A Haunting We Will Go

The chills ran up and down my spine, and I could feel the goosebumps on my arms.
The lady who manned the museum desk on board the S.S. Keewatin had just confirmed what I had felt.
The ship is haunted.
There is a ghost on board.
We had just finished a guided tour of the impressive old steamer, which was brought home to Port McNicoll in 2012 – a fitting end as that is where she began her career more than a century ago.
Built in 1907 in Scotland, she came across the ocean to Canada, where she was cut in two so she could fit through the canals.
No small feat.
She was reassembled, and her first life was to ferry goods and grain across the Great Lakes, Superior and Huron.
Her second career was as a cruise ship of sorts, ferrying people to and fro.
Our tour guide, Connie, left no detail unturned.
The ship is the only one of its kind left in the world today – the last true Edwardian era steamer.
No wonder it has a ghost or two.
And I just discovered it has the reputation of being the most haunted ship in the western hemisphere, with sightings starting as early as 1910, just three years after it was built.
Her current life is a living museum.
She has been painstakingly recreated to reflect the very essence of her glory days as a passenger ship.
The rooms where the clientele and crew slept are only too real.
Then there’s the women’s lounge; the rustic men’s lounge; the elegant dining room; and the dastardly engine room. The stories of the day that reflect each part of the ship are fascinating.
Connie explains that despite the hundreds of people on board, there were only a handful of toilets. They were considered a luxury at the time.
When peeking into one room, I quite literally jumped in fright. A mannequin had been dressed in a costume of the era, and was standing there ever so stoicly, no doubt inwardly chortling at every tourist she startled.
One could almost feel the people of times past, going about their business around us, as we continued our tour of the ship.
In fact, during our entire tour, I felt slightly off kilter. It was as if my inner equalibrium was askew.
Climbing up to the very front of the ship, we had a Titanic moment, declaring we were the kings of the world. Indeed, the ship was built in the same tradition as the Titanic, although the S.S. Keewatin was built five years earlier.
The tour of the engine room is hellish. I can well see a ghost or two calling it home. It was an unfathomable job, working amongst the gigantic engines, shovelling coal into the boilers to fan the flames that would move the tonnage.
At the end of our tour, we learned there was another tour guide who refused to go into at least one of the rooms on board, because she felt a spine tingling, unearthly presence.
And we learned that the TV show, Paranormal, has visited the ship, and feels so strongly that there is a presence that it will be filming an episode on board later this year, to be aired next Spring.
And the museum itself is hoping to arrange some Haunted Tours this October, just in time for Halloween! Scary!
Who is it that haunts the S.S. Keewatin? Is it someone who worked on board? Is it a passenger? Did they meet their demise on the ship? Or did they feel passionate about returning to the grand dame after they passed on from this earthly plane? Perhaps it is the spirit of the ship herself that refuses to leave.
She is indeed rotting away in some places. The exterior wooden floorboards are covered with a protective membrane to help prevent them from further demise. The roof has leaked so badly that many of the exterior rooms are damaged beyond repair.
What is left preserved of her is well worth taking in.
And if that includes a ghost or two, so be it.
Happy hauntings!


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