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The mummified remains of Victor the Cat | Haunted in Hamilton

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]If you’ve been following my column since the very beginning, you’ll remember that I once listed the perfect recipe for a classically endearing ghost story. It involves a simple tale that ignites with just one rumour, one truth, one experience, one legend, or even one little white lie. A story that, when passed from lips to ears, spindles its way into a fine thread of intricate chaos; a web of words that can change simply by how it’s told, or more significantly, by whom.

Credibility is huge in the world of the paranormal, especially when you’re running a business like mine. The more elaborate and far-fetched a story sounds, the harder it becomes to accept some of the reports as truth.

What happens, however, when these stories come from very reliable sources? And what if you find out that the reports weren’t just based on one person’s personal experience, but rather a collection of multiple reports over the years with everyone describing the exact same thing? It comes to a point where these first-hand, eyewitness accounts start sounding too familiar and maybe just a little too co-incidental.

A perfect tale like this takes place at the Hamilton Armouries, where to this day, members of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry insist it’s haunted.

THE JAMES STREET ARMOURY

Back before Canada had any form of armed forces or military presence, we relied heavily on the British for protection. Before the 1860’s, men would be recruited into a voluntary local militia to defend against potential attacks. The American Civil War had just begun and various Hamilton men crossed the border to join the U.S. Northern Army against the Southern Confederates. This is also when the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry was originally formed in 1862 under order of the Governor General as the 13th Battalion of Voluntary Militia. Isaac Buchanan of Auchmar Estate, who I wrote about in my last column, was the first Commanding Officer.

The John Weir Foote VC Armoury, originally known as the James Street Armoury, was opened in 1908 and built solely by Hamilton men from start to finish. It is believed that there were tunnels under the Armouries that led north to the water and tunnels on the west side of the building, but those were filled in with concrete. Most tunnels under the armouries are no longer accessible but it’s said that there are passages that currently exist in the foundations of the original Gun Shed, which burned down in late 1800’s.

“THE LITTLE CAT OF NO FIXED ADDRESS”

Photo by Stephanie Lechniak
Photo by Stephanie Lechniak

The Hamilton Armoury has seen thousands of soldiers, cadets and civilians through its doors, so it’s no wonder that a building such as this can hold so many spirits. But no spirit as unique (and even a bit bizarre!) endears like that of Victor, the Mummified Cat that haunts the RHLI Museum inside of the building.

The following is an explanation of Victor that is on display in the museum, alongside his preserved remains, and how he came to be known as the building’s famous mummified cat:

In 1887 as the new drill hall neared completion a small grey alley cat cautiously inched his way along planks and up rickety wooden ladders… As the cat neared the upper most section of the drill hall known as the flag tower, he stopped to nibble on left over sandwiches left by the workmen earlier… After consuming the goodies, the little cat of no fixed address squeezed in between the heavy oak floor joists to escape the heat of the summer…

Alas, the workmen approached to finish off the flooring… and poor Victor was locked under the floor, not to reappear for ninety eight years… In the Fall of 1984 members of his regiment saw fit to remove his parched and grey remains to a safer and more dignified location…. True to the motto “Semper paratus” (always ready), this little soldier never left his post in the tower for almost a century…

Poor Victor’s remains were trapped in the heavy oak floorboards for almost one hundred years, but the spirit of this feline phantom lives on within the walls of the Hamilton Armouries. Victor’s ghost has sometimes been seen wandering the dimly lit hallways at night, and on rare occasion, it is said that you can hear a cat’s meow coming from the RHLI Museum too.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Four-legged spirits of another kind are very active at the Hamilton Armouries as well, mostly in the area where the old stables used to be (long since converted to a gun shed for the 11th Field Artillery Regiment).
Some people have heard hooves stamping, harnesses and chains rattling, but most distinctly, the smell of horses in the air. There haven’t been horses in the Armouries for almost 80 years.

According to RHLI Captain Tim Fletcher, a group of RHLI recruits were spending the night in the old stables years ago, when at 3 AM, the officers woke to the startling sound of heavy chains clattering and breathy snarls. The room filled with the smell of hay and horses as they drew their flashlight and shone it into the darkness. They could still hear the sounds shuffling all around them, but the beam from their light revealed nothing in the darkness.

The Armouries are also home to several other spectral figures including two ghostly soldiers who appeared outside on a second floor balcony during a military parade (these same balconies have been locked and closed off for years!) Witnesses got a full view of the two apparitions standing in full uniform, simply watching the parade go by before vanishing into thin air.

Another ghost that is frequently spotted is a soldier dressed in 1882 military uniform, walking down the wrought-iron, spiral staircase that goes up to the third floor offices from the central drill floor.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]CATS IN THE AFTERLIFE

Cats have always projected an air of mystery, and many cultures have some sort of superstitious belief surrounding them. The Egyptians believed that cats were literal incarnations of gods and this heavily influenced many aspects of their writing, artwork and hieroglyphs. They held the cat in such high regard that they gave them proper burials through mummification.

The Egyptian religion taught of life after death. In order to determine a person’s admittance or denial to the afterlife, the gods would ask a series of judgmental questions. One of these crucial questions would be whether they had mistreated any animals during their life on earth. Because of this religious belief, the killing of an animal was considered a serious crime punishable by death.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]There is also a particular area in the building that serves as a museum where artifacts are catalogued and pieces undergoing restoration are housed. It is the location of two strong spirits who don’t take too kindly to strangers. Guests often report odd sounds, subtle voices being whispered and the strange feeling of being watched.

These are only a handful of the reported ghost stories from the Armouries. Over the past decade of running Haunted Hamilton many paranormal inquiries have come in, mostly by cadets, asking if the Armouries is in fact haunted. Keep in mind, these stories all came in from random people who have never met before, but all shared similar experiences.

This is where the credibility aspect comes into play. When you start to see a pattern form in these random experiences, you can’t help but question the existence of the other side just a little differently than you did before.

Unless you’re a hard-core skeptic, nearly everyone has had their own spooky experience, or at least something that has left them wondering if there could be more to life after we die. If you’re someone who has had a definitive moment that sealed-the-deal for you in your paranormal and spiritual beliefs, count yourself lucky. Most of us fall somewhere else in between, often asking ourselves if there really is life after death, and if so, can these two worlds mix, mingle and unite?
The Armouries sit right in the middle of all the wonderful restaurants, shops, cafés and galleries on the James Street North streetscape. The building has stood there for just over one hundred years and has a history that Hamilton can uniquely call its own. The spirits within the walls all have histories too… a stories to tell, and it’s up to us to decide if we want to listen. I can’t think of a better location that provides the perfect backdrop for the ultimate, classic ghost story.

This month’s column is dedicated to my own little kitty, Angel (Angelus), who passed away in our arms on July 17, 2014. He was my beloved cat of 15 years who exceeded his 9 lives… over and over again. 
Rest in peace Mr. Fuzz!

Stay Spooky Hamilton![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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