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Ghost of construction worker said to work overtime at Trent Severn Canal lock in Peterborough, Ontario

Kelly Lapointe
Ghost of construction worker said to work overtime at Trent Severn Canal lock in Peterborough, Ontario
The Peterborough Lift Lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway has been in operation for over 100 years.

One construction worker has spent his afterlife wandering the site of his last job.

staff writer

One construction worker has spent his afterlife wandering the site of his last job.

According to local lore, one worker was entombed in the Peterborough Lift Lock as cement was poured into the middle of the structure’s three pillars.

“The way the story’s been told to me is that a worker accidentally fell into the middle pillar. If you’re falling in at that type of height, there’d be no way you could get that person back out,” explained Diane Robnik, assistant archivist at the Trent Valley Archives, adding that she’s never been able to confirm the story but it is a common tale.

The worker has been making his presence known ever since.

A few years ago, one of the lift lock workers was 70 feet underground working off one of the tunnels. When he returned to the waiting elevator, which cannot be called up when it’s underground, he found a pair of hip waders standing straight up. He pushed the boots to the side, assuming it was his two coworkers playing a practical joke on him, but when confronted, they had no idea what he was talking about.

He went back down to the boots and tried for the next hour to stand the boots up like he had seen, said Robnik. But he couldn’t get them to stand up, they always folded over.

The Peterborough Lift Lock on the Trent-Severn Waterway has been in operation for over 100 years.

Men work to construct the Peterborough Lift Lock in 1901. It is now considered one of the most haunted areas of the city.

“He was getting really, really anxious trying to make them stand up, realizing that it was probably a person that was there that close to him. He said the way the boots were standing, they weren’t facing towards him, and they were slightly apart like feet would be. He was quite disturbed that he had come that close to it before,” she said.

Workers began digging the Trent Severn canals in the early 1890s. The main work on the lift lock was from 1900-1904. Engineer R.B. Rogers wanted to construct a lift lock like those in Europe, as opposed to the one in Ottawa with a series of locks.

There was one confirmed death in 1903 when three workers were painting the bays that the boats go up and down on. The scaffolding became unstable and two of the painters jumped to safety while the third jumped to the opposite side, plummeting 60 feet and died instantly.

“Where he fell is right down by that [middle] pillar. There’s the potential of two people dying right near that same spot,” said Robnik.

The canals were always an area that had a high suicide rate as well.

“Quite a few people drowned themselves in those canals. When they had the psychic out, he was getting a lot of feelings of death around the whole site, not just tied to the lift lock.”

The majority of work on the lift lock is conducted between midnight and 5 a.m. so as not to disrupt boaters. Combined with the constantly dripping underground tunnels, that have stalagmites from their ceilings, it creates a creepy, tense atmosphere, described Robnik.

Lift lock workers say they experience unusual activity about once a week. Many reports have workers hearing the footsteps echoing through the structure and when they go to investigate, there are clear wet footprints. Sometimes leading to the middle pillar.

A lot of the equipment used today is from the original construction. There was one wrench that would take all of a worker’s strength just to lift. Once “they were all sitting there having lunch, and that wrench just flew off the table<0x2026>and they all watched it clang to the ground,” said Robnik.

There’s just absolutely no explanation for many of the happenings around the lift lock. There have been times when the workers have packed up and gone home early because they were scared, said Robnik.

“Anything can happen at any time, it’s always going to be something completely unexplainable.”

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