Restaurants are great places to hunt for ghosts. When I was taking a course in mediumship in 2010, our teacher, Doreen Virtue, explained to us that some spirits like to hang out in places where people are indulging in or enjoying the things that the spirits used to enjoy. Eating and drinking are common pleasures, so restaurants and pubs are frequently haunted. The Old Bank Bistro in Fort Erie, Ontario, is one such establishment.
History of The Old Bank Bistro
The town of Fort Erie sits in one of the most haunted regions in Ontario. Old Fort Erie was the site of one of the bloodiest battles during the War of 1812, and Bridgeburg, where the Old Bank Bistro is located, is the oldest part of Fort Erie. The entire Niagara region has a haunted past and it is difficult to go anywhere in Fort Erie without rubbing shoulders with the ghosts of days gone by.
The Old Bank Bistro, located at 41 Jarvis St., takes its name from its origin as an actual bank. Built as the Stirling Bank in 1924 by Richard Baxter, who died in 1926, Baxter sold the bank to the Bank of Montreal. Present owner Peter Koutroulakis bought and renovated the building, opening the Bistro in 2004. Koutroulakis has found that, while the original owner may have sold the bank, he never left it.
Mischievous Ghost or Angry Tenant?
When I visited the Old Bank Bistro for an investigation on April 23, 2011, with the Paranormal Investigation Society of Toronto (PIST), we found an active site with a fascinating history and probably more than one ghost.
A tenant living above the restaurant reports activity in his unit. Restaurant patrons tell stories of encounters with Richard, but he is described by Koutroulakis as a friendly ghost. Certain parts of the restaurant have cold spots or can give you the feeling that someone you can’t see is nearby. The women’s washroom was one of the places where a couple of investigators (myself included) felt there was something to investigate. One of the women taking readings with an EMF meter said it was showing evidence of activity, though there was no proof that it was related to spirit activity.
The Old Bank Bistro Investigation Meetup page describes incidents attributed to the Bistro ghost that would be considered attention-getting but mostly harmless: “Richard has been known to open large heavy doors, turn on the stoves, slam cupboard doors, and even move the Christmas tree across the attached apartment floor. He is often seen waiting in the lounge area, observing the patrons before vanishing from view” (Accessed January 25, 2013). The one activity that could be considered dangerous is turning on stoves. But so far, no harm has come from any of the activity there.
Go for the Ghost, Stay for the Food
One of the advantages of investigating a restaurant or pub is that at some point, you can eat. We had dinner at The Old Bank Bistro and it was worth driving to Fort Erie just for the food alone. They serve steak, seafood, and Italian dishes, all of which look and smell wonderful. The only problem for me was that when I’m doing an investigation, I prefer to eat vegan, and the menu did not list any vegan dishes. But the waitress assured me that this would not be a problem. They were able to create a delicious vegan pasta dish for me that I enjoyed thoroughly.
While I didn’t get to meet Richard Baxter that night, I did get the sense that there was spirit activity there. The restaurant’s décor consists primarily of pieces from the early 1900s, and with the lights off for the investigation, it made me feel as though I might have stepped back in time, not as though Richard Baxter has stepped forward. If you are ever in the area, stop by The Old Bank Bistro and have a meal. Perhaps Richard Baxter will join you.
Image: The Old Bank Bistro in Fort Erie, Ontario Courtesy of Bob Tobin
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