The Devil’s Punch Bowl on Ridge Road east of Highway 20 in Stoney Creek, (now Hamilton) Ontario is not only a natural environmental wonder but has also been the site of tragedy and death over the years.
This is a beautiful place with a cliff face in the gorge that dates back more than 450 million years. Visitors can clearly see thousands of years of rock strata carved out by glacial waters after the last ice age. Today there is a 37-meter ribbon waterfall. It can be accessed via an escarpment trail, which is maintained by the Hamilton Conservation Authority. This site also offers a stunning view of Stoney Creek and Hamilton Harbour.
But the Devil’s Punch Bowl also has a long history of death, with a number of suicides having taken place there. One legend has it that in the early 1900’s, a woman used to secretly meet her lover at the bottom of the bowl. When he told her he no longer loved her, she went to the cliff at the top and flung herself over the edge to the rocks below. Rumors abound that this woman can be seen wandering aimlessly over the rocks at the bottom of the gorge.
More recently, a 1986 article in the Stoney Creek News noted that a group of school students visiting the gorge on a field trip found the body of a woman who had jumped over the top of the gorge. At about the same time, a young man was found hanging from the railroad tracks near the base of the bowl. Then in 1991, the same paper stated that a 20-year-old fellow leapt to his death from a lookout point.
Back in the early 1900’s, the Devil’s Punch Bowl is said to have played a part in a nearby moon shining business. It is said that the moon shiners, who carried on their business in the nearby forest, would go to the falls when they got thirsty and would bring back pails of cold water. Interestingly, because these men were seen as doing the “devil’s work,” (selling pails of booze) it is believed that is how the punch bowl got its name.
According to a local paranormal investigative group, Hamilton Paranormal, a legend exists that “on dark moonless nights, you can still see the fiery eyes of a phantom moon shiner carrying his pail of booze along Ridge Road.”
Hamilton Paranormal cites yet another death at this site. It seems a scout troop was visiting one day when one of the scouts went off to walk his dog along the edge of the gorge. “And as they were walking along… the hillside gave away, and the boy and his dog fell to their deaths far below.” It is said that the boy’s father was so stricken with grief that he wanted to put up a large cross in memory of his beloved son. This may only be a legend, however.
In December 1966, William Sinclair erected a cross with 106 lights in memory of his father George Sinclair. It was first only lit up at Christmas and Easter. However since 1991, the 10-metre high steel cross can be seen as a beacon of hope every night across Stoney Creek and a large part of the City of Hamilton.
As an interesting side note, the Devil’s Punch Bowl has been used as the site of a number of television shows and movies. For example in 1989, Super Dave Osborne, known for his wild and wacky antics, performed “an atomic yo-yo stunt” there. The movie Silent Hill directed by Christophe Gans was partially filmed at the site too. It featured a young girl, who tried to jump from the cliff “into a dark world of fire and metal.” As well, the film The Big Hit of 1998 spotlights the Devil’s Punch Bowl and surrounding area.
Hamilton Paranormal – Read about the group’s investigation of the Devil’s Punch Bowl and see the amazing photos they captured that night.