Top News

Fortress of Louisbourg ideal setting for spooky candlelit tours


LOUISBOURG — Driving into Louisbourg at dusk on a Wednesday night in early October, you understand why the area has such a reputation for being haunted.The streets are empty.  There's seemingly no one anywhere.

You feel as though you're driving through a set for a Stephen King mini-series but the actors have all left — for good.

And you're not sure if you want to deal with what's left behind.

As you head down a side road toward the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic site, you eventually drive past a small graveyard overlooking the water. It's from there you see the fortress, Lighthouse Point and the waves crashing against the small spit of land between them. It seems a shame that such a spectacular view is wasted upon the dead but then again, who knows?

Maybe they are enjoying it.

If you go on one of the Haunted Louisbourg tours this month, you'll leave believing the dead really do keep careful watch on the area. It could be because their lives were hell when they were alive, or maybe it's simply the numbers that are buried there. With shipwrecks off shore, sieges in the past and the everyday deaths that occur in any small community, a couple of ghosts are bound to show up out of the thousands of people who were buried in and around the fortress town.

To see a slideshow, click HERE

"In 1745, after the first siege of this place, the New Englanders stayed through a very long and hard winter," said Eric Letcher during a recent Haunted Louisbourg tour.

Playing the role of the ghost of an executioner/torturer who gleefully admits to enjoying his work, Letcher tells his audience of about 45 rain-soaked people that there's no escape for the living on the desolate fortress grounds. In every direction, there are dead souls waiting to deal with them, including the ones from New England buried near Rochefort Point.

"They came with 4,000 men, they lost 100 during the seven weeks of the siege," said Letcher, illuminated by a dim candlelit lantern that's hard to see through the black thickness of the clammy night.

"Through the months of that winter, they lost 1,000 to exposure and disease and they are buried on that point in mass graves."

If a thousand or so people buried in a nearby mass grave aren't enough to spook you, perhaps the stories of those who lived normal lives in the 18th century might make you uneasy. A person back then convicted of a minor crime, such as stealing a bottle of rum, would serve his punishment for a few hours in an iron collar device but it was the aftermath that dealt the cruellest blow. Once a person was known to be a thief, he or she would get no work nor help from anyone in the community and it wasn't uncommon for that person to eventually starve to death.

Death was often the only relief if you were sick. Something as simple as a cut on the arm could eventually kill you, especially if you ended up in the hospital run by the Brothers of Charity of St. John of God.

"They meant well," said Letcher. "The brothers you see were not physicians but rather they were surgeons, and in the 18th century, that meant they let your blood and they amputated your limbs. And they helped you to die.

"Having your arm or leg chopped off is sometimes better because that cut on your arm which has become infected would otherwise kill you."

Mass burials, lousy health care and excessive punishments were just a few of the reasons why life today is considerably better than the 18th century in Louisbourg. But it's not all sunshine and queen anne's lace for those who work at the fortress today — plenty of stories with supernatural overtones abound from staff who have had otherworldly run-ins.

The Haunted Louisbourg tours have been taking place at the fortress since 2008 and the crowds have been steadily growing since the first one this year at the end of September. About 90 took part in the one on Oct. 8 and the two remaining, Wednesday and Oct. 22, are expected to be sell-outs as well.

Fred MacLeod was one of those attending the Oct. 8 tour and even before the tour started, he admitted he felt a little apprehensive.

"I'm scared already," he laughed, adding he had family-related reasons to attend that evening's event.

"My mom's 90th birthday is today in Sydney so I've come from Australia for her 90th and tonight I'll see my niece here because she's part of the ghost tours at Louisbourg here tonight. So there are lots of reasons to be here."

That niece is Bonnie MacLeod, who along with Letcher, leads the tour and researches the material. She says this year's tour has been completely revamped.

"It is a hour and 15 minute walking tour that takes you through the fortress and it's all lantern lit and starlight for the time," she said. "You get to hear some of the darker history of the fortress and it's done through storytelling with scenes and monologues with some ghostly character and it's put on in partnership with the National Historic site and the Louisbourg Volunteer Association."

Whether it's for the history, the dramatic appeal or the genuinely creepy atmosphere, people who like a good ghost story and some exercise won't be disappointed.

"The nights are phenomenal out here," said Blair Cunningham, the acting special events co-ordinator for the fortress. "You're going to enjoy this tour here tonight."

Haunted Louisbourg Tours

Next dates: Wednesday and Oct. 22.

Time: Be at Gate 2 on Kennington Cove Road at 7 p.m. The tour on the grounds starts when everyone arrives, around 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $25 (+hst) per person

Details: Expect 18th-century conditions and remember it is fall in Cape Breton. Dress warmly, bring a raincoat and wear comfortable footwear— you'll be bouncing across uneven terrain and cobbled paths for about 75 minutes.

Notes: Adding to the creepiness is the fact that it is so dark on this tour. The streets are lit by starlight and  lanterns are powered only by candles. Also, some of the stories told can be considered to be of an adult nature and not really suitable for young children.

epatterson@cbpost.com

You feel as though you're driving through a set for a Stephen King mini-series but the actors have all left — for good.

And you're not sure if you want to deal with what's left behind.

As you head down a side road toward the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic site, you eventually drive past a small graveyard overlooking the water. It's from there you see the fortress, Lighthouse Point and the waves crashing against the small spit of land between them. It seems a shame that such a spectacular view is wasted upon the dead but then again, who knows?

Maybe they are enjoying it.

If you go on one of the Haunted Louisbourg tours this month, you'll leave believing the dead really do keep careful watch on the area. It could be because their lives were hell when they were alive, or maybe it's simply the numbers that are buried there. With shipwrecks off shore, sieges in the past and the everyday deaths that occur in any small community, a couple of ghosts are bound to show up out of the thousands of people who were buried in and around the fortress town.

To see a slideshow, click HERE

"In 1745, after the first siege of this place, the New Englanders stayed through a very long and hard winter," said Eric Letcher during a recent Haunted Louisbourg tour.

Playing the role of the ghost of an executioner/torturer who gleefully admits to enjoying his work, Letcher tells his audience of about 45 rain-soaked people that there's no escape for the living on the desolate fortress grounds. In every direction, there are dead souls waiting to deal with them, including the ones from New England buried near Rochefort Point.

"They came with 4,000 men, they lost 100 during the seven weeks of the siege," said Letcher, illuminated by a dim candlelit lantern that's hard to see through the black thickness of the clammy night.

"Through the months of that winter, they lost 1,000 to exposure and disease and they are buried on that point in mass graves."

If a thousand or so people buried in a nearby mass grave aren't enough to spook you, perhaps the stories of those who lived normal lives in the 18th century might make you uneasy. A person back then convicted of a minor crime, such as stealing a bottle of rum, would serve his punishment for a few hours in an iron collar device but it was the aftermath that dealt the cruellest blow. Once a person was known to be a thief, he or she would get no work nor help from anyone in the community and it wasn't uncommon for that person to eventually starve to death.

Death was often the only relief if you were sick. Something as simple as a cut on the arm could eventually kill you, especially if you ended up in the hospital run by the Brothers of Charity of St. John of God.

"They meant well," said Letcher. "The brothers you see were not physicians but rather they were surgeons, and in the 18th century, that meant they let your blood and they amputated your limbs. And they helped you to die.

"Having your arm or leg chopped off is sometimes better because that cut on your arm which has become infected would otherwise kill you."

Mass burials, lousy health care and excessive punishments were just a few of the reasons why life today is considerably better than the 18th century in Louisbourg. But it's not all sunshine and queen anne's lace for those who work at the fortress today — plenty of stories with supernatural overtones abound from staff who have had otherworldly run-ins.

The Haunted Louisbourg tours have been taking place at the fortress since 2008 and the crowds have been steadily growing since the first one this year at the end of September. About 90 took part in the one on Oct. 8 and the two remaining, Wednesday and Oct. 22, are expected to be sell-outs as well.

Fred MacLeod was one of those attending the Oct. 8 tour and even before the tour started, he admitted he felt a little apprehensive.

"I'm scared already," he laughed, adding he had family-related reasons to attend that evening's event.

"My mom's 90th birthday is today in Sydney so I've come from Australia for her 90th and tonight I'll see my niece here because she's part of the ghost tours at Louisbourg here tonight. So there are lots of reasons to be here."

That niece is Bonnie MacLeod, who along with Letcher, leads the tour and researches the material. She says this year's tour has been completely revamped.

"It is a hour and 15 minute walking tour that takes you through the fortress and it's all lantern lit and starlight for the time," she said. "You get to hear some of the darker history of the fortress and it's done through storytelling with scenes and monologues with some ghostly character and it's put on in partnership with the National Historic site and the Louisbourg Volunteer Association."

Whether it's for the history, the dramatic appeal or the genuinely creepy atmosphere, people who like a good ghost story and some exercise won't be disappointed.

"The nights are phenomenal out here," said Blair Cunningham, the acting special events co-ordinator for the fortress. "You're going to enjoy this tour here tonight."

Haunted Louisbourg Tours

Next dates: Wednesday and Oct. 22.

Time: Be at Gate 2 on Kennington Cove Road at 7 p.m. The tour on the grounds starts when everyone arrives, around 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $25 (+hst) per person

Details: Expect 18th-century conditions and remember it is fall in Cape Breton. Dress warmly, bring a raincoat and wear comfortable footwear— you'll be bouncing across uneven terrain and cobbled paths for about 75 minutes.

Notes: Adding to the creepiness is the fact that it is so dark on this tour. The streets are lit by starlight and  lanterns are powered only by candles. Also, some of the stories told can be considered to be of an adult nature and not really suitable for young children.

epatterson@cbpost.com

Latest News