What is now a popular seafood restaurant on Canada’s East Coast used to be a school, a warehouse and even a funeral home. The popular restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia is called: The Five Fishermen Restaurant. This restaurant is said to have a lot of paranormal activity and there are a ton of restless spirits lingering in it. For a building that is approximately 200 years old and has played a role in some of the greatest human tragedies of the twentieth century, it is not a wonder why people believe this restaurant to be haunted.
The building that now holds The Five Fishermen Restaurant is located on Argyle Street in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was first used as a school – The National School. The school opened its doors in 1818 by parishioners of Saint Paul’s Anglican Church. The most interesting aspect of this school was that it was the first school in Canada to offer free accessible education. The parishioners put an emphasis on teaching religion and giving education to poor children in the area. It was not long before the school could not keep up with the growing population and the number of children being enrolled. The school moved into Dalhousie College and the building is said to have been bought by Anna Leonowens.
This is where the history of this building begins to get a bit hazy. It is said that Anna Leonowens bought the building in 1903 for her school of arts and stayed there for 54 years. However, this would contradict the story that it was a funeral parlour in the early 1900s. All the sources point to Leonowens’ having purchased the building but there are no concrete dates, so it will be included in this, although highlighted that there are some issues with this part of the story.
Anna Leonowens was the former tutor to the King of Siam. She is widely known, not just in Canada, for her ability in the arts. She bought the old National School and turned it into The Halifax Victorian School of Art. It was incredibly popular and had to move when it became a part of The Nova Scotia College of Art. Or possibly before that. The history of this art school is particularly unclear during this time.
It is known that after The Halifax Victorian School of Art moved, John Snow and his family purchased the building a turned it into a funeral home – The John Snow and Company Funeral Home. This parlor had a significant role in two great human travesties of the time: the sinking of the Titanic and the Halifax Explosion. It was April 1912 when the Titanic hit an iceberg and went down. While many ships had tried to save the bodies of those who perished, many third class passengers and crew members were not brought back to shore, they were put back into the sea because of the lack of embalming materials. It was only really the rich who made it to John Snow’s Funeral Home to be prepared for funeral services and only about fifty-nine actually made it back to their families to be buried. Those who were brought to Halifax and could not be identified, approximately 129, were buried in the Fairview Lawn Cemetery.
It was 1917 and the First World War was raging in Europe. Halifax, being a port city, was a major port for the war. Troops, supplies and munitions would be shipped from Halifax over to Europe. It was a busy time in the ports of Halifax. In the morning of 6 December 1917 two ships, the Norwegian Imo and the French Mont Blanc collided. The Mont Blanc was filled with highly explosive munitions: pitric acid, TNT, high octane gasoline and gun cotton. The pitric acid set ablaze instantly and the crew abandoned ship. They tried to warn people but onlookers just began to crowd. The Halifax Fire Department was quick to respond but it was too late. The Mont Blanc exploded.
1, 800 people were killed. 9, 000 people were injured, 200 of them blinded. Almost all of the northern part of Halifax was destroyed. The sound blast could be heard miles away. John Snow’s funeral parlour’s windows shattered, but the company stayed opened. They conducted the funeral services for those who had died in the explosion. They did approximately thirty to forty funeral services a day and coffins were piled high outside their parlor. It is said that after this disaster, the ghost stories really began.
In 1975, The Five Fishermen Restaurant opened and there have been no shortages of hauntings in the restaurant. In fact, it is said to have a high amount of activity. Glasses will fly off shelves, cutlery will fall off tables, sinks will turn on by themselves and the swinging doors to the kitchen open and close by themselves. There are cold pockets in the air and people feel ghosts moving through them. Some employees or late night guests hear voices and their names being called.
There have been sightings of apparitions. Once an employee saw just a grey mist in the form of a person floating towards her, she did not stay long to find out what it was. The second was a full body apparition of a man. The employees thought he was a customer and went to help but he vanished before their eyes.
In the restaurant there is always tapping and crashing noises that the employees have mostly gotten used to. Sometimes there are things you just cannot get used to and that is physically being touched by a ghost. An employed had reported being touched on the shoulder by a ghost but when they looked around no one was there. Another reported being brushed on the cheek by something. When she went to serve a table they asked who had slapped her as she had a red handprint on her face where something had brushed her cheek. Confused, she said no one had slapped her, no one had actually even touched her. These are just a few tales from The Five Fishermen Restaurant.
What had begun as a school is now considered one of the most haunted restaurants in all of Canada. Considering it had been a funeral home to two devastating events, especially the Halifax Explosion where almost all of the victims were dealt with by The John Snow and Co. Funeral Home alone. The sudden accidents and deaths linger on in the area, and inside the restaurant. While it is said that the most activity happened before and after during the open hours, there are times when both customers and employees witness the hauntings of The Five Fishermen Restaurant.
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