The purpose of donnellys.com is to present the
about the Donnellys' life and times. And, like all history
includes ghostly rumours, legends and tales. But they are only a miniscule part of the overall Donnelly story. The Donnellys are
not a circus side-show, and it's important to keep their dignity intact. Therefore, please view this ghost page not as historical fact,
but rather, as it was intended when first created ... a fun page. Thanks!
Then as the shades of night draw nigh,
While parents quail and children cry,
The ghosts of the Donnellys will ride by,
Out on the Roman Line.
-- from an old song
Welcome to the Donnelly Ghost Page
Is the Donnelly Homestead haunted? One would surely think so considering the horrendous crime that unfolded there over a century ago? Skeptics are quick to point out that these supposed 'hauntings' are just the result of someone's over-active imagination. Maybe so, but there are those who have actually seen ghosts at the famous landmark, and they will tell you without hesitation . . . the Donnelly Homestead is indeed. . . haunted!
We thought it would be fun to create a page that takes a look at some of the rumours, legends, and tales surrounding the Donnelly Homestead. It must stressed, however, that this web page is created just for fun. It is not meant to offend the Donnellys, the vigilantes, and their descendants in any way. It is simply to add a little humour to the web site, and to answer the many e-mail letters this site has received over the past few years concerning Donnelly hauntings.
Everyone loves a good ghost story, and there are many that surround the Donnelly Homestead, the Roman Line, and the cemetery where the family is buried. Who hasn't heard the legends of the Donnelly ghosts riding the Roman Line at midnight, and the tale of horses going berserk on the homestead, or refusing to pass the old Donnelly farm? Are these stories really true, or are they just figments of imagination? You decide for yourself.
Turn out the lights, if you dare . . . and cozy up to the computer for a few eerie tales that are guaranteed to send a cold chill down your spine. Enjoy!
Birds don't sing and men don't smile,
Out on the Roman Line.
Their faces grim and so they'll be,
Until the end of time.
For the midnight hour brings alarm,
And horses won't pass the Donnelly farm,
Stay off that road or you'll come to harm,
Out on the Roman Line.
Reprinted from: The Black Donnellys
By: Thomas P. Kelley
- No Horsing Around The Roman Line
- Rumour has it that the Roman Line is haunted, and that horses won't venture down it on the night of February 3 & 4th, the anniversary of the Donnelly massacre. If they do, death will follow. And, that's apparently what happened to three horses who did . . . they died soon after their nocturnal excursion down the cursed road.
- Another rumour suggests that some horses refuse to pass the old Donnelly property . . . period . . . at any time of the year. It's said that their riders have had to walk the skittish beasts past the homestead before continuing down the Roman Line.
And then, there's weird tales of headless horses seen galloping throughout Biddulph Township, and of course, the more popular legend of horses going berserk and running around mad as if suddenly possessed. Robert and Noreen Norton, who bought the Donnelly Homestead in 1974, and moved in with their three children, witnessed this strange phenomenon first hand.
"She Would Just Go Nuts"
- The Nortons were boarding a friend's mare, something they did regularly, and one day, they found the animal running around in circles. Nostrils flared, the mare's eyes were filled with terror as if something was chasing her, yet nothing pursued her. This happened on a number of occasions, and each incident was the same . . . the horse was being chased by nothing, or at least, nothing the Nortons could see.
- "We only had her a month, and we had to get her out of here," Robert Norton recalled, during a Free Press interview. "She would go nuts at night."
"Something" Strange Going On
- When asked if he thought the Homestead was haunted, Norton was reluctant to reply at first, but then he admitted to his belief that "there is definitely some extra-curricular activity" happening on the property. He was hesitant to use words like 'ghost' or 'spirit' to describe the presence that had made itself known in his house, but he did refer to it as "something" . . . something that terrorizes horses, slams kitchen cupboard doors, and mysteriously takes things.
- Norton, who prided himself as a rational man, and not one to jump to quick conclusions, could offer no logical explanation regarding some of the strange things that happened in his home. One such incident was the mystery of the green plaid shirt. The new hunting shirt was hanging in a closet, and one day, it vanished only to reappear a year and a half later in the same closet. What's even stranger . . . the shirt was "washed, pressed and folded neatly".
Haunted Donnelly Barn
The Haunted Donnelly Barn
Robert and Linda Salts, the current owners of the Donnelly Homestead, have also witnessed strange, unexplained incidents in and around their home. They moved to the homestead in 1988, and hardly had their bags unpacked when they discovered that they weren't alone!
Robert Salts, who is sensitive to the paranormal, felt the presence of spirits almost the first day they arrived at the homestead. As the family unpacked their vehicle, and removed some of their possessions to the barn, Salts recalls having "an eerie sensation of being watched". Oddly enough, since that first encounter with the unknown spirits that reside in the barn, (built in 1877), visitors taking the tour have expressed feeling the same sensation.
"This feeling of being observed can occur anytime and anywhere on the property," Salts said in the book, 'Haunted Ontario' by: Terry Boyle. "It can suddenly come over you and you find yourself looking around expecting to see a pair of eyes staring in your direction."
But feeling like they're being watched is not the only sensation tourists have experienced. Some have reported physical contact with the spirit world . . . being touched on the shoulder by something, only to turn around and find no one standing there.
Things That Go Bump In The Barn
There was a time when Salts permitted people to spend a night in the Donnelly barn; brave souls who wished to observe the ghostly manifestations up close. One courageous couple who slept in the barn must have appeared like ghosts themselves the next day, for they reported to Salts their horrifying ordeal of hearing footsteps as someone approached them in the straw. Even more terrifying, the man said that he had "felt pressure on his chest".
In another incident, two students while touring the barn, also felt pressure applied to their chests, and one of the teenagers even heard screams within the barn. But, the screams were inside her head; something that they call: clairaudience. . . the power to hear sounds said to exist beyond the reach of ordinary experience such as the voices of the dead.
The Haunted Donnelly House
The house that the Salts family live in is not the original Donnelly home. That structure burned down the night of the Donnelly massacre -- February 4, 1880. The next year, 1881, the remaining members of the family, William, Patrick and Robert Donnelly, got together and constructed the middle part of the house that can be seen on the Donnelly Photo Gallery page. It is in this original section of the home that many eerie and unexplained incidents have taken place, although the rest of the house has had its fair share of ghostly occurrences.
Phantom Footsteps and Voices in the Night
Most of us would tremble in our slippers if we heard phantom footsteps in our houses, but not Robert Salts. He's used to them. Many times, he has been awakened in the night by the sounds of footsteps on the stairs, but knowing that no one's there, he just turns over and goes back to sleep. This has happened on a number of occasions, and one time, the owner of those footsteps even called his name . . . three times! Salts described the voice as "soft but with a firm, masculine tone". As in all other cases, he didn't bother searching for the source of the voice as that would have only proven futile.
Another spooky incident took place while Salts was taking a shower one afternoon. He saw a shadow of someone on the shower curtain who had entered the bathroom and then exited. Thinking it was either his wife, or son, Charles, he asked them about it, but neither of them had gone into the bathroom. Later, he and Charles tried to recreate what Salts had seen, but they couldn't, and to this day, the Salts family have no idea who the mysterious shadow belonged to.
Donnelly Ghosts Make An Appearance
During the Salts' first year of living on the Homestead, the Donnellys made an appearance, or at least, experts believe the apparitions are those of the Donnelly family. Charles Salts spotted the ghostly figures one Saturday morning while playing in his room. In fright, he ran to the kitchen to tell his parents what he had seen. Four people had appeared in his room . . . "a man and a woman dressed in plain black clothes, and two children wearing white outfits".
A&E Psychic Also See Ghost
Charles is not the only one who has seen the ghosts. When A&E was filming the special that showcased the Donnelly Homestead, they apparently brought in a psychic who roamed the house in search of any preternatural activities. What she found was a female presence whom she believed to be that of Jennie Donnelly, James and Johannah's only daughter.
Other psychics have visited the homestead with other film crews, and they, too, have detected entities that appear to be very similar to the apparitions that Charles Salts saw in his room. The psychics described the two spirits as "stern looking" individuals. One was a tall, bewhiskered man dressed in handmade clothing, and the other was a woman who wore her hair up in a bun. She was clothed in a simple dress and Victorian high laced shoes. It is speculated that they are the spirits of James and Johannah Donnelly who still wander the homestead.
A Haunting Conclusion
Perhaps the Donnellys are caught in limbo, unable to make their final journey home. Or, maybe it is simply their decision to remain behind and keep a watchful eye on their beloved homestead, and those who pay it a visit. Whatever the reason, the Donnellys continue to haunt us -- the eye witnesses who have actually encountered them in one form or another, be it through sound, touch, or sight, and those who have only encountered the Donnellys through books and long faded photographs -- we are all haunted by the Donnellys and their tragic tale that will live on forever.
Norton information compiled from The London Free Press, Feb. 2, 1980
Other information courtesy of: You Are Never Alone (Our Life on the Donnelly Homestead)
by: J. Robert Salts -- Self-published, ©1996.
Haunted Ontario by: Terry Boyle -- Polar Bear Press, ©1998
Ontario Ghost Stories by: Barbara Smith -- Lone Pine Publishing, ©1998.
Copyright © 1997 - 2014 Donnelly Ghost Page -- All rights reserved.
Article written by: Webmaster
Article & graphics cannot be reproduced in any form without written permission from the Webmaster
There are many other incidents not mentioned here that have happened in and around the Donnelly Homestead.
If you'd like to find out more about the ghosts & other hauntings at the Homestead, be
sure to read Robert Salts' fascinating book: You Are Never Alone (Our Life on the Donnelly Homestead)
You can order a copy of the book . . . visit our Donnelly Online Store
Other suggested books that have interesting chapters about hauntings at the Homestead are:
Haunted Ontario by: Terry Boyle, and Ontario Ghost Stories by: Barbara Smith
Available in most bookstores.
I recently had the honour of befriending the owners of the Donnelly residence, J Robert Salts and his wife, and was overwhelmed by the psychic energy on the homestead. I have, through natural occurrences and a lot of hard work, tuned an impeccable psychic ability, actually, more of a clairvoyance, but an ability to see and know things that others don't.
While on the Donnelly property, I had the overwhelming sense of being watched. Though no apparitions were visible, there was definitely an energy I couldn't account for. My mind (or Third Eye) was focusing on a grove of trees just to the rear of the drive shed, about half way between the house and the barn. I felt that there was a male, about 25 or 30 watching my fiancé, my mother, Rob and myself with idle curiosity, while he knew he should have been "doing" something else. When I mentioned this to the others, no one was surprised. When I described what I was feeling, Rob informed me that William has a strong attachment to the property and his presence is frequently felt.
When passed the ceremonial alter cloth, my mother's hands shook uncontrollably, causing her to nearly drop the precious piece of Johannah's history, though I declined handling the fabric, I felt the energy that was tied to it. It was the final link between the Donnelly mother and her daughter, and the emotion attached is still felt.
I also felt an energy disturbance when we arrived on the property. The best way I can think of to describe the sensation, is to say that it was like having children playing quietly on the floor and when a favourite relative or friend arrives, they jump up, run to the door, make a lot of noise and then when company settles in, the children settle down on the floor to continue what they were doing. It was truly a unique experience, and I look forward to visiting Rob and his family again soon.
August 26, 1999.
Mysterious Blue Light on Roman Line:
It has been quite a few years since l talked about this! lt was back in about 1976, four of us went to Lucan on the anniversary of the Donnelly massacre! We parked in the school parking lot across from the cemetery! We arrived there at about 11:45 p.m, the first thing we noticed was what looked like blue lightning bolts shooting up and down the Roman line! lt then circled our car twice and was riding about 1 ft. off the ground. lt was literally terrifying, because although we were skeptics, we knew this was definitely not normal.
My friend and myself got out of the car and continued to watch it flow up and down the road! lt never came near us, so we decided to go into the cemetery! The snowbanks were really high so we had to climb up them! Once in the cemetery we started looking for the Donnelly tombstone, that is when we started to see what looked like a figure in black standing about 50 ft. ahead of us. ln seconds it was gone, vanished!
We ran and, l mean ran, got to our car and were out of there. The blue light l mentioned followed us to the stop sign at the corner and then was gone. The four of us never much talked about it because it was really against everything we believed. When l got home that night l was still so afraid l asked to sleep with my father because it was so terrifying for me. l have never had any other experiences like this again and have never returned to Lucan.
July 20, 1999.
Mystery of St. Patrick's Church Bell:
About 1985 or 1986, I took a friend to see the Donnelly's grave, as I had grown up in the area, and wanted to share the story with him. We arrived at the churchyard at about 5:00 p.m. on a summer day. There was no one around, and no cars in the parking lot. We walked from our car to the gate to the graveyard, and as we entered the gate, the church bell began to ring. It rang very slowly bong......bong......bong, and as we made our way towards the grave, it began ringing faster and faster, so that by the time we were in front of the grave, it was ringing very quickly.
As we were a little unnerved by this, we didn't linger, and as we made our way back to the car, the ringing slowed down, and when we walked out of the gate, it stopped altogether. Now, I had always maintained that it was a stunt by someone wanting to keep the legend alive, but it always bothered me that there were no cars in the parking lot.
Dec. 26, 2000
A Ghostly Photo:
The following is a fascinating letter that was received from a Donnelly enthusiast who
visited the Donnelly tombstone on the anniversary of the massacre. One of the photos she took that night shows a mysterious cloud. Could it be a DONNELLY ghost?
I have been a Donnelly enthusiast for years now. I have on two occasions made trips to the graveyard during dark hours with a camera to take pictures and see if anything weird should show up in them. The first time none of the photos from that evening turned out. I then came back on the anniversary night, this year, with a new advanced camera and film. It was uneventful and very cold. Accompanied by my friend, we quickly entered, took a few pictures with each of our cameras and left. The night was as clear as a bell, very cold and quite light out.
When I got the pictures developed all the pictures turned out clear. Clear enough to see the chips off the tombstone and pennies people had left for their wishes. There was nothing unusual in any of the pictures with the exception of one. There is no explanation for the mysterious cloud that clearly appears in the picture.
I assure you this picture is authentic, and I could provide the others to verify the quality of the camera and film. I have already eliminated the obvious questionable causes for this "cloud" including the possibility of car exhaust, breath of someone in the cold, and/or a fire or smoke from any source. I have sent the picture looking for your opinion. I decided at the last minute to take one more picture of the cemetery as I left, and this is the result. Can this be explained? Could this be an entity or energy that I was unaware of at the time? What do you think?
Bobbie Jo Whittaker
23 Feb. 2001
Bobbie-Jo writes that the Donnelly tombstone is located in the far left of the
picture, near the back. This photo was a last minute shot taken just before
leaving St. Patrick's Cemetery.
Photo #2 (...using a different camera...)
This photo was taken the same night as photo #1. Bobbie-Jo's friend
took this photo using a different camera, and points out that the film
used in this camera was the best film speed available.
Is it a DONNELLY ghost? What do you think?
Another Ghostly Photo:
Here's another ghostly photo taken in February 2003.
"I was down on the Roman Line, just a week ago, paying my respects," says Meagan, who took this photo. "I set my digital camera on a grave, and took a pic of me and two friends with the grave. There is almost an IDENTICAL fog in the pic, same shape, everything.... as in the photos posted on your ghost page. Well..., you be th judge."
Feb. 19, 2003.
Response to Ghost Photos
I am sorry to debunk those pictures so easily, because they are very spooky. However, "Ghostly" shadows like these often show up in night-time outdoor shots in the winter. It's the photographer's breath, lit for an instant by the flash. Or depending on the weather and prevailing wind, it could even be someone else's frozen breath, left behind (it can linger unseen for several minutes on still nights, until the flash illuminates it). Of course, the frozen mist of human breath isn't usually visible in the dark. It only shows up when the flash goes off, hence it tends to surprise people when they get their photos back and find them full of "ghosts".
Having done a lot of winter camping, I have rolls of film filled with winter breath-ghosts. In fact, I eventually learned to hold my breath while taking pictures, in order to "excorcise" them from my snapshots.
If you have a Donnelly ghost story, and/or photos of a Donnelly ghost,
please send them to: Peter McKeown - firstname.lastname@example.org
Why are coins left on the Donnelly tombstone?
Many people who visit the Donnelly gravesite have noticed coins left behind on the headstone.
Apparently, legend has it that if you leave a coin on the Donnelly tombstone and make a wish,
the Donnellys will grant that wish. So, the next time you visit the Donnelly gravesite, don't forget
to place a coin on the tombstone, and make a wish. It just might come true!
Update: We received an e-mail from someone who read a book about myths and superstitions,
and they said... another reason for leaving coins on a tombstone is... if a ghost is haunting you,
or if you owed someone money before they died, the ghost will collect it, if you place
the money on the tombstone before midnight.
Tourists leave coins on the Donnelly tombstone hoping the Donnellys will grant their wishes.
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