4 minute read

Enjoy a Pint and Meet a Ghost!

By Martine Mackenzie

Walk along thick, plank floors, laid in 1815, all the while admiring the exposed, handhewn beams of the same era. You’re in historic Niagara-on-the-Lake at The Olde Angel Inn and if you close your eyes and listen, you can be transported back to a time where British soldiers and townsfolk gathered for food, drink, and lodging over two centuries ago when the present-day establishment was known as The Harmonious Coach House.

On the cusp of becoming the first capital of Upper Canada, NOTL, as it’s affectionately known by locals, was then called Newark. Although historical records are a bit sketchy for that time, it’s said that The Harmonious Coach House was built in 1789 and in 1793, hosted important legislators who, as part of the New Assembly, had just passed an Act outlawing slavery, the very first of its kind in the world. These lawmakers allegedly celebrated their victory within the walls of the pub. They weren’t the only famous people to pass through, as scores of Canadian, American, and international celebrities and royalty also made the stop. After being badly damaged by fire during the War of 1812-1814, the place was rebuilt in 1815 by John Ross who lovingly named it, The Angel Inn, as a tribute to his wife.

The Olde Angel Inn boasts an excellent menu full of pub food, and a vast array of draft beer. But its food isn’t the only thing that gets star billing.

The Olde Angel Inn is home to a bonafide ghost!

Going as far back as the 1820s, a mere 6 years-post War of 1812, is the story of a young Canadian militia officer, Captain Colin Swayze, who was killed on the site in 1813 when he delayed vacating NOTL as the American army was invading – all in the name of love.

As the British army was retreating, Captain Swayze was awaiting his love for a rendezvous at the Inn. The American invaders arrived before his sweetheart, and Captain Swayze sought refuge in the basement of the inn. The terrified young soldier hid in a barrel and thought he would go undetected – that is until the Americans made their way into the basement and jabbed their bayonets into every possible sac and barrel, mortally wounding Captain Swayze, as he curled up, not making a sound. Legend has it that the young officer has been roaming the grounds ever since, perhaps searching for his long-lost love to finally have that rendezvous. oldeangelinn.com

Captain Swayze, by all accounts, is a fairly harmless ghost. He likes to make noises in the dining room after the last of the guests have left. Place seatings are moved, vases and furnishings shifted. There are often unexplained cold spots in the restaurant and hotel rooms, and he’s also been known to mischievously lock doors that no key can seem to open. Captain Swayze only becomes malevolent if by chance, his beloved British flag which flies over the Inn, is not there, something that the present-day proprietors avoid at all cost.

Many have spoken of their encounters with Captain Swayze. The most recent documentation occurred on September 5th, 2020, when the resident ghost was actually captured on camera! When staff arrived the following morning and underwent its usual check-ups and maintenance, they noticed that the motion sensor had been set off during the night. When footage was reviewed, staff was shocked to see a familiar form walking through the building late at night. The ghostly shape seemed to be wearing a militia officer’s uniform. Take a look and judge for yourselves -- or make your way to The Old Angel Inn, enjoy a cold pint, and meet a ghost!