Ghosts From Niagara: Guest Author Wednesday

A few years ago I was asked to take part in a Doors Open event in lovely Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. The museum there was one of the spots on the tour where I joined other authors with books about the area. The delightful Barbara Nattress was one of those authors and she now has a second book featuring the history of Niagara through her fictional characters.

Today we welcome Barbara to introduce both of her books which feature ghosts, history, young love, and the Niagara area. Welcome, Barbara!

Ghosts of The Past

War is never a good event. The families suffer. The countryside suffers. The soldiers suffer. The life everyone knew never returns.

The War of 1812 between the United States and the United Kingdom was no different. Many innocent people were killed only because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Niagara Peninsula was an area of concentrated fighting because of its proximity to both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The town of Newark at the mouth of the Niagara River was home to many Loyalists who had settled there during the Revolutionary War. In 1813, the town was burned to the ground by the American soldiers as  local residents watched. Feelings and opinions about the Americans were cut and dried. You were either with them or against them.

These Loyalists had left the life in America behind and had to start over again clearing land and establishing a home. For many it was the second time they had done this. Others were business men and merchants and were not accustomed to pioneer life.

A number of years ago my great aunt decided to research and write the family history. She discovered her ancestors had come from Holland in the late 1600’s and settled along the banks of Lake Champlain. As disputes over taxes by the British escalated into the revolutionary war the Van Every family moved to Syracuse and later Albany. Being loyal to the British was not a wise choice in 1774. Finally in 1778 with the patriarch of the family in jail, the rest of the family crossed the river and landed in what is now Queenston.

The family stayed loyal to the British, helped run raids for food with Butler’s Rangers, and kept watch for American troops crossing the river terrorizing pioneers. For these services the Van Every family were awarded settlement land along the Niagara River. In 1799 they were endowed with the honorific United Empire Loyalist. When the opportunity arose for my husband and I to move to Niagara on the Lake and become the owners of a Bed and Breakfast, I kept many stories and ideas in my mind that later would become part of the Loyalist House books.

Dreams in the Mist, takes place during the War of 1812 and tells of a family living along the Niagara River. Patrols of British soldiers regularly traveled up and down the river. While families were always on alert for American patrols crossing the river, life went on as normally as possible on the farms. Men continued tending animals and crops, women tended the gardens and kept the household running smoothly. Children played games and helped with chores and teenagers fell in love with boys and girls on the next farm.

The story also tells of a couple looking to start a new chapter in their life after retirement and takes place in the present and in the Niagara area. As luck would have it, they purchase the home along the river where our Loyalist family resided during the War of 1812. It is now a Bed and Breakfast aptly named Loyalist House B&B. Our Hosts Marilee and Phillip are enthusiastic B&B owners, knowledgeable about the history of the area and of the homes.

I used the idea of weaving past and present together to create the story of these two families whose lives intertwine. What a perfect setting to have a ghost living in your home. Niagara-on-the-Lake is noted as being the most haunted place in all of Canada.

This excerpt from Dreams in the Mist tells of Hannah and her boyfriend Peter meeting secretly along the river. Peter’s family have decided to move back to the American side as they feel the Americans should take over this area. Hannah’s family are staunch supporters of the British.

The Proposal

 Hannah was sitting behind the bushes by the river bank, waiting for Peter. She had managed to get out of the house without anyone seeing her, but it had been close. The waiting part of these rendezvous was always the worst as Hannah worried that Peter might be seen and would have to turn back before they met. Hannah stepped out of the bushes just as Peter reached the dock. In the dark silent night , they embraced, glad that the meeting was finally here. They returned to the bushes to talk about how their friendship could continue despite the war.

“Where do you keep all the letters we are exchanging?” asked Peter.

Hannah told him she kept them in her pocket or under her pillow at night for now, but she had been looking for a hiding place where no one would look. …She told Peter she would continue to look the next day for a safe place to keep the letters, where only she might think to look.

“How are we going to see each other if your family moves across the river?” asked Hannah. …

Peter hadn’t asked Hannah to marry him, but he took both her hands and asked if she would marry him after this disagreement between the two countries was settled. Hannah of course said yes and asked Peter how long he thought that might be. Of course he didn’t know the answer to that but hoped it would be maybe a year….

Peter continued to tell her how he thought they could meet at the river. It would be more difficult as there would be no way to get letters to each other, and they would have to be careful as now he was considered the enemy on this side of the river. He thought for the rest of the summer and the fall they could meet on the fifth day of the month at midnight by the dock. They would only wait half an hour for the other person to show up…. One last kiss and a long embrace and they separated. Peter rowed back up the river along the shore while Hannah watched, tears streaming down her face.

It soon becomes apparent that Loyalist house is also home to a former resident, now a ghost. Hannah, a teenage ghost resides in the attic and interactions with B&B guests often results in difficult situations for the present day owners. Marilee is determined to discover more about the home and who this ghost is. Should she tell the guests about the ghost? Why is the ghost still here? What happened to her family? And why is there so much sobbing and crying coming from the attic?

Hannah’s Search is the sequel to Dreams in the Mist and follows Hannah as she searches for her family and her fiancé during the war. Unaware she is a ghost, she discovers she has powers to see what goes on in her home but not leave the house. Her Father is conscripted by the British and her mother and siblings leave to find a safe place. She often ventures down into the house only to find it has changed into something she can not understand. Often there are strangely dressed people wandering around the bedrooms .

Marilee is still trying to discover who this ghost is and secretly discovers she can sometimes see what this ghost is up to in her dreams. Marilee can almost predict if it will be a night of peace or if the noises in the attic will disturb everyone. The ghostly encounters often erupt into scary but hilarious situations. Can you imagine five women booking into the B&B with the intention of finding and photographing the ghost?

Will Marilee and her friend be able to find out who Hannah is and what happened to her family? Will Marilee be able to communicate to Hannah that she is safe in the attic? Will Hannah finally realize she is a ghost and be able to move on? How much furniture will be destroyed before the situation is resolved?

In this excerpt from Hannah’s Search, Hannah is quite concerned as she watches her parents prepare to leave the farm. She hears her Father tell her mother that she must walk across country for several days with the two children to his brother’s farm as it is not safe to stay here anymore. Hannah’s father will likely have to join the British troops in the area.

Hannah was terribly anxious. She flitted about the house both day and night trying to keep a watch on her family. She saw her mother packing things in a small case and making those dry biscuits that she did not like, so she knew they were planning on leaving. One night when her family were asleep, she crept into the room where the case was and unpacked all the things her mother had put in. The next morning, she saw her mother sigh and repack the clothes. When she looked closer, she noticed her mother had tears in her eyes.

On some of her trips downstairs, Hannah was puzzled by what she saw. There were things happening in what she thought was their kitchen, but people dressed in odd garments were working at very strange pieces of equipment that she had never seen before. The odd thing about it was they were doing something with food that she recognized. It was though she was drifting between different societies. One she had known and loved, and the other beyond her imagination. The strangers never seemed to bother with her, except every once in awhile someone would stop what they were doing and stare in her direction as though they had heard a noise.

The War of 1812 was a pivotal point in defining Canada as a nation. Men stood side by side defending the country to keep the values in which they believed. Over the years other wars forced men and today women to again fight and die to keep those same values. These ghosts of the past stand together as heroes and should never be forgotten.

There was a Peter, Paul and Mary song in the sixties “Blowin’ in the Wind” that stated “When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?” I think the ghosts of the past may still be singing this song today.

I hope you will enjoy reading both these books as much as I have enjoyed writing them. When I finished the books I almost felt a loss as I was no longer in touch with my characters. I often wonder what Marilee could do next?

Find Barbara and her books on Goodreads here.


Click on the Loyalist trilogy books below for more great historical stories: