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Belleville’s connection to the occult goes way back

By Kate Shumakova [1]

BELLEVILLE – Halloween has come and gone but spirits of the past are still among us here in Belleville.

The city has a long history of occult and paranormal activity, according to Maurene Rose, a researcher, public-relations person and investigator with Eastern Ontario Truth [2], a paranormal-investigation group.

Rose says that this history can be traced back to Susanna Moodie [3], the famous 19th century writer, and her husband, John Dunbar Moodie, who was the first sheriff of Hastings County. After immigrating to Upper Canada from their native England, they moved from Peterborough to Belleville in 1839.

“Most of the occult history of Belleville is pretty well documented by either Susanna Moodie or her husband,” Rose said. “He actually was really good at taking notes. And his notes were discovered not that long ago – within the last decade or so.”

Gerry Boyce [4], a well-known Belleville historian and writer, said that the Moodies became interested in the occult and seances after moving into a house on Bridge Street East.

“She and her husband built up a house on Bridge Street at the corner of Dunbar Street.  After they moved in some things began to happen,” Boyce said. “And she and her husband became quite interested as far as the occult was concerned. Susanna became even more interested when her young son – he was about six years old – drowned in the Moira River.”

Boyce said the Moodies performed seances in various locations around the city, trying to contact spirits and their son, particularly through Ouija boards [5] and occult practices.

Susanna Moodie is not the only example. People have reported supernatural activity in more than 40 buildings in Belleville, Boyce said.

“There was a house on Charles Street, just a couple of doors north of Bridge Street on the east side, and very unusual things were happening there,” he said, adding that he has talked to someone who lived in the house and “she said they were up in the bedroom upstairs and all of sudden things began to happen. They described the candles falling off the fireplace, landing on the floor and not breaking.”

St. Thomas’ Church [6] on Church Street has its own story. Burials at the church began in 1821 and ended in 1874 when legislation was passed stopping burials within the city limits of the time due to them being “unhealthful.” After a fire that destroyed all burial records, the church administration decided to build a new parish hall on the same side of the street where the old cemetery was. During excavations, 579 graves containing 607 bodies were discovered, the Eastern Ontario Truth website says.

Rose said that after the disturbance of the dead people, cases of paranormal activity were reported. There are several legends: one concerns a military man named Captain James McNabb who died in an accident during the rebellion of 1837 [7] and was buried at St. Thomas’ Church Cemetery. The other is of a man who died two months after working on construction of the original church in 1818. The legends say that the spirits of both men walk the cemetery.

Some other supposedly haunted places in Belleville are Glanmore House [8] museum, the now-demolished Doctor’s Hotel [9] on Station Street and the Pinnacle Playhouse [10].

Rose said that the spirits in Belleville are gentle and haven’t caused any harm. But if they lurk in your home, you can get rid of them yourself, she said, or call Eastern Ontario Truth for help.

“The more you believe, the more power you give to them. Generally you tell them, ‘It’s my place. You have to move on.’ If you’re not feeling that, it won’t help,” she said.