A large company of spirits reside here for a variety of reasons.
Spirits feel right at home, looking for peace.
Some may not know that they are dead!
Fort Ontario – the “Guardian of the Northern Frontier”
Tom and I visited this formidable historic stone fort in the summer of 2021. On the way to the entrance, we walked by the cemetery, the final marked resting place for seventy-seven men, women, and children. Many more souls were buried in unmarked graves in the land around the fort.
Fort Ontario is a huge, star-shaped pentagonal structure with five bastions, designed for mounted heavy cannons above the outer wall that surrounds the fort. Howitzers were mounted in the case mattes built into the ramparts of the bastions.
For added firepower, the bastions were pierced with loopholes for rifles to be used against attacking forces as well.
Visiting the inner buildings was like a step back in time. Each building is set up the way it looked in 1868, when Company F was stationed here. Entering from the front gate, there is a long tunnel with two guard stations on either side.
In the middle of the interior is a large courtyard. Around the courtyard are the Enlisted Men’s Barracks, Officers Quarters 1 and 2, the Powder Magazine, the Storehouse, and other areas needed for life here in the 1800s and 1900s.
There are historical displays showing how the military personnel lived, as well as displays telling about the long history of this fort, military base and all the various uses of this property.
The Enlisted Men’s Barracks was where the men lived, talked, slept, cooked and ate all their meals. The first floor of the Barracks has two large rooms. The room on the right was where men cooked and ate their meals; it had two pantries to hold supplies. The second floor held the bunks and places to hang up soldiers’ clothing, which they were responsible for, to keep clean and tidy.
There wasn’t much time to get into trouble, as the men’s every minute was regulated from sunrise to sunset. Their day began at sunrise with Reveille. No sleeping in for these soldiers! Cleanup of their quarters happened before breakfast at 6:00 AM. Work details for the day were available at 7:00 AM. Daily change of the guard happened at 8:30 AM.
Next on the schedule was drill practice in marching, weapons handling and battle formation, that ended at 11:00 AM. Lunch was at 12:00 PM, more drill practice from 3:00 – 4:00. Dinner was at 5:30 PM. Dress Parade required soldiers to be in full dress uniform twenty minutes before sunset, which may have happened before dinner. The flag was lowered at sunset. At 9:15, everyone prepared for bed, and Taps was at 9:30.
Officers Quarters 2
The interior of this two-story historic structure is an accurate display of what was here in 1868, when Company F was in control. It housed Company F Offices, Engineering Offices, and living quarters for the Quartermaster, and Assistant Quartermaster who was Lieutenant Michael J. Hogarth in 1868.
Visiting this building is a true step back in time, as it is set up with period-accurate furniture and items needed for each office. It looks like everyone is out for a meal.
Location, location, location! This strategic spot ensured that there would be a military fort here for over one hundred years, all the way through World War 2!
In 1755, during the French and Indian War, Fort Ontario (then called the “Fort of the Six Nations”) was constructed to add to the defensive strength of its sister fort, Fort Oswego, located just across the Oswego River.
Not long after this first attempt of having a finished fort at this location, it was destroyed in the Battle of Fort Oswego by French forces.
The British did not give up this strategic spot. The second version of Fort of the Six Nations (Fort Ontario), was rebuilt in 1759. A treaty with Chief Pontiac was signed here on July 25th, 1766.
It didn’t last. This second fort was destroyed during the Revolutionary War by the brave lads of the Third New York Regiment after the British abandoned it in 1778.
Four years later, the British moved back in, and rebuilt the ruined parts of the structures. They held this strategic location until 1796, leaving only after Jay’s Treaty was signed. Then American troops moved in to take control.
During the Civil War, more construction of buildings followed, to increase American effectiveness in blocking British military moves to help the Confederacy via Canada.
After the Civil War, the fort was run by Army Company F, 42nd Infantry, which was made up of re-enlisted soldiers who had been wounded.
As the years went by, more modern buildings sprung up on the expansive property, while older buildings fell into creaky shape.
When the United States joined World War 1 in 1917, Fort Ontario was renovated to be a teaching military hospital to train Army medical personnel before they were sent to France.
In 1921, Fort Ontario became an Army infantry base, where the 28th Infantry Regiment was in charge. In 1933, the 28th Infantry was reassigned, and the Second Brigade of the U.S. First Infantry Division made this place their home base.
In June of 1940, this brigade was deactivated. The restoration of the historic buildings began, and a golf course was laid out on the grassy ramparts, which may have resulted in some soldiers rolling over in their graves in the Fort Ontario Cemetery.
Fort Ontario was refurbished and started yet another tour of duty. The original purpose for the sixty new buildings that were built outside the fort was to house newly drafted soldiers, but instead several National Guard anti-airfcraft units were stationed there in 1940.
In 1941, Fort Ontario became a training center for African American Military Police. In 1994, the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter was established, becoming home to nine hundred and eighty two Jewish refugees, until 1946, when they were given the green light to become U.S. citizens. After World War 2, the Army closed the base, but still used its buildings for training the Army Reserve troops.
Veterans and their families were housed here until 1953 in the existing buildings outside the old fort.
In 1970, the fully restored Fort Ontario was opened to the public as a historical museum run by the state of New York. For good measure, it was also added to the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2010, when its funding was going to be cut because of New York state’s budget crisis, there was a huge outcry and the funding was saved. It became a state park. All the other buildings were taken down, leaving acres of green grass surrounding the old restored fort, looking much like it did when it first opened so long ago.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Sudden or unexpected death takes spirits suddenly out of their bodies, a bad surprise indeed! Some spirits don’t realize that they have passed, others don’t accept their death and try to reenter their lives here in this world. They even interact with the living, finding ways to participate in many earthly activities.
USS The Sullivans, NY (The five Sullivan brothers enlisted and served together on the USS Juneau. Being together didn’t save them. As they didn’t accept their deaths, they continued to serve in spirit form on another ship named for them.)
USS Hornet, CA (Apparently, decapitated spectral flight deck crew members, victims of loose plane cables, still report for duty.)
Queen Mary, CA (A captain of the ship accidentally drank poison and has returned as a spirit.)
Fort Ontario, NY (An officer died suddenly in a duel, while other soldiers were suddenly killed during battles and skirmishes.)
Prolonged suffering that leads to a painful death sometimes causes restless spirits.
Fort Pulaski, GA (Confederate soldiers were held here in poor conditions, suffering from disease and lack of food. Some died here before saner minds changed the punitive starvation policy.)
Fort William Henry Museum, NY (Victims of torturous, painful deaths due to a massacre are restless and not in the best of humor.)
Waverly Hills Sanitarium, KY (Patients suffered from TB, often suffocating to death. They have returned – or they never left! – in spectral form.)
Fort Ontario, NY (Lieutenant Basil Dunbar and other soldiers suffered from dreaded diseases like small pox, and died. In bleak periods of the fort’s existence, some soldiers died of starvation, or more commonly died from wounds suffered in battle.)
Horrifying and terrifying deaths cause spirits to look for peace in a favorite place, going back to what they knew and enjoyed, even finding ways to interact with the living.
Edgewood Plantation B&B, VA (Confederate soldiers who died during the Civil War, sometimes in grisly ways, have decided to reside in a place that treated them kindly, and where they can be with buddies as they continue on in their service to the Confederate cause in the afterlife.)
Brumder Mansion, WI (When Chicago mob soldiers closed down the speakeasy in the basement, everyone who worked there was brutally killed because they knew too much. The spirits of the crew still reside in the basement and theatre, finding new jobs to do, remembering the great times they had being together, as well as working through their restlessness.)
Kahler Grand Hotel, MN (A candy heiress was brutally beaten to death by mob thugs, but her spirit chooses to remain in this favorite hotel that she loved while alive, dwelling now on pleasant experiences.)
Fort Ontario, NY (As this fort was destroyed three times, many people died in battles fought in the sieges, as well as from wounds suffered, disease, accidents, and natural causes.)
Passing away before an important goal has been achieved is a cause of restless spirits.
Hunt-Phelan House, TN (A dedicated 19th Century servant is still trying to finish an assigned task after his premature demise.)
Waverly Hills Sanitarium KY (Spirits of TB victims still hope to be cured.)
Moravian College, PA (The spirit of a soldier killed in war is still determined to take the classes he needs to graduate.)
Fort Ontario, NY (Some spirits of soldiers still have a long list of things to do and don’t care if they are in spirit form.)
(Spirits of Jewish refugees who escaped capture or survived the Nazi death camps, but died at Fort Ontario, are still waiting to be resettled in America, not willing to give up their earthly dreams of a new life.)
The spirits who reside here are comfortable with the living and the other spirits, and can appear both day and night, not afraid to make themselves known to staff or fort visitors. Unseen presences also provide auditory cues to announce their presences. In other words, Fort Ontario offers the full paranormal sports package.
The living have experienced disembodied voices from intelligent spirits, and heard footsteps.
The spirits enjoy their own kind of music that the living can also hear.
The crying of a woman in distress has been heard on the second floor of the Officers Quarters 1 building.
The Spirit of a Sargent
He still takes pride in his service here.
This unknown spirit was first reported in 1907 by a new recruit on Guard Duty.
He found out that this apparition had appeared to many others in this duty station, doing what he could to support the living, especially new soldiers.
After Taps was sounded, this spirit opened the Sally Port, carrying a huge musket on his shoulder and a dark lantern in his other hand, to make the last check outside to be sure that the perimeter was secure.
He then does an about-face and takes measured steps back into the Sally Port.
Fort Ontario Museum is closed to the public where he continues today, but perhaps the caretaker or ghost hunters have been him perform this duty.
The Spirit of Lieutenant Basil Dunbar
The British Officer has made many personal appearances.
He wanders around very confused inside the fort, not realizing (or perhaps not wishing to admit) that he was killed in the duel in which he fought.
He may try to fit into the regular routine he had while alive.
He may find some peace having so many other spirits to keep him company.
The Spirit of Corporal Fykes
The spirit of an American Loyalist knows that he died, but is not ready to give up his duties here.
He still does guard duty at the fort, and has a plaque dedicated to him stating that he served in the King’s Royal Regiment of New York, and that he died on November 30th, 1782.
For one hundred years, he made personal appearances in front of men stationed here, perhaps to supervise, encourage and admonish, not caring that these were American soldiers and not British.
Today, he may manage the many spirits of soldiers who are still on duty here.
The Spirit of a Stern Officer
He may be one of the Quartermaster officers who is still trying to catch up on his workload.
He likes to stay in the Officers Quarters 2, where he mainly worked while alive, and apparently still does in spirit form.
He is a brave soul, as he was in life, and is not afraid to contact the living when he has something to stay, or communicate with the living when asked to do so.
He has no patience with living children, and has been known to sternly tell them to leave, as children were not allowed in this building on his watch in life.
Two young girls and a young boy told a volunteer about the mean man who appeared in uniform and barked at them to leave immediately.
They thought he was real, as he appears in a solid form.
Friendly & Benign
A female docent who opens up the buildings in the morning always says, “Hello” to the spirits, and usually gets a, “Hey” back from one or more of them.
A female volunteer felt an unseen presence whisper in her ear, “Hi!”
She once heard a woman humming in Officers Quarters 1, where Jewish refugees had stayed. She knew it was a spirit because she was the only living person in this building.
Personal Appearances of the Duty-Bound
Spirits of military personnel, some wearing red hats, some in American uniforms, are still on duty, following the schedules of their earthly military lives.
See-through apparitions and shadows are seen in the various barracks, eating areas, and outside as well.
Some spirits relive the battles where they died. Spirits are still on duty in the case mates where they met their ends defending the fort.
The living have seen pairs of legs running by.
The Spirit of a Jewish Boy
The spirit of a little Jewish boy has been seen and heard, as he calls his cat in the Officers Quarters 2 building.
Perhaps he wanted to play the hide and seek game, Marco Polo with TAPs members, as they heard a disembodied child’s voice call, “Marco.” Or perhaps he was just telling them his name at a safe distance.
The Spirit of a Jewish Survivor
The spirit of a Jewish woman goes about her everyday chores with the hope that she will have a new life in America. Not willing to accept her death, she still waits in hope for a different outcome.
It is thought that she stays in the Officers Quarters 1 building, as a woman’s apparition has been seen looking out a second floor window onto the courtyard.
A woman is heard crying here as well.
Spirits of perhaps soldiers still guard the perimeter of the cemetery, keeping a close eye on paranormal investigators visiting the graves.
TAPs investigators saw shadow of what they believe to be spirit soldiers running amongst the tree line, watching them.
One investigator felt that they were surrounded by unseen presences.
A spirit child is a friendly presence and wants to play.
Staff, volunteers, visitors and paranormal investigators have had boatloads of personal experiences, both day and night.
Paranormal investigators and people on ghost tours often experience the spirits and catch hard evidence as well of their presence.
Ghost Hunters (TAPs) filmed an episode, “Ghostly Refuge,” shown in Season 8, Episode 17. It proved to be an active night and all teams had experiences with the spirits in all the hotspots, catching some hard evidence to play for the director of Fort Ontario.
The spirits came out to play and watch that they saw as intruders (the investigators!) in the cemetery, while others boldly made themselves known in various Fort Ontario hotspots. For example, investigators Jason and Steve perhaps had direct contact with the stern Quartermaster spirit in the Officers Quarters 2, all caught on EVPs. Through knocks, this spirit told them that he was an American. They heard his heavy footsteps on the second floor as well.
A big Yes Indeed is in order.
The spirits have their reasons for staying in this beloved place, and have long since gotten used to sharing their buildings with the living, as Fort Ontario has been used by many military outfits, and repurposed quite a few times to meet the needs of the Army and its people, as well as the needs of Jewish refugees.
Restless souls do find some peace residing at this fort as they work through what is keeping them here. They can make themselves feel better about their sudden demises, crushed dreams and plans, disappointments and troubles, all of which have made them unhappy and restless. They have nothing to fear, because after all this is a historical museum, and they are part of the history, doing now in the afterlife what they did in their time in life.
1 East 4th Street
Oswego, NY 17120
Fort Ontario Historical site is located on the east side of the Oswego River on high ground that overlooks Lake Ontario.