Seeing Ghosts

I know what you’re thinking – it’s Thursday and it’s supposed to be time for doors.  The problem is that I’m not feeling like doors today.  I’m feeling ghosts.

It started with a boat.

If you’ve ever driven from Niagara Falls to Toronto along the QEW, chances are you’ve seen what appears to be an ancient shipwreck on the shore of Lake Ontario.

Jordan Station 6

The book Top 150 Unusual Things to See in Ontario calls it the Ghost Ship of Jordan Station.

I’ve passed this wreck dozens of times over the years, however when I finally decided to stop and investigate it, I wish I had picked a better day.  Preferably a day that didn’t involve face-freezing winds.  In hindsight, the gray gloomy sky and brown vegetation added to the ghost-like quality of this scene.

Ghost boat - Jordan Station

Built in 1914 in Quebec, the boat served first as a ferry and then a cargo ship.  It was refurbished in the early 1990s as a floating restaurant, and later towed to Ontario to reopen as a restaurant here.

Whether it was because of a lack of funds, failure to obtain appropriate permits, or a combination of the two, the boat was simply abandoned.  A few years later it was gutted by fire … and still remains, a rusting relic largely ignored by the thousands of cars that pass by every day.

Then the book led me to another ghost, also related to water, but this time the ghost is a canal.

Ghost Canal 5

In the community of Newmarket, north of Toronto, along the very modest East Holland River, are the skeletal remains of a canal system that was built in the early 1900s, but was never completed.  Although these concrete skeletons are massive in size, there is a good chance that you might not even notice the 3 abandoned locks.

Ghost Canal 3

Ghost Canal 2

There is land and vegetation growing where there should have been water.

It turns out that the engineers had been correct when they suggested that the water level might be insufficient to support a canal system, but the hubris – and greed – of politicians and businessmen had pushed the project forward.

The project was finally abandoned in 1916 – incomplete, without ever being finished.

Ghost canal2

Since things go better in threes, the last ghost is a bike.

Unfortunately, bike fatalities seem to be a too frequent occurrence in Toronto, especially during the summer months.  Ghost bikes then pop up as memorials to the tragedy.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Although I find all roadside memorials a bit disturbing … the ghost bikes even more so. Maybe it’s because I’m a cyclist, my husband and sons are cyclists, and I’m acutely aware of the dangers we face every time we brave the roads.

Whether or not you believe in the spirit world, there is no denying that there are ghosts among us.  Once you start paying attention, you will find them everywhere in plain sight and you’ll wonder why it is you never really ‘saw’ them until now.

 

90 comments

  1. Greetings from Vancouver. Read all three ghost posts. Memorials on the roadside are tragic and I hope the ghost of those people died are at rest. I have had experiences on supernatural. Have you been to Mt. Carmel Monastery on top of the hill from Niagara Falls? Also, may I ask what WP theme you are using? I happen to like the very front page of your site. Thank you, Perpetua

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  2. Hi Joanne

    Beautifully written. I love the Ghost Ship. I’m glad it is still there. And the canals locks too. Isn’t it amazing what government officials with some money backers will do? I’m also a cyclist. The roads are scary so I’ve stayed mostly to the bike trails. The roadside monuments are sad.

    We have an abandoned army base near where I live. I love the ramshackle buildings and the tall overgrown vegetation. The quaint chapels with paint peeling away. Even the graffiti there seems to have purpose. Slowly but surely it is being torn down and replaced with new homes and shopping centers.

    Laura

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    • Ahhh – so you too see ghosts! There is something so compelling about abandoned structures. They seem to be whispering their stories … if only we could hear!

      Be careful out there on your bike. I too gave up the roads a couple of years ago after an accident that broke my collarbone. I’m still bitter 😏 …. so I stick to the trails too.

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  3. I have not seen a “ghost bike” before. Just a few days ago, some friends were visiting and we decided to go on a bike excursion. We were choosing between two routes, a winding hilly road around the peninsula where I live, or a mountain bike trail system along a river that we would have to drive to. We chose the latter and had a wonderful day. I always feel a bit nervous on the rural roads here, as the roads are are narrow with no shoulders, and people tend to drive really fast.

    Jude

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    • The drivers here are generally unmindful of cyclists and some are outright antagonistic. While there are certainly some cyclists who exhibit poor road etiquette, I’m appalled by the behaviour of some drivers who apparently don’t realize, or don’t care, that their actions can kill 😕

      I love cycling, but now I prefer to do mine on trails rather than roads.

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  4. Hi Joanne! As always, a great post! Your ghost ship reminded me of an old sunken river boat we found while the river was low. My boyfriend knew it was there but had never been able to get down to it until that day. After a lot of googling I found out her name and even a photo and a captain’s name…I’ll do a post about it.
    Your ghost canal reminds me of a discovery on a hike a few months ago…an abandoned dam close to the Missouri River. It’s quite a story and I’m working on a post for that hike as well.
    You and your cycling family would love to bike here, the heart of the Katie Trail State Park. 240 miles, the longest developed rail-trail in the country! It’s beautiful!

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  5. I loved the old ship, and the gray day did lend to it’s eerie quality. Sorry it was freezing, face slapping windy day though.

    The Ghost Bike gets to me too as He-Man is a cyclist. Hopefully, it will remind those driving to slow down, and be mindful of others on the road, and share it!

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  6. I work in a 100 yr old building which housed chromincally intellectually disabled females for 80 of it’s years. Some very horrible things went on here. All of my co-workers are convinced it is ghosted but I struggle with the concept. The interior of the building has been altered dramatically. The only evidence is the multi paned windows. I can be spooked like anyone, however. 🙂

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  7. I love that ghost ship! Living near the water, sometimes we’d come across old boats left to the elements. What a strange thing that they tried to go forward on that canal!! I’ve seen many roadside memorials, but not a ghost bike. They defiantly up the eerie quality. It’s sad that there’s even a reason for them to be placed there.

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  8. Love the photos of the old ship. Weathered and textured. And yes, I definitely believe in spirits, especially after spending years living in Asia. In Indonesia and Vietnam the spirit world is considered to be a continuum of the physical human experience and most people believe that they can remain in contact with their ancestors. There are places where yes, one can feel their presence…

    Lovely photos. The bike is especially poignant.

    Peta

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  9. It is interesting how you ‘feel’ when visiting certain places. For me, it is historical battlefields. We have lots of road side memorials usually in the form of a cross. I haven’t seen a bicycle memorial but your photo certainly captures attention and emotions.

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    • I’ve never (knowingly) visited a historical battlefield … oops, that’s not true, the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. I’ve never really had any kind of ‘vibe’ from it though … which is probably why I never think of it as a battlefield. The wall around the city however is a different story!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Joanne I was finding your post most interesting and then gasped when i saw the ghost bike. That really hits home to me as well. I hope that motorists have that same kind of reaction when they see the memorial. Safe riding my friend. xo

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  11. You captured three winners, Joanne. A shipwreck, old abandoned locks and canal segments. I would be crawling all over them (or nearby).

    I, too, find the ghost bikes a bit disturbing. I have cut back on my road-riding, because the drivers around here just can’t be trusted. I think they would be considerate, as long as they see me, but they’re so distracted that I worry about being seen. I’ll be dragging my bike to a trail this year.

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  12. I’ll have to keep my eyes open for them. The closest I can get are the ruins from the sugar mills…but I already wrote about them. We have bike memorials to and signs with flowers when a bicycle wasn’t involved. I never saw stuff like that in California…and it’s disturbing to me too. Too bad about the canal. What a lack of foresight and waste of money. I love the canals in NY. Nowadays they are primarily used for recreation.

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    • I agree about the terrible waste of taxpayer money. The sad part is, we know it still happens all the time … the government decides to start something and it gets abandoned for any number of reasons 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Fantastic post! I cannot get over the abandoned docks and the line about hubris and greed. And that shot of the bike — poignantly perfect.
    Thanks for sharing this today. I have to post as I feel, too. For instance, I planned to door at 7am, but I really felt like staying in bed with my pets until the very last minute 🙂

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  14. Hi, Joanne – I have definitely seen that ship along the QEW….and, I’m embarrassed to say, never paid it much attention. Seriously, how could I drove by and not wonder? Thank you for filling in the story — and including two more ‘ghosts’ as well!

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    • Isn’t it funny how we just get used to seeing something and after a while, it barely registers. I was delighted to find it in the book because I’ve always wondered …

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  15. Hi Joanne. First, let me say that I’m really glad that if you didn’t feel like talking about doors, you didn’t. I’ve been noticing in myself lately that I sometimes still behave as if there are things I have to do, and meeting other people’s expectations or staying on a particular schedule are two classic examples. Good for you for going for the ghosts.

    I love your descriptions of these ghosts. Surprisingly, I found the ship and the bicycle both very ghostly, the canal slightly less so. I suspect that’s because the bicycle is an example of lives lost as, potentially, is the ship. So those feel most ghostly to me. The abandoned canal system, particularly given its reason for being abandoned (when it shouldn’t have been started in the first place) makes me annoyed rather than sad. I want messes like that cleaned up!

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    • Ahhh Karen – you get it! We should all dance to our own tunes 🙂

      There is a ‘wrongness’ about the abandoned canal. Standing there looking at the pieces sitting on dry land, I couldn’t help but shake my head in disbelieve. Maybe it’s because I had spent the last 2 months visiting locks all along the Trent-Severn. I know we have the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, but still …

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  16. Lovely post! I think we took that road out of Niagra Falls but I don’t remember seeing that ship… darn! I’m not at all surprised that the politicians thought they knew more than the engineers (my husband will appreciate that story). What a sad waste of money. And, speaking of sad, those ghost bikes get me every time I see one. I won’t ride on a street with cars anymore – and unfortunately, where we live, there’s aren’t many other options.

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    • I suspect the experts get ignored a lot more often than we think because the powers-that-be are too invested in their idea. That’s why I take the whole follow-your-dream hype with a grain of salt. Just because you have a dream, it doesn’t mean it’s viable.

      I too am very leery about riding my bike on a road. Bad things happen and a cyclist will never win.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Great ghost stories, Joanne. The ship is pretty cool and it would have made a fun restaurant. The bikes are sad, but good reminders to everyone that bikes share the road. We have many roadside memorials, but I haven’t seen bicycles. I agree that there are ghosts everywhere and it’s only a matter of noticing.

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  18. Your post reminded me of something ~> When we lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, we used to eat on a boat in Greensboro that had been transformed into a seafood restaurant. Not sure that it’s still there.

    It might be no more than a ghostly memory now.

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    • I think that boats transformed into restaurants are a popular thing … and they are always seafood restaurants for some reason 😉

      As a teenager, I remember going to the Netherlands with my mom and sister to meet my mom’s family for the first time. My sister and I went to bar one night that was on a boat on the canal. That was a BIG deal to these small town girls from Northern Ontario.

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  19. As an avid cyclist who has experienced a few close calls in my younger days this one hits close to home. We all need to learn how to share the road and take better care for each other’s safety.
    Thanks for the reminder 🙂

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  20. I can see how the bikes would creep you out. My sister was an avid cyclist, but was almost killed several times in accidents. It truly is a dangerous sport.

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  21. Thoughtful post, Joanne. I’ve always wondered about that ship and have visited it often. Have some great shots of it at sunset too.

    The roadside memorials are chilling and sad to see and I understand peoples’ need to mark the spot of a tragedy. If nothing else, it reminds me to slow down and take care.

    I grew up across the street from an abandoned field of ghosts…old barn and building foundations etc. that we played in as kids. Gave me a sense of time and impermanence at an earlier age than most, I think.

    Your posts always get me thinking and that’s a very good thing! Thank you!

    Deb

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    • It’s a shame really that I chose such a nasty day to stop at that ship. It was the weekend of the April ice storm – duh … I have this mentality that if not now, when? I would image your sunset photos are gorgeous!

      That’s a very interesting perspective that exposure to old abandoned buildings perhaps provided a sense of time and impermanence at an early age.
      To me, they’ve only ever felt depressing and sad.

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  22. I just recently learned about the ghost bikes. It’s an appropriate memorial although I hope they are kept up and not allowed to rust and litter the landscape. Locally on a hillside by a heavily traveled road there must have been a fatality. There is a white wooden cross. Underneath there are plastic flowers which are periodically changed out. For me it’s a reminder to drive carefully.

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    • Roadside memorials are an interesting topic. I understand that some people who are grieving feel the need to have this visual. It helps perhaps to bring closure.
      For some, it acts as a sad reminder to use more caution … life is short enough without taking unnecessary – and perhaps fatal – risks.

      For me, they do neither. I can’t imagine being drawn to the scene of where I lost a loved one. Even worse, would be marking the spot so I don’t ever miss it. It would be horrible.

      Different strokes, I guess.

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  23. The ship is wonderful, love your photos. Not so keen on the abandoned locks, looks very unsightly around there, and like you I am not a fan of roadside memorials, for one thing they are quite dangerous as your attention is diverted to the roadside and then you wonder what happened so you are not wholly concentrating on driving! There are a lot of abandoned mines here and shipwrecks, but most are underwater so I shan’t be going looking for those!

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    • I was thinking about that fact while I was writing this story – ie that in the UK and throughout Europe there are so many ruins and abandoned things that are absolutely ancient compared to our meagre little history.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. Joanne, you still had a door — a door to the imagination! Great post. You really created an atmosphere. That’s fascinating about the canal system. Marvelous photos… yes, you did it right! Hugs.

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  25. I enjoyed this post, Joanne. The weather greatly contributed to the ‘ghostly’ feeling, too. I have never seen a bike memorial. We have white crosses on the roadsides with flowers…those always break my heart.

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    • Thanks Lois. I picked such a nasty day to drive there – literally the day before the April ice storm. It was bitter cold, but I was in the neighbourhood. Holy Frozen Body Parts!
      Only afterwards did I appreciate that the weather helped create a ghostly feel to the scene 🙂

      Ghost bikes are relatively new here – maybe only a couple of years. Each one makes my heart ache.

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  26. Very cool perspective Joanne. Like you, I find it upsetting to see a marker along a roadside. I can’t help but think of the person who lost their life & the people who are left behind to grieve such a tragic loss.

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  27. Thanks Joanna, interesting – I also enjoy seeing abandoned things and wondering about them. Take extra care when cycling … sadly we have many horrible accidents here involving cyclists, due to mostly dreadful driving.

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  28. “Once you start paying attention, you will find them everywhere in plain sight and you’ll wonder why it is you never really ‘saw’ them until now.” love it. and interesting ghosts, too.

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  29. Seems like you are attracted to the same kind of old rusty relics that I am Joanne 🙂 Really cool shots and history. Sorry I didn’t say anything witty but I’m still working on my first cup of coffee.

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    • Funny, Joe, I was thinking about you when I wrote this post. I find old abandoned things rather depressing and sad. It finally occurred to me what you were seeing in your photos of rusty relics – you were seeing the ghosts and I thought that was really cool.
      I don’t think I have your eye for it. I was guided to it … but you see it on your own.

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  30. I agree with you: there are spirits everywhere if you bother to look for them. Your photos are wonderful, I like seeing abandoned things and learning why they are as they are.

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    • Thanks Fran. I’ve always felt a certain sadness about old abandoned things. There were stories contained there that are lost and forgotten. I was trying to capture some of that. Glad you got it 🙂

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