Cemetery Tours in Ontario

It’s my favorite time of year again, October! I love crisp sweater weather and crunchy leaves on the ground. Dead leaves are one of my absolute favorite smells. It’s also the best time for leaf peeping, and of course, visiting cemeteries. 

This is also the time that you will see Cemetery Tours being advertised. The gorgeous fall colors are a lovely contrast to the beautiful grey tombstones. Cemetery Tours are a great opportunity to photograph a new cemetery, learn about local history and take a nice cemetery stroll. You may even hear a ghost story or two.

Cemetery Tours are usually put on by local Museums or Historical Groups. The tour guide will lead you through the cemetery, explaining the history of the place as well as highlighting the stories of historical figures buried within it. Sometimes they will also talk about famous and infamous graves. Some tours have guides that dress up and use a lantern to light the way, while other tours have actors dressed in period clothing that will tell the life stories from the deceased’s graveside. Some tours are self-guided. On this type of tour, you will be provided with a map with points of interest marked on it. You can do these tours at your own pace. 

I love cemetery tours! You can learn a lot about the history of your local cemeteries, and notable graves and may even learn some obscure trivia along the way. It’s also lots of fun to meet people with similar interests on these tours. 

So for today’s blog post, I wanted to share some Cemetery Tours that are happening this fall in Ontario.

Fergus: Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge (Poorhouse) Cemetery Tour

October 21, 22, 28 and 29 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.

$15 +HST a ticket

It’s that time of the year where everyone loves hearing scary stories, but real history holds some of the scariest and unnerving stories. Join us as we take a trip through the real history of the House of Industry and Refuge and explore some of the more unsettling stories of inmates and staff that called this place home.

The Museum which is housed in the Old Poorhouse building still looks after the graves and these tours are an opportunity to tell the stories of those that lived, died, and still remain on the site.

Enjoy a lantern lit tour of the Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge (or Poorhouse) Cemetery. Between 1877-1947 the building was the Wellington County Poorhouse and over 600 people died on site during those years. Those that had no family or friends to claim their body were buried here, and 271 burials took place over those years.

Please be aware there are no accessibility routes for this tour. This tour is designed for a 14+ audience.

Tours begin at 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm on the front steps of the Wellington County Museum. 

Grimsby: Queen’s Lawn Cemetery Tour

Tour Queen’s Lawn Cemetery by lantern light and hear true eerie stories of past Grimsby residents.
3 tour dates available:

  • Wednesday, October 5 at 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 12 at 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, October 19 at 7 p.m.

Pre-registration is required and limited space is available. Groups are kept small to ensure a quality tour. Tours are approximately 1 to 1.5 hours and are recommended for ages 12+.

Tours will be held rain or shine. The tour will be canceled in the case of extreme weather and refunds will be sent if the museum does have to cancel.

Please contact the Grimsby Museum for any questions you may have at museum-public@grimsby.ca or 905-945-5292. *This event is subject to a minimum registration.

Hamilton: Stories in the Stones

The Stories in the Stones Tours tell fascinating stories through free guided walking tours at Hamilton Cemetery each Saturday between May to November.

Local historian and storyteller Robin McKee guides you through historic Hamilton Cemetery with various themed tours he has created. Themed tours will include early settlers such as Robert Land and George Hamilton, victims of the Desjardins Railway Disaster.

Tours start at 11 a.m. at the Cemetery Gatehouse (777 York Blvd.) across from Dundurn Castle and run for approximately 1.5 hours. Tours take place rain or shine and tours and dates are subject to change.

They also offer a History Unearthed historical walking tour.

Kenora: Lake of the Woods Cemetery Walking Tour

$11.62 per person

Come and explore the dark side of Kenora’s past in the largest graveyard in Northern Ontario— the Lake of the Woods Cemetery.

The tour looks at Kenora’s history through the lens of true crime tales, and murder mysteries, the Ontario-Manitoba border war, sickness and disease, and one of the most famous (and grisliest) bank robberies in Canadian history. These true stories of real people combine to give a history of Kenora like you’ve never heard before.

We’ll explore these topics and more on this guided tour in Kenora’s silent city of the dead.

London: Mount Pleasant Cemetery Tour

Takes place on Saturday, October 8 and Sunday, October 9.

1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. start times. $15 / person

Join us at the historic Mount Pleasant Cemetery for a tour diving into the history of the cemetery’s architecture and the unique ecosystem that make the grounds beautiful and serene. Learn details about the culture of death during the Victorian era, and the art and architecture carved into the monuments and gravestones at the Mount Pleasant site.

Niagara Falls: Drummond Hill Cemetery Tours

October 15, 16, 22, 23 at 2 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4 p.m.

These tours offer a unique opportunity to discover Niagara Falls through a visit to one of the most historic cemeteries in Canada. Led by a costumed guide, the human drama unfolds as guests wander the grounds and happen upon theatrical performances that provide a glimpse into the lives of some of the people from our City’s history.

Ticket price $12 per person or $10 per museum member. Tickets must be purchased in advance; rain or shine and they are non-refundable. 

Post tour refreshments and open house are offered at Battle Ground Hotel Museum just across the street.

Niagara-on-the-Lake: Niagara’s Dark History Tour

This tour features only dark history and strange stories of Canada’s Prettiest Town, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Featuring the true villain of the 1813 burning, a disgruntled British politician. With a disappearance that almost ended Freemasonry, the lover’s public execution and standing up to slavery with violence. This tour includes a leisurely walk through Ontario’s oldest cemetery, stories of Niagara’s daredevils and a hidden historic fort.

Owen Sound: Self-guided Cemetery tours

Greenwood Cemetery, “The People’s Cemetery,” is home to many of Owen Sound’s luminaries, from political leaders, ship captains, and Victoria Cross winners to remarkable women, African Americans, athletes, pioneers, and religious, business, and medical leaders. It was established in 1858.

The four self-guided walking tours available are Tour 1, 2, and 3 in Greenwood Cemetery and The People’s Cemetery tour. 

Ottawa: The Beechwood Stroll

The Beechwood Cemetery Stroll is a guided historical tour through Beechwood, the National Cemetery of Canada. 

Tours are given on the last Sunday of each month, rain or shine, and begin at 1 p.m. Tours start from the Beechwood National Memorial Centre, located just off the Beechwood Avenue entrance.

The Beechwood Cemetery Stroll is led by trained volunteers and focuses on local history and notable features and sections within this National Historic Site. The tour is free of charge, and is family friendly. The route for the Stroll is a gentle 1.5 hour walk and is wheelchair accessible.

Penetanguishene: Meet the Spirits of St. James on the Lines

Tour St. James on the Lines Cemetery by lantern encountering many spirits of Penetanguishene’s past. Discover the significant history of the church. Light refreshments to be served after your tour.

Tickets are $10 per person for this one-night-only event, happening October 14. There are two start times to choose from; 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. At the time of this writing, the 8 p.m. tour is sold out, but there are a few tickets left for the 7 p.m. tour.

Toronto: Toronto Cemetery Tours

Re-living history through guided tours of Toronto’s beautiful, historic cemeteries. Cemetery tours are announced regularly on their Facebook page. 


This is just a small selection of the cemetery tours being offered this year in Ontario. Some events will be announced closer to their event date and may be a one-night-only affair. I would recommend searching often for cemeteries near you so you don’t miss out on a fun opportunity. The other option is to do your own self-guided tour, by doing the research beforehand on historical, infamous, and famous graves. 

Have you been on a cemetery walking tour? What was your experience? I would love to read about it in the comments.

Thanks for reading! 

Cemetery Book Review: In the Land of Long Fingernails: A Gravedigger’s Memoir

For this month’s cemetery book review, I wanted to share an old favourite of mine. I first found out about Charles Wilkins’s book In the Land of Long Fingernails: A Gravedigger’s Memoir, in the book section of Rue Morgue MagazineRue Morgue has always been a great resource for discovering new authors. 

This book, first published in 2008, is a coming-of-age memoir set in a Toronto cemetery in 1969. It’s filled with weird-but-true events, that could only happen while working in a cemetery.

Here is the full book synopsis: “During the hazy summer of 1969, Charles Wilkins, then a student at the University of Toronto, took a job as a gravedigger. The bizarre-but-true events of that time, including a midsummer gravediggers’ strike, the unearthing of a victim of an unsolved murder, and a little illegal bone-shifting, play out amongst a Barnum-esque parade of mavericks and misfits in this macabre and hilarious memoir of mortality, materialism, and the gradual coming-of-age of an impressionable young man.” – Goodreads.com, In the Land of Long Fingernails

I enjoyed this book immensely, I couldn’t put it down! It’s a very easy read with great pacing. I found I devoured it quickly. I think it also helped that I felt a connection to this story because it takes place so close to me, in Toronto, Ontario. The specific Toronto cemetery is never named in the book, but being that I live about 4 hours away, I know I can visit it someday. There are some incredibly funny moments, but also some somber ones, creating a balance between the anecdotal stories. It’s a fascinating memoir but also a great insight into the everyday work life of a gravedigger in the late 60s.

I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a light read, that could also fall into the feel-good read category. It’s also a quick read, which would make it a perfect choice if you need a break from heavier or academic content.  

I am always on the hunt for cemetery-related book recommendations. Please feel free to share yours in the comments. If you are an author and have a cemetery-related book you would like me to review, please reach out at hello@chantallarochelle.ca. I would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!