Dark Hours and Museum Ghost Stories

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

In late September, the OM was excited to welcome long time partners Ben Stacey and Paul Silliphant who were filming a TV show for Bell Fibe called Dark Hours. We have partnered with Ben & Paul in the past with their group Proo{f} for paranormal investigations at the Museum, and when we were asked to share museum ghost stories for the TV show, of course we said yes!

‘Is the Museum haunted?’ is, without a doubt, one of our most frequently asked questions. Everyone has their own answer to this question, and for several years, we invited guests to discover for themselves when we have investigative events in partnership with Proo{f}. We had asked Visitor Hosts, past and present, to share their ghost stories.

In my almost 11 years at the Oshawa Museum, I can’t say I’ve had many paranormal experiences. However, there is one experience I cannot explain. My first September at the Museum, I was very uncomfortable inside the Henry House Study. I have no idea why, but when I was closing the houses at the end of each day, all I knew is that I needed to be in and out of that room as soon as possible. I didn’t really think much of it (perhaps it’s because the room gets super dark once the blinds are drawn, maybe it’s my imagination running wild), until I was talking to Victoria, another team member, and she was having the exact same discomfort in the Study. She said she felt like she had to say good night to Thomas Henry as she passed his portrait. The uneasy feeling didn’t last longer than a few weeks, and it was very strange indeed that we both had those same feelings. Did I mention that Thomas died during the month of September?

You can read about other staff member’s experiences on the OM Blog:

Ghostly Stories from our Visitor Hosts, Part 1

It is a commonly asked of our Visitors Hosts: Are the Museum buildings haunted? Guests are quick to relay the stories they have heard, and they are seeking confirmation that there might be spirits who call the museum their home. On September 26, we are selling tickets to an evening with Proo(f).  Join the paranormal…

Ghostly Stories from our Visitor Hosts, Part 2

It is a commonly asked of our Visitors Hosts: Are the Museum buildings haunted? Guests are quick to relay the stories they have heard, and they are seeking confirmation that there might be spirits who call the museum their home. Tomorrow night, the paranormal research team Proo{f} will host an interactive presentation at the Oshawa Museum about ghosts,…

Be sure to tune into Bell FibeTV1 to catch Dark Hours!

Our October Tea & Talk from Home looks at Museum Ghost Stories & Victorian Mourning traditions! It’s not too late to book your virtual ticket! https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/171150705367

The Month That Was – June 1873

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

June 4, 1873, page 2

The Female Seminary

The liberal bonus system lately inaugurated by the Municipality of Oshawa has had the effect of bringing to its notice a variety of enterprises. Among the more recent may be mentioned a project for the establishment of an institution to be called the “Ontario Female College.” Judging from present movements, this embryo, like an addled egg, is puzzling the generative powers of its foster parent. A new idea, therefore, to being about, if possible, its final development is soon about to be adopted. We learn from various sources that an appeal to the County Council will be made the current session for aid to enable Mr. Demill to chip his egg and set his pet on foot. Our present High Schools, and for which the County Council make large annual grants, are adapted and competent to furnish to both sexes a good English Education, and if desirable a classable education also; then why, it may be reasonably asked, should the County Council be expected to duplicate the provisions they are already making from year to year? The chief argument advanced in favor of the proposed institution, is that it is intended in its management to adopt a course of domestic training – in other words a system of instruction is to be employed which will result, it is expected, in “orthodox (?) housewifery.” It is also argued that it will afford cheap instruction. The teachers this institution will employ it is stated can be had at a salary varying from $100 to $150, and according to an extract copied by the Vindicator of last week, from a Rochester paper, even as low as $70. Now we would ask any class of educationalists their opinion as to the merits of an institution conducted by teachers at the above figures? What, we ask, must be the character of the musical instructions imparted by a teacher paid a salary of $70 per year? A lady music teacher, of ordinary note, can have no difficulty as a private teacher in earning from $500 to $600 per year. Will any teacher then, we ask, having the slightest claim to musical ability, give her services at the pittance mentioned? – we think not. If teachers are to be had at the figures claimed, we need have little trouble in judging the nature of the instructions they will be able to impart. The same may be said with regard to those employed at like salaries to teach the languages. Still some make it convenient to argue that an institution conducted upon this Cheap Jack principle will furnish ample provisions for our young ladies to receive a finished (?) education. The salaries of our High School Teachers vary from $800 to $1500, and that of their assistants from $500 to $800. Is it reasonable then to claim that an institution taught by teachers whose salaries vary from $70 to $150 – who, according to the extract published in the Vindicator, come out at the end of the year, $2 24 in debt (according to our calculations $4 24), can afford instructions anything approaching that of our High Schools, or even the poorest of our Public Schools? Teachers engaged at such salaries may do to amuse and infant class, or instruct children in the art of imitating sounds, or enable them to exhibit a series of comical grimaces, but very little tending toward a sensible system of education will be found to result. And the idea of sending a girl at the age of 16 to a public institution  to be taught domestic duties, is something so ridiculous as to be hardly worth talking about…

…In view, therefore, of the facts we have mentioned, we feel that the County Council will only be acting justly and properly in sending the petitioners on behalf of the proposed college to the right-about, and let its friends, if it has any, contribute from their own private pockets to their hearts content.

*NOTE: The question marks in parentheses (?) in the above article were as originally written and not added by the transcriber as unknown marks. The editors, it is believed, were using these to illustrate their points.

4 Jun 1873, page 3

Our neighbour, Mr. Whiting, leaves for England in about two weeks. It is his intention we believe during his tour to visit the Vienna Exposition. The trip will afford an excellent opportunity for relaxation from the active duties consequent upon the large business relations of his firm, and will, we have no doubt, do much for our respected friend towards general health and bodily invigoration.

June 11, 1873, page 2

The grounds in front of the Hat Factory, within the last few days, have been enclosed by a handsome and nicely designed fence.

The Stove foundry is being rapidly pushed to a state of completion. The smoke stack is up and the principle portions of the walls. The boiler is also on the ground and portions of the building is now being roofed.

Dame rumor has it that Mr. TN Gibbs is to have a place in the cabinet of Sir John A Macdonald, and we have good grounds for believing that the Tories have had a political caucus at Whitby; but what the result was we cannot surmise, but suppose they are feeling their way in the event of another election. Reformers to the front! and prepare for the hottest struggle ever yet in South Ontario, under one of the best standard bearers.

June 18, 1873

Torch-Light Procession

At about 9:30 o’clock on Monday evening, Hon. TN Gibbs arrived by train at the Oshawa station. He was there met by two brass bands an Fife and drum and a considerable number of people, chiefly boys who like to hear music. When the procession arrived in the village, Messrs. TN Gibbs, WF Cowan, FW Glenn, and Dr. McGill addressed the assemblage. The procession turned around only one or two streets, very little enthusiasm was manifested, and it struck us that the cheering was somewhat crestfallen for such an occasion. Was it ominous of the result of the elections come? “There is many [  ] slip between the cup and the lip.” “Lochiel, Lochiel, beware the day” when Reformers “meet thee in battle array.” The notes of warning we quote seem a propos, but we would fair not disturb the sweet slumbers of ambition too soon.

18 Jun 1873, page 1

No. 1 Rescue Fire Company has challenged No. 2 Fire Company to a trial of engines. The trial to be made shortly after their annual picnic.

Strawberry Festival

The LADIES OF THE BAPTIST Church intend holding a STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL and PROMENADE CONCERT in Wilson’s Music Hall, on Wednesday next, the 25th inst. when good program will be prepared for the occasion.

Celebrating 60 Years of the Henry House Museum

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

It was fanfare and long lineups that met the official opening of the Henry House Museum on May 21, 1960. It was the opening of the first community museum in Oshawa, and it was the result of the hard work of the founding members of the Oshawa (and District) Historical Society.

File2016 - Opening blog

In the late 1950s, community members became concerned about the condition of Henry House, and this was the impetus to establish the Historical Society in 1957.  That year, alderman Walter Lane had originally proposed the idea of a historical museum for Oshawa. “Such an institution was long overdue in Oshawa…The alderman told council that countless items of historic interest were lost for the future everyday and just thrown away when the older people were dying” (Oshawa Times, May 7, 1957).

Oshawa Historical Society members “had given considerable consideration to transforming the house into a museum of early Oshawa history” (Oshawa Times, December 1, 1958). On March 20, 1959, members of the ODHS received the news that they could use Henry House as a local museum. They would have just over one year to make the house and collection presentable to the public.

Verna Conant shaking hands with the Rt Hon Michael Starr as Hon Bryan Cathcart stands to the side, 21 May 1960

Henry House officially opened as a museum at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday May 21, 1960. Former Oshawa Mayor and Labour Minister Michael Starr was the official ribbon cutter and principle speaker was the Honourable B.L. Cathcart, Minister of Travel and Publicity. Other speakers included Mayor Lyman A. Gifford and MPP, T.D. Thomas. Guests were invited to hear the speakers outside of the house then view the exhibits inside, which included a period parlour, farm implements, and antique uniforms, weapons, books and pictures. Members of the ODHS served as guides through the afternoon and answering questions.

Between May 21 and October 10, 1960 the new museum saw over 1000 visitors pass through its door. “One young boy [visited] the museum every week of the summer, spending 15 cents of his 25 cent per week allowance” (Oshawa This Week, August 21, 1985).


By the end of the decade, the ODHS saw its Museum operation responsibilities double with the opening of the Robinson House Museum, and by the early 1980s, they were operating as the unified Oshawa Sydenham Museum and exploring adding Guy House to the complex, which happened in 1984 and opened in 1985.

Years of operation and thousands of visitors were beginning to take its toll on the home.  In 1988, Henry House was closed for restoration after the second storey was deemed unsafe.  At this time, the entire ground floor was rebuilt and steel structural support beams were added to offer additional support for the second storey.  On July 1, 1989 Henry House was officially reopened, with dignitaries such as Mayor Allan Pilkey, Museum Advisor Allan Barnes from the Ministry of Culture and Communications and Mrs. Mildred Fletcher, the great-granddaughter of Thomas Henry, on hand to cut the ribbon and celebrate this occasion. Also cause for celebration was that the three houses of the museum became the first homes in Oshawa to be designated for their historical importance under the Ontario Heritage Act.

Sept 2018t blog

Since the last major restoration, the focus has shifted towards representing the day-to-day life of the Henry family as accurately as possible. Rooms have been repurposed to reflect how the family would have lived. In its current incarnation, guests now visit a study, parlour, dining room, kitchen, and bedroom, and these rooms change seasonally. Homes today change their decor to reflect the seasons and holidays, and the Henry’s home in the 1800s likely would have as well. The home will also change if it suits the feature exhibition. The best example of this was in 2009 and 2015 for The Mourning After: The Victorian Celebration of Death, when Henry House became a house in mourning; the parlour was exhibited as though a funeral was going to take place, clocks were stopped, mirrors were covered, and crepe was placed at the door to indicate a death had taken place.

029 blog
Mourning After exhibit, 2015

One of the more common questions asked on tour is about the objects on display and what was owned by the family. The house is largely filled with objects that were made in Oshawa or owned by different Oshawa families, but wherever possible, the house is furnished with objects that have provenance associated with the Henry family.  For example, in the study, the first room guests see on tour, the desk belonged to Thomas Henry’s grandson, the settee in the room was his daughter Jennie’s, there is a cup on the desk belonging to Thomas, and the chair behind the desk was his as well.  Some items, like a parasol owned by Frank and Millie Henry, were early donations to the site, while others, like Hortense Henry’s table in the parlour, were donated within the last decade.

Dr FL Henry Desk 005 blog
The study in 2014 – the desk, chair, portrait, and cane (on the back of the chair, far left in image) were all donated by Henry family members.

Sixty years after officially opening its doors, we have temporarily closed for the safety of our staff and visitors during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are not celebrating like we thought we would be, but there are still ways you can experience Henry House in honour of its museum birthday. Our blog archive goes back to 2013, and the handy search bar makes searching easy.

We also have videos on our YouTube channel featuring Henry House – Our Henry House Playlist is a curated list of videos about Henry House or the Henry family: Access it HERE

The Gales of November

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist; this was originally written for the Oshawa Express in 2013

November 2013 was the 100th anniversary of one of the deadliest storms to ever hit Lake Ontario. Early November 1913 saw a storm like no other storm hit the entire Great Lakes area.  Known as the White Hurricane, the storm lasted four days and brought with it deadly snow, ice and freezing temperatures.  When the storm finally ended, approximately 250 people had lost their lives and ships that were supposed to be “unsinkable” had sunk.


William Percy Judge, a resident of Oshawa, wrote about this storm in his memoirs.  The following is Judge’s description of how the White Hurricane affected Oshawa.

I recall the impact of the great storm of November 1913 on Oshawa’s lakefront.  The storm changed the shoreline, ripped up the pier, tore out the bridge where the creek entered the lake, wrecked the boathouse and dock, tore down the Ocean Wave (and) destroyed the sandy bottom and the beach, left gravel in place of sand, tore down most of the trees in the picnic grounds, wrecked tables and benches and broke many windows in the pavilion.  Some waves were as high as the pavilion and water ran across the car tracks and road and into the cat-tail swamp.  I had heard of the storm from the telegraph operator at the Grand Trunk Station.  Before the storm was over, thirteen large ships had been sunk and more than two hundred people had lost their lives.

The morning of the storm, November 7, gave no indication of the terrible weather to come.  It was apparently, a beautiful warm, in fact unusually warm, and windy day.  However, an Arctic blast of extremely cold air was about to collide with the warmth of the Great Lakes.  In his memoirs, Judge provides an explanation for the terrible turn in the weather.

Lake Ontario is the smallest of the Great Lakes but is very deep.  In the center (sic), the bottom is almost five hundred feet below sea level and because of this, much of the same water could remain near the bottom of the lake.  The current carries the water on top over it like a river.  Because of its depth, it takes a longer time and really big blow to cause Lake Ontario to go mad.  The conditions were right – so, mad she got.

The storm that so battered the Great Lakes concluded with blue skies and temperatures so warm that all of the snow melted by the end of the week.

Street Name Stories – Normandy Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

May 8 is the 75th anniversary of VE Day, the end of World War II in Europe. WWII lasted from 1939-1945; approximately 1,159,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders served, and the number of deaths totaled 44,090¹.  Looking locally, WWII impacted our community with 177 Oshawa residents who died during the conflict, while thousands more enlisted, served, were part of the ordinance corps, or did their part by working on the homefront.


VE Day was not the end of World War II, which continued until September 1945 when the official terms of surrender were signed with Japan, however, VE Day was widely celebrated in the community.  As described by Oshawa resident Murray McKay, “That was a celebration. You wouldn’t believe it. People were dancing in the street downtown Oshawa.”

Photo Credit: Oshawa Times- Gazette, Canada, Oshawa Community Archives


There were several complex campaigns of WWII taking place in theatres all over the globe; one of the best known was the invasion of Normandy in June 1944.  This co-ordinated attack by the Allied partners was intended to re-establish an Allied presence in Western Europe, and Canada was a full partner in the invasion.  The objectives of D-Day, 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings, were to take five beaches, and capturing Juno Beach was the responsibility of the Canadians, under the command of General Harry Crerar.  This victory wasn’t without cost; according to the Canadian War Museum, 14,000 Canadians were part of the Allied Troops at the Normandy invasion, and on D-Day, Canadians suffered 1074 casualties, while 359 were killed.²  The campaign lasted 10 weeks, and the casualty list grew to more than 18,000 casualties, 5000 of them fatal, and this number is just representative of the Canadians. There were substantial losses on all sides. It represented a turning point in the war – opening up the western front, leaving the German forces to defend to the west and east, but it was not without cost of life.  By September, the Normandy campaign, known as Operation Overlord, was over, and just over eight months later, Victory in Europe was being celebrated.

Normandy (2)

Normandy Street is found north of Highway 401, west of Wilson and east of Ritson, along with Dunkirk Avenue, Dieppe Avenue, Sedan Court, Brest Court, and Crerar Street, all of which are related to the Second World War, be it battle sites or after General Harry Crerar. In terms of dating the street, due to emergency orders, access to the directories at the archives is challenging.  Thankfully, our friends at the Oshawa Library have digitized a number of City Directories, helping me with this research!   The 1955 Directory lists Normandy Street, but also notes that it is ‘Not Built On,’ and the same listing appears in the years 1957 to 1961.  This suggests this street dates to the mid 1950s with development taking place in the early 1960s.

  1. https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/military-heritage/second-world-war/second-world-war-dead-1939-1947/Pages/files-second-war-dead.aspx
  2. https://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/chrono/1931d_day_e.html
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