Although Bert Richards of Dundas, Ontario enjoyed his visit to Old Fort Erie, he felt that the ghost walk did not afford him time to fully investigate the haunted site. With that in mind, he and another person established Beyond Ghosts Canada in 2011.
“Beyond Ghosts Canada was formed at the urging of the organizers of Beyond Ghosts (of Buffalo), which has a long history of organizing public events in western New York. They had heard of many locations in Ontario, and I set about to duplicate their success.”
That success allows people to freely explore haunted sites and gather their own evidence just like the Buffalo group, which offers full evening and even overnight events.
“I was looking for the type of event that afforded sincere people the chance to investigate a location with some freedom for an extended period of time,” he said. “All that I could find were touristy walks with actors and guides telling stories. I wanted something that allowed access to active locations for several hours with the freedom to investigate, alongside those who are serious about finding evidence and having genuine experiences.
Today as sole organizer of the group, he plans up to four events each year at haunted locations in the Hamilton/Niagara region.
“Since I also enjoy organizing special events, having previous worked as the general manager of the Sarnia Highland Games and served as chair of the Amateur Wine Makers of Ontario annual convention, Beyond Ghosts Canada was born.”
While those who attend the events conduct their own investigations, Richards acts as host. Even so, he has had plenty of paranormal experiences over a relatively short time.
“In just three years,” he said, “I've had hundreds of interesting experiences using photography and audio, as well as countless personal experiences from coming eye-to-eye with a Union officer on the Gettysburg battlefield to the spirit of a ghost cat head bumping and rubbing my leg repeatedly at the Custom House in Hamilton.”
He has also heard “heavy boots running across the upper floor of the Firehall Theater in Niagara Falls” and “large shadows tend to appear behind me, as seen by friends” at both the theatre and the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts in Sarnia.
But what has surprised him most of all is that he has become privy to this type of experience.
“I find it intriguing that once you open your mind to this phenomenon, the more you seem to experience,” he said.
Richards said Beyond Ghosts does not investigate hauntings at private homes or businesses, like many other groups do.
“Those inquiries that I've had for homes I refer on to the groups that have that type of experience.” However he added, “If a business wishes to open its doors for an investigation, and didn't expect results such as identifying or removing spirits, then I would be open to possibly organizing such a night, if the claims were genuine.”