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Trent-Severn Waterway National Historic Site of Canada

The Ghosts of the Peterborough Lift Lock

A dense fog surrounds the Peterborough Lift Lock.
© Steve Chadwick

Lockmaster Ed has worked at the Lift Lock since 1990 and has a few stories he loves to share with fearless visitors when asked about the possibility of the site being haunted.

Mystery of the Standing Hip Waders

Lockmaster Ed recalls where a fellow staff member said he saw the Standing Hip Waders.
© Parks Canada

In the Peterborough Lift Lock, staff travel from the upstream channel (Upper Reach) to the downstream channel (Lower Reach) by taking an elevator found behind the operators cabin. This small two person elevator (which feels sort of like a person sized dumb waiter) opens up into a hallway leading to the pump rooms, a stair case to the crossover valve , and a door heading out to the Lower Reach. One day when a staff member was coming out of the elevator he was greeted by a set a hip waders, standing fully upright all on their own. Without a second thought he kicked the waders to one side, but then paused to reflect on what he had just witnessed. And try as he might, he couldn’t replicate what he had seen – hip waders standing on their own in such an odd way. The hip waders would just fold in on themselves. Was this the work of a prank loving ghost or just a very creative Parks Canada co-worker?

The PLL’s West Pump room contains a display of antique tools used at one time in the maintenance and operation of the Peterborough Lift Lock. Have the Lift Lock ghosts ever used these tools?
© Parks Canada

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Tool Thief

The crossover valve of the Peterborough Lift Lock, sometimes referred to as the Heart that makes it all possible. Before 1963 the Lift Lock used big wheels and levers to mechanically activate the crossover valve (now the crossover valve is electrically activated and hydraulically driven).
© Parks Canada

Everyone has that neighbour that borrows tools without returning them, but at least they ask. The Toolkeeper is said to hang around the crossover valve of the Peterborough Lift Lock. He is described as wearing baby blue coveralls and working on the steel drop cables, which run down through the centre tower. When the living lock staff are on a midnight maintenance shift, although the area around the crossover valve is so tight, it’s virtually impossible to lose a tool. Yet, it happens! Sometimes, an employee would set down a tool to focus on another task and when they’d reach for the first tool, it would be gone! Paranormal investigators state that this ghost still believes he’s working at the lock, so is always borrowing tools. Parks Canada staff who have become true believers have found a solution – simply say hello! Tool disappearances have hit an all time low after simply acknowledging the Toolkeeper’s presence and role in keeping the ‘ol gal running.

How Many Maintenance Workers Will Fit in a Two-Person Elevator?

This elevator allows lock staff to travel from the Lower Reach to the operator’s cabin without having to walk around the Lift Lock. Think thin!
© Parks Canada

One of the original stories that kick-started public interest in the Peterborough Lift Lock as a haunted destination was a situation that directly involved Lockmaster Ed. One night while working late, Ed and the maintenance staff were in the East Pump room. Suddenly, from across the room, a large crescent wrench went flying off the work bench, with no one near the bench to take credit Now, maintenance staff on the Trent-Severn Waterway are known as strong, brave people but this incident frightened them all so much that the six maintenance men made a break for the elevator, leaving Ed in the basement of the Lift Lock. It’s a small elevator, but Ed swears they all made it up in one trip...

Centre Tower Traveler

In the summer you can catch a cool breeze in this hallway. Some would argue it’s more than the wind...
© Parks Canada

The Peterborough Lift Lock is one of many fascinating places to work in Peterborough as a summer student. One student found that out on a hot July day while trying to cool off underneath the centre tower. The student was waiting for the next boat to arrive because his job was to remove the manual locking pins down below. With Trent, the trusty Lift Lock dog asleep at his feet, both were enjoying the cool breeze that would often shoot through that concrete hallway. Suddenly the steel grated door behind them made a loud creaking sound as if slowly opening and slamming shut. Both Trent and the student shot upwards and looked back to see who had caught them relaxing on the job! But no one was there. Suddenly, the sound of large scraping footsteps could be heard coming down the steps from the steel grated door and dragging across the dirt on top of the concrete. Trent, being the smart dog he is, bolted past the sounds through the steel grated door and into the Lift Lock to the elevator. The student froze pressed against the concrete wall as the footsteps made their way past him and out of the hydraulics room.

Quite scared at this point, the student rushed out to the lower reach and grabbed the hooter phone. The hooter phone, which is now gone and replaced by the use of walkie talkies, was used as a sort of paging system - one crank for the office, two for the tower, and three for the concrete nose in the channel (Bull nose). Up in the tower Ed heard the hooter phone scream and, picking up the receiver, he could hear a distraught young student on the other line. Rushing down to the lower reach Ed was greeted by the frantic student and large wet boot prints leading from a puddle directly into the eastern lower reach. To this day Trent still dislikes the centre tower hallway, preferring to wait for a staff member to accompany him.

Why Are Staff Working So Late?

These ghost stories may leave you with many questions, but one of the most burning is: why are the staff working so late at the site if they believe it to be haunted? Simple! Because the Peterborough Lift Lock is in operation throughout the day, seven days a week, and maintenance needs to be performed outside of operating hours to avoid interruption of service. One of the more complex maintenance tasks would be repacking the main ram, which requires 6 to 8 people working for up to 10 hours!