It’s hard to imagine a more unfitting location for a haunted hotel. For a haunted anything really. The Prince George Hotel is located on the water-front ‘Ontario Street’ in the lovely city of Kingston, Ontario. Flanked on either side by beautiful limestone buildings and facing the very green Confederation Park and, what must be, the very expensive Kingston Marina.
Yes, this part of town is the very definition of a tourist trap. A very in-your-face purse-grab designed to get you on the Thousand Island Boat tour and the trolley-around-town tour. Good on them I say. It’s a damn good trap and as pretty a waterfront as any town I’ve been to.
The Prince George Hotel feels right at home in the middle of it all. Its limestone walls still gorgeous with its white and black accents well cared for. In the warmth and brightness of a sprawling summer day, surrounded by hundreds of scurrying tourists, a big beautiful blue sky up above, it’s hard to picture the hotels tragic past. And, again, not at all as haunted.
Look a little longer though and you start to get it. Spend time there, any time at all, and you start to feel something. It’s not the lingering threat you sometimes get from a haunted place – it’s definitely not anything like that. There’s a weight to the building. A presence to the PLACE. Not in the sense of a “spirit” or an “entity” being there but the building itself, the location. It emanates… Something.
There’s a moment when it dawns on you. You walk around the hotel, take your pictures, go inside, talk to people, visit the rooms and then, all of a sudden, there, it’s right there. You can swear, absolutely swear, that the building is aware. It’s listening. Watching. Paying attention to you. To everyone.
Maybe the strangest part of it all is that it makes sense. That gut feeling that the building itself is self-aware just sort of fits. You notice it and then, like the far-off smell of a field, it just IS.
If you’re anything like me, that’s when you grin from ear to ear and think to yourself: “ohhh boy, this place is great.”
The Haunts and Times of The Prince George Hotel.
We can wax poetical all we want but we’re here for the haunts and haunted the Prince George Hotel is.
While the sign we see outside reads “est. 1809”, the building as we see it now didn’t exist until 1892. Before that the location was a series of separate limestone buildings. It was mostly warehouse space but also included retail locations and an inn with a residence.
The Inn and residence was founded by the prominent Herchmers family. There were some deaths, then some sales, but eventually the property ended up in the hands of Charles Herchmers and his young family, which included Lily Herchmers, some time in the early 1820s.
They say that Lily was a willful young woman. As the story goes, she enjoyed hanging around the docks and mixing it up with the sailors and gamblers who were passing through town.
Eventually Lily fell in love with one of those sailors but, being from a prominent family, her parents didn’t approve of her slumming it with the blue-collar types. Lily was kept from meeting with her love as soon as her father was made aware of the affair. To get around this Lily would hang a lantern in her window to signal her love that she was home and waiting. Whenever he would sail into town he would make his way up to her room undoubtedly for some wholesome one-on-one bible-reading time.
You probably have a good idea where this is going.
One night, with a lantern lighting her window, Lily’s sailor came to visit. There was an argument when her father discovered them together and a fire broke out. Sadly, Lily died that night.
Incensed and driven mad her father had the young man executed. Then, he did something no one has ever been able to explain. From that point on everyone was forbidden to talk of Lily ever again. Public records of her were destroyed, schools she attended were told to forget her, family members were ordered to deny she was ever alive. The Herchmers effectively erased her from existence.
There’s no easy explanation on why the Herchmers did this. Maybe it was to avoid legal issues, maybe it was the sheer public embarrassment of it all or maybe they were just bad people. Either way, Charles, nor anyone from the Herchmers family, ever gave any sort of explanation.
The haunting of the Prince George Hotel began shortly after Lily’s death. It started with guests of the Inn reporting strange noises. Objects would be moved, footsteps late at night and paintings would fall from the walls. That sort of thing. Some guests would report the smell of smoke and fire coming from behind closed doors but, of course, everything would be fine when they would investigate.
As the years went by people started to see the ghostly apparition of a young woman wandering the inn. She would be seen making her way through the hallways upstairs, the staircase, the main floor and the many rooms of the residence. The staff who worked in both the Inn and the residence saw the ghost so often that they could now easily identify her. This was the spirit of Lily Herchmers.
Lily wasn’t all harmless noises, practical jokes and innocent appearances though. Over the years there’s been 9 serious fires at the Prince George Hotel and the adjacent buildings. Only half of those fires were readily explainable. More than a few people believe that Lily was the one who started some of those fires. To this day, staff who work in any of the pubs that occupy the bottom floor, or elsewhere in the buildings, are told to watch over open flames. Just in case.
Now days things have quieted down for Lily. The Prince George Hotel isn’t really a hotel anymore, recently replaced by expensive lofts and upper apartments. Residence have no interest in speaking about anything they may have seen and there’s even talk of a non-disclosure agreement that’s required if you live on the property. The bottom floor has 3 “authentic” style pubs and a lot of the long-time staff have been replaced with young and attractive, hardworking college students just trying to make an honest buck.
There’s even a haunted tour right there in the lobby that will take you around Kingston and give you a bit of info on everything but tell you practically nothing. Par for the course with these types of tours. Don’t get me wrong, take the damn tour, it’s fun, but don’t expect a deep dive.
It’s been reported that Lily isn’t the only spirit hanging around the Prince George Hotel. Over the years people have reported seeing two spirits chilling together in the pubs downstairs. They say the pair look like merchant sailors and are apparently there for the party.
The mystery of Lily Herchmers will always be the main show though. From the outwardly bizarre behavior of her family after her death to the sheer amount of reports of her ghost, this remains one of Kingstons best haunted locations. If not one of the best in all of Canada.
My recommendation though, don’t take our word for it. Go spend time there, get close to the building and I’m convinced, like me, you’ll feel it too.