Tales from the Gallows – Mackenzie Hall

halloween

Although the elegant facade of Mackenzie Hall, exposed and in direct contrast to it’s modern surroundings reveals she is from days gone by, it’s as if her beauty by design captivates and mesmerizes you in an attempt to conceal her dark, macabre past.

corner stone laid by Alexander Mackenzie

corner stone laid by Alexander Mackenzie

Located in one of the oldest European settlements in Ontario, Old Sandwich town (now part of the City of Windsor), Mackenzie Hall holds municipal and national historical significance.  Designed in mid-Victorian Classical architecture with hints of Palladian style accents, this lime/sand stone building was built by Alexander Mackenzie in 1855 – 1856, long before he was to serve as Canada’s 2nd Prime Minister (1873).

The 4th structure built at this location to serve as the Essex County courthouse and jail until 1963, this magnificent display of engineering was doomed and destined for demolition until it was purchased by the city of Windsor in 1982, restored and renamed Mackenzie Hall after her builder’s.

front entrance

And as grand and graceful as she may appear, she is forever linked to her brutal past.  Queue creepy ass music.  Considered the most haunted building in Windsor, Mackenzie Hall served as the area’s gallows from the first public hanging on August 2, 1862 of an escaped slave sentenced for the murder of his wife, to the last shielded hangings of two Detroit men in 1943 convicted of killing a Windsor Cafe owner.

This landmark and area have seen their fair share of demise, immersed in the deaths of criminals (rapists, murderers and thieves all met their fate within the grounds), a jail governor murdered by prisoners during a jail break and of “Patriot” soldiers, captured then shot by Colonel Prince during the Battle of Windsor in 1838.

The history of the area is memorized and effortlessly recited by Mackenzie’s tour host, Joey.  After 18 years with the Hall, he has many tales of “things that go bump in the night” that are only heightened and heavily weighed by the building’s sordid past.  I won’t ruin the anticipation, but lets just say between the accounts of handprints appearing in windows, objects moving on their own and the touch of an unseen assailant, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up more than once during our tour.

One particular story which took place in what is called the Macdonald room named after the last presiding judge of the courthouse, marries the horrid acts of the past with the paranormal now.  A young boy, well read and not one to fabricate stories, witnessed a floating apparition facing the painting of Judge Stewart, nicknamed the “bloody judge” because he hung everyone who came across him.  Was this a disenchanted ghost searching the eyes of his executioner?  Do these stories confirm the souls of the lives taken are forever bound to the limestone walls of Mackenzie, searching for absolution?

"the bloody" Judge Stewart

“the bloody” Judge Stewart

basement

basement

Although you can do a self-guided tour, for answers to the questions above and to hear more tales from the gallows make an appointment.  An excellent tour guide, Joey will send your mind into a tale spin recounting MacKenzie’s ghastly history and accounts of the possibility of what may be.  And like us, record your visit.  Unheard at the time, a man’s moan was clearly audible on our recorder when reviewing our interview later.  I guess we were not alone – muahahahahahaha!

Thank you to Joey and Mackenzie Hall for a spooky experience.

~True North Nomad

Do you have any spooky ghost stories?  Do you believe in things that go bump in the night?

It’s Alive!  It’s Alive!  True North Nomad that is.  Enter your email address top left, bottom right or bottom centre of this post and click “Follow” and never miss an impassioned tale again!

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18 responses to “Tales from the Gallows – Mackenzie Hall

  1. I can’t believe that he last hanging was in 1943…. which is only 72 years ago !!!!! I’m sure the graveyard across the street from MacKenzie hall has some interesting ghoulish tales !!!!!

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    • I know in terms of history its not long ago at all. I actually checked about the graveyard across the street and believe it or not no inmates were ever buried there. They were buried in unmarked graves around the area now within city limits. Creepy right?

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  2. Its always interesting what people take away from reading another’s blog post. In this case all I could see was an autumn lack of foliage, and I could feel winter coming on – and I felt so relieved our summer is on its way. Apart from that, great article!

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    • Thank you. Its funny every time I read someone’s blog from the southern hemisphere I’m always taken aback when they talk about spring and summer this time of year. Seems so foreign to me to be entering summer in November as I am sure it is for you to see our winter creeping in. Its great seeing the perspectives from around the world.

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  3. This is awesome! I live New England and there’s a ton of spooky stuff like this (mostly witch burning related). Do you guys do Canadian Halloween? (Sorry if that’s a stupid question).

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    • Yes we celebrate Halloween here in Canada, thats not a stupid question. I bet there are some fantastic spooky stories from New England. Isn’t that where the infamous Salem witch trials are from? Talk about creepy places! Thanks for dropping by!

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      • haha thanks now I won’t embarrass myself by asking any potential new Canadian friends in person. Salem is wicked cool! It’s in Massachusetts and it is literally like a real life version of Halloweentown from “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. It’s wicked spooky! The witch trials down there got out of control. Where I live in southern New Hampshire (right between Maine and Mass) there were also a bunch of witch trials and hangings. I’m not 100% sure, but I think that they used to bring the witches from up here down to Boston for trial and execution. New England definitely has its share of “bloody judges”. Happy Halloween!

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  4. Its an interesting thought to ponder and think on.. Canada is not an ‘old’ country when you compare to others from the old world. But there it is, a piece of our past I had no idea of and its not another CBC pioneer setting.. Mackenzie the construction worker! brutal hangings, heros and villans. All there just out our back door. We just need to pay attention and poke around.

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