Trish Crowe-Grande


It is that time of year when the leaves change colour, pumpkins and fall mums appear on porches and there is a crisp coolness in the air.  If you have taken any walks in your local neighbourhood or drives around town, you may have noticed that houses are starting to take on that eerie sensation.  People are starting to decorate their homes for Hallowe’en in anticipation of little ghosts and goblins out and about on October 31st, shouting out “trick-or-treat”!  The Halloween spirit is on display.

Did you know there are rumours that have been swirling around Orillia and surrounding area for decades about the supernatural nature of some local buildings, in and about town, as well as the beautiful St. Columbkille’s Church in Uptergrove.  It is said, that once the sun goes down, the church transforms from beautiful to spine-chilling in an instant.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be ‘Hallowe’en Eve’ to bring out the phantoms, according to urban legends. 

In 1855, Irish and Scottish Catholic immigrants founded St. Columbkille Parish, located in the hamlet of Uptergrove.  It was the first Catholic parish in the area. The original frame church was torn down and the present brick edifice was constructed in 1905.  This beautiful Gothic structure stands majestically on a hill far back from the road and can easily be viewed by all when driving on Highway 12 east from Orillia.

It was the parishioners over a hundred years ago who began spreading ghostly tales that the church was haunted and these tales have been circulated ever since.  Today the church is deemed haunted by some local residents.  There have been accounts of ghost sightings, shadowy figures that will suddenly appear, creaking doors and eerie music that will waft down from the organ loft. 

The burial vault has been known to creak and blow open on cold, windy days. These reports, along with a rectory that has stood empty for over 100 years, and a graveyard holding both the original settlers and dotted with unknown graves, has created a rich folklore of a supernatural nature in an otherwise quiet country parish. 

There have also been numerous reports of shadowy sightings of a figure wearing a black hat that floats through the choir area, creating chills for those who had observed.  Mysterious candlelight has been seen flickering from the windows on stormy nights.  Many believe the spirit responsible is that of a former priest, who, according to legend pledged to complete a specific number of sermons, died before he was able to attain that number.  Now, some parishioners say he is returning to fulfill that promise.

Some present-day parishioners feel the church’s haunted reputation is a result of Irish descendants who were simply great storytellers that wanted to create their own legend.  However, in the spirit of good fun, parishioners have included several ghost stories in their published history celebrating their 150th jubilee.  

Whether the legends are real or a result of over-active imaginations, the ghost of St. Columbkille’s has created a rich folklore of the supernatural and added a unique character to this otherwise quiet, quaint country church.

If you’d like to learn about some of the eerie happenings within Orillia’s downtown, join OMAH on Friday October 29 between 5 and 9pm for “Spooky Stroll,” a one-hour guided walk between the museum and the Opera House. Click HERE to register. 


SF9 #46, St Columbkille Roman Catholic Church: Is it Haunted?  

“Haunted Simcoe” by Coady Fitzgerald. October 27, 2020

“Divine Ghost Stories” by Elizabeth Shearer. October 30 2006

Simcoe County has Haunted Past.  October 29, 2009

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