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It's coming from inside the house: Ghost stories from Amherstburg's Park House

The Park House Museum is 223 years old and full of ghost stories. Curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak shares some of the ghostly tales that came from inside the house.

The Park House Museum is 223 years old and full of ghost stories

Park House curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak recalls a number of ghostly sightings throughout the years. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

The Park House Museum is the oldest building in Amherstburg. It's currently decorated for Halloween, even featuring a funeral in the parlour, but the objects aren't what make this historic home spooky.

The Park House sits on Dalhousie Street with the Detroit River behind it. Originally built in the 1770s, it was dismantled and floated down the Detroit River to Amherstburg in the summer of 1798. 

In the home's 223 years of history, it's had its fair share of ghostly encounters.

The parlour

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      The parlour is currently set up to resemble what a funeral would have looked like 200 years ago. It's also the location of the first sighting of who visitors call Mr. Park.

      A staff member and a visitor were reportedly in the parlour when the staff member saw a man with a jacket walk by and the visitor heard someone walking by.

      "The staff member excused themselves, went to go help the person and as they got around the corner nobody was there," said curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak.

      When the staff member turned back into the parlour, the visitor asked if that person needed help and was told no one was there.

      Mr. Park's office

      Just through the parlour is 'Mr. Park''s office, another location with multiple ghost stories, where some have even heard Mr. Park at work. 

      The real Mr. Park is probably one of the Park brothers, who purchased the house in 1839. The Park brothers — Thomas, Theodore and John — ran a general store out of the home before handing it down to the next Park generation, when it was used as a medical office.

      "We did have a staff member, they were in the parlour working. Out of the corner of their eye, they saw somebody get up out of the chair and walk across the doorway," said Pouget-Papak.

      Next to the office is the basement door, where the current offices are. Pouget-Papak said there have been many times when staff have been alone, only to hear walking, singing and sometimes humming.

      "We've heard the music box playing, glasses on the table clinking," said Pouget-Papak.

      The hallway

      The original backdoor to the home is now the door that opens to a hallway into the kitchen and back room. It was added in the 19th century. Pouget-Papak said the door will open completely and close completely on its own.

      "Sometimes what does happen is it'll be locked," said Pouget-Papak. "We don't have the skeleton key for this one but you'll come up here and it'll be locked and you have to wait until, until it unlocks it."

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          The kitchen

          Through the hallway is the kitchen, where staff hold a cooking program based on recipes from 1750 to 1970.

          After one class, a woman was returning to the kitchen to get her wedding ring, when she heard 'Get out' from the hallway.

          "She refuses to come back here alone," said Pouget-Papak.

          Another time, Pouget-Papak was training a new worker when they both heard loud knocking near the front of the house.

          The worker went to check it out, but no one was there. When the worker got back to the kitchen, he said no one was there — and then the knocking happened again.

          Pouget-Papak said both she and the worker left the room and decided to finish the training later in the afternoon.

          The staircase

          The stairwell is right beside where the original back door once stood. Looking up, visitors can see an old doll looking down to the first floor.

          People have reported being followed by a shadow down the staircase — and just a few weeks ago 'Mrs. Park' may have spoken to a child. 

          A few weeks ago, Pouget-Papak said a mother and little girl were taking a tour. They stopped by the stairwell and the little girl asked if she could go upstairs. She was told they couldn't, because it was closed for exhibit construction.

          According to Pouget-Papak, the little girl said there was a lady up there talking to her who wanted to know what she needed — but the curator was not investigating.

          "I certainly did not turn around to look," said Pouget-Papak.

          The upstairs bedroom

          The ceiling is much lower on the second floor. At the top of the stairs is a door leading into a bedroom, where one of the most famous Park House stories took place.

          About 30 years ago, a woman came in to take a self-guided tour. Before she left, she thanked the curator at the time for the lovely staff, but she was the only one there.

          "The woman insisted that there was a woman in this bedroom that was wearing a black dress who was helping with all her questions," said Pouget-Papak.

          The curator at the time then locked the door and went through the home — but no one else was there

          "The woman realized that she was the only person up here and insisted she had seen a ghost," said Pouget-Papak said. "[She] ran out of the building [and] said she would never come back to this haunted place again."

          A woman who lived across the street from the Park House gave a similar description of a woman she saw standing near the bedroom window.

          Inside the bedroom is a rope bed. Instead of a mattress, there are ropes tied underneath the frame to support people while they sleep. Pouget-Papak said she's the one who tied the ropes, so it's a bit too loose to actually use — but it regularly looks like someone's been napping.

          "You can make the bed nice and perfect again, leave the room, come back an hour later and again it looks like someone's been laying the exact same spot," said Pouget-Papak.

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              The former bedrooms

              To the left of the top of the stairs is another door which opens to to a large display room. It was once two bedrooms, but the wall was taken down in the 1970s to make it larger for exhibitions.

              Last summer, Pouget-Papak was training a handful of new people on how to give ghost tours — when the new hires got a perfect example.

              "We heard footsteps on the staircase coming up and then someone on the other side of that door, but we knew we were the only ones in the building," said Pouget-Papak. 

              According to Pouget-Papak, one of the students said 'Hey, leave us alone. We're trying to work here' — but the ghost-savvy curator had a more gentle approach.

              "I said 'Mrs. Park, if you need help, ring the bell like everybody else,' and not 10 seconds later the bell on the half door in the gift shop starts ringing uncontrollably," remembers Pouget-Papak.

              "Another student gets up and runs halfway downstairs to see the place is empty. As she calls back to the group telling them no one is there, the bells on the front door start shaking uncontrollably."

              With only a few days until Halloween we wanted to make sure to set the tone. CBC reporter Stacey Janzer visited the oldest building in Amherstburg. Its curator Stephanie Pouget-Papak told her some of the many spooky stories that happened inside the Park House. 7:48

              The Park House was moved to Waterworks Park — now Navy Yard Park — to preserve its history. In 1973, an association was created to furnish and maintain the home, with the museum officially opening in December 1973. In 2006, the spooky site received a $46,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation. It is popular with student groups from Ontario, Michigan, Ohio and Illinois and was named a National Historic Site in October 2018. 

              About the Author

              Stacey Janzer was born and raised in Essex County. Self-described Canadian treasure. She currently works as a video journalist at CBC Windsor. Email her at Stacey.Janzer@cbc.ca.

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