Guelph Jail Ghost Story

by Ronald Wolf

When you think of old jails you would probably think of inmates wearing stripped prison outfits hooked up to a ball and chain as they pulverize boulders into gravel. You would not be too far off from the truth.

The Guelph Correctional Centre (GCC), a.k.a. the Guelph Reformatory, started construction in the first decade of the 20th century and didn’t really finish until about 60 years later in the 1970s. The new GCC also incorporated new ideas regarding prison life. Up until the construction of the GCC there was only one other prison nearby.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Central Prison (CP) located in Toronto (1873-1915) was the only correctional facility in the province to which provincial prisoners were transferred to serve prison terms.

The CP was sprinkled with men wearing striped clothing. This sight would be laughable by today’s standards if not for the prisoner’s deeds. The prisoners who were serving anywhere from two months to two years, were confined to small cells and punished by extreme measures which included “shaming punishments” such as whipping or pillory (a type of stockade).

No one who finished their sentence was educated with new skills which could have benefited their lives and kept them out of poverty which could have been what landed them in prison in the first place.

By today’s prison standards, it was a nightmare. It is safe to say that these early prisoners of the GCC might very well have been drafted into the First World War. Some never did come home.

In the early part of 1910 the Province of Ontario purchased 800 acres of land near the Ontario Agriculture College in Guelph. The decision to create the prison was strategic as well as political.

Not only did the two provincial properties consolidate provincial investments in one area, the Reformatory intended from the outset to exploit the expertise of the college with regards to both agriculture and horticulture.

It was about the same time that the GCC was being built that the new system slowly to change bringing it closer to days standards. Reform the prisoner and give them new skills to keep them from not coming back into prison, like a revolving door, was being introduced. The prison system introduced probation at this time.

Now that you know a brief history of the early 20th century prison life we can now learn about the other side to the GCC, the paranormal side. A report was given to me by Stephanie Cumerlato, co-founder of Haunted Hamilton.

An investigation took place on Nov. 25, 2007 at the GCC.

“We were working with YTV’s show Ghost Tracker’s at the time and they had asked us to come in and conduct a preliminary investigation to better find out what was going on there in regards to paranormal activity. We had asked Wanda Hewer, a psychic from Guelph to join us for the investigation too,” Cumerlato said.

A two-hour tour filled the first part of the investigation, she said.

“Then darkness started to creep in. The long hallways started to feel like they were closing in on us. The air became heavy and mysterious. The fact that Ghost Trackers was filming there was pretty neat too, because they had their purple spot lights set up all around the building, casting an eerie purple glow. It was an overwhelming feeling that became even more intense as it got darker and darker. It almost felt like the prisoners were still there, trapped inside the jail forever.” There were several incidents which have occurred that night.

“One incident that stands out in my mind was when we were walking through the Infirmary area. I was the first one up the steps and was met by a long hallway with a bunch of doors on either side. I quickly saw a black shadow dart from one room to the other, across the hall.

“That scared me enough to not want to venture any further so the rest of the team had proceeded a bit further until we all got the sense that we shouldn’t be in there. We looked around a few rooms and then left the area immediately.

“But before we did, there was one patient room that both Hewer and I stepped into. She started pacing in a circle and said that she was picking up on a spirit in there that was very nervous and anxious. Maybe he was waiting for a procedure to be done? We’re not sure. But Hewer did sense that he was torn up about something. He (the spirit) couldn’t sit still because of the pain.”

"While at the Guelph Reformatory Investigation, I encountered a few very strong ghosts. I experienced one spirit in a triage area in a patient's room and I felt I started to become his spirit. I felt like he had no shirt on and burning skin. It was stinging pain all over my back shoulders and some of my chest. I am not sure if it was burned from heat or a burning sensation from injury such as lashings,” explained Hewer.

I felt I needed to walk around in circles in the air to try to help deal with the pain of the burning sore skin, he was very tormented. I also felt reluctant to leave that room. It was as if I would be in trouble if I did, added Hewer.

Another ghost encounter was in a common room. I was working on the Ouija board, and while asking questions a male spirit walked up behind me with curiosity wondering what I was doing, I could see him coming towards me from behind as if I had eyes in the back of my head.

“I could see he was muscular and had a broad build without a shirt. He had fair hair and he was young in his early 20's but I could not see his face and he wouldn’t answer my questions”, Hewer finished.

Hewer had a weird experience when she was talking to some of the crew who were sitting on a bench on the main floor. As she was telling them what impressions she was getting from the place, she felt someone, or some spirit walk right through her, noted Cumerlato.

“Our other sensitive we had with us for the night, Mandy McIntyre-Briggs, said she saw someone standing in cell five. Both the psychics for the evening were very uneasy about cell 11. They both felt a strong presence there and that it was more threatening than cell five,” Cumerlato reported.

Terri Pentlichuk, one of our investigators for the night (who’s also our Ghost Guide, Lady Jade for our Ghost Walks) had an experience in cell 13 where the divining rods would swing and cross in that room, more strongly than in any other cell stated, said Cumerlato.

There was also another incident where we left the EMF meter at the bottom of the steps on top of a pile of old clothes that were strangely left there. We started to walk-up the steps and heard the EMF detector go off on its own, when it previously didn’t pick up on any frequencies in that area.

“All in all, the location is definitely haunted, not by one, but many spirits that are still trapped there,” Cumerlato finished.

The paranormal is quickly becoming a sensation world wide.

Haunted Hamilton was one of the first websites on the paranormal in Canada and has been conducting paranormal investigations for well over 10 years now. Since the beginning, they have always maintained an equal balance between the scientific and spiritual approach.

“From the scientific end, we use tools like digital cameras, video recorders with night vision, EMF detectors, digital thermometers, motion sensors. From the spiritual approach, we like to use divining rods, gemstone pendulums and spirit boards (Ouija). I make handcrafted Ouija boards that we find works very well during our investigations (even though this may not be the popular opinion among modern-day investigators),” noted Cumerlato.

Haunted Hamilton holds seminars and workshops on how to properly use the Ouija Board for spirit communication.

“If you really know how to use the Ouija Board (and spiritually protect yourself while using it) then it can be a great tool for investigations to directly communicate with the spirits,” finished Cumerlato.

The GCC is just one haunted experience in Ontario that is being taken extremely serious in the paranormal realm.