Isolated in fly-infested marshlands in Ontario, Canada, darkness murmured through the decaying vaults of this derelict prison complex. As blackness stretched on before a group of friends, they faced a choice. Should they continue? Or should they abandon their quest and return the way they came?
“These quests we go on,” wrote reddit user trishm, “we called ghost hunts. We can feel the difference between a supposed haunted place or an actual one.” But what was this place they had arrived at? And was it really haunted?
Their hunger for paranormal encounters had taken them to the site of Burwash Correctional Centre near the city of Sudbury, and it had been hard work getting there. “Going at night is scary,” wrote trishm, “but worth not being caught by the military.”
The group’s journey had taken them along a decommissioned road to some railroad tracks. Equipped with just a flashlight and camera they set out into the “abyss” of the surrounding woods. They walked and walked through the darkness, the path flooded with marsh water.
After an hour they arrived at a clearing, where the sight of the prison left them breathless. “There was no turning back,” wrote trishm. Psyched up and determined to explore, they began their descent into the jail’s basements. Scrawled on the walls were the words, “Welcome to Hell.”
A subterranean passage lined with cells receded into darkness. Founded in 1914, Burwash had seen thousands of inmates come and go until its closure in 1975. Cut off in the Wanapitei River valley, it had functioned as a self-sufficient industrial farm, its prisoners employed as laborers.
Once upon a time a town of 1,000 citizens had serviced the prison. The site included a barber shop, a church, a public school, a hospital, a post office and a grocery store that stocked produce from the farm. All of it was built by the inmates for the prison staff.
Today the town is gone, demolished, its acreage parceled up between new owners, including the Department of National Defence. All that remains of the once-thriving community of Burwash is a single prison unit known as “Camp Bison,” wherein trishm and her friends found themselves.
“Down here there are no windows to let the moon in,” the reddit user wrote. Trishm and her pals went from room to room, cell to cell, treading carefully and taking photos that would later be examined for orbs, mists and other ghostly evidence.
“I believe that when you die you either are content with moving on and resting in peace…or you feel too connected to the body you have and don’t want to let go,” trishm continued. “So your soul stays on the Earth…It’s my belief, and I stand by it.”
Inside one of the cells they found a bloodied blade in the wall. What had the prisoners lived through here? Perhaps, as trishm suspected, Burwash was populated by spirits with tormented memories.
Opinions on Burwash are split. There are those who believe it was a model prison that offered its inmates redemption through honest work and fresh air. There are others who say something entirely different.
“This was no summer camp,” recalled David Clayton-Thomas, a rock musician and former inmate who wrote about Burwash in his autobiography. “All conversation is forbidden and any attempt to communicate is punished by a high-pressure hose poked through the door slot.”
A “horrible” place was how Elie Martel, the former Burwash member of provincial parliament, described the prison. Presented by one young inmate with complaints of sexual abuse, he took his concerns to the attorney general’s office.
Many inmates tried to escape, and while some broke free they inevitably suffered because of the harsh terrain. After Highway 69 was built signs were posted warning motorists not to give rides to hitchhikers.
In 1966 murderer Wayne Ford, along with two other prisoners, managed to cross 16 miles of marshland before taking a vehicle and driving it to Toronto, a couple of hundred miles away. Eventually they were found, clapped in handcuffs and transported to maximum-security jails.
Today Burwash stands in nightmarish dilapidation. “Bitter cold,” wrote trishm, describing the claustrophobic confines of an underground tunnel. “Darker than you thought darkness was.” Lined with rusted pipes, the dank, narrow passage fell away into blackness.
Soon they arrived at a rusted door with smashed windows. Beyond it, within the dark void of an empty room, an unearthly mist seemed to swirl. A trick of the light or a spectral apparition? Trishm was convinced it was the latter.
Inside an old auditorium they found a broken, crumbling stage, slats exposed. Trishm’s friends climbed onto it and danced, but the “ghosts” of Burwash were displeased. “That wasn’t appreciated,” wrote trishm. “Orbs moved from the corner to their faces.”
Having gathered their evidence trishm and her friends made the journey home. Were their experiences the result of actual hauntings? Or were they suffering from overactive imaginations? You’ve seen the photos; judge for yourself.