The events of these past few months have been surreal, or otherworldly, and many of us have been experiencing life in a more virtual way, like virtual school, virtual work and virtual entertainment.
The Friends of Fort George have found a way to combine a bit of school and entertainment with a different type of “otherworldliness” in the virtual world. Last Friday evening, just as dusk was descending outside, Kyle Upton was inside hosting a virtual tour of Fort George’s haunted spaces.
Tickets could be purchased through The Friends of Fort George website. After purchasing the $5 ticket, the coordinator sent an email with meeting ID and password to join the Zoom platform. In total, 12 participants had exclusive access to Upton, and were able to ask him questions about his 27 seasons of experience as a ghost guide at the Fort.
Upton’s wife Sonja enhanced his presentation by supplying viewers with photos and videos of the various buildings and areas on the grounds. Upton took participants on a virtual “tour” while answering questions, which included Kyle’s own supernatural encounters, the history of the ghost tours and the Fort itself. The question and answer period gave participants a rare opportunity to ask Upton questions beyond the regular ghost tour speech and normally reserved to cornering him after a tour.
One of the first he was asked was about whether the paranormal activity has increased or decreased over the years.
Upton explained the ghost tours originally started as a “hook” to bring people into Fort George, and a fun and unique way to introduce people to the history of the area. He said he first heard a few ghost stories as a young participant in the Fort’s reactional and historical programs. When he began working at the Fort, he thought it would be fun to share his love for history at the same time as entertaining an audience with tales of the paranormal. What he and the other tour guides did not anticipate was that the ghosts began to provide them with new material. New sightings and happenings began in other buildings on the grounds. Staff began to report having unexplained phenomenon happening to them and to the participants during their tours. So for the first five years, new stories in some of the previously quiet buildings began to be reported.
“For the first five years of the ghost tour, it was like, ‘Hey! New ghost tour season. Fantastic! And what surprises are they going to throw at us this year?’”
Upton explained that of the 10 buildings at Fort George, nine of them have had reports of paranormal activity. The activity has not been consistent over the years, he added. There have been quiet years and busier years, with no apparent pattern to the sightings. He described how they tried to find a pattern by tracking variables, such as the weather, number of people on the tours, or anniversaries of 1812 events. However, they have not been able to find any statistically significant variable that would show an increase of activity. He did note that the last tour of the season seems to show an increase in haunted high jinks, but otherwise they cannot find any consistent patterns.
One of the highlights of the evening was Upton’s show and tell segment of sorts, that would not be possible on the regular tours. He showed a five-second video that sent chills down this reporter’s spine. The video was taken by a member of the Amateur Spirit Seekers, with a night vision camera, during a private tour. It shows a mysterious, ghostly figure wearing a cape, crossing in front of the camera.
Upton assumed at the time that the caped figure must have been him walking in front of the camera. They tried to recreate the scene using the same camera and compared the two videos. Upton said he found himself apologizing to the Spirit Seekers, adding that, “I don’t know who this caped guy is, but I am confident that it was not me.”
At the end of the tour, Upton thanked a few of the contributors to the event, including his wife Sonja, who according to Amanda Gamble, executive director of the Friends of Fort George, Upton’s “right hand for the virtual tour – she took care of all the behind the scenes aspect of the tour.”
The idea for the virtual tour itself was sparked by other virtual initiatives that the Friends of Fort George are working on. Tracey Forsyth, who is part of the local Scout Brigade, and Upton were working on developing a virtual tour for them. When Upton discussed the idea with Gamble, they began to work out a Zoom tour for the public.
According to Gamble, “We are working on some other online ideas to stay connected with the community, and are hoping to do some more virtual ghost tours after the positive response we received.”
For more information on upcoming virtual ghost tours or other virtual events visit the Friends of Fort George Website at https://friendsoffortgeorge.square.site/special-event-tickets.