- William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming
One of the great things about Niagara-On-The-Lake is that nearly every building has a story and nearly every story inevitably leads to a ghost story. 240 Centre St. is no exception, but while most haunted sites in N-O-T-L are simply a venue for ghostly apparitions, this place is a ghostly apparition. I don't know if this house actually is haunted, but it sure looks and feels like it.
Located at the southeast corner of Centre and Mississagua [sic] Streets in Niagara-On-The-Lake's historic Old Town and facing the Presbyterian Church cemetery across the street, 240 Centre St. stands out amongst the other houses around it by not standing out at all.
Whereas most other buildings in N-O-T-L have been maintained or restored to a pristine appearance, the house at 240 Centre St. is conspicuously run-down, while surrounding trees and underbrush cloak it's street-front sides, making the building almost invisible to passing motorists and pedestrians.
Much like the house itself, information on its history is very hard to find. According to page 35 of the 2004 Niagara-On-The-Lake Visitor's Guide, the building, known as the Breakenridge-Ure House, was built circa 1823 and was the third brick house built by John Breakenridge, a well-known Niagara lawyer. When Breakenridge died in 1828, the house was used as a school by his widow through the 1830s.
Even while standing directly in front of the building's corner, it manages to completely hide from view.
The way the tree's branches all seem to bend to create a screen of foliage around the building is really eerie.
Even where it is possible to see through the brush to the walls behind, not much is revealed besides brick and boards.
This was an interesting find. The entire house is securely boarded to prevent trespassers from entering. Every door and window was sealed up tight except the one second story rear window with a small open slot at the top. The tree's branch seems to reach right up and touch that very spot. Which begs the question, what's coming and going through that hole and how on earth did the tree manage to grow directly towards it? Probably better not to ask . . .
Around back is the barn and a covered well and further along behind that is a tiny (yet thickly overgrown) forest.
Coming back around to the front of the house, I noticed a peephole had been punched through the boards covering the door . . .
Niki dared me to peek in, but there was no way I was putting my eye up against that hole, so I did one better by simply placing the camera over it. Once the camera lens covered the hole entirely, the viewfinder focused to reveal this creepy staircase lit from above (I'm guessing from that one rear window that was slightly open).
Looking at the viewfinder, I felt a chill run down my spine as I was reminded of a line from Stephen King's third Dark Tower novel, The Waste Lands:
"All is silent in the halls of the dead . . . All is forgotten in the stone halls of the dead. Behold the stairways which stand in darkness; behold the rooms of ruin. These are the halls of the dead where the spiders spin and the great circuits fall quiet, one by one."
After that, we decided we'd had enough of these rooms of ruin and quickly headed back to the car and went straight home before it got dark!
Online information about the Breakenridge-Ure House is scarce, but if you'd like to see more, there are a few pictures to be found at the Right In Niagara blog and Flickr.
- ▼ October (10)