks would’ve been in Newcastle.

It is said that this kicking at the bar could be Sybil kicking in protest of alcohol or as a reminder of her virtuous disposition.

Visit Maddy’s Pub after a spirit walk for a haunted drink special and wings. Ask owner Anne Sharp and the staff about the hauntings or discover the place yourself. Maddy’s has a friendly atmosphere and is a great place to sit and share stories and maybe even get scared. Please note Maddy’s has also been the host of the Beech Street Theatre Company … and theatres are often haunted.


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