Historic Fort Ontario

“Last Post” Lantern Tours of Fort Ontario

AmeriCorps staffer Victoria Marks will lead themed lantern tours of Fort Ontario State Historic Site on East Fourth Street in Oswego this summer. The program runs on Wednesday nights from July 4 to August 30. Tours begin inside the old stone fort at 9 p.m. in July, and 8:45 p.m. in August. Groups will wind their way around the park and visit the post cemetery.

“The ‘Last Post’ Lantern Tours feature descriptions about the history, myths, and legends of who, how, why, and where hundreds of officers, soldiers, civilians, and Native American died at Fort Ontario since 1755,” said Fort Ontario State Historic Site Manager Paul Lear.

Participants are advised to wear appropriate footwear and clothing for slopes, stairs, and brisk lakeside breezes. Tickets are $15 and must be purchased in advance by calling 315-343-4711 or visiting the museum shop during public hours. Proceeds support programming sponsored by the not-for-profit group, Friends of Fort Ontario, Inc.

Fort Ontario is the location of three past British fortifications and a standing fort built by the United States from 1839 to 1844. It was also the site of three French and Indian War and two War 1812 battles, a New York National Guard training camp between world wars, and an active regular U.S. Army post until April 3, 1946. The fort served as the only refugee camp in the United States for victims of the Holocaust during World War II, and later, it was as a public veterans housing project during the post-war housing emergency.

The former Fort Ontario Military Reservation is now a state historic site as well as a City of Oswego-owned recreation area, a holocaust refugee shelter museum, a private medical office and transportation activities. A U.S. Army Reserve Training Center has also been on site since 1961.

In addition to learning the macabre history of Fort Ontario, the guided lantern tours provide an opportunity to experience the old fort and post cemetery after dark. The site is claimed to be one of the most haunted locations in the United States and was the subject of a 2012 episode of “Ghost Hunters” on the SYFY Channel.

Participants may catch a glimpse of one of Fort Ontario’s legendary ghosts or experience other paranormal activity. Ghost sightings date back to the 19th century and include a red-coated figure of Private George Fykes who died at the fort in 1782. He is said to walk the ramparts and grounds at night with a red lantern. Among other phenomenon, people have reported hearing music playing without explanation, seeing a light and shadowy figure in a window over a door, and observing a cold and dark light-absorbing apparition moving around the rooms of the officers’ quarters.

For details about the guided lantern tours or to make a reservation, contact Victoria Marks at 315-343-4711 or 14marksv@gmail.com.

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