Sunday, 4 March 2012

...My Hotel is Haunted.

I started a new job a few weeks ago working the night audit shift at a hotel. The hours suck but I do like it. But for some reason I only just noticed that there is a cemetery on the property. Its walled off with only a small gate for access so it went largely unnoticed by me until today. I was curious as to how I would expand on this tidbit, thinking there wasn't much to it. I mentioned it to my coworker and he told me enough about it that I thought it would be worth looking into.

The Ohev Zedek Cemetery is a Jewish cemetery located in Hamilton. Until I go to the Hamilton Public Library there is not much I can tell you about it other than where it is. The term 'Ohev Zedek' is roughly translated to 'Lovers of Justice', which we will see in a moment, is quite ironic. The cemetery itself is quite small, almost too small if you think about it (I ran over to get some pictures, but it being 2am it was a little too creepy). My coworker, Steve, told me that it used to take up the entire property that the hotel sits on. Since no one had been buried there in quite some time, there were no objections to use the site in order to build the hotel. The tombstones were removed to a small corner of the lot but the bodies/plots were left. The developers only needed to dig down about 2 feet so they didn't stumble upon anything. Plus, enough time had past that there probably wasn't anything left. In other words, the hotel is built over a graveyard.

You can see the hotel past the wall.
The most famous person buried in the cemetery/under the gym was a woman called Besha 'Bessie' (Starkman) Tobin Perri. Born in 1889 as Besha Starkman to an orthodox jewish family, she married a prominent baker named Harry Tobin and they started a typical life together in Toronto (house, picket fence, 2.2 kids, etc.). Around 1912 they leased a room to a one Rocco Perri, who you may have guessed was involved with the mafia. Bessie ran of with Rocco, never divorcing Harry, and they lived together in a sort of 'common law' relationship. Seeing the newly passed Temperence Act as a golden opportunity to make some cash, the couple started bootlegging and eventually into drug trafficing as well. By all accounts she was the brains of the operation acting as Perri's underboss. They're empire expanded and on the night of August 13th, 1930 she was shot dead in her garage. No one was ever arrested for the crime and it is suspected that it was a revenge killing for not paying a Rochester, NY mob boss for a shipment of drugs.

Crime scene.
Her funeral was held 2 days later and drew 25,000 spectators (no joke). Her casket cost $3000 at the time which was bedazzled in all sorts of gold and jewels and other fine ornate material. She was buried here. This is where the irony of the cemetery's name comes into play. Since she renounced her faith and lived a life of 'sin' it was very difficult to secure a spot in a jewish cemetery but Perri managed to make a deal. The letters spelling 'Perri' have since been pried off the tombstone.

Your computer might have a better zoom than mine.
Another rumor suggests her body was dug up shortly after the funeral and moved to another plot becasue it was suspected that grave robbers would steal her casket and it is unknown where on the property she currently rests.

This is the woman that haunts my hotel.

Looking forward to my rounds tonight.


That is what I learned today.

Further Reading: A Toronto Star article on the funeral http://www.billgladstone.ca/?p=6165

2 comments:

  1. Creeeeeeppppy!!! I love it! Keep my updated on your encounters!

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  2. I will! For a split second I thought I saw her today, but it was a real person instead.

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